Practicalities for the Recently Widowed

I hesitate to call this “Advice,” because the last thing you need is someone telling you what to do/think/feel.  There are, however, some items that I believe will be helpful to others and I would like to share.

  1. Call Social Security.  Soon.  Now.  There are survivor’s benefits.  It takes 4-6 weeks for the process to complete, but for some of us that is faster than getting an insurance settlement.  For some, no insurance is coming.  You and/or your children may be eligible for survivor benefits through Social Security, however, and this will help greatly while the other aspects of your life are being sorted out.  Your first call will be to set up an appointment, and they will tell you what you need to bring to the appointment.  All you need to have when you call is everyone’s Social Security numbers.  It was a lifesaver for me.  Also, it is good to have the passing of your spouse reported to Social Security to prevent identity theft, etc.  It will be hard.  You will feel like you are erasing your spouse.  It hurts.  But it is necessary.
  2. Start the insurance paperwork as soon as you are able.  You will likely not be able to complete the paperwork until you have certain documents, but you can start the process.  It can take a very long time.
  3. Do not feel guilty about addressing financial issues.  I did.  At first.  I believed it was disrespectful somehow to be worrying about money.  Like it was crass.  I hesitated to ask questions like, “How much will the benefits be?”  When you lose a spouse, however, your financial situation becomes a primary concern.  This is more true if you have kids.  It does not mean you are not grieving, that you are only worried about money.  It means that you are trying, through everything, to take care of yourself and of your family.
  4. There will be days when you are numb.  You can get things accomplished on these days.
  5. There will be days when all you can do is cry, curl up in bed, stare at the wall.  Don’t try to accomplish anything on those days.
  6. When people offer to help, let them.
  7. You may be able to return to work, or whatever your daily routine entails, for a while after the funeral only to find that a couple of weeks after that you are a sobbing useless mess once again.  Speak with your employers, friends, family about the very real possibility of a downslide once everything settles.  Once you get back into your routine and your loved one is conspicuously absent.  Prepare for that downslide.  Prepare to ask for additional time off of work, to ask for additional help with the kids or with the chores.  With the whirlwind of funeral arrangements, company, and other immediate matters behind you this is a good time to let yourself breathe – and grieve.
  8. You will feel loneliness with an intensity you would have never thought possible.  I have no wisdom on how to handle this.  I can only say that we all feel this so in a way you are not really alone.