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Moving Cross Country, Part 2: Loss of a Home

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

"Where we love is home, that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As I discussed in the last posting, my wife and I moved cross country for the second time in four years and this has given rise to many observations about the experience. In this posting the issue will be about some reflections about the recent and ongoing mortgage crisis in our nation and the meaning of losing a home.

Have you lost your home to bank foreclosure, or some type of disaster? If yes, you are one of many who has been through one of the great tragedies affecting millions of Americans today.

There is a huge difference between voluntarily deciding to move versus being forced out of home because of defaulting on mortgage payments or even due to natural and human disasters such as wars, hurricanes and earthquakes. Certainly, the loss of one’s home is more traumatic and tragic than a voluntary and carefully planned move to another part of the nation or world.

Of course, the difference between events over which one has no choice and those that people have chosen to do is a sense of empowerment and control. When tragic things happens such as being caught in a terrorist attack, earth quake or hurricane, people are left with awful feelings of helplessness. In addition to the feelings of traumatization that are left to these people, there is also depression. That depression often results from the awareness of a lack of control over life events.

In that way, those who have lost their homes to either the mortgage crisis or various other disasters. enter into a period of grief much like that experienced by those who have lost loved ones. Add to this that loss of family often occurs in natural disasters and wars, the sense of despair deepens even more.

All of this is worsened by the fact that home has a special meaning to human beings. There are a myriad of quotations going back to our ancient philosophers having to do with the role of home in our lives. For example, home is the place we associate with safety, love and nurturance. As Robert Frost writes, "Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in." But what if you have lost your home due to mortgage default or any other disaster?

In his article about "Grief and Bereavement Issues," Dr. Dombeck states that "Grief is the process and emotions that we experience when our important relationships are significantly interrupted or (more frequently) ended, either through death, divorce, relocation, theft, destruction, or some similar process." People who lose their home experience grief and go through a difficult process of mourning made worse by the fact that they need to find shelter, a safe haven elsewhere.

Today, there are countless numbers of Americans who have lost there homes due to the mortgage crisis. In some cases, their plight has been aggravated by the general down turn in the economy and the recently announced rise in the rate of unemployment.

How do people cope when they find themselves caught in tragedy of events?

If you or someone you know has been forced to go through a foreclosure on your home, please respond to this posting with a description not only of the events around this but of the emotions you endured or are enduring and how you are coping. Of course, as always, all comments and questions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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