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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.

 

 

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

September 25th, 2015 by judytalks

No Time To Grieve A Survivor’s Guide To Loss And Healing

When a death occurs, it’s likely that the family has little information for solving the problems of grief and loss. The competing factors of emotional pain and practical responsibilities leave little time and energy for grievers to do the hard work of mourning their loss.

Death knocks on every door, often unexpectedly, and those who mourn are usually ill-prepared to cope. Fear, sadness and anxiety often become everyday emotions. Meanwhile, the responsibilities associated with handling an estate stare you in the face.

For those families who have experienced the death of a loved one, it becomes clear that there is certainly a need for death education in our society.

The important question to ask is whether you have in place what you would need to handle these responsibilities.

Legal matters before a death occurs include a do not resuscitate document, a living will, and an individual’s wishes for disposition of the body and final resting place. Handling the estate following the death has numerous considerations. A will, trust, military records, marriage/divorce papers, social security, and dependent children just to start. Finances include investments, pensions, property, cash flow, and taxes.

Those of us who have had such an event in our lives would have benefitted from a guide book that gave pertinent information and support as we struggled to manage every day. Had we known, we might have had paperwork in order, discussions completed, and a clear understanding of the emotional needs of the bereaved.

In our society death education usually comes after the fact, leaving survivors grasping at straws, and undermining the deep need to mourn completely and appropriately.

Resources abound for getting your affairs in order. Estate lawyers, community classes, and the internet all give pertinent information for you to consider. A good choice might be a thorough and relevant book that you can read and keep handy for reference from time to time. One that you can carry in purse or briefcase would be ideal.

The benefits of such an excellent reference book would begin with a comprehensive list of issues associated with bereavement. Deep grief affects every aspect of our being – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. There is pain, fatigue, confusion, and anger, as well as other feelings and considerations. Where to begin?

For now, let’s start with the first responsibility you face – services. In general, there are reviewals, funerals, memorial services, gatherings of mourners, or a combination of all or a few of these acknowledgements.

If you plan to get your affairs in order, you may wish to start researching the above named services for consideration. Whatever your age or situation, keep a notebook with your ideas and preferences listed. You may also want to confer with clergy, spiritual leaders, or family for insight and suggestions.

In the years I have been writing on this subject, preparation or lack thereof regarding death and loss has been a leading cause of either consternation or peace of mind for those who mourn.

Keep your references and notes in easy reach, knowing that whenever it is needed, you have made important choices.

My website: www.survive-strong.com

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

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

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

 

From surviving to thriving

July 15th, 2014 by judytalks

Can  you remember the last time someone in your family died? Perhaps you were a child whose elderly great-uncle died, or maybe someone young was tragically killed in an accident. Consider for a few minutes where comfort came from. Who reached out to you, to your family?

Surviving the loss of a loved one is very difficult and very personal. To begin to move toward healing and a sense of yourself as a thriving person requires an understanding of what has happened to you, not just your loved one.

Where do we go for the death education we never got? There are many resources available today that weren’t around 20 years ago. The internet is an ideal place for up-to-date resources. Books, articles, e-books, groups, camps, professional counselors, and faith-based spiritual centers are in touch with the needs of grievers.

For my part, I have just published an e-book on Kindle, titled From Surviving to Thriving  Finding Comfort Following Loss. Based on personal experience, and research from the professional community, this e-book gives comfort, support, and clear directives for processing your grief. It takes time to manage the pain and begin to move forward.  As you walk through this difficult time in life, you will become aware  of the resources already inside you.  Emerging whole and confident allows you to begin to visualize a new life built on memories and a clear sense of who you can become.

I wish you well,

Judy

For my Kindle books:  www.amazon.com/author/judystrong

Living Alone and Liking It

February 18th, 2013 by judytalks

Learning to live without an irreplaceable person is a battle with yourself. The impossible has happened and whether you actually live alone or not, you are struggling to exist without your loved one.

In the early years following the death of my husband, three of our four children still lived at home. I was mourning the loss of the one person I depended on for my life’s breath, not because I was incapable of caring for our family, but because together we had learned to function as one whole being. By the time I was completely alone, I could more than survive; I began to thrive.

Grief and loss don’t end with bereavement. Moving forward is a decision, one that includes memories of that person still present in your life. But you begin to create a life for yourself that is to your liking, one that affirms your ability to be as comfortable and efficient alone as you were as part of a team.

Over the years, I have listened to many people describe the painful jouney of their own loss, and how they re-designed their lives. These stories are a testimony, not only to strength and courage, but to the resilience and innovation of self-worth. I’ll relate some of these life journeys over the next few weeks, no names, but fleshed out characters and personalities that have weathered the storms of life. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email me.

