Two years ago, my world fell apart, as my husband of nearly 30 years was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. When COVID-19 hit, I was instantly taken back in time, to that moment of disbelief, emotional turmoil, and the recognition that life had been turned upside down and would forever be changed from that moment forward.
The events which followed my husband’s diagnosis felt like a nightmare from which I could not awaken! He spent a week in the hospital, had a minor stroke, and left with a list of daily medications and appointments with a host of medical professionals. To this day, he on several medications to lessen the load on his heart, hopefully allowing it to heal.
For many of you, this virus has brought about very similar feelings. So, today, I’d like to take a moment and speak to you from the perspective of one who has been through a difficult time and found a “new normal”.
A Wake Up Call
As painful as it is to remember the events of two years ago, my husband’s diagnosis of heart failure was a much-needed wake up call. It forced us to reevaluate our priorities in some very important ways.
Today, uncertainty in job security, your lack of an emergency fund, concerns about the vulnerability of loved-ones, or worry about the daily dance of the stock market may be feeding your inner anxiety.
Yet, if you take a moment, clear your mind, and open your heart, this may very well be the moment of change that you have needed for a long time.
Look honestly at where you are and where you want to go. Then, fashion a bridge, connecting the sides and allowing you to move forward to find a better place emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
Let’s look at some areas in my own life, which were actually made stronger through the experience and how they may be helpful to you.
I must admit that money is not the first thing which occurs to you when a loved on receives a life-altering diagnosis. For a time, you simply “exist”, moving through each step as medical professionals offer advice and guidance.
However, eventually, as daily activities settle into a more predictable pattern, you begin to take stock of your income and budget.
For us, the massive amounts of overtime which he had worked (and we had become highly dependent on), were history. This is very challenging for our monthly budget, but, ultimately, very good for our family and marriage as we pulled together, learning to, once again, function as a team to lower expenses and re-discover ways to spend time together without spending money.
This crisis may have revealed holes in your spending plan, but this is not a time for looking back in regret, indulging in a sense of hopelessness, or blaming and shaming your spouse or family.
You are not stuck! This is the time to embrace honesty, educate yourself, and craft a plan for moving forward.
Follow these four steps:
- Create a monthly budget, focusing on your “4 walls”. This includes: food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Once these areas are fully funded, you can rest assured that your basics are covered.
- Cut the “extras”. If you have been eating out several times a month, buying items that you really don’t need, or adding clothing to an already overly full closet, this might be the time be evaluate every expense to see if it can be trimmed or eliminated altogether.
- Create a list of goals. No matter how little money you make, you are not excused from writing down short, medium, and long-term goals. If you don’t have a target at which to aim, you will hit nothing.
- Save up an emergency fund. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, saving little for retirement and even less for an emergency budget. This is the time to have what your grandmother would have called “a rainy day fund”, because (as we have all just found out) storms unexpectedly happen.
Set up a budget, pay off debt, and set goals with my Personal Finance Planner
For weeks after my husband came home from the hospital, I would barely leave his side, sleeping on the couch (just feet from his bedside) and rising several times during the night to check to see if he was still breathing.
Clearly, my anxiety was topping out, and stress was taking a toll.
When you are moving through a time of uncertainty, you need to take care of your mental health.
- Avoid over-caffeinating
- Get more sleep
- Take walks and get exercise
- Pray and meditate
- Phone a friend
- Reach out for help
- Focus on things which are uplifting
- Celebrate unexpected blessings
Although I had a very ill spouse, I also had two young children, not to mention two grown sons, who needed my time, attention, and comfort.
Over the years, as a family we had fallen into the habit of occupying the same space, but not really being together. We learned, once again, to be “in the moment” and enjoy one another.
Here is the process we used to right-size our commitments – vs – our family time.
- We cut out all unnecessary obligations. With the amount of overtime that Larry was working and our other church and community obligations we were literally running from commitment to commitment every day of the week!
- We took a long hard look at each one and chose to keep those which gave us energy and life.
- We took sabbaticals from other obligations – like playing piano and being on the worship team at church. Our church is very important to us! They graciously accepted our resignation for an undetermined amount of time, knowing that we would be back when we could.
These decisions, although hard to make, gave us emotional freedom to focus on what we needed to focus on right then. We began to spend time together; taking daily walks, playing board games, watching movies, having more conversations, and just plain enjoying one another more than we had in a long while.
If ever there was a time to reach out to God for strength, it is now!
This . is . scary!
I’m not going to lie to you and say that every one of us does not have concerns about the future. It just wouldn’t be honest.
However, when I look back on how God has provided for our family over and over again throughout the years, it does give me comfort, knowing that this virus can be a catalyst for us seeking His help, guidance, and protection.
I would be remiss if I did not end with the fact that my faith in Jesus Christ was my rock through this terrible time. Life on earth is hard, if not impossible, without the hope and assurance of life eternal. Life is short. Eternity is forever! John 3:16 is more than a sign that people hold up at sporting events. It is the story of a God who created us, loves us, and wants us to spend forever with Him. Find a local church (They’re all on-line right now and would love to reach out to you). Get a Bible and begin reading it. Give it some thought.