As I have told you before, while I have been going through this legal quagmire over the past 2 ½ years, one of the things I have sought to do is to educate myself and to keep my eyes on news stories about foreclosure. You will see links to some of the sites I have used to keep myself informed above this blog.
One of the trends that I have found really disturbing has been murder/suicides by foreclosed homeowners. It seems to be a growing trend, yet no one has really offered up a real solution to prevent more of these unnecessary deaths from occurring. What typically happens is, shortly before being evicted, some homeowners have taken their lives and those of their family members.
At first, I thought it was primarily elderly homeowners who felt disgraced that they had not been able to maintain their homes, and who, faced with a failing financial market, may not have had access to the same fixed monthly income they previously depended on to finance their day-to-day living expenses.
This trend seems spread across several generations and different socioeconomic groups.
One story that really struck me as incredibly sad was about an elderly couple in Oregon who turned on the gas. Each one died in a separate room of the house alongside their golden retrievers. I can see them worrying about who was going to care for their animals after they were gone. It’s not something many people think about, but is something that has been at the forefront of my mind since my two best friends died two years ago, leaving behind two cats that no one knew what to do with. http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2008-05-14-mortgage-foreclosures-mental-health_n.htm
But more than that, at the time, I just couldn’t perceive feeling like that was the only option. What about their relatives, close friends? Didn’t anyone reach out to them, offer to take them in? Perhaps they just never told anyone, so no one offered.
Another story that struck me was about a woman who faxed her suicide note to her mortgage company 90 minutes before her home went up for auction. Though her mortgage company called to advise the police, they arrived too late to prevent her death. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Foreclosure-notice-leads-to-suicide-of-nice-lady-307253.php
In Pennsylvania, a woman set fire to her home using her foreclosure paperwork, then slit her wrists. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/opinion/foreclosures-are-killing-us.html
A chart here shows that Nevada and Arizona lead the nation in suicides directly related to foreclosure, with California in 5th place. http://www.datamasher.org/mash-ups/number-deaths-due-suicide-100k-foreclosure-rates
In fact, the New York Times reports that one-third of foreclosed homeowners polled were experiencing the symptoms of major depression. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/opinion/foreclosures-are-killing-us.html
Though I am usually a very optimistic person, I am slowly beginning to understand how people who have shocked their loved ones by taking such drastic action are driven to do so.
Yes, losing your job is stressful. Losing both your main sources of income and asking your mortgage company to help you is heart-pounding. Putting food on the table should come before saving your home. After all, a home is wherever you make it – the structure you dwell in does not define home, but the people you live with and love do.
Having to scrimp and empty out accounts to keep up with a forbearance agreement, all the while praying a job that pays as well as the one you lost, is taxing.
Showing up in court and facing the attorneys representing the faceless corporations and watching the judges give more credence to their lame, empty, and malicious statements can wound a soul made more sensitive by fighting to survive.
Living in fear of hearing the doorbell being rung by the local sheriff can fray one’s nerves.
Having to remain in your home waiting for everything to be resolved, not being able to move or relocate for a job to improve your financial situation (because once you give up possession, the bank gets your home), is stagnating.
Hoping time and time again that a judge will listen to your side of the story and say, “Hey, wait a minute, you’ve been wronged,” only to have that hope shattered each and every time, pushes one into despair.
I know I have been feeling very low this past week. And feeling that I finally understand what these other people were feeling and thinking in their last hours. It’s like you become trapped in a box and although you can see all the ways out, going one way or the other can cause a new set of problems. No wonder most foreclosed homeowners experience higher levels of anxiety than the general population!
Though I haven’t yet heard the judge’s ruling on what rent amount should be set, I have a feeling he will side with the lender. And it’s not just about having to pay a ridiculous amount going forward – they can require that I pay retroactively for time I’ve already stayed in the house. And that just simply isn’t feasible for me.
Here I am, 3 ½ years later, still seeking permanent work, still figuring out how to pay all my bills, still wrangling with my mortgage company, still fighting. Still living.
And I’ll go on.
I am in the very fortunate situation of having received multiple offers from friends to let us live with them… even ones allergic to cats! (I have two.)
Suicide is not an answer for me, and I wish it wasn’t the answer for anyone. Our lives are too precious to be defined by where we live. Though economic times are difficult, I would rather share my story and be offered a helping hand than to suffer, and die, silent. Although this has been the longest-lasting financial crisis in my lifetime, I have been through others, and I know that, eventually, it gets better.
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Handy tip: If you or someone you know are going through foreclosure, talk about it – to your friends if you aren’t able to afford a professional. There are all kinds of suicide prevention hotlines out there. It’s not easy to talk about, but know that it’s okay to talk about it.