I wish you well,
Judy

A Look At Grief – When Life Stops

October 29th, 2012 by judytalks

When the life of someone you love stops, the part of your life that you shared with that person stops also. It’s abrupt and it’s painful. Suddenly everything changes because life as you knew it has stopped.
Does it matter whether there was time to prepare? Having your loved one in hospice care may give you the opportunity to talk about life, death, survivor concerns, and last wishes. But this isn’t always possible, or isn’t discussed. Talking about the past can take precedence over the present moment, often leaving survivors with no knowledge about the state of affairs they will have to handle.
Death education is almost never talked about in our society. We have a denial/dismissal attitude, preferring to believe that we’ll “cross that bridge when we come to it.” But, often, there is no warning, or the subject never comes up. The face of grief is more than emotional pain and confusion. Though deep sadness accompanies the death of a loved one, time and energy may have to be devoted to legal and financial issues, sometimes with little knowledge of the facts of the estate.
As a survivor, speaker, and grief facilitator, I have looked into the faces of many people of all ages who were overwhelmed with responsibility. Women, especially, are affected by financial issues, though men may be also. Men usually are not prepared to run a household or prepare meals.
Is there a reason we, as a society, can’t face the fact of death? Can we begin to educate ourselves as to the realities of loss and survivorship? Where did this come from, and how can we change it?
I’d like to make a difference in this aspect of life. As a survivor, my children and I know the pain of losing someone. With minor children and no will, I had to go to probate court. I needed a better job, and there weren’t the grief groups around then that there are now. But we can still do better.
Any ideas? Suggestions? Comments? Please email me. jstrong@survive-strong.com
Judy

The First 24 Hours

October 16th, 2012 by judytalks

When crisis strikes, the first 24 hours are crucial to everyone’s well-being. Shock and emotional upheaval take over and render you helpless in a situation that requires calm and clear decision-making. What do you do?

Sudden illness, accident, or assault are all critical situations that affect not only the individual in crisis, but those who care about them. You may find that you must make important choices that will affect everyone. Where do you go for help?

When my husband was in ICU, I had to make critical decisions about his treatment that would affect the whole family, immediately and for the rest of our lives. I found that there are professionals who can give good insight, without persuading you of any particular choice. They see these situations daily and can guide you to a conclusion that you can live with. I also realized that my own intuition gave me a good idea of what we needed as a family.

Friends and extended family members sometimes offer advice that is well-intended, but this is your situation, not theirs. Standing your ground may be difficult in the face of what is happening. It’s important that you understand who will be living with these choices, and make that clear to others.

When you find yourself in turmoil, whether the first 24 hours or days or weeks afterwards, you may need to center yourself and take time to think clearly. If you are in the habit of giving yourself quiet time or meditation every day, this will serve you well. If not, now would be a good time to begin your own program for peace and clarity.

Trauma can strike anytime. It’s impossible to be completely prepared for the awfulness that can result from a sudden illness or accident. But when you have devoted yourself to a calming frame of mind, you will be able to implement it anytime, anywhere.

Think about setting aside a few minutes today to begin quiet time for yourself. You may find you can’t imagine a day without it.

Judy

First Responders

October 8th, 2012 by judytalks

Out of the blue a crisis hits and you can’t think straight, don’t know where to turn, and panic is setting in. What do you do?

For anyone who has ever had this experience – and that’s probably almost everyone – someone who’s been there can be a port in the storm. Never mind if the situation or circumstances were different. Just having someone take you by the hand and stay with you is a blessing. Knowing that they’ve faced a crisis and survived delivers a sense of hope and reassurance. When there is a death of someone close, it may be awhile before you get your bearings and can make a clear decision. That support will keep you afloat while you contact family, talk to professionals, and wade through the many details that demand time and attention.

In the grief and death field, there is a long list of people who can help, including friends, therapists, groups, medical staff, and spiritual leaders. But if you’re lucky enough to know someone who has had a similar trauma in their life, even if it’s not identical, that’s the one I would call first.

What can this person do for you? A first response would be to listen, to stay close, take some notes, make suggestions but not decisions, and look to your need for understanding what is happening. This person would also check that you’re eating, sleeping, and spending time alone processing your loss.

When that crisis hits out of the blue, think about people you know who might fit this category. It may not be a close family member or friend. But it can’t hurt to ask for help, and true comfort and support may be in short supply. It often comes from unexpected places.

Judy

Written By A Survivor

October 1st, 2012 by judytalks

When you search on the internet for information about a subject, what’s the most important thing you look for? If you’re like most people – and like me – you look for credibility. Experience is not only the best teacher; it also gives insightful, relevant, and solutions-oriented information that you can count on.

A study or a proven benefit can enhance the credibility of some inquiries. But if I want to know how something really works, I ask people who have personal experience. It’s the true test.

Whenever I write on the subjects of grief and loss, I am writing as a survivor. I’ve done considerable research, interviewed people, and worked with other survivors. Those who have been through it understand the emotional pain and mental confusion of grief. Though each situation is unique and no one knows exactly how someone else feels, having someone say “I’ve been where you are”, is immeasurably supportive. A survivor gives you comfort when you need it most.

Judy

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