Why making financial decisions is so overwhelming when you’re newly widowed

Widowed and clueless

I have worked with many widows over the years. I often hear them say nobody really tells you the kind of support you may need for your next chapter after your partner passes. I hope this story of one widow will help create more ease and cut down on unnecessary suffering after your spouse passes. 

After my husband passed, suddenly everything changed. It was a big change for me to be on my own after so many years spent building a life together. I felt very fortunate that he had very extensive healthcare benefits that covered all of his many treatments. That was such a blessing. We could have easily been in horrific debt.  He was probably a multimillion-dollar patient when it came to the costs of all of the medical care he had over the years. 

Once he was gone, the realization that I had to do everything alone hit me all of a sudden. Life sort of stopped making sense. A lot of the time, I feel hopeless and want to just hide. It’s as if there is a dark shadow hovering over me, and I often feel overwhelmed by all the demands of my life. I don’t know where to begin when it comes to living my life without him. I wasn’t sure I could do it alone without him and his support.

Why do the answers seem so simple to everyone else?

All that goes through my head these days is “I can’t.” How am I going to do all of this? Do I keep the house? So many people said to me, “Oh, well, you should just sell your house.” As if that would solve everything. A lot of people want to jump in and fix my life for me. They mean well but are quick to offer unsolicited advice. I feel very disrespected, even burdened by this, because they don’t really understand the complexity of my life or my choices. They seem to think selling my house would be such a simple thing in itself and would solve everything. They don’t see that it is nested in a whole other series of difficult decisions.  

I’m 53 and also amid the whole midlife thing, too. I’m re-evaluating everything now, especially since his death. What do I want my life now to be like? What can I let go of? I don’t feel I have to keep proving myself in my career. I feel like, okay, I’ve dealt with the questions of  am I good enough, am I smart enough. Now it’s really about how I create value in my life. How do I do something meaningful in my life? 

It’s scary to step out into the unknown. I have to be able to live and work. I need to pay the bills and everything and continue the life that really took two of us to support it. My husband didn’t have a huge life insurance, and after the funeral costs, there’s not a lot of extra money left to spend frivolously. So, I need to continue working not just to support myself, but also to stay involved in life socially. But there are so many questions going around in my head, and I feel a bit lost and not sure who to talk to. I know I need help but I also need that help to be gentle, supportive, and understanding.

Finding the right support to help you find your own answers

For any one widowed recently, you can feel overwhelmed by all the financial decisions you have to make. You may feel like you are all alone in a dark hole, and it’s hard to get out. You might even want to stay in that hole for a while, maybe only looking up and out every now and then. 

Perhaps you wonder how you can trust your own life? Your own process? How is life going to work to support you? How are you also going to support yourself? There was always your spouse to speak to about money. Any decisions you made were made together. 

You have looked around and have seen friends that became widowed and they made some bad financial choices quickly and regretted them. You understand why now. You feel clueless, very vulnerable and alone. It’s a big change financially to really grow up. It’s all on you. And that can make you feel very alone. 

During this time, it is hard to know what you need or who to talk to. Here is some guidance on the kind of support that no one really tells for your next chapter. 

How to recognise a supportive financial coach

It’s important to receive support from a Financial coach who is kind, who doesn’t judge or shame you. Most times when we talk about money, it’s not kind. Discussions around money when someone dies, divorces or goes into debt can be very transactional. Look for someone who brings gentleness and kindness.

Find someone who brings a peacefulness and a sense of trust. Someone you could really trust and work with because these are sometimes really deep issues. Someone that brings great sensitivity and great heart.

Find someone you are able to say “I’m worried about….” to Someone who gives you a sense of patience, who doesn’t jump in with the “you should just” answers. We can take this slowly. Because very often when one’s widowed, one makes bad choices quickly. 

Someone who is open. Someone who opens up possibilities, has focus and shows you what’s possible, but doesn’t tell you what to do. Someone who lets you discover for yourself which possibilities are right for you when you’re ready.

Someone who doesn’t pressure you to go in there and rip open everything. 

Someone who has an ability to hold that place of being supportive and being open and still be a guide. Yet doesn’t allow you to hide behind the couch when you want to. And does it gently.

Someone who brings a very feminine sensibility to money.

Someone who helps ground you in yourself and helps you to stay instead of running away from this. 

Someone who says “you can handle this.” Someone you believe when she says it. 

Someone you can trust, who believes in you and with whom you can be honest. Who helps you to look at and unpack things that are sometimes difficult to unpack. Those things that are not talked about that can be very secretive. A supportive financial coach will help you not to be overwhelmed by them.

Someone who is very real too, who makes you feel they’re in it with them. 

Someone who doesn’t act as if they have everything figured out and it’s all fine, but it’s also clear that she’s done her work and has experience. She believes in the process and is very responsible. 

The person is marching ahead with a lantern and you feel you can follow her.