When a spouse dies most widows go through a predictable, but no less devastating, series of emotions. Kathleen Rehl, acknowledged as an expert on this subject, tells us that there are perhaps three stages of this passage: Overwhelming grief, a Personal Growth stage and finally a settling in to what s
he calls a Transformation into the newly emerged version of “You.”
Family and friends want to be helpful, but this help can often feel like a smothering. Adult children may swoop in to take charge, forgetting that you are still capable and may even wish to assert some independence. After the busyness of funeral and the business that must be attended to, take your time to think about your key issues. For most of us those issues might be reduced to 1) family, and here grandchildren top the list, 2) financial security, and 3) charitable concerns and commitments.
No matter what your circumstances, there are a few Do’s and Don’ts for that period of time when you are passing from grief to transformation.
Don’t rush. Your brain literally shuts a portion of itself off in times of extreme stress. Higher functions – anything beyond breathing and movement – may get scrambled. This will pass, so wait until you feel on firmer ground before making any significant decisions.
Don’t listen to advice that is not solicited. In fact, beware of financial wolves that often come in the guise of a friend of a friend or a member of the friend’s church or social community.
Don’t be a “purse” or an ATM for your family. Particularly when a large life insurance settlement is received, family members will assume you have extra money that you can lend. While you may decide to gift something later, don’t do it right away.
Do make your decisions carefully and on your own timetable. You will be challenged with decisions on new Power of Attorney documents, new Will, perhaps new housing arrangements. On the fun side you may have the opportunity to make new friends of other widows in your community with whom you will have many interests, hobbies, fears and joys to share.
Do make decisions regarding where you will live and why with care and only after considerable independent thought.
Do make an objective review of your financial assets, income, and obligations. Consider working with a Certified Financial Planner with whom you can craft an understandable financial forecast.
Do take care of yourself – emotionally, physically, and financially.