How to Move Forward After Becoming a Widow
Everyone deals differently with grief when losing a spouse, just as everyone deals differently with how to move forward when facing life as a widow. There’s no structured process, no 12-step program, and no numbered checklist to get your life moving again. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because everyone must go at the pace they feel most comfortable keeping.
However, as a widow there is one thing you must understand: your grief could potentially lead you to take actions that could interfere with your progress to move forward after becoming a widow. That’s because grief interferes with our thinking process by weakening memories, shortening attention spans, and disrupting decision-making capabilities.
With that in mind, does a widow need life insurance? We believe that thinking ahead is a crucial part of moving forward when you’re ready, all while ensuring your loved ones are in good hands. Not only that, but there are several self-care best practices to consider along the way. We want to help you prevent unintended consequences from happening by suggesting some simple safeguards to keep your thought process on the right path. That way, when you’re ready to move forward, you can.
Take Time to Pause Before you Make a Decision
If there’s one thing the people in your life want for you most, it’s to be happy. Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about the best way to do it. And it doesn’t always coincide with what you feel good about doing.
Everyone must follow their own timeframe. And there are several areas where it pays to wait before responding, reacting, or making a decision that could potentially lead to unintended consequences and regret down the road. To help you make progress in moving forward, here are some big things to consider.
While there seems like a never-ending list of things to do after the death of a spouse – from funeral arrangements to bank accounts and Social Security – it’s always advised to wait on making major financial decisions. When it comes to money, grief is not a good advisor. In fact, it could easily sway you to make the wrong decisions.
While it’s a good idea to meet with a financial advisor to update paperwork, take care of pressing needs, and gain clarity about your finances, it’s important to stop there. There will be a better time to make important financial decisions.
One of the most difficult things to handle is your spouse’s belongings. For some, cleaning the house by packing up boxes of clothes and other miscellaneous items is the only way to bring closure. For others, trying to let go of anything is only accompanied by feelings of more loss and even guilt.
If you feel pressured to part with your spouse’s belongings before you are ready, don’t do it. There is a healing component to going through this process, but to be effective, it must be done at your own pace.
Managing relationships with adult children after becoming a widow can get tricky, especially when there is money involved. It’s not uncommon to be pressured by family members asking for their part of the inheritance now – particularly in blended families with stepchildren.
It's important you don’t respond to any financial request before thinking it through, and maybe getting advice from your financial advisor. You can always reconsider at another time. It’s better to deal with a small amount of guilt now than a large dose of regret later.
Grief is compounded by loneliness, and living in an empty house doesn’t help. You may have well-intentioned adult children who want to alleviate your grief by encouraging you to sell the house and move closer to them. It’s a noble gesture, but it’s one you must carefully think through.
If you’re financially secure, it’s wise to stay put for a while until you consider the impact a move could make on the rest of your life. After all, you might be leaving a network of people – friends, social circles, church, medical providers, and otherwise - who know and support you. Leaving this network could leave a deeper hole in your life.
Your existing friends want you to be happy, and will naturally push you into doing things you may not be ready to do. In fact, being around old friends can be especially difficult. Your widowhood is never more pronounced when spending time with married couples, and it may leave you feeling like extra baggage.
Loneliness understandably pushes people to seek friendships and even new partners. Forming new relationships is a critical factor in moving forward, but they must be healthy and supportive.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who prey on the fragile emotions of others. They can manipulate your time, your emotions, and your money. Be careful of those who are pressuring you to loan them money or asking you to pay for personal expenses. It may seem innocent at first, but it’s imperative you keep financial matters to yourself until you feel good about the intentions of others.
The best way to build healthy relationships when you’re ready is to volunteer or join a group that has similar interests. Volunteering is proven to be excellent for mental health. Are there things you naturally enjoy doing? Find a group that does those things as well, whether it’s a gardening club, a book club, group fitness, or simply walking. Any of these activities will help you build up a network of new friends who can provide emotional support and give advice when you’re ready to ask for it.
Take time to protect yourself by being vigilant
Fragile emotions from grief can leave us in a vulnerable state. And that’s a ripe opportunity for scammers who prey on them. This is particularly the case for older adults who make great targets since they’re more open to exploitation due to loneliness, isolation, and/or cognitive decline. If there’s one thing that will stop you from moving forward, it’s falling for a scheme that can hurt you both financially and emotionally.
