What to do when you’re feeling a great sense of hopelessness and loss? I’ve found it is best to count my blessings even in the toughest of times. This way, I am compelled to examine what I have instead of what I have not.
Easier said than done, especially when things look darkest.
I’ve experienced tough times when it felt like I couldn’t see my way out. I was young, stone broke, sitting in my car in the dead of winter, homeless, frightened, and feeling very much alone—wondering how I was going to afford my next meal and put gas in the car to stay warm. Few things are more frightening than being homeless and without money especially when you are alone and seemingly without options.
In the darkest of times, it is impossible to feel like there’s calm and light on the other side of the storm. Baby Boomers have been through their share of ups and downs. We’re growing old and a lot of us are struggling. If you’re fortunate, you’ve managed to dodge layoffs, firings, foreclosures, eviction, serious health issues, divorce, natural disasters, and the loss of a loved one.
If you’re like most of us, your journey has had its share of chuckholes, slippery pavement, being stuck in the mud, and buried under a mountain of snow. I know people who’ve lost children and spouses. I personally don’t know how anyone survives the loss of a child or spouse. You expect to lose a parent. As nature generally goes, you expect your children to outlive you. It is a life changing shock when they don’t.
When you’re feeling low and without hope the best thing you can do is get involved with others and ask what you can do to help. Purpose is what gives us hope. Mix it up with good people no matter how embarrassing it may be to reach out. There are the homeless and destitute who never dreamed they would be there. They became jobless and then homeless as a result of the economy and COVID.
Never be afraid to ask for help.
When you’re running a self confidence deficit, likely the last thing you want to do is be with others. Low self esteem cripples. Despite your deepest internal fears, mingle with good people and do your best to avoid the bad apples. When you are feeling low, it is easy to get mixed up with the bad ones because they instinctively know to prey on those who are down on their luck—and will take advantage of your weakened emotional state.
When someone is overly friendly and wants to be your new best friend, exercise caution and take it nice and slow. Follow a getting to know you process before getting too involved. Listen to your gut instincts. Pay close attention to what attentive newfound friends do, not what they say. Actions speak loudest. If their story sounds outlandish, it probably isn’t true.
There is help for you when you’re in a bad spot. There are organizations, both private and government, that can help you get back on your feet. Cold and hungry? There are food kitchens and places to get warm. Virtually every city in the nation has a safe harbor for you. There are also warm beds and bathrooms when you need a safe place to bathe and sleep. Most importantly, reduce your vulnerability by getting somewhere safe.
What you need most when you’re destitute is optimism. Shut out all negative input and focus on what you want from life. Set goals and get focused no matter how many people tell you it will never work. Forge ahead and never lift. Where do you want to see yourself in six months or a year? Five years. Even if you don’t have a skillset, there’s always work for you doing the things most people don’t want to do who feel it is beneath them. A job of any kind is an opportunity to get back on your feet one step at a time. There’s a critical shortage of people who will show up and give it their all. If you are consistent and reliable, you will always have work.
Baby Boomers have always been consistent and reliable because we were raised by The Greatest Generation. They understood work ethic and made sure we understood it too. We began early on mowing lawns and shoveling snow until we could get a work permit. Then, we pumped gas, swept beauty salons, bussed tables, flipped hamburgers, sold shoes, and fixed lawnmowers until we charted a course for our life’s work. Some of us never stopped waiting tables or fixing lawnmowers because we enjoyed doing so.
My point is, never stop believing in yourself. Never ever give up because there’s a place for you no matter where you go. If there’s no work, catch a bus to where there is work. Find purpose and you will get on your feet.
When I was at my very low emotionally, I drove a school bus. It was purpose, which was what I needed most. I enjoyed transporting kids to and from school. I needed a reason to keep going. In time, I regained lost confidence as a journalist and began canvassing for employment. I found my calling in Los Angeles with a prominent publisher. It took time and, one day at a time, I got my footing and got back on the rails. I was back and it felt good.
When employment cannot be found, immerse yourself in volunteer work helping others and making a difference in society. Volunteer work typically leads to productive contacts and employment. It may seem pointless at first, however, you can make a difference and it will yield a greater benefit in time.
All you have to do is approach your comeback one day at a time and with great tenacity. Adjust your expectations and put one foot in front of the other. Fake it til you make it, and you will get it. In time, you will never know how you did it.
There’s Help For You…
The Continuum of Care (CoC) program is for homelessness services across the nation. Contact your community’s CoC to learn about access to shelter, housing, and other resources. Contact the CoC to get in touch with homeless organizations in your area. A “2-1-1” hotline is available in many communities and offers trained staff around the clock, seven days a week, to help residents access services like shelter, health care, food, and other social services programs.
The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, offers confidential counseling 24/7 for veterans at risk of homelessness and their families.
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans offers a directory of local service providers and general help navigating resources for veterans experiencing homelessness.
The Veterans Crisis Line offers online chat with a mental health clinician around the clock. Don’t go it alone.
Call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) Text #838255
The National Runaway Safeline offers services and a confidential 24/7 hotline for young people who are at risk of homelessness.
Information Courtesy National Alliance To End Homelessness