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Grief and Financial Security

March 25th, 2016 by judytalks

Grief and Financial Security

Bereavement is a period of time in which grieving persons mourn the loss of a loved one. Ideally, the griever begins to rebuild his or her life and move forward. Letting go of that essential person is nearly impossible. Counting all the other losses takes some time.

When someone dies, there is often a change in the financial picture for survivors. A spouse, with or without children, may experience a considerable reduction in resources, especially if the spouse is female.

Recovery is hard enough. Moving on with diminished finances puts her and any dependents at risk.

The following article is one I wrote and posted on LinkedIn. It explains this critical and frightening situation.

 

Do You Know Where The Bones Are Buried?

What happens to the household income when someone dies? For as many as half of all widows, fifty percent of household income may be lost when a spouse dies.

At the same time their expenses only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. What happens to that household income? Where was it coming from and where did it go? Why are women so adversely affected by financial issues?  The fact is, when a man loses his wife, the financial situation is minimally affected.

The problem really starts much earlier. Work patterns of women are, first of all, considerably different from those of men. Full time work for many years isn’t the norm. Women may work part time, take time out for child care and/or caring for parents or other family members, and wages for women continue to lag behind pay for men. By the time they retire, their social security is less, and often there is no pension. Is it any wonder that of the 3.4 million elderly poor in America, 70 percent are women?

For a widow to avoid a serious drop in her circumstances, she needs to know where the bones are buried. This begins with educating women about earning, investing, and spending from a young age.

Older women usually have little knowledge of finances. And many younger women with careers prefer to leave the investment decisions to spouses or professional money managers. Busy with family and job responsibilities, they leave their future up to people who don’t consider the disparities in retirement benefits.

Couples may both retire at the same time, or not. But the wife’s social security benefits are almost always lower than the husband’s. Whatever they may collect when both are alive, if she survives him, she must choose whose benefit she receives – hers or his but not both. If she doesn’t receive a pension, or his doesn’t have survivor benefit checked, her resources may be slim.

Couples can begin to plan for her security while both are still working. Life insurance is a very good option, but many couples are underinsured. Updating to accommodate the rising cost of living is necessary, because if she is the survivor, her expenses will only decrease by one-fourth to one-third. Life insurance is not taxed and may be distributed in several ways.

When you purchase life insurance, make sure you know how it will be distributed – lump sum, quarterly, monthly, or checks you write for a specific amount until it’s gone. You may or may not have a choice.

If the deceased spouse had a long illness, the wife may have taken time off from her career to care for him. Expenses for the illness may also have decreased their investments. By the time she is alone, all of her resources – mental, physical, emotional, and financial are very low.

According to wife.org, one-third of widows are under sixty. Since widows can’t apply for social security until they are sixty, she will have to figure out how to pay the bills from what she earns and what she can take from other sources. If there are children still living at home, the financial problems can be severe.

I was widowed when I was fifty. As an author and educator, my involvement with the grieving community has taught me a great deal about death and the problems of survivors. The plight of widows in America is greater than that of other developed countries. What can we do – what can you do – to change this unacceptable situation, and provide women with the same financial security that men have?

It’s your future. Manage it well.

 

 

Intangible Gifts

November 29th, 2015 by judytalks

Free gifts Are Especially Nice At Christmas

The brain-wracking task of what to get people at Christmas puts everyone in a bad mood.

Something practical or something pretty. What did they get last year? How about a gift card?

Maybe a fantastic dinner and a show.

There’s a way out of this dilemma.

There are some gifts that can be given any time for any reason. They’re free and are generally appreciated by everyone who receives them. They are the intangible gifts, the giving of those things that have no price tag, and can be given anytime.

These gifts are appreciated whenever they are given, but are especially nice to give to someone who is grieving and in deep need of heartfelt and loving consideration.

Holidays aren’t happy, exciting affairs when you’re mourning. There’s no feeling of joy, no urge to celebrate with friends or family. There’s often lingering pain and a sense of isolation that accompanies mourning, especially when all around you are celebrating and you feel sad. It’s just a period of time to get through and move on.

When someone you care about is in bereavement, here are 5 intangible gifts that may be given over and over, any time of the year, and are always joyfully received.

  1. Give your time
  2. Give your energy
  3. Give your ideas
  4. Give your support
  5. Give your love

How can these precious gifts be given?

