Foreclosure…the Silent Killer

I am a victim of foreclosure. I am in good company, I know. I am in a steadily growing group of people who are silently being torn apart. Maybe not to the naked eye, and maybe unbeknownst to the one who was foreclosed on, but the ramifications of losing one’s home is wrecking havoc in the lives and families of many Americans.

I am your average Joe. I have been married for 31 years, have 3 children, have a husband who is a letter carrier and am the proud owner of an entrepreneurial spirit. We decided several years ago to try to invest in some single family rental properties. The banks were happy to aid us by deciding we were worth the risk. They gave us a mortgage on three different houses in our local market. The banks provided the avenue which allowed us to step out of the status quo box.

In 2008, after owning the houses for four years of and losing money most of that time, we went to the bank and asked for help. We  asked to renegotiate the terms of the loans, in order to buy some time, gain some equity, create some positive cash flow, and then, down the road, perhaps be able to sell the houses and recoup some of our losses. We were denied.

Admittedly, we made mistakes. We either paid too much for the houses in the first place, or put too much money into the rehab in order for us to realize positive monthly cash flow. Hindsight is indeed 20/20 and the mother of all teachers.

To make a very long story not quite so long,  the bank refused to work with us in a way which would benefit us, but offered instead to put a blanket loan on all of our properties. The terms were merely short-term fixes, advantageous only to Republic Bank. We declined their offer and left the bank, with all parties involved knowing it was only a matter of time until we lost those three houses.

Our credit cards were maxed out due to maintenance, repairs and down time in between renters, and unexpected life events. Upon the advice of an attorney, and after much agonizing, we determined we could no longer make the mortgage payments.

In 2010 we did indeed lose the three properties, and since they were coming after all of our assets, we lost the other 2 houses and our personal home as well.

I can’t even begin to tell you the vast gamut of thoughts and emotions that went on before, during and after this process occurred. I am becoming more and more aware of how we as a country, as a people, as a group of caring human beings are tiptoeing around the deeper issue of foreclosure like the proverbial pink elephant in the middle of the room.

Granted, people don’t know what to say when you have lost the very foundation of your family’s life. I’ll give you that. And once you are settled into a new place to live, people assume you are okay. Speaking for myself only, I was not okay. Far from it. And all of the things that I tell myself and others tell me to offer some sort of condolences, are only words. Though in my head I know that “It could be worse, we still have our health, we still have each other, things will work out for the best, God is in control, and it’s just stuff”, those things don’t quite reach my heart enough to convince it that this too shall pass and remain but an unpleasant memory. Because as long as Republic Bank continues to take 25% of my husbands wages, it is an everyday event that we live over and over and over.

The mental, emotional and even physical stress foreclosure puts on an individual, not to mention a marriage or a family is beyond my ability to describe. I know it was just a house, a material object, but I have to tell you, I felt like all the life-giving nourishment was simply taken away from me and I was left to die.

It was four months before I stopped wanting to die. I wasn’t suicidal, for I know the pain and anguish that suicide causes for those who are left behind to deal with the aftermath. We have had to deal with suicide in our family. I just didn’t want to be here; I didn’t want to deal with what was left of our family’s life, our things; I didn’t want to find a new normal.

In my head I know that there are people who have it way worse than I do. Way worse. I wouldn’t want to be where they are. But I don’t want to be where I am either. Yet I am where I am, and it is what it is but in my heart, I hate this for my family. I hate this for my kids.

There have been countless people who, once they discovered what we have and are going through, have shared with us how close they are to following the path that we forcibly chose to take. I am sorry for those people. There are others who look at us with envy, thinking that our lives are somehow less complicated since we have been forced to scale down. I get where they are coming from, truly I do, but please, dear God, there has to be a better way.

There are also people who look down on us, who pass judgement based on their own personal experience and lifestyle. It’s like they think we somehow committed a hideous sin that we need to make atonement for. To those people I would just ask that you get all the facts, and perhaps walk in our shoes, then maybe, just maybe, you will be in a better position to judge if you feel you must.

Foreclosure is indeed the silent killer. It is causing people to lose hope. It is causing people to become ill. It is tearing marriages and families apart. It is as harmful to the well-being of a family as the trauma of a divorce or the death of a loved one…and no one is talking about it…no one is addressing the issue.

Ours is one story, one set of circumstances. Only one. There are countless others. We hear about them in the news on a regular basis. They are the stats and numbers in the business world. But what doesn’t make the news is the real live people behind those figures, with real live stories. It’s just business, nothing personal. Not true! It’s very personal. Losing your home is very personal indeed.

It has become so common-place that it is now just a matter-of-fact part of life. We sigh, we shake our heads but do we really understand? People lose more than a house when they are foreclosed on. They lose courage, they lose hope, they lose dignity, they lose purpose and sometimes they even lose friends. It is hard enough to deal with day to day living. And harder still to deal with the loss of the actual house itself but when you add the other things into the mix…it’s oftentimes overwhelming.

People are ashamed and embarrassed to talk about their foreclosure ordeal, choosing instead to carry on as if it was a normal thing that happens everyday. It may be normal but it’s not right!

I think about the similarities and difference when someone loses everything in a house fire. People immediately come out of the woodwork to offer whatever resources they have. And rightly so. Losing everything in a matter of minutes is an extremely traumatic event. While foreclosure isn’t as dramatic in nature, people often lose many, many possessions simply because they have no place to put them, except in storage, so it’s just not an option to hold on to the stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, we had lots of people to help us when we packed and moved; stored some of our left behind items, and gave us a temporary place to stay. We even had a few people give us money. To those dear friends and family members, I am eternally grateful.

Even after seven months of living in an apartment with my family, which has often been very challenging, there are times, from passing moments to a day or two, that those feelings of intense longing for home, the life we once had, sometimes overwhelms me.

I hope this gives you a little insight into the stress and hardship of losing ones home.

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