9/29/14

widowhood way back when: dower power


We came across this interesting article about the beginnings of one of the earliest rights for widows.

According to a Harvard Law Review article by George L. Haskins, “From very early times, English law assured to a wife certain rights in her husband’s property if she survived him. For centuries those rights have been known as dower.”

Professor Haskins goes on to say, “The origins of downer take us back to a period in Teutonic (Germanic) history when the bridegroom made a payment to the kinsmen of the bride, in return for the rights over her which he acquired by the marriage, and gave to her a morning gift for her support if she outlived him.”

The author describes how in Anglo-Saxon times, a betrothal was marked by a covenant which stipulated what (the groom) would give (his future wife) if she ‘chose his will’, and named the dower she would have if she lived longer than he.

According to Haskins, "The dower in the earliest days seems usually to have been a right to remain after his death in his house along with the other heirs – a right to a seat by the hearth.”

Hope your seat by the hearth has central heating.

9/25/14

when should i stop wearing my wedding ring and other timeline questions about widowhood; part 2


Continued from Part 1, here are more answers to your important questions:


*When Will I Stop Thinking About What Happened?

In the days following the death of your spouse/partner, you probably find yourself pre-occupied with what has happened.

Often the details of those final days, the death itself, worries about arrangements/financial concerns, and/or thoughts and images about your loss can seem to occupy every waking moment.

In the aftermath of any shock (even when a death is anticipated), it’s normal to be preoccupied with these thoughts and images as your mind struggles to absorb the reality of the loss.

Added to this are the other adjustments and tasks you’re forced to deal with as a consequence of the loss itself.

Keep in mind that with time, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your life.
Many people feel guilty when this happens, fearful that pulling away emotionally means they no longer love or remember their partner.

What it actually means is that you’ve begun to find a new, different place inside you for your loved one. A place that is no less cherished for demanding your constant attention.

If, after about a year, you find yourself still preoccupied with the death, you may have conflicts or unfinished business that is complicating your ability to mourn. Consider getting counseling from a mental health professional or trusted clergyperson to help you sort through troublesome concerns.

*When will I stop crying?

(Excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I do?)
Crying is a healthy expression of your pain. Some of you, however, may consider tears a form of “self-pity” and become critical of yourself when you feel the need to cry.

Remind yourself that as you go through the mourning process, crying for any reason is normal and appropriate and Nature’s way of releasing emotional tension.

Whether you’re at work or at home, it can be difficult to find the privacy to “let go” and shed some tears. Crying is a necessary release of pain and tension.

Sometimes though, the tears just blindside you. It helps to have some places in mind that you can easily retreat to. (read more)


Look for more valuable answers in Part 3.

9/22/14

when should i stop wearing my wedding ring and other timeline questions about widowhood; part 1




After your partner’s death, it’s difficult to know when the appropriate time is to let go of various symbols of your union. Often friends and family will urge you to take a step you may not feel ready to take. Despite the pressure from others, however, it’s important to listen to your own sense of what feels right for you.


* When should I stop wearing my wedding ring?

After your spouse/partner dies, you may have mixed feelings about when to remove your wedding ring.

Because there are no firm rules about if and when to take this emotionally loaded step, it’s really up to you to decide when to stop wearing your ring.

You might practice removing it for short periods and see how you feel. Or try a more gradual change by shifting the ring to another finger, different hand, or a chain you wear around your neck.

However you proceed, take the time you need to the make the decision that’s right for you.


* When should I get rid of my spouse/partner’s possessions?


How do you know when the time is right to clear out your spouse's belongings? This important decision has few clear guidelines. Well-meaning family and friends may pressure you to "get rid of" cherished possessions you don't feel ready to let go of. Or you yourself may feel anxious to "get rid of" painful reminders of your loss. But what's the rush?
We urge you not to "get rid of" anything before you first consider these tips:

1. Trust your own instincts about the right time to tackle this difficult process. Take your time and don't rush. The hasty decision you make today may become tomorrow's regret.

2. Ask a trusted family member or friend for help in packing things up and/or making arrangements.

3. Set a realistic timetable for completing this process. Make allowances for how grief is affecting you. Assume there will be times when, despite your best intentions, you won't feel up to dealing with this. (read more)

9/18/14

a young widow's perspective on financial planning




This information is by Sandi Duffy, a widowed mom with young children. We’re impressed by the sound advice Sandi offers in Financial Planning for Widowed Moms.

According to Sandi,"Once the funeral is over, you are left to pick up the pieces of your life and your children's lives. How are you going to do this? Where do you even start?

It's a cold hard fact that you need money to live, pay the bills, feed your children, etc. The first and most important thing you can do for yourself and your children is to gather all your late husband's assets, bank accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, etc. and get yourself to a certified financial planner. I cannot emphasize enough the word Certified Financial Planner. Not a friend of a friend of a friend who claims to be good with money. I had a colleague at work tell me she is really good with finances and would do mine. Really? Would she be able to tell me how to invest my money, so that I can draw an income from it every month? Would she be able to project how much college will cost in 18 years and then advise me how to invest, so that I can fund my children's educations?

Go to a real certified financial planner, someone who is highly recommended by more than one person. If you are unsure, interview a few of them. I spoke to three before I chose the one I am currently using.

The next most important thing is to find a good lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts. Again, find one who specializes in wills and trusts. My husband and I used a real estate attorney to do our wills, living wills, and durable power of attorney (POA). Thankfully we didn't have to use the POA because when I went to a lawyer who specializes in this, he told me it was all wrong and never would have been honored.

This is critical if you have young children. I have a trust set up that in the event of my death, the children receive one quarter of my estate at 25, one quarter at 30 and the remaining balance at 35. It names who will become their guardians and who will control the money they inherit.

Also, the amount of paperwork dealing with your spouse's estate that has to be filed with the IRS is daunting. Let an attorney handle it all.

I know it seems cold, but you really need to take care of the financial part of your spouse's death. It's also a good distraction. I recommend two books that specifically deal with financial issues for women: David Bach's Smart Women Finish Rich and Suze Orman's Women and Money."

Sandi goes on to say," 'They' say not to make any big decisions for a year. That's probably a good idea. If financially you can keep your house, keep it. I couldn't even think about packing up my house, showing it to strangers, uprooting my kids, finding new childcare...the list is endless.

If you don't need to make more money, don't switch jobs. I remember calling my former boss for a letter of reference, thinking I needed to make more money for our family. She grudgingly wrote the letter, not because she had negative feelings towards me, but she didn't think it was a good idea for me to make a change so soon. I remember her telling me she would write it, but hoped I would be calling her in a few years to update it because I didn't use the first one. She was right. I kept my job.

Changing jobs, moving, and losing a spouse (through divorce or death) are the three biggest stressors. Try to deal with just one at a time."

Sandi Duffy was widowed in October 2007 when her 44-year-old husband succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer.

9/15/14

the dilemma of honoring last wishes; part 2



In our previous post, we talked about dealing with conflicting feelings that can arise about carrying out your spouse/partner’s last wishes.

If you’re facing this dilemma, or already have, consider the following:

1) At the time these requests were made, he or she couldn’t have anticipated the realities of how you would feel when the time came to carry out these wishes.

2) Discuss with family members the possibility of compromise. If, for example, your spouse/partner wanted no service or memorial but you and the family feel the need to get together to share the loss, you might arrange a “gathering” to which family and friends can bring photos and mementoes of your spouse.

3) The important thing is that you honor(ed) your partner’s life in the best way possible for all concerned

Keep in mind that your needs are as important to respect as your late partner’s were.