First, stay close-by. Grievers feel isolated and unsociable. Drop by, phone, email or text regularly, just to say hi.

Be a good listener. Often, well-meaning friends want to give advice. But careful listening gives the other person a chance to say what’s really on their mind.

Extend invitations to gatherings and offer to pick them up.

Run errands together. Trips to the grocery store, library, dry cleaners, pharmacy or bank can include a quick stop for lunch or coffee.

Plan an afternoon for baking, wrapping gifts, or doing some decorating together.

Talk about the person who died. If you knew and miss that person, say so.

Suggest a small memory item for the holiday they celebrate, such as a tree ornament or a donation in the deceased person’s name.

Again, stay close and in touch. All the intangible gifts can be given over and over again.

 

For more tips and ideas about grief at holiday time, or just in general, click on the Articles tab.

Stay well,

Judy

Remembrances

October 24th, 2015 by judytalks

Remembrances

The death of a loved one is accompanied by deep emotional pain, pain that can’t be dismissed. The longing to hold on to that irreplaceable person is profound, and letting go is unthinkable.

Amidst all of the practical things that must be done – notifying people, planning services, going over finances and legal issues – there is a desire to create a remembrance, a legacy that says this person’s life mattered.

A memorial or legacy can be accomplished in different ways, and you can have several if you wish. Often, a legacy is included in the settling of the estate. Honoring the life of the loved one may be done by giving a gift of money to an organization, college or university. Other means include the gift of a special collection, scholarship, garden, or a wing on a building. There may also be a monetary gift that is designated for a specific purpose, such as a charity for medical, educational, or civic projects.

Personal memorials are commonly done by individuals who send a donation to a foundation that researches an illness or disability associated with the deceased. All in all, remembering a person whose life touched yours in a deep and personal way helps the process of letting go.

It’s important for grievers to acknowledge the difficulty of the mourning period. It’s a time to actively assess the relationship that has ended, and determine how you wish to make a part or parts of your life rich and meaningful, despite your loss.

A remembrance may be a place of peace or an active, ongoing celebration that you can return to when you wish to renew your connection to that irreplaceable person.

Healing takes place by remembering, not forgetting.

Judy

 

Your Bills Don’t Die When You Do

July 25th, 2015 by judytalks

The last thing a grieving person needs is paper work, but often, that’s what is dropped into their lap. Emotional trauma takes time and energy to process, time to understand what has happened, and energy to begin to manage your pain. But before you can get your bearings, the hard, cold facts of practical matters invade your space, filling up the time, and draining the energy away.

People coping with grief shouldn’t have to think about money, legal issues, and endless responsibilities. But decisions have to be made and immediate problems addressed. In addition to notifying people and planning services, there are documents to locate and handle, finances to assess, and the everyday tasks that don’t go away because someone you love has died. Like bills, home responsibilities, job requirements. And, of course, people in your life who are also grieving and need comfort.

Some folks are just naturally organized. They have everything taken care of, promptly and efficiently. There’s a will or trust, a Do Not Resuscitate, a Living Will that spells out specifics for you, and a list of professional people to contact, with names, phone numbers and email addresses.

Unfortunately, the majority of us just aren’t that organized. Where in the world is that document, financial statement, Last Will and Testament, or even your lawyer’s name? When there is a death, the survivor(s) are in shock and deep emotional pain. Trying to locate papers is a headache. Knowing what to do with them when they are found is also troublesome. All this extra trouble and frustration can be avoided.

Get your affairs in order now. No matter that you are young and think there are years and years before anyone will need it. You can update it periodically. If you are middle-aged, you may have dependents who will be devastated. For older people, it’s time to get something on paper, and have a heart-to-heart talk with family members.

The benefits of putting your affairs in order are these: Relevant, necessary information is right there. Your personal wishes will be clear and respected. Your survivors/beneficiaries will have resources for finalizing the legal and personal matters required.

Give it some thought. They’ll love you for it.

Resources abound on the internet, in libraries, and bookstores.

Information is readily available on my website:  www.survive-strong.com.

My Amazon page has extra resources you may want to check out.  http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Strong/e/B004IGUWE6

As always, I wish you well.

