Widowhood brings a hundred unexpected pains. Because so...

Coping/Mortal Matters

January 06, 1992|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,Universal Press Syndicate

Widowhood brings a hundred unexpected pains. Because so many changes are going on, it is a time for widows and widowers to be careful about making big decisions, especially those involving finances.

When it comes to contemplating major changes like selling a house, shifting investments, moving in with children or quitting a job, most seasoned advisers have a simple piece of advice for newly bereaved spouses: Wait.

It's advice worth following. The months following the death of a spouse can be a crazy, disoriented time when it's easy to give in to sudden impulses on matters most people would normally contemplate for several weeks or months.

But not everybody makes it easy to wait. Widows and widowers often become the target of much advice from family, friends and advisers. Many bereaved spouses, especially among the elderly, find that plenty of people are eager to tell them how to manage their lives and their finances -- or to do it for them.

But however well-intended the advice and however close the adviser, the months immediately following a death are no time to rush into big changes.

If you are in this situation, keep in mind that those first few months are a time best left to the important emotional work of grieving the loss of your partner and coming to terms with the changes in your self-identity -- changes which you may resist, but which are inevitable.

True, a home you have lived in for years may seem suddenly unbearable when you're there alone. In fact, anything about your old routine -- the neighborhood, friends, a job or volunteer activities -- may seem to bring up memories that are too painful to face each day.

But it's important to remember that these familiar things are not in themselves the cause of the pain; they only serve as reminders of it. It may be that friends or places that bring up painful memories when the grief is fresh and raw will, a few months later, become important aids in coming to terms with the loss and rebuilding your life.

XTC Giving yourself time before making major changes allows a chance for you to change your mind and change it again -- a process that's common for people going through an emotional upheaval.

For instance, moving in with your children may seem the perfect answer to your loneliness. But you may find that you don't like living in someone else's home or dealing with the role reversals of having your child be in charge of the household. If you have already sold your house, you may be boxed in.

Some advisers suggest that rather than jumping into changes, new widows and widowers should try things out without closing their options. If you really can't bear the thought of staying in your home or if selling it would mean a financial loss, try renting it.

If you are tempted to move in with your children -- or if family members are insisting it's the only reasonable thing to do -- consider a trial visit of a week or two or three. That way all parties can test out the arrangement.

If you want to quit your job or your club or your favorite volunteer work, consider some temporary arrangement like a leave of absence or a long vacation that will allow you to reconsider within a reasonable period of time.

And if a financial adviser suggests shifting your investments, say that you want to postpone major decisions until you have had time to adjust to your new life. The same goes for family members who may be eager to make their own decisions about your financial matters.

Losing a spouse brings on one of life's major transitions. It can't be rushed without risking costly mistakes.

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