As if losing a spouse isn’t stressful enough, you may now find yourself responsible for you or your families financial future.
If you haven’t been involved in planning the family finances or are overwhelmed by the whole confusing world of investing, insurance and banking, there is some help out there.
According to the book Managing Alone by Jennifer Black and Janet Baccarani, one of the key things to do following a loss is to establish your own financial identity. If you are comfortable working with banks and credit card companies to open and maintain accounts, it is best to do this as soon as possible.
If you think you might need some professional assistance, Black and Baccarani have some ideas to consider for choosing a financial advisor including:
Asking the potential advisor about their financial certifications and how these designations contribute to clients well-being.
Finding out if the advisor has a network of other professionals they can provide if you need access to them i.e. accountants, lawyers, financial planners etc.
Do they consider your full financial situation i.e. investments, estate, tax planning, insurance or do you need to go to other professionals for these services?
Asking for an estimate of annual charges (is it hourly, by commission, or by service)
Consider if you are the right client for this advisor. Do they have similar clients with similar financial requirements? Are they familiar with the type of situation you might have?
How many clients does the advisor have ( i.e. are you one of many or one of a few)?
Rewrite your will and Power of Attorney documents, outlining how you’d like your financial and health matters handled if you become disabled.
Live frugally until you have a good understanding about your new financial situation and decide whether you need to adjust your way of living.
Sometimes life after loss can feel overwhelming and decisions about finances are the last thing you want to think about. If you feel this way, try to just take one small step at a time. You can read a book like Managing Alone or ask trusted friends or relatives for their input. It’s important not to make any big decisions too quickly, but putting a plan in place may be reassuring as you move forward into the future.
Dr Ceschin was keynote speaker at our first year anniversary event in May. An excerpt from her presentation regarding grief recovery and resilience can be found here.
We thought it might be interesting to find out how Dr. Ceschin became interested in grief counselling and what her recommendations might be if you are looking for support.
Q. How did you get interested in focusing on grief counselling?
A. I think it was what people call fate. Eight years ago, I was at one of life’s crossroads and was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity. I met someone at a get together who introduced me to the Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children. As soon as I heard about this organization, I knew it was the right place for me to volunteer. A few months after starting as a volunteer group facilitator, I learned that the organization had received a grant and was searching for a Program Director. I applied and was in that job for 4 years. I found my work with grieving children and their families very rewarding. It spoke to me. I understood what they were feeling and going through because of my early experiences with loss and grief. I was able to give them hope that they could find joy in life again. I am so thankful for my work in the area of loss and grief because I feel I get so much from the inspiring people I meet.
There is a great need for good quality grief support in our society. Many people are isolated from supportive family and friends, and many people do not have any experience with death and loss until later in life. This need for grief support and counseling is a significant factor in my focus on loss and grief in my private practice and volunteer work.
Q. How would someone know if grief counselling would be beneficial for them?
A. I believe that grief is a natural reaction to losing someone important to you and that we all have within us the natural capacity to heal from loss. Unfortunately, our society underestimates the amount of time healing takes and people are not given the time they need to heal. Sometimes, grief can take a wrong turn or reach a roadblock and become what clinicians call “complicated grief”. There are different situations in which individual counseling would be beneficial to a griever.
Sometimes sorrow and yearning for the deceased are very strong and stubborn, and a person cannot imagine ever being happy again. This happens because certain types of thoughts, feelings and behaviors can put roadblocks in the natural grieving process that usually helps lessen the pain of loss. People often feel very “stuck”, find they cannot “move forward” in their life, and find counseling helpful.
Sometimes a person has no social supports. People do not grieve well alone. When we have lost someone important to us, we need to express our feelings and experiences and to receive support from others. If we do not have such a supportive network, it is helpful to find one through a support group or counselor.
Sometimes the loss is very traumatic (sudden, violent, untimely) and a person is struggling to cope with both grief and trauma. In this case, it is important to seek professional help—focusing on the trauma first and then grief. Generally, if there is still a feeling of disbelief of the death, a lack of interest in ongoing life, intense emotions most of the time, and confusion about oneself and what matters to us after 6-8 months of bereavement, then grief counseling may be helpful in rebuilding one’s identity and life.
Q. Do you recommend individual or group counselling?
A. I recommend both individual grief counseling and support groups for different people and at different times in people’s grief journeys. When grief becomes complicated (as described above) I recommend individual counseling. Also, some people are not comfortable sharing within a group and prefer individual counseling and/or support.
I think grief support groups provide bereaved individuals with a safe, nonjudgmental place to share their feelings and experiences. A support group is a wonderful opportunity to build your social network of support. Individuals find grief support groups helpful anywhere from a few months after the death to years after the death. Most of the support groups I have had the honor of facilitating have continued to meet and support each other long after the formal support group ended.
