Loss is never easy, but grieving the loss of a spouse is especially tough. Losing your life partner can make it especially challenging to make decisions on your own. Not because you aren't capable, but because you're used to having someone by your side.
Even though money may be the last thing you want to worry about when you become a widow, working through it and learning to balance your money won’t just help you financially, it will help you on your healing journey, as well.
You'll have a plan for the future—created by you and for you.
Many widows discover that they have to reimagine their future as they go through the grieving process. Moving from having two decision-makers in the house to one is an adjustment for anyone. You may be used to managing your hopes and plans with those of your spouse, but you will be making decisions about the future on your own now.
If you don't feel like making decisions right away about your finances—that's okay! You don't have to decide anything today. In fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, take some time to process your new situation; then seek clarity around what you want in life later on down the line. Once you are ready, you can begin to imagine how you will use your resources to build a new life and a new future that is all your own.
Of course, you’ll have to make sure your immediate needs are taken care of so you don’t run into any financial trouble along the way. Lean on the help of trusted family, friends, or your financial advisor to assess your cash flow and triage your immediate financial needs.
You'll feel a sense of control over a world that recently felt out of control.
Your world was just turned upside down. Feeling a complete loss of control and overwhelm is common. Managing your money, though, gives you something tangible over which you will have control. Keeping tabs on your finances throughout your journey will help to anchor your emotions when stress is high and the rest of your world feels unsteady. Control, like life, is fleeting. But having a touchpoint—like your finances—to ground you can help you stay even-keeled.
You’ll feel more confident in your future when you know where your finances stand.
Financial housekeeping can be a major point of stress for many widows—especially for those who previously left the finances up to their spouse. The less worry you have occupying your mind as you grieve, though, the smoother your transition through the stages of widowhood will be. When you know where your assets are located, how your bills are going to be paid, and what your plan for the future looks like, you can more confidently move forward without potentially debilitating money-related fears exacerbating an already complicated and tumultuous situation.
Don’t be afraid to get help from a Certified Financial Transitionist®, who is skilled in both the personal and financial aspects of a major life change. They will help you regain your financial footing, understand your current financial position, and gain the confidence needed to manage things effectively.
You’ll regain a sense of confidence in your decision-making.
If your spouse was the breadwinner and financial manager of the family, you might be feeling a lot of pressure regarding money matters. Even if you are financially well off, you are allowed to feel financially uncertain.
You may choose to have a period where you scale back your spending. Maybe the holidays don't look quite the way they used to, or the family trip you would usually take is a bit closer to home.
Your family might not fully understand all of your choices, but they should be able to see that this is one way for you to regain control over your life. They want you to be happy, so they'll understand these are necessary steps for you to take to heal.
It helps to keep busy.
So many people are at a loss of how to handle the time on their hands. They think of what they used to do with their spouse. While this can provide fond memories, it also creates a sorrow that can be incapacitating.
By being aware of your finances, you'll be aware of your capacity for activities. Make a list of things you'd like to do now that your days are open and then find ways to make them happen. By knowing your money situation, you'll have one less barrier to making the most of your time.
Gain a sense of security.
Having good financial habits helps you feel more secure. This includes basic foundations like paying down debt, increasing savings, and living within your means and less tangible things like defining your financial values. Doing this will help you be confident in your future, which will bring a sense of security that is so very important right now.
Finding your own path.
Grief has a way of forcing people to question how they should live their lives now that everything has changed so quickly. The good news is that there really are no right answers—the future is up to you. Just as your grieving process will be your own, the path that your future takes will be unique, as well. Defining this path can be incredibly cathartic and healing.
Finding certainty in uncertain times.
You've gone through a tremendous ordeal. Everything feels different now, and the burdens can feel very heavy. But remember, you are not alone on this journey. You will always grieve the loss of your spouse, but you will be okay. And sometimes, it's okay to just be okay.
As counterintuitive as it may sound at first, managing your finances can provide a much-needed sense of direction in the face of all this uncertainty. It will also give you something to work towards and provide some security, which is often in short supply when processing loss.
You may just find that taking control of your money is both a powerful and empowering step that will help guide you through the different stages of grief.