In our work with women in transition, perhaps nothing is more taxing—or important—than counseling clients who are suddenly facing life without a spouse. The stakes are even higher when you are bereaved and still raising children. Whether the kids are pre-school or in college, there are few more difficult tasks in life than trying to make sense of a world that is upside-down while also trying to give your children—who are grieving, too—the support they need from you as their surviving parent.
While we often advise clients to avoid making major financial decisions in the early days of bereavement, there are some actions and decisions that can’t be put off, especially for newly single parents. Handling some of these “must-dos” can even help you start to regain a small sense of control as you begin the journey toward the next phases of life.
- Social Security benefits for your children. Unmarried children up to age 19 can receive benefits if the deceased parent worked long enough for an employer who paid Social Security Taxes. You can apply at www.ssa.gov; you’ll need the child’s birth certificate or proof of adoption, along with Social Security numbers for the child, yourself, and the deceased parent.
- Life insurance, pension benefits. Policies owned by you and your spouse or provided by an employer are typically a crucial source for needed funds in the early days and weeks following the death of a spouse. If your spouse worked for an employer who offered a pension or other retirement plan, you should contact them regarding the payment of any survivor benefits to which you may be entitled. In some cases, you may want to consider setting up accounts or even trusts for education or other future funding for your children.
- Find a structure that works. Remember that the non-financial aspects of your and your children’s journey through grief are often the most important. Especially for younger children, it’s important to establish or re-establish a somewhat consistent rhythm of daily life. This provides them a much-needed sense of security in a world that has suddenly become much less predictable.
- Take help when you need it. Many bereaved parents are so focused on staying strong for their children that they forget about their own self-care. This is a mistake. Remember what they say on the airlines: “Put your own mask on first before helping the child beside you.” If you don’t take care of you—and let trusted friends and family members do the same—you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. If you need a dinner delivery, it’s okay to ask for it. On the other hand, if what you really need is a ride for your daughter to her soccer practice, you should tell somebody.
At Empyrion Wealth Management, we provide fiduciary advice and planning that is always aimed at serving the client’s interests foremost. To learn more about how we help widows navigate the difficult path of bereavement, click here to read our whitepaper, “Beyond the Grief.”
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