The Journey Forward: A Widow’s Guide to Taking the First Steps
Any widow would likely attest to the fact that the loss of a spouse is one of the most difficult life changes—a change that disrupts the very foundation of your reality and how you envisioned your life unfolding. Whether your spouse’s passing was expected or completely unforeseen, no one can ever fully anticipate the implications of becoming a widow until they are faced with the reality of taking on life’s new challenges alone. At Northstar, we specialize in helping widows emotionally and financially and find the following first steps can help improve your sense of well-being as you navigate through this difficult life transition.
Grant Yourself Time
Many of the widows with whom we have relationships have expressed that the grieving process is not at all what they expected. In some respects, healing after such a loss may often feel like taking one step forward and two steps back. A photo, a song, or a familiar scent can trigger deep pangs of grief that can throw off your balance at any given moment.
Be gracious with yourself during this process. Allow yourself the space needed to experience the many emotions that you will encounter and give yourself permission to rest when you need it. Accept support from your family, friends, and trusted professionals.
Losing your spouse is emotionally overwhelming and how you feel today may not be how you feel in one year, five years or ten years. It’s important to take your time in making significant money decisions that may affect your long-term financial security. Most major decisions (such as investments, house, gifting etc.) can be delayed until you have a better understanding of what you want your new normal to look and feel like.
Seek the Help of Trusted Professionals
The settling of an estate is not a quick or simple process by any means. There will be piles of paperwork to fill out including beneficiary forms, account transfer forms, and title transfer forms if the couple owned property together. And if you are the executor of the estate, as is quite often the case, you will be charged with carrying out your late husband’s wishes. Eventual changes to tax filing status and how to best handle your new tax circumstances will also need to be addressed.
In conjunction with the settling the estate and strategic tax planning, we find that even the financially savvy lose a great deal of confidence in their financial decision-making once they suffer the loss of a spouse. The stress, feeling overwhelmed, and the emotional toll have a way of dominating a woman’s confidence in the wake of such loss. It is at this juncture that you may find it helpful and reassuring to enlist the help of a trusted financial advisor who can support you by:
- Helping you sort and prioritize your to do list
- Collaborating with you about your options
- Supporting you as you move through your grief and emotions
- Assuaging your fears
- Taking over some of the less pleasant, but still pressing financial tasks
- Helping relieve some of the burdens while you heal
In fact, a study of 1,100 widows found that “working with a financial advisor significantly improved widows’ financial confidence in their current and future financial situations.” The right fit financial advisor will also be able to recommend a CPA, Estate Planning Attorney, and Insurance professional with whom they have previously worked should you find yourself in need of their professional services throughout the process. It can provide a great sense of relief knowing you have a team of skilled professionals supporting and empowering you to make the most informed decisions for your new future.
Join a Support or Bereavement Group
When Carolyn Moor was only thirty-six years of age, a sudden car crash took the life of her husband, leaving her with two small children to care for and an entire life to re-build on her own. In the wake of her own loss, Carolyn founded the Modern Widow's Club in 2011 to “empower widows to lean into life, build resilience and make a positive difference in society.” The more than twenty chapters around the country now provide a safe, supportive, compassionate, and non-judgmental space for widows to gather and support one another in their journeys through widowhood and beyond.
As an all-female team of financial advisors that dedicate a large portion of our time and practice to servicing women in transition, we saw that our clients, as well as other widows who were near to us, could really benefit from the mission of the Modern Widow’s Club. With this in mind, we proudly launched the Southern New Hampshire Chapter of the Modern Widow’s Club in April of 2018. We are privileged to have met and connected with an amazing, inspiring group of women who have now become part of our extended Northstar family. The stories, support, and progress of each of these women is astonishing. Groups such as these allow connections at one of the most grievous points is a woman’s life. The loss of a spouse can make a woman feel indelibly alone. It’s groups such as these that help remind her she most certainly is not.
At Northstar Financial Planning, we understand that life-altering events such as the loss of a spouse through death or divorce have emotional and behavioral consequences as well as financial ones. Facing life’s new circumstances takes courage, fortitude, and support. These transitions are about so much more than just finances. As Certified Financial Transitionists®, Registered Life Planners, and Certified Financial Behavior Specialists®, we aim to support and guide individuals facing these circumstances. If you or someone close to you has recently lost a spouse, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss how we can help ease the burdens of the transition and empower you to begin your journey forward with confidence and hopefulness.
 Grable, John E., Leitz, Linda Y., Moor, Carolyn C., and Rehl, Kathleen M. Widows’ Voices: The Value of Financial Planning. www.fianancialpro.org/pubs/subs/journal/docs/2016/JFSP0116_53-60.pdf . 4 May 2019.