Losing someone or something you care deeply about is very distressing. You may experience a range of severe emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness you’re experiencing will never go away. Many people experience feeling like they’re going crazy, feeling like they’re in a bad dream, or question their religious beliefs. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal.
As a financial planning firm, we see grief come from a variety of situations: death of a loved one, separation from a spouse, loss of a job, changing jobs, a serious illness, and even the death of a pet. How you grieve depends on a variety of factors, including your faith, your life experiences, your personality and coping style, and the severity of the loss.
When dealing with the death of a spouse specifically, the grieving process takes time and there is no “normal” time frame for grieving. Some people start to feel better in only a few weeks or months. For others, the grieving process can take years or a lifetime. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to happen naturally. And while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the challenges of the loss.
Get support and take care of yourself
One of the most important factors in recovering from the loss of a spouse is having the support of other people. You should lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Embrace loved ones, rather than avoiding them, and accept the assistance that’s offered. It’s important to express your feelings when you’re grieving because sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone.
When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The mind and body are connected — when you feel good physically you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. It is advised not to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems. If you find yourself turning to unhealthy ways to cope with the pain, you should contact a therapist for professional help.
Have a plan
We have found that having a plan in place greatly reduces the amount of stress in the event of a loss of a loved one, resulting in more time available to grieve and less time worrying about stressful decisions.
Here at Precedent Asset Management, our comprehensive financial planning covers all aspects of your life, and we make sure that you are prepared for a sudden life changing event such as the loss of a spouse.
If you don’t have an expert to assist in creating a plan, you will want to make sure you have at least the basics in place before the death of yourself or a loved one. Below are some common things you will want to consider before and after a loss.
- Use a password management system – we recommend you begin using a secure password system to manage your various online accounts, email, and other online services. A summary of these services can be accessed at this link: Password Managers.
If you are not comfortable with online technology tools, ensure your various passwords are complex, secured, and accessible to family members. This will also help ensure that you or your family is not locked out of access to important accounts and services online in the event of death or disability.
- Create an estate plan – we recommend you contact a trusted estate-planning attorney to help you draft the documents needed to ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death, and that you are well cared for in the event of your disability.
- Plan your funeral – Your family will be in a fragile state emotionally when you pass away. It may be difficult for them to negotiate funeral costs at that time. Solve this issue by planning your funeral today. You can even prepay for your funeral if you want. Visit a local funeral home to discuss it.
- Spend time with your loved ones – this one may seem obvious, but as the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. Enjoy those special moments with the ones you love and cherish the time you have with them.
- Get multiple copies of the death certificate – you should go to the city clerk’s office and get certified copies of the death certificate. It is best practice to get numerous copies because of the various institutions that require them in order to release funds or close accounts.
- Decide what to do with life insurance proceeds – if you have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), you should have a general idea of what you will use the money for and where to hold it. But many times it can be overwhelming to receive a large check in the mail. You could deposit it in a checking or savings account, but remember, your FDIC coverage is now only $250,000 per institution.
- Notify Social Security – the agency can put the deceased person on the Social Security Master Death Index. This prevents would-be fraudsters from collecting the loved one’s Social Security payments. It also helps stop identity thieves from opening accounts in the name of the deceased individual, because the person’s credit reports will be flagged.
- Transfer accounts – you’ll want to transfer accounts from your loved one’s name into your own. This not only covers bills such as the power, electricity, and water, but also financial accounts such as bank accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. Since every state has different mandates, be sure to check what type of legal filings, if any, are necessary in the state in which a family member has died, as well as any state where the individual owned property. Your CFP and estate attorney will be incredibly valuable during this transition.
If you need help with any aspect of today’s article, whether creating a plan or guidance to help you respond to a sudden change in life, we are here for you. Feel free to schedule a meeting to discuss your needs and we will be more than happy to help.