I wrote My Husband Died Now What? A Widow's Guide to Grief Recovery & Smart Financial Decisions (excerpts herewith) to save widows grief, time and money with my advice and tips. In that spirit, I have shared a boatload of information for you to be able to reference as you need.
Please be at least as patient with yourself as you would be with your kids or nieces when they're learning. We don't expect them to exit the vaginal canal as Rhodes Scholars, so let's not hold ourselves to a different standard.
Through no fault of your own, you have been thrust into what may be referred to as 'foreign territory' without a map, or notice. Because I feel strongly that understanding financial jargon is important, I've defined some useful financial terms (in English, not financese) at the back of the book.
This two-part book serves as your navigation guide -- complete with a combination of valuable information, strategies, hints and hope -- to support you both in the early and advanced stages of grief. I interweave emotional recovery tools with smart financial strategies that are easy to understand and implement. I sprinkle helpful websites throughout and then list them alphabetically by topic at the end of the book.
Part I speaks to the new widow's emotional well-being and also gives easy-to-follow tips for getting organized. I give you a short list of people and agencies to contact as well as instructions on what information to glean from various financial sources.
Because you've suffered a horrific shock to your body and psyche, I advocate a No-Decision Zone for the first six months. I encourage you first to take small steps towards rebuilding your health and collecting information about your wealth.
1. Discover where you are emotionally and financially.
2. Locate your investments, assets and insurances and organize them in an easy-to-understand exercise.
3. Identify the questions that will need answered in the next six months to one year.
4. Refrain from making any large financial decisions until a few months pass.
5. Surround yourself with appropriate professionals and friends who will be available when you need them.
Part II is chock-full of confidence builders, strategies to begin the re-creation process for your life, and Money-Saving strategies as you face the ever-important Decision Zone.
I have met far too many widows who have survived the darkest hours of grief and yet weeks, months or years later, they still feel "adrift in the sea of uncertainty." They're facing overwhelming despair about the unknown without their husband and have no idea what to 'do' next.
They fear doing the wrong thing(s) for themselves and those who love them; so paralyzed by pain and loss, they do nothing. By not taking action, they miss valuable opportunities to create meaning in the life they still have to live.
That said, I have also met far too many widows swindled by financial "advisors" who swoop in with unparalleled speed to "help." Sadly, some financial salespeople make used car salesmen look like choir boys. A widow does not need a commissionable agent jamming an unsuitable annuity or life insurance policy down her esophageal passage, just to earn those last two tickets for the company's all-expenses-paid luxury HI trip for two and a 10% commission. Yet, they are smooth talkers; It is very easy to be sold annuities and life insurance that do NOT serve your best interests under the guise of "safe investments." The penalties to extricate yourself from such products are prohibitive!
Picking Up Your Emotional Pieces
Widowed: even the word sounds hollow. Who wants to self-identify as "widow?" Shocked, terrified, saddened, angry, remorseful, bitter, paralyzed and numb are fitting adjectives. You may have cried out or screamed "Why?" or "Why me?!" or "Why now?!" And you may fear "What next?" as if you may need to gird up yourself now, in case your wounds may be peeled open again and perhaps salt poured in. "Could I BE in more pain?"
The past is the filter by which we see things now. I invite each of you to notice and gain an awareness of who you are and where you are right now, as a way of quelling some of the obsessing either about where you were or where you "should" be.
Granted, what once brought you peace may now instead cut through you like a hot knife; what you once thought you controlled is now whirling, seemingly out of your control. What skills you once possessed and took for granted have now gone into temporary hiding. What you once feared is now laughable. The abject fear of death no longer grips you; it's happened, you are forever changed, and now you live differently.
You've been stopped short. You may have had a warning, perhaps not. Regardless, you've survived one of the biggest 'pattern interrupts' of your lifetime. You can expect and believe it is totally natural for you to be confused and disorganized, if not downright scatter-brained.
I want to move us from "What next?" to the different question, "What's next?" Simply by adding an 's', we've shifted our focus from helplessness to strategizing our future, however uncertain.
The new task is to focus on who you can be, rather than who you were. Your husband would want you to focus on just that.
Through your profound sadness and buckets of tears, you can eventually re-member (what otherwise may have felt dis-membered earlier in the space of a mere split-second) or re-join your internal operating strategies, your inner strengths, and your faith in yourself or perhaps One larger than you.
"How can I possibly concentrate with all these emotions rushing through my heart and my mind?" you may ask. People do. Women and widows do. And as you are able, you will do so too, step by step, idea by idea, feeling by feeling, asking for and learning to receive help from those best able to provide it.
Amazon will be offering my eBook for FREE this Friday ONLY, October 24th:
Please copy this link and spread the word to your friends -- widowed or not. You'll be glad you have a copy on your shelf to hand the next widow you encounter.