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Excerpt: "When you lose a child, you don't really care about what you still owe Sallie Mae. I had to change my phone number and ignore the world to stay sane."

Anxiety-inducing calls from collectors became commonplace. (photo: Getty Images)
Anxiety-inducing calls from collectors became commonplace. (photo: Getty Images)

My Life Collapsed When My Daughter Died. That Didn't Stop the Debt Collectors

By Priscilla Blossom, Guardian UK

02 August 16


When you lose a child, you don’t really care about what you still owe Sallie Mae. I had to change my phone number and ignore the world to stay sane

Debt: $80,000+

Source: College

Estimated years until debt free: Uncertain

was young, pregnant, married and happy. I had just moved into a beautiful apartment in a tranquil neighborhood. My husband had landed a well-paying job. Then one day, I started to bleed. Days later I learned that my baby, at only five months’ gestation, would not make it.

It was only recently that folks began to recognize a phenomenon known as birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder, but I’ve lived with it every day since I lost my daughter Margaret in 2012. It wasn’t her death that initially brought debt into my life. I had already accumulated debt from student loans and credit cards to help me pay my way through school. Though I made timely payments for a while, I was forced to stop paying when I was faced with two options: pay for food in my stomach, or pay my bills and starve. I chose the former.

Before my daughter’s death, my intention was to begin freelancing and use my supplemental income to pay my debts. But everything happened so fast. We’d only been in that new apartment for a month when she died, many of our belongings still in boxes. Losing our daughter left us broken; and now we had to figure out how much it would cost to cremate our baby, decide if we wanted to spring for the more expensive urn. I could barely stop crying long enough to take a Xanax let alone figure out all these financial logistics. This is how it all went wrong.

We lost Maggie in late September and on 1 December, my husband (who was only given one week to grieve) was let go from his job. I attempted to keep us afloat by taking the first gig I could find, but the money wasn’t enough and we lost our apartment. This meant breaking our lease and subsequently being charged thousands for the rent we would have paid had we kept our old lease. That is, of course, on top of the old card and loan debt I still owed. With every passing day, our debts grew into sizeable monsters lurking inside credit reports, waiting for the moment we might want to do something important like buy a car or find a home.

More debts accumulated any time we had a lapse in health insurance, a side-effect of lacking stable employment, which is hard to come by when your mental health is suffering. Funny thing is that you need insurance coverage in order to help battle issues like PTSD. How’s that for a catch-22?

Calls from collectors became commonplace, filling me with constant anxiety. My mailbox was full of bills or letters congratulating me on the birth of my child from companies who didn’t realize she was now a pile of ashes in a box inside my closet. I changed my phone number, moved into my parent’s house, ignored the world for a while. When your kid dies, you really can’t care much about what you still owe Sallie Mae. And that joke about being so in debt they’ll want your firstborn? It’s not funny any more.

Life has improved somewhat since my daughter’s death. I’ve started writing freelance on a regular basis and my husband has finally landed a job that will hopefully prove to be stable in the long run. We also now have a two-year old son who, though having spent two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, is now a happy, healthy toddler. But I still live with PTSD, from the birth and death of my daughter, and the complicated birth of my son.

Some days it’s hard to make deadlines and juggle clients, hard to be a good mom, hard to breathe. I’m lining my ducks in a row to start repaying my loans and rebuilding my credit. I’m hoping this is the year we can finally move into our own place, and more importantly, the year we can finally get regular, uninterrupted care for our mental health. your social media marketing partner
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