Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Loss of Job Takes Toll on Former Fashion Exec

DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel very sad and hopeless. I have felt like this for quite some time. I try counting my blessings, something my mother taught me when I was a child. It isn’t working. I have been unemployed for three years. I was a high-paid account executive in the fashion industry, and I was responsible and good at my job. Now I am told I am overqualified or just not right for every job I interview for. I think ageism could be part of it. Even though I am in great shape and look good for my age, I’m still in my 50s. I’m competing with 20-year-olds. I have two children and a husband, and I’m not contributing to our bottom line anymore.

Sometimes I feel like they would be better off if I were dead. I have a healthy life insurance policy that could take care of all of the family’s financial woes. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m feeling desperate. Before you tell me to get a shrink, don’t bother. I can’t afford it. What else can I do to get out of this dark hole? -- Sinking Fast, Brooklyn

DEAR SINKING FAST: The longer a person is out of work, the more devastating it can feel. Plus, that makes it much harder to find another job. It is understandable that you would feel sad about your situation. What is happening a lot for people who are out of work for extended periods of time is that they begin looking outside of their former industry. Consider looking more broadly to see if you can find any kind of job, even part-time work that might help you support your family. You might consider going through AARP’s Life Reimagined, which is a free program designed to help people look at their lives moving forward in order to plot out their course. It is an uplifting curriculum that may benefit you.

As far as suicidal thoughts go, you can get immediate, free support at any time by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Get the help you need so you can see clear to a brighter side of this tough situation.

Health Problems Can Be Kept Private

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was recently diagnosed with a serious health condition. I am a private person, and I don’t want to tell anyone about it. I will be visiting family at Thanksgiving, and typically they ask a thousand questions. They love talking about their ailments -- the young ones as well as the older people. I hate that. I don’t want to lie, but I feel like I should be able to maintain my privacy about my health situation. How can I deflect prying questions, because I know they are coming? -- None of Your Business, Detroit

DEAR NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS: Getting together with family does not require a "true confessions" moment. You have the right to your privacy, even if your family doesn’t like that. When asked how you are doing, say that you are doing fine and then talk about some aspect of your life you feel good about. This could be about work, your home or your friendships. Pick something that they will find interesting and that will deflect from your health.

You may want to consider who can be a confidant. Since you are facing a health challenge, it might be necessary choose one family member whom you trust to share your news with.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)