Judy

Book Learnin’

July 13th, 2015 by judytalks

Book Learnin’

To learn how to survive, ask a survivor. That’s pretty much true. Someone who’s been there knows the situation inside and out, has “felt” it, shared the emotions, and understands the process. At least a survivor understands their own experience of it.

When you’re going through a difficult time, finding a book that helps you, really “speaks” to you may take a while. In fact, I’ve found that I glean nuggets of valuable information, and some comfort, from a variety of sources. Books written by individuals who are not survivors, but have extensive knowledge of a subject, may be very beneficial. They may touch on aspects long forgotten by the people who endured deep pain.

When you’re looking through the book shelves in a library or bookstore, or on the Internet, consider choosing a couple of copies for a peek at the content, writing style, and background of the author.

My first book, No Time To Grieve, was written to help solve the practical problems experienced by mourners. When I hear from someone that it has done just that, as I did recently, I am happy.

I have read quite a few books on the subject of loss and bereavement, and from time to time, I pull them out and reread portions that were especially helpful or meaningful. When you or someone you know are in need of a grief survival book, take your time as you browse through the selections.

When I was widowed – nearly 25 year ago, there were very few books available. The shelves have filled up nicely.

Please check out my Resources page on my website and my publications on Amazon. Something might be just what you’re looking for.

Website: www.survive-strong.com

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

Judy

Grief Shared

May 15th, 2015 by judytalks

In the immediate aftermath of grief, friends and family may surround you with comfort and support. Everyone calls, many visit, and you walk the necessary steps through this awfulness that has happened. Cards and phone calls are sent to notify people, services are planned, legal issues are addressed for follow-up, and financial settlements have been discussed. A few weeks have gone by, and now is when most of those people begin to withdraw. There doesn’t seem to be much more for anyone to do, except to stay in touch and wish you well.

It’s at this point that grievers may wonder if sharing their grief with others in mourning would help ease the pain. Everyone’s heard about grief groups. Whereas years ago, they were few and far between, today they abound. They may be held in community centers, churches, offices, or even homes. Some are basically open-ended with a general plan and a facilitator, while others use a printed program that focuses on one specific issue each week. These issues may include emotions, such as fear, sadness, or anger, or they may include practical problems, such as handling the money, finding legal counsel, or getting your car fixed. The question is, “How will this really help me?”.

Looking for an appropriate group can be daunting. At a time when your emotions are unpredictable and you often feel fatigued, checking out numerous groups may seem overwhelming. Here’s where asking for help comes in. People who have been in a group can give you insight as to the format and also the benefits they derived. Plus any drawbacks. The funeral director, clergy, and community centers will probably also have pertinent information about several groups for you to consider.

If you wish to find a group, take a minute to jot down what you hope to gain from your relationship with others who gather regularly to express their loss. Decide what kind of openness and comfort would be acceptable, and what you would not like to experience. Then call the leader and ask questions. The leader should be non-intrusive and should maintain a non-judgmental atmosphere. Ground rules are discussed and agreed upon. Leaders may be psychologists, therapists, facilitators, or grief counselors. Some groups are led by non-professionals and can be very beneficial, but it’s important that confidentiality be enforced and trust understood.

What can you expect in the way of benefits from a grief group?

1.   First of all, you can say anything (within reason) without alarming anyone. Sometimes you can’t do this with friends and family.

2.  You will have a place to go and a specific time to meet on a regular basis. Looking forward to certain things helps to regulate your life.

3. The leader will be a resource person for you if you need to address other issues.

4. You will probably connect with 1 or 2 other people, maybe more, and have friends you can count on after your group work is finished.

5.  A person who has suffered a loss can go to a group anytime. It doesn’t have to be immediate. People have been known to seek a group months or years after losing someone.

It’s said that shared grief helps ease the pain and anguish of losing a loved one. For each person, their grief is unique and is borne individually. You may derive great comfort, learn something beneficial, or simply enjoy not being alone all the time. Give yourself every opportunity to explore the options available.

I wish you well,

Judy

From Deepest Pain to Gratitude

April 22nd, 2015 by judytalks

The shock of immediate loss brings deep, relentless pain for which there is no solace. The comfort and support of friends and family gives only temporary relief, and then the sharp pangs of loss and sadness begin all over.

In the beginning, it’s impossible to even imagine that one day there will be a sliver of gratitude in this awfulness. For what could you possibly be grateful?

