#82 – Widowhood is a challenging time full of grief and sorrow.
Although you can never be fully prepared for it, there are some ways you can ease your burden — both financially and emotionally.
If you are entering retirement as a couple, it is likely that one of you will face widowhood in the future. You might also have friends or family members going through it.
In this episode, Jeremy Keil speaks with Paula Harris, co-owner and principal at WH Cornerstone Investments. Drawing from her latest book Rise Up: A Widow’s Journal, Paula shares strategies to help you tackle the common challenges of widowhood.
- Better ways to show support than simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss”
- How faith can be a powerful asset in getting through the widowhood journey
- How to alleviate the financial burden for the surviving spouse
- Difficult conversations you need to have today to make things easier for the future
- And more
6 Effective Ways To Cope With Widowhood
1) Check Out “Rise Up: A Widow’s Journal”
Here’s what it is about:
“It is thoughtfully organized into ten chapters that guide along various stages of widowhood, from finding oneself suddenly single to moving forward and living again. Each chapter is illustrated and begins with five questions or thoughts to ponder, followed by 20 quotes to prompt journaled thoughts. It contains essential topics to think about such as faith, love, wisdom, gratitude, and money. It can be followed as laid out or used to turn around a specific piece of this journey.”
What we loved the most about this journal is that it does not have a fixed timeframe and you can follow through it at your own pace.
It also allows you to express your feelings more freely. Instead of using lines, Paula has chosen blank pages for her journal so that you can express using words, paragraphs, drawings, or even taping articles on it — whatever suits you best.
2) Adopt Better Ways To Show Support
Part of coping with widowhood is external i.e., support from friends and family.
When someone experiences the death of a loved one, it is common to simply send an “I’m sorry for your loss” message.
Many experts believe that is not the most effective way to show your support.
Consider the following alternatives instead:
- Reach out with a phone call: It can be more comforting to talk to someone instead of texting.
- Send a card: Cards with personalized, heartfelt messages can mean a lot to your loved ones.
- Visit them in-person: If possible, spend some time with your loved ones. You can take them out for a meal to help them feel less lonely.
- Check in again after a month or two: When someone loses a loved one, several people might reach out and show their support — but probably only for a week or two. When the check-ins stop, they might feel even more lonely. So, make sure you check in again with someone coping with loss after a month or two to see how they are doing.
A common gesture to show support is sending flowers. However, that can be another big mistake!
Consider this: Maintaining and watering flowers regularly can be tiresome for someone coping with the loss of a loved one. A house filled with flowers might also remind people of funeral homes. Finally, the flowers will die eventually, which can remind people of their grief.
3) The Power of Faith
Faith plays a critical role in coping with widowhood.
When you believe that you can lean on God to take care of you, dealing with your grief becomes a little easier. You feel that you’re not completely alone.
As Paula Harris has rightly said in the podcast, “When people have a strong faith, there is hope.”
With faith and hope, you can find the strength to move on.
4) Think About Your Finances Well Ahead of Time
Today, it is common for both partners to be equally involved in key financial decisions.
This was not the case several years ago. It was common for the husband to manage all of the finances, while the wife knew little about money, investments, taxes, and other financial matters.
If you want to reduce the financial burden on yourself or your partner in the future, start planning your finances well ahead of time and, more importantly, make sure both of you are involved.
One of the biggest financial aids you can get is through an insurance policy. It’s also important to think of other ways to secure income for the surviving spouse such as pension, Social Security, and annuities.
Note: Following the death of a partner, many widows enter the “grief fog.” This is a time when they are not in the right mindset to make crucial financial decisions. Remember, don’t rush into any major decisions for at least a year, because they might have consequences for the rest of your life!
5) Retirement Planning for Two
If you’re entering retirement as a couple, preparing for widowhood is an important piece of your retirement plan.
The average span of widowhood is five to eight years. Assuming your retirement will last approximately 20 years, 25-40% of the retirement period can likely be spent in widowhood!
We often like to say that many 92-year-old women live off the decisions of their deceased spouse when he was 62.
So, instead of retirement planning for just you, focus on retirement planning for the both of you.
6) Face the Difficult Conversations Now
“What happens if I die tomorrow?”
Nobody likes to think ask this question. But it’s an important one to think about!
If you convince yourself to have such difficult discussions with your partner today, you’ll make things much easier for the surviving spouse in the future.
One of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is the gift of preparedness!
Some common topics you can discuss include: downsizing in the future, your final wishes (for instance, burial vs. cremation), having your financial documents in order, estate planning, finding an advisor to guide the surviving spouse, etc.
Do you want to learn more about coping with widowhood? Check out the resources below!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or our guest Paula Harris using the contact information provided below!
- “Rise Up: A Widow’s Journal A place to gather and reflect on your journey” by Paula Harris
- Episode 41: The Widow’s Guide to Keeping More of Her Assets With Bill Harris
- Blog: The First Four Financial Steps Widows Should Take After Their Spouse Dies
- Filled With Gold Widow Podcast: Rising Up with Paula Harris
- Filled With Gold®
- “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money” by Barbara Stanny
- Corgenius with Amy Florian
- 3 Things You Should Know Before Choosing A Financial Advisor
- 6 Questions Retirees Aren’t Asking But Should Be
- Subscribe to Retirement Revealed on Google Podcasts
- Subscribe to Retirement Revealed on Apple Podcasts
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About Our Guest:
As WH Cornerstone’s co-founder, Paula Harris is part financial advisor and part dream architect who takes great pride in helping her clients, particularly mid-life widowed women, obtain financial peace of mind while they get back on their feet, rise up, and navigate their path forward. In her “past life”, Paula established Campus Recruiting programs at Walker Digital (founding company of Priceline.com) and First USA, Bank One’s credit card division, now Chase and served as Director of Recruiting and HR for Braxton Associates, a division of Deloitte Consulting in Boston. Today, Paula is assisting people in the life planning that goes hand-in-hand with financial planning. She is a Return on Life Advisor™, as well as a Certified Jack Canfield Methodology Trainer in Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.
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