I highly recommend grief support groups to my clients upon closing with them. I believe in the power of being with others who have experienced a similar loss to us and in the healing that can take place within the group context. Organizations like Widowed Friends of Halton help individuals find this kind of supportive social network.
Q. What timeframe can people expect to be involved in grief counselling?
A. This is a difficult question to answer. Each person’s grief is as unique as his or her fingerprint. It really depends upon the situation, the loss, and the issues that present. I have had clients who called me a few weeks after the death and others who have called me years after the death. I have seen some persons for a few months and others for over a year. Chronological time is not the most important time factor in the grief process; kairos time is. Kairos time is not quantitative, but qualitative. It is not the weeks/months that have transpired, but the special moments in time. You do need time to heal wounds, but what you do within that time is very important too.
Q. What are the first steps someone should take to engage a grief counsellor?
A. It is very important to find someone you are comfortable with, have confidence in and who can give you new confidence and hope. When searching for a counselor, make appointments with a few counselors/therapist and then decide which one you feel would be most helpful to you. Some counselors will offer a short “meet and greet” session at no cost to clients. When shopping around for the right counselor/therapist:
Ask friends and family for recommendations
Research online for counselors and what each offers
Determine if you are more comfortable with a male or female therapist
Look into their backgrounds and make sure they have knowledge and experience with grief counseling; ask what their training and specialization are, what kind of approach they take, how much experience they have.
Relationship is just as important as their resume. Go with your gut or intuition. How you feel talking to the counselor on the phone or in the room with them is very important. You want to feel respected, not judged, empowered. Listen to your inner voice.
Sometimes The Road Gets Rough – contributed by Marjorie A.
Don’t be dismayed when you come to a pothole, a detour, a stretch of rough and rocky road. Don’t be surprised. Slow down a little. Be patient. It’s not the whole journey. It’s not the way it will always be. But it is part of your journey too, part of your journey to your heart and soul. Even when we’re living with joy and freedom, we continue to learn, grow feel experience. And the road can still get rough.
Happiness doesn’t mean feeling gleeful all the time. Happiness doesn’t mean the road we’re travelling is always smooth. Happiness means feeling all we need to feel, and accepting each part of the journey, even the changes of course and direction.
Feel all your feelings. Feel your fear and frustration about slowing down, then settle in for the ride. You may not be going as fast as you’d like, but the journey hasn’t stopped. You are not doing anything wrong. You are going slower, but you are still moving forward.
Remember, that no matter how much pain you may be in, you are still alive and there is a purpose to your existence.
Find the things that still bring you joy.
Don’t let grief rob you of even more of your life than it has already taken.
Do your best to stay present in your life.
Living in the past only robs you of what you have right now, in this very moment.
Honor your pain.
Cherish your memories.
Find the remaining joy.
There is joy to be found in every moment.
Sometimes you just have to look really carefully to find it.
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. Maori proverb
We’re all striving to recover from loss and get our feet back under us after our world’s shifted.
There’s no end to the advice on recovery and resilience out there, but here’s a different idea for moving forward – travel. Breaking from routine, trying new things and meeting new people could be a key to finding new paths as we move forward on our recovery journeys.
A popular event for Widowed Friends of Halton is regular Latin & Ballroom Dancing lessons on Sunday afternoons in Bronte. Julie is a great teacher and we’ve all learned a few salsa moves to try out at Halton Dance Party events hosted by Stephanie and Dorothy.
Here Julie is instructing a “flash mob*” to do the salsa on Canada Day on Bronte Road in Oakville.
(*What’s a flash mob? It is a group that organizes itself to gather together in a public place, behave in a predetermined manner (like dancing) for a predetermined amount of time, and then quickly disperses.)
Who hasn’t heard about the latest and greatest treatment, cream or lifestyle that is supposed to offer happy healthy longevity?
There are lots of theories and therapies out there that offer to help hold back time, but maybe the simplest solution is the best. In a recent article in the New York Times entitled Closest Thing To a Wonder Drug: Try Exercise author, Aaron E Carroll, suggests that simple non stressful exercise is the key to great physical and mental health.
He recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults or about 30 minutes each weekday. Intensity of exercise may be less than you think! He says walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog could qualify. Imagine how fit we’d all be if we attended the Latin and American Dance classes on Sundays with Widowed Friends of Halton! Two hours of movement and fun!
Another recent article in the New York Times entitled Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice by Gerald Marzorati suggests finding a new activity you’ve never done before, then immersing yourself in it and working hard to master it. Doing something new and working to gradually improve with practice provides a different and satisfying level of accomplishment. In the author’s words “You seize time and you make it yours. You counter the narrative of diminishment and loss with one of progress and bettering. You spend hours removed from the past (there is so much of it now) and, in a sense, the present (and all its attendant responsibilities and aches), and immerse yourself in the as yet.”
What’s your advice? Do you exercise to keep young? Play brain games, bridge or solitare? Share your tips in the comment box!