Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.
C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
A Friends and Family Post
I hear from a lot of W’s that sometimes the people they rely on most to support them are the ones that end up being the most difficult. This post is for those people.
First, please know that we love and appreciate you being in our lives. But you haven’t lived this hell. So while our decisions and logic may appear bat-$hit crazy to you, you don’t have the right to question them. The person you knew is gone. The way she used to make decisions was part of a couple. Everything is different now, and she’s learning how to make decisions from WE to ME. It’s painful and full of self-doubt. Don’t make it worse.
Pay attention because this is important. Your relationship to the deceased is irrelevant when it comes to our decisions and choices. There is no hierarchy. As the W we are in sole control of what our lives look like going forward. Unless they involve self-destructive choices like drugs and alcohol, DO NOT CHALLENGE OUR DECISIONS.
I am blessed, and I know it. Dan’s brother and sister have been my biggest supporters when it came to making decisions about everything from the funeral to taking down his Facebook page to what to do with the Memorial Scholarship we set up in his name. No matter what I went to them with, the answer was almost always the same. “There is no easy choice. Whatever you decide we love you and support your decision.” Damn! I wish all my W’s had that kind of support. (Kurt and Ginger, I love you two so much!)
I know some of you are nodding your heads in agreement, not realizing that I’m talking to you. Yeah, you. So here are some more specific examples:
HOUSE AND HOME
Have you ever thought about what it means to stay in the home where he died? Or where you were most happy together? Or that you can no longer afford? You may not question a W’s decision to sell, remodel, get roommates, or burn it down. Okay, maybe not burning it down. (Thanks Rick for talking me off that cliff.)
Feel free to recommend a trustworthy Realtor, attorney and financial advisor (if you’re in Idaho I know all the best ones). Definitely bring the boxes and wine (and lots of kleenexes) to help pack up a lifetime of memories. Bring your favorite paintbrush and help her redecorate if she decides to stay. Offer to help decorate for Christmas if she wants it for the kids but just can’t bring herself to do it. Whatever you do, just support her decisions.
You know how giving parenting advice to a new mom makes you a complete jerk or horrible mother-in-law? This is exponentially worse. Unless she asks for your opinion, what you think about grief counseling, activities, school changes, sleeping in bed together every night, what they eat/wear/do need to be kept to yourself.
Instead, offer to take the kids out to a movie or some fun activity that she just doesn’t have the energy for. Help those kids remember how to be kids for a day. And don’t get all Judgy McJudgerson if she says NO and appears over-protective. When you’ve lost the love of your life, you get a little paranoid that everyone else you love is going to die too. In that case, bringing the movies, treats and building a blanket fort in the living room works great.
This is a touchy one. Dan left clear instructions for his gun collection and one piece of furniture, but he left EVERYTHING else up to me. (And, by law, everything belonged to me anyway.) This is a brutal process. Until you know the pain of bawling your eyes out on your closet floor as you sort through mismatched socks and ratty t-shirts and still can’t bear to part with them because they were his or may still smell like him, you can shut the hell up. Whether your W keeps his stuff forever or removes it the next day is her choice. There is no timeline for grief or cleaning out the closet.
And for crying out loud. It should go without saying that you DO NOT start asking for stuff. The only exception is if she asks you first, if there is anything that would be meaningful to you. Don’t be a crass-greedy-insensitive-low-life-vulture.
When/If/How a W decides to date/enjoy male companionship/remarry is