Category Archive: Widowed

ACCEPTING HELP FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF YOUR SPOUSE, Part I

The comfort of a friend

The comfort of a friend

Following my first husband’s death, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I slept about eleven hours a night, and 3 or 4 during the day. The strain of caregiving and watching Jerry decline, along with the grief of losing him, took all my strength. Family, friends, and our community of faith were particularly significant during this time.

Jerry and I were in Florida, waiting for and then trying to recover from a transplant for eight and a half months before his death. After my return to California alone, friends and family cleaned my yard, laid new sprinkler lines, and helped reorganize the kitchen. I learned to say ‘yes’ to their requests to help. If you are too numb to respond, ask a good friend to help identify areas where people can provide support, and let the friend field questions for you.

My sister-in-law and niece prepared two dozen individual meals and placed them in my freezer the day I returned home. The handwritten scripture taped to each container encouraged me each time I ate one of their delicious, love-filled dinners.

Lee, a close friend of Jerry’s, replaced my house locks, fixed my garage door, and sold Jerry’s gun collection for me. During those first months Lee called daily, then every other day, then weekly, to check on me. He listened when I needed to talk, and didn’t try to fix me when I cried. I often laughed at his sense of humor, which reminded me of my husband’s quick wit.

While it’s sometimes hard to accept these gifts, don’t deprive others of the opportunity to help in your time of need–as you would do for them were the situation reversed.

i-feel-nothingYou may feel like isolating yourself. However, it is good to be with people who know and love you, especially on holidays. A girlfriend spent the first anniversary of Jerry’s death with me. Another called to ensure I wasn’t alone on Memorial Day. Rely on those friends who let you cry, express discouragement or loneliness, or just sit numbly through time together, all without judgment.

I understand the most intense pain of grief usually lasts between 12-18 months. Although you sometimes feel you can’t breathe for the pain, it will lessen over time. You may not want it to decrease. I remember thinking my grief for Jerry was my only remaining tie to him and I didn’t want to let it go. But a time will come when you begin to release a little at a time so that you can move forward into a new  and dramatically changed life.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

 


 

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I’m Widowed – What Financial Decisions are First?

When newly widowed, your heart is in turmoil and your mind probably feels like mush. I pray these ideas about Tight moneyfinances will help you focus on a few key areas. See my prior posts for information about preparing for the death of your spouse as well as decisions to follow up on after the death.

Home Ownership: For tax purposes you must obtain a certified appraisal of value effective on the date of your spouse’s passing. (My appraisal was done about four months after Jerry’s death, but dated as of the date of his death.) However, there’s no need to report the death to your mortgage company as long as your loan is being paid regularly. Reporting the death may raise a red flag, causing the lender to re-call the loan or have you re-apply as a newly single individual. Keep paying the bills and leave the paperwork alone.

Life insurance benefits: File for these, and notify current or former employers of your spouse’s death. You may learn your husband is owed a paycheck for unused vacation or sick time, or discover a pension that is owed to you.

Bank accounts and credit cards: What you do will depend on whether you are a joint signer on the account(s), whether you have a Living Trust, and your total assets at the time of death. I’ve listed two of many helpful websites that address some of these questions.

  • Bank accounts may be off limits immediately after someone dies.
  • Signing a dead person’s name on a check is a felony.
  • Social Security can reclaim benefits that have been direct-deposited.
For information about the effect of different types of accounts, see nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-happens-bank-accounts-your-death.html.
My banker recommended I not cancel all joint credit cards. Apply for a card in your name only while you still have joint cards, then cancel those.

Vehicle Registration: Through the Department of Motor Vehicles, you can file for a transfer of auto ownership without probate no sooner than 40 days after the owner’s date of death. Check your state’s DMV requirements (google search “(Name of State) DMV”).

Social Security lump-sum death payment is a one-time payout (currently $255) for which you can apply within two years of your partner’s death. The online form is available at pdffiller.com/1153489-ssa-8pdf-Death-payment-form-Various-Fillable-Forms-ssa?gclid=CNO9u-OAvc8CFQ1rfgodFiYCDg. If you are over sixty years of age, you may also apply for Social Security survivors’ benefits. The Social Security Administration website (ssa.gov/pgm/links_survivor.htm)  is easily navigated and contains helpful information.

qtq80-0uUx30A reputable, qualified financial consultant or trusted friend can help identify your assets and liabilities, and determine whether you need to make any immediate changes in your living situation. (It is a good idea not to move for at least a year unless it is absolutely necessary.) Some financial consultants will provide a free assessment consultation even if you don’t invest with them. Ask trusted friends or your CPA for recommendations.

Many local community or senior centers provide resources to help learn how to balance a checkbook, prepare your tax return, etc.

If you need food or shelter, LOVE INC. coordinates the resources of local churches to provide help. Contact loveinc.org.

I Need You, Lord

I Need You, Lord

Most important, rely on our faithful God. One of my friends, a nurse, had helped her husband in a significant business endeavor. He passed away shortly before Jerry did. Bonnie transitioned into handling much of the responsibility her husband had carried. While learning from others, she kept praying, “God, I’m in way over my head. Please direct me. Help!” He opened doors and gave her wisdom … and the business is growing!

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3, NLT

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I’M WIDOWED – WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I DO NOW?

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Unsolicited telephone calls – yuck!

“May I speak to Frederic?” asked a strange voice.

“He’s not available. Who’s calling?” I replied.

The caller said “I’ll phone back at a more convenient time,” and hung up.

What should I tell unknown callers? My first husband, Frederic Jerry, had recently passed away. Since he went by his middle name, the request to speak to “Frederic” told me immediately that the caller did not know him.

Responding to calls was just one of the challenges I faced as a new widow, when I was least prepared to cope. I had to plan a memorial service, pay the mortgage, update insurance records, and file for Social Security death benefits. I didn’t know where to begin or what questions to ask. I was weary and lethargic.

But some things couldn’t wait.

I hope what I learned after my husband’s death will help you deal with some initial issues following the death of your spouse. These tips fall into three categories: 1) immediate, 2) business and finances and 3) emotional and physical health. I’ll address the Immediate today.

IMMEDIATE ACTION ITEMS

Obtain at least twelve certified copies of the Death Certificate, available free through your funeral director. If you don’t get these initially, you will have to pay for them later. To file for your social security death benefit, life insurance, and transfer account(s) ownership, a death certificate, your marriage certificate (which you can purchase from county records), and your spouse’s social security number will be required.

Communicate the passing. You might have a friend set up a call chain to notify family and friends of the death, and later of information about the service. Email communicates effectively and quickly. You may publish an obituary (see next point). The website, www.caringbridge.com, provides another point of contact for friends.

Consider the pros and cons before publishing an obituary. To prevent burglary, the mortician recommended I not put a notice in the paper or online. Thieves watch for homes that will be empty during a memorial service. If you do publish information in a newspaper or broader forum, ask a friend to remain in your house during the memorial.

qtq80-fb4BzMPlan the service.  A pastor or priest can give you ideas about service length, form, and music, but you may wish to incorporate your spouse’s wishes into your own way of honoring him or her. I appreciated my pastor asking “What do you want from this service, Carol?” ensuring the service reflected our faith and my desires clearly.

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One of the photos I delighted in most was put together by a tech-savvy friend. It still makes me smile because of Jerry’s and my faith in the God of the resurrection and the hope of heaven. In it, a joyful Jerry is embraced in the arms of Jesus with the words “Welcome Home, Jerry”.

Question: If you are now, or have grieved a loss in the past few years, what has been most meaningful in helping you along the healing journey? A person? An action? Counseling? Children? I’d like to know.

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