Conversation About Debt

Dealing with insurmountable debt and making the decision to file bankruptcy can be a deeply personal and overwhelming experience. However you choose to address your debt, whether through consolidation, settlement or bankruptcy, the process is usually full of anxiety and eventually, great relief. And it’s an experience that individuals often hide from others. The perceived stigma that when you fall into debt you’ve done something wrong needs to be overcome, and we can help by talking more about it. Debt isn’t intentional. It is the result of outside forces: job loss, illness, unforeseen necessary expenses, etc.

In his recent essay about his debt experience, Joshua Dudley explained the problem: “We internalize a lot of problems and finances are at the top of that list. If I had been open and honest with myself and talked about it with friends and other people, I would have declared bankruptcy a long time ago.” Dudley’s essay is a great examination of what a person goes through when overcoming debt through bankruptcy, including how this experience affects your relationship with others. Dudley talks about struggling with the shame of it all, but also how positive it can be. “Getting across the concept that you could be proud of something that to nearly everyone represented a personal and moral failing was going to be a challenge. But, I was proud of it; I escaped the clutches of a life chained to debt.”

Artist Brittany M. Powell is also helping transform the conversation with The Debt Project. Powell is photographing people who have experienced debt across the country. “My goal is to photograph 99 people across the US, in order to bring people together to re-contextualize an abstract, often shamed experience. It is my hope that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage the viewer and participants to question and reframe our perception of Debt and how we contribute to its power and role in our social structure.” In a Washington Post article about Powell and The Debt Project, she explains her inspiration for the Project after she herself filed bankruptcy: “Many of us are in the same situation, but it’s not something that we collaboratively talk about.”  

When we first speak with new clients at DRF, we understand the affects of debt and bankruptcy on the person’s life. Our clients rely on us to talk through anxieties and work together to approach overcoming their debt in the way that works best for them. When bankruptcy is the best option, our clients experience a positive transformation in their life.

One recent client explains her experience: “We are all in need of help in some kind of way in our lifetime, and I will be forever grateful for the help I received. After the bankruptcy, it has helped in the ways of better understanding how to use your income wisely. I have learned that there are things in one’s life that unexpectedly happen you never think will. It has taken a huge relief of pressure and worry off my nerves, knowing I won’t have to appear in court anymore, and being free from my debts. Thank you ever so much for the help of everyone at the Massachusetts Debt Relief Foundation who was involved with my case” 


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