Part 3: Moving Forward
No one is ever truly prepared for the loss of a spouse. And what is already an emotionally challenging life transition can be even more difficult if a couple doesn't have a comprehensive financial plan that's designed to support both people together and separately. In this three-part series, I'll discuss how to Prepare for, Cope with, and Move forward from the death of a spouse, and how Keen Wealth's planning process can help.
1. Let your feelings in.
Following the classic Kübler-Ross model, the death of your spouse could trigger the following progression of feelings:
- Denial - Acting as if the loss hasn’t happened.
- Anger - Lashing out at your loved ones, the deceased, or yourself.
- Bargaining - Attempting to regain control over the loss by thinking, “If only I’d done X, this wouldn’t have happened.”
- Depression - Extreme feelings of sadness and helplessness.
- Acceptance - Remembering the good times and feeling gratitude for having your spouse in your life.
Other psychologists have suggested that there might be as many as seven stages of grief, which shows you that understanding and naming what you’re going through is only so helpful. No one is going to pass through these stages in the same way. You might not even pass through them in the “correct” order. What’s important is that you give yourself the space you need to feel what you’re feeling on your own timeline. Burying your feelings will only make it harder to move through the challenging early stages of grief so that you can start to glimpse some light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Embrace – and control – your support system.
While grief can make us feel like closing out the rest of the world, opening your door to friends and family who just want to cook you a meal or lend an ear can remind you of all the wonderful relationships you still have. And providing support for loved ones who are also mourning your spouse will be a reminder of how much those people still need you as well.
Unfortunately, there may be some people close to you who want more than just emotional support. This is not the time for your family to settle grudges or drag you into arguments about what was in your spouse’s estate plan. You have every right to decide who you let into your grieving process, and who you keep out.
3. Stick to your self-care routine.
Once the flurry of activity immediately after the death of your spouse dies down, you might find yourself alone with some very strong emotions. Spending all day in bed or on the couch might feel comforting, but that can lead you to neglect basic self-care, like such as eating well, bathing, and exercise.
Getting back into your daily routine can help you find your footing as you move through the grief process. Cook yourself some good meals. Start taking your daily walks again. Make some dinner dates with friends and family. A little bit of normalcy can go a long way towards making you feel better.
4. Explore counseling.
It may take months or even years to truly move forward from the death of your spouse. But some folks find themselves stuck in early phases like denial and anger much longer than others. So-called “complicated grief” can keep these people from re-entering their lives in a healthy way.
If you think that you might need some professional help to deal with your grief, your free Medicare depression screening could be a good place to start. Based on your results, your doctor might have some suggestions that will help you open up and process your feelings better, such as working with a grief counselor to joining a support group where you can talk to others who are going through similar experiences.
5. Prepare for the future.
As you begin to accept the loss of your spouse and resume the normal rhythms of your life, hopefully you’ll also start to have some positive feelings about the future. One phase of your life may be over, but your retirement is not. There are still trips to take, new things to learn, hobbies to enjoy, grandchildren to visit.
And, there might also be some familiar worries, including the big one: Am I going to run out of money in retirement?
Working with a financial advisor and committing to a comprehensive financial plan can help alleviate some of that worry. When you’re ready, make an appointment to visit my team at Keen Wealth and let’s start planning together for the next chapter of your retirement.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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