Small Buiness Bankruptcy and the 5 Stages of Grief

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Financial problems are stressful in many ways, no doubt about it. And the stress can take a severe emotional toll on you and your family. Small business owners are highly emotionally invested in their businesses. When the business fails, it can have a deep impact on more than your bank account. Bankruptcy offers a clean break and a chance to start over — financially. Dealing with the psychological fallout of bankruptcy also takes time and is its own complex process.

I’ve been working with financially-stressed clients for over 30 years and I’ve noticed that when folks are caught up in all of the confusion and turmoil related to winding down a business, they are likely in one of the 5 stages of grief, described below. I usually get involved with my clients during the bargaining stage, which is where many struggling business owners start looking for a solution to their financial problems.

Kübler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief   (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Denial“I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.

Anger“Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them.

Bargaining“I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the situation. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand the situation, but if I could just do something to buy more time…”

Depression“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
During the fourth stage, the person begins to understand the certainty of of the situation.

Acceptance“It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person’s situation.

Don’t get stuck in the denial stage. Think of bankruptcy as a way to move on, cut off the time and emotion invested in the business and catch your breath.

We can help you untangle your most complex debt issues while protecting your best interests. Remember, the longer you wait to deal with a failing business, the fewer options you have. Contact Cossitt Law at (406) 752-5616 to discuss your options. We can take a look at your situation and provide expert legal guidance based on four decades of small business bankruptcy experience.


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