Healing begins in both the heart and the mind. The idea of being without that necessary person is unthinkable. The outpouring of love and devotion from one heart to another stops for lack of a destination.

You are alone, overwhelmed with the knowledge that someone you love is physically gone, and yet seems so very present in your life. How do you hold on to that comforting sense of presence, when your mind assures you that it simply isn’t true?

A quiet time each day allows you to remember all the emotions, each important event, the everyday conversations, and the unspoken bond that ties you together. Writing down whatever you wish – memories, feelings, future plans, and special times that only you two shared – becomes the foundation of gratitude.

Each part became a measure of support in your life together, and the sum total of all parts is the whole relationship you created. This can’t be destroyed. It remains a part of who you are. For this, you can be grateful.

Have a quiet time every day. Structure it any way you like. Remember to include one thoughtful and heart-warming gratitude for who you are because of that incredible person, whose face you can see and whose laughter you can hear.

You’ll know you are healing when the pain begins to subside and you can smile when you think of your loved one.

I wish you well,

Judy

Where Has All The Comfort Gone?

March 20th, 2015 by judytalks

Time has passed. The Holidays are over, and everyone else’s life seems to go on with all the daily and ordinary things they do. Yours seems to stand still. People you talk to just assume that you feel better, that you are nearly “over it” and your brand new life lies ahead, clear and straight.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Is there a disconnect somewhere?

The answer is yes. The disconnect occurs because comfort comes in rushes at first, everyone wanting to help and console you. The sadness and shock of losing this most necessary person has you in its grip.  You still can’t imagine how life can go on.

Staying connected is difficult during bereavement. Family members are at different stages of mourning. Friends are busy with lives that haven’t been as disrupted as yours. Everyone wants you to feel comforted, but knowing what that takes, long-term- is far from their minds. Ours is a society that moves on.

It is up to you to maintain those close relationships. Stay in touch by phone, email, or in person. When someone invites you to an outing, meeting, or social gathering, go. Whether you feel like it or not isn’t the issue. Being with caring and relaxed people is the beginning of learning to live alone.

Comfort has all kinds of faces and isn’t well-defined. Just getting out there helps you to take a look at the world again and see possibilities. Old friends may bring new friends. New groups, hobbies, or interests develop while you’re testing the waters, surrounded by people you can trust. They are there to support you. Let them.

I wish you well,

Judy

 

Grief Lasts a Lifetime

August 18th, 2014 by judytalks

Understanding the critical aspects is essential for healing and moving forward. You do not get over grief, you come to terms with it. I want to share with you some meaningful tips that will help you as you learn to turn sorrow into gratitude. These heartfelt tips will address critical aspects of grief events and lay out a logical process for moving forward.

Todays tip:  Acknowledge the deep sadness and fatigue you may be feeling.

Your mind and body can’t handle all that is happening to you. Find a quiet place to gently breathe life back into your soul.

These tips will be posted regularly to give you insight and clarity for the period of bereavement. A quiet time each day helps with focusing on the difficult task of mourning. Your grief is about you, not just the loved one you have lost.

Let me know how things are going. I encourage comments, questions, and just touching base. I wish you well.

Judy

 

 

How I’m Thriving

August 7th, 2014 by judytalks

I recently published an e-book on Kindle entitled From Surviving to Thriving Finding Comfort Following Loss. I became a survivor in January, 1991, when my husband of 27 years died.  I remember the pain and confusion of those early weeks and months when I wondered if my family and I would survive at all. I began journaling and have continued to write about the fact of grief and bereavement.

We did survive. In fact, we have all thrived. My four children are independent, productive and thoughtful people. I have managed to rise to the cause and make a good and satisfying life for myself. That’s where the thriving comes in. Grief and loss change everything. Feeling powerless, bewildered, and afraid, grievers look to everyone and everything for comfort and support. We search for answers to tough questions, and ways and means for moving out of darkness and back into the light of day.

You will never be completely free of the fears of survivorship. You will never be completely pain-free. But you can take back power over your own life and build a new life, by design, not accident. I am thriving today by doing things that I love – creative writing, quilting, spending time with family, and interacting with others who are in transition from surviving to thriving. Comfort and ideas come from unexpected places.

Gratitude is a great healer. I keep a journal for recording those things, people, and happenings for which I am grateful.  May you find what you seek today and begin or continue your own journey toward peace.

Judy

 

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