Awareness and protection are key. Once you understand how these scams try to extract money and personal information from you, it will be easier to detect them and deflect them. Below are two prime areas where they can target you:
Your online presence
Every time you use your email or a website, you leave a digital footprint that opens you to scams. Always be aware of what you’re doing. When it comes to email, never open anything from anyone you don’t know. And take extra precaution clicking on links you’re unfamiliar with. These may lead you to download malware on your computer, jeopardizing everything you have on it. Or they could entice you to send sensitive information that puts your credit at risk.
Be aware when spending time on social media as well. Facebook is known for friends and organizations requesting money for special causes, but they’re not all legitimate. Take extra precaution when considering a donation, particularly when a friend directly messages you with a request for money. Scammers have been known to hack into accounts posing as friends needing money for an emergency. Never take these at face value. If you’re concerned, contact that person directly, outside social media, to ensure it’s a legitimate request.
Your phone presence
It’s easy to impersonate a financial institution or government office – such as a lender, credit card agency or even the IRS – through a fear-inducing phone call. Usually, it’s a threat about closing an account, shutting off a utility, collecting a large unpaid debt, or suspending a Social Security number. Understand that these companies will not contact you by phone if there is ever an issue, particularly when asking for information they would already have. The best thing to do is to hang up. Don’t call any number they direct you to and don’t give them any personal information.
A similar thing is happening through text messaging as well. This will show up on your mobile phone as a text saying an account has been suspended and to click a link for more information. Don’t click on the link. Financial and government organizations don’t transact business and other important services via text.
And finally, a popular phone scam is the call from a grandchild that leads you into an emotional trap. This entails receiving a call from your grandchild with an urgent plea to send money for a medical emergency, a travel crisis, or even to get out of jail. It sounds believable because the caller extracted numerous details about your grandchild from online sources – and can sound just like them. Immediately hang up. And for your own peace of mind, make a quick call to your grandchild or the appropriate relative.
Take time by equipping your loved ones
Anytime you take action to help others is another step forward to heal from your loss. There are two prime areas that if you take small steps to manage, you will eventually find yourself feeling more in control of your future and in a better position to move forward.
Update healthcare documents
You may have already established an estate plan while your spouse was alive. Or, as is the case for most people, it was always something you needed to do but never got done. Either way, now is the best time to start taking steps to either update your current plan or complete a new one.
Estate planning isn’t just about what happens when you die, it also helps you while you’re still living. A current power of attorney, healthcare directive, and living will are essential if something were to happen to you. This leaves someone other than your spouse with the big responsibility to make decisions on your behalf.
Rather than leaving it to chance, you can equip your family with legal documents that give them specific direction on what to do if you become incapacitated. You get to be in control of how you want your life to be handled. This not only saves time, money, and family relationships, but it also gives your loved ones a much easier burden to bear.
Look into a life insurance plan
It’s possible that you were fortunate to receive a death benefit after the loss of your spouse. If so, then you know how valuable it was to have that extra money – whether a large or small amount - to count on when you needed it most. Having the burden of financial stress lifted off our shoulders during a time of grief is a gift. And it’s a great gift you can pass on to your loved ones as well.
Why does a widow need life insurance?
As a widow, it’s quite possible you have no one who relies on you for financial support. You have grown children now raising their own families, or you might not have children at all. Either way, someone will have to manage your funeral arrangements and tidy up all your affairs after you pass.
You can quickly ease this financial burden for your loved ones with a whole life insurance policy. Handling funeral expenses and the other costs associated with death is expensive. At times, family members might find they must personally cover some of these upfront costs and then wait patiently while estate affairs are organized to get reimbursed. Burial life insurance is perfect for this situation because you can equip family members with a life insurance policy that adequately provides for these costs exactly when they need it.
In conclusion, does a widow need life insurance? It’s best to ask yourself, “what’s the biggest gift my life insurance can bring?” The answer is peace of mind that leads to the extra time and space your loved ones will need to move forward with their lives as well.
If you’re unsure how to move forward after becoming a widow, know that you don’t have to face the future alone. We’re here to help. Reach out to us today to discuss your needs or feel free to request an insurance quote at no cost.