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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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+11 # MillValleyMaven 2016-08-02 10:30
Are we the greatest country in the world, or what? USA! USA!
-4 # guomashi 2016-08-02 11:28
Quoting MillValleyMaven:
Are we the greatest country in the world, or what? USA! USA!

But...but...but ... Michelle Obama wakes up every morning in house built by slaves!!!!!
...and... and... Mr. Khan can publically whine about his son having died pointlessly in an illegal war in support of someone who voted for that war!!!!

Not for me.
I prefer to experience my American dream directly, not by proxy.
0 # Brice 2016-08-03 03:04
-7 # Bryan 2016-08-02 12:58
What was the point of this article?
I don't get it.
Millions of people go thru the same losses and problems.
+12 # NAVYVET 2016-08-02 14:34
"What was the point of this article?
I don't get it. Millions of people go thru the same losses and problems."
Bryan: THAT WAS THE POINT! Learn how to empathize or you'll never grow up.
+8 # Majikman 2016-08-02 18:14
Ya think maybe it's illustrative of the horrific state millions of people go through because of a health crises or student debt? A health crises is bad enough without the government and other vultures piling on wanting their pound of flesh. Are you implying that this is all perfectly fine because "it happens to everyone"? The US "health" care system and student loans are causing millions of people to endure misery.
-8 # Bryan 2016-08-02 19:59
'' Are you implying that this is all perfectly fine because "it happens to everyone"? ''>>>

No, I am implying that the writer here wrote this as if she was the "only person' this ever happened to---she didn't make any effort to say or even imply that this same thing happens to millions of people.
It was all 'me me me'....if the goal was to make a political point she missed by leaving out how this does happen to others.
+6 # Brice 2016-08-03 03:06
The point is that you don't get it.
Just like people don't get age discrimination until they get old.
Or sex discrimination, or race discrimination ...
How does a democracy, or so-called democracy work if people cannot, will not and are pre-programmed like you to dismiss and not give a damn about others?
+3 # CL38 2016-08-03 13:45
THAT is the point. At a time when 47 million live in poverty with 22 million children living in poverty.

The point is corporations earn record profits, pay the least taxes in decades, AND park profits overseas to avoid paying a red cent, while the typical CEO earned more than 819 times what a worker earning minimum wage would take home in a year.

The point is families are held accountable for accumulated debt, despite losing jobs, homes, health insurance, etc. while corporations get away with major corruption.
+15 # lorenbliss 2016-08-02 13:37
Albeit without the crushing debt, my second wife and I were similarly afflicted by the death of our son. Hence we share Ms. Blossom's sorrow.

Ironically, we lived in Manhattan, the psychiatric capitol of the world, but it was 1967, and the feminist movement had yet to raise USian consciousness enough to recognize the trauma of a still-born child.

We made our baby knowingly amidst the infinite pleasure and joy of love.

But at the end of our sixth month a moral imbecile for whom there are not vile enough pejoratives in any language ran for a train, and in his vicious haste -- cursed may he be -- he knocked my wife down the long flight of iron stairs to the lower level of the Union Square subway station. She returned home that evening massively bruised, and three days later our son was born dead.

My wife saw him briefly in the emergency room, an experience she cannot talk about even now, 49 years later. I viewed him for a moment as a nurse bore him away in a glass jar; except for his purple color, he seemed a perfectly formed infant, with hair as near-black as my own.

In keeping with that era's accepted practice, we stifled our grief. A year later it seemed we despised one another and by 1974 we were divorced, though now in the final years of our lives we are again close.

While trauma such as ours and the Blossoms is at last acknowledged, capitalist greed too often prices healing out of reach, the only cure for which is the abolition of capitalism itself.
+2 # CL38 2016-08-03 13:51
Well said.

The tragedies of our lives are dismissed by many with a despicable attitude of 'so what'? Unless similar 'tragedies' occur in their own lives, many are indifferent.
0 # PCPrincess 2016-08-04 13:03
Even in an account of a trauma such as this, your posts are always such a pleasure to read.
0 # lorenbliss 2016-08-05 22:49
@PCPrincess: Thank you.

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