Losing a Spouse

Losing a spouse is a traumatic event, whether it is from divorce or death. When a person is put under that kind of stress, it can impact physical health as well as emotional and mental wellbeing. As a body focuses itself on survival, it shuts down resources to higher functions. The amount of time this lasts varies, but I always counsel my clients dealing with the death of a spouse or a divorce to wait a while before making any serious decisions. I’ve had clients tell me they can’t hold a thought, can’t remember anything, and can’t focus on even the simplest tasks. They aren’t losing their minds, although it can feel that way sometimes; their bodies are just trying to make it through.

There are frequently close friends or family members offering advice, and some of it, although well meaning, will not be in your best interest. When the dust has settled, ask for referrals to professionals you can trust, be it a counselor, an attorney or a financial professional.

If you’ve recently gone through a traumatic event like this, please sit tight and just manage the most pressing matters. As your body and mind begin to heal, you’ll be able to think more clearly and you will be able to make decisions that will be in your best interest long term. You will think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to fix this right now’, but in most cases it’ll be fine to wait a bit.

Frequently, I meet with women that have lost a spouse and they haven’t ever had a part in managing the family finances, have never paid a bill, don’t know what the monthly budget is or how much money is in the bank. They wake up one day and suddenly, they have to manage all that on their own. They think, how can I learn to do that overnight? I always recommend giving themselves a little grace to make some mistakes until they get the hang of it.  I may also suggest reaching out to their banker to ask for help. They might put bills on auto draft so important bills don’t get missed.

The bottom line: grief is a process, not a point in time. It takes a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. You will come out the other side, but it will just take some time. While you’re going through this traumatic event, try to think with your mind and not your heart. The decisions you make now could have long term ramifications, and you don’t want to do that while you may not be thinking as clearly as you will be as you begin to heal.

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