In my work with women in transition, some of the most difficult conversations I’ve had are those with women whose lives have been upended by the death of their spouses. These are especially tough when the bereaved woman is in her younger years, often with children still at home. Though losing a spouse is always wrenching, no matter how late in life it happens, the questions, emotional riptides, and life transitions facing younger widows can be especially challenging.
For one thing, our society often doesn’t know exactly how to deal with the issues surrounding young widowhood. Too often, women who have lost their husbands early in life are advised to “move on” long before they are ready. Some may even hear words like “It’s time for you to get back out there and find someone else, while you’re still young.” Needless to say, women who are still dealing with their own anguish, not to mention trying to help children process the tragic loss of a father, do not need to have anyone telling them when it is or isn’t time to “get back out there.”
One of the best pieces of emotional advice was provided by a friend who had experienced the loss of a spouse. He told a young widow of his acquaintance, “Don’t let anyone tell you what you ‘should’ be doing or feeling.” That is very true. Each person is unique, and their grief is supremely individualized. While there are certain general principles that hold true for most people, the particulars and timing for how any person handles the grief of bereavement is for them, and them only, to determine.
For many young widows, simply finding the energy to look beyond their own grief and take care of their children’s needs can feel like a Herculean task. In 2020, there were about 600,000 children in the United States who lived with a widowed parent. For women in that position, having a support group is often a lifesaver. In addition to local, in-person groups, online forums like WidowsConnection.org, SisterhoodOfWidows.com, and others can provide a place for young widows to share with others who are experiencing the same journey and to seek advice from those who are a bit farther along the path.
Of course, the financial challenges associated with sudden bereavement can seem impossible to face at any age, especially for women who have not been involved with the details of family finances. But for young widows who are also having to manage kids’ activity schedules, juggle work duties, and figure out how to “do life” in a world that has suddenly been turned upside down, money questions and problems can become particularly acute. One of the worst things a young widow can do is to rush into a major financial decision while she is still experiencing the shock of the loss. Decisions about matters like housing, investments, college planning, and other major financial aspects are best pursued after a bit of time—and, typically, the funeral—has passed and with the assistance of a qualified financial professional.
At Empyrion Wealth Management, we offer specialized, individualized counsel for women in transition. To learn more about some of the important stages of dealing with bereavement, including the principal financial decisions faced by widows, click here to read our whitepaper, “Beyond the Grief.”
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