A few years ago my husband was made redundant. It was a massive shock as he had always dedicated himself to the firm, we often joked that the firm came first and the 4 (at that time) children and I came a close second! It was a massive blow to my husband and although he understood the firm’s financial position, he was a little hurt. We are a couple who have always earned and paid our way, in fact, we pride ourselves in it. We are the couple who pays our bills first and tries to have a little fun with what is left afterward. Luckily we had redundancy and mortgage insurance for three months. I managed to make this last for six months.

My husband applied for over 250 jobs and still nothing. He called contacts. He visited firms. Nothing came to us. We were unemployed for 10 months all up and this was devastating not only financially but also mentally and emotionally. Interestingly I received some prejudice when I called asking for payment plans on utilities even though we had always been good payers. The attitudes of some would often leave me in tears, humiliated and feeling ashamed.

Then the ultimate nightmare, we were on the point of losing our home. I had to hang up on the bank the first time that I called because when it came time for me to speak I was crying so hard that I couldn’t make myself understood. When I called back; the guy that helped me was just wonderful. He could hear my obvious distress and he made a very difficult call a lot better. We ended up having to take a four-month break and the bank was brilliant in helping us to keep our home for which I will always be so very grateful and a loyal customer!

During this time we did everything in our power to get ourselves employed again including higher training. I have war-time parents who were children in World War Two and so I had learned from them how to feed a family on very little. I was able to keep a happy and positive demeanor during the day for the children’s and my very proud husband’s sake but also because I am proud and I am optimistic and I knew that it would come good in the end and that our big break was just around the corner. But the nights, oh my goodness the nights were hard. I would lie in bed and terror would envelop me. Pure paralyzing terror where toxic thoughts would penetrate my brain and overwhelm me. Fear that we would lose our home and the distress and shame of it as well as the impact it would have on our poor children. All I could do was to recite the Lord’s prayer, clutching at my chest, over and over again when I would eventually fall asleep. I would awake the next morning with fists clenched so hard that the blood had stopped flowing and so I had to hang them out of the bed until the feeling and movement returned.

It’s also funny how time can seem relative. Ten months for me this year has seemed to fly by as my fifth baby is nearly one year old already, but 10 months that year was very different and I felt every second of it dragging. One day I went to collect my children from school and I sat in my car alone, parked down a side street where I could avoid contact with other humans. I sat and stared into to the distance and then inexplicable noises began to erupt from my throat and I finally surrendered to my emotions and I wept. I wept because of the strength I was able to find, I wept at our situation, I wept for my husband’s suffering, I wept that I had until now been able to feed my children every night and tuck them into warm, clean beds and I wept because in that moment I wasn’t sure that everything was, in fact, going to turn out okay like I had tried to convince everyone around me that it would. A loud knock on the driver’s window shocked me into the moment. A friend had seen my car and stopped to say hello. I remember feeling angry and embarrassed at the intrusion as I am not one to show my emotions in public. My friend was shocked to see me crying and greatly concerned. I tried (unconvincingly) to reassure her that all would be well and made my excuse to leave. The next day she showed up on my doorstep with the contents of her freezer. God bless her! I didn’t accept it as we were going okay but what an amazing person and how very thoughtful. I also had the offer of a food box from the school (which I respectfully refused as there are always people worse off than what we think we are). I had a few carrier bags of food dropped on the doorstep and some food vouchers also. Thankfully we got our big break, one lead out of over 250 leads and the phone finally rang.

What I want to share with you is this; reserve judgment when it comes to someone who has not got a job. Yes, I know that there are people who cheat the system and I am fully against them because we work jolly hard to raise our family but we were not among that category, although we were often classed as such. We went above and beyond to find employment and we eventually did, but nobody could have prepared me for the length of time it would take us. I still cannot believe it, but there it is.
Assumptions can be both hurtful and damaging and they can make an already difficult situation worse. Also, any small thing that you can do quietly to help, even to invite them for a meal one day, will make a huge difference. Please realize also that if they want to talk to you in confidence about it, they are not expecting you to fix it necessarily, they just need a safe place to get the niggling negatives out of their minds so that they can put a smile on for a little longer, which hopefully will be all that they need before things come good for them again.

I will always be grateful for this time in our lives. It showed us who our real friends were; it showed us that we could cope with one of the worst situations with dignity, resourcefulness and pride; it stripped our gratitude right back to basics (Thank you for letting me feed my babies today. Thank you for allowing us to keep this roof above our heads. Thank you for our good health. Thank you for our friends. Thank you that we are warm on this cold night. Thank you that my marriage is still strong. Thank you for the love that we share. Thank you for the laughter that we shared today. Thank you…thank you… thank you…!). It showed us that our marriage is strong, loving, respectful and happy not just when things are going well but in the darkest of times; it showed me inner strength that I did not know existed and it makes me grateful every day for the life I lead. I also have an increased sense of duty to give back to those who are not as fortunate as I am. My children and I often donate our time/money/attention/resources to worthy causes because it is our turn to pay it forward and spread the love that we were so fortunate to have received and continue to receive in our lives. Light and Love, Cathy xx

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