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How Grief Can Lead to Debt: Cheryl’s Journey to Overcoming a Tragedy

Cheryl has been through what no parent should.

On Monday, January 27, 2014, Cheryl’s oldest child and only daughter, Kelley Anne, passed away unexpectedly at 39-years-old. Understandably, Cheryl’s grief drove her to try and stifle that pain. Shopping and overspending became coping mechanisms. Here is Cheryl’s story…

Cheryl Pickett overcomes her grief and the debt she ended up with in the process

How her debt began…

“During the months and years that followed, I began “collecting” credit cards. I purchased anything and everything I wanted…”

Grief and trauma can disrupt our mental functioning which also affects how we handle our money. Making financial decisions is justifiably more difficult during this time, and it can take people a long time to even consider seeking help. 

“Three years later, I went into grief counseling.” 

Overspending on credit cards is ONE of the leading causes of debt in America. Due to Cheryl’s grief, it quickly got away from her.

Financial grief…

“Within that counseling, I had discovered I was in over $17,000 in debt on 10 credit cards and was having difficulty paying even the minimum amounts with my Social Security check and retirement check.”

The average Social Security retirement benefit only pays around $1,500 per month. Even trying to pay the minimum on her cards left Cheryl finagling grocery money and other household bills to help pay the balance down but to no avail.

“Most of the cards were maxed out and I couldn’t get a loan anywhere to help me consolidate.”

It’s a common problem that people face when they get into credit card debt. Those high balances mean you have a high debt-to-income ratio. And that means that you can qualify for a personal loan to consolidate debt. As a result, you can’t get out of the minimum payment trap you get in when your balances increase.

An ad on TV sparked her curiosity…


While most people realize they are going down a bad path, they need a wake-up call before they take any steps to pay off debts. For Cheryl, a commercial was it took to give her the nudge she needed.

“I saw an advertisement on TV concerning credit card debt. That intrigued my curiosity. I researched on the internet, made many phone calls, took mountains of notes, and finally found Consolidated Credit.”

Consolidated Credit’s counselors do more than just help people find a Debt Management Program that can help them become debt-free. Our mission is to assist families to end financial crises and solve money management issues. Cheryl found that and more when she called to speak with a credit counselor.

“He listened to me and directed me as if he was a family member trying to clear my way for the help that I sincerely needed.  He gave me the confidence and trust that I need to start the program.”

With the help of her counselor, Cheryl was able to develop a plan to pay off her debt in just 36 months!

It was very scary to give up the control she thought she needed…


Without the help of Consolidated Credit, it would’ve taken Cheryl almost 10 years to pay off her balance. And though it was frightening…

“To promise I wouldn’t use those 10 credit cards any longer and to promise to pay the $523.00 a month for three years and sign the contract for this promise, was SO scary.” 

But she knew if she didn’t do these things, she would have to claim bankruptcy. Something she couldn’t do to herself or her family.

How overcoming her debt helped her to overcome her grief…

“I have learned that I didn’t need credit cards to help me through grief.  I didn’t need credit cards to make me happy or buy items I didn’t need. Now, in January 2021, I paid my last payment to Consolidated Credit as promised three years before.” 

Cheryl learned to rely on purchasing items with cash and saving up for big purchases, completely forgoing the credit route.

“My debt is behind me, as is the pressure of corralling money from so many sources to put an end to that huge debt.”

Cheryl’s predicament is sadly more common than people think. We are honored to be able to share Cheryl’s story and have nothing but well wishes for her moving forward.

“Thank you, Consolidated Credit, and every person that assisted me with questions and kept me in the moving forward in the right direction to the finish line.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with the loss of a family member, it’s ok to seek help. Being vulnerable in such a hard time may be difficult but keeping your emotions inside is never good.

While we here at Consolidated Credit are not mental health experts, we do advocate for people to have a better understanding of their mental health. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression, please reach out to someone.

If you’re facing challenges with debt, we can help. Talk to a certified credit counselor for a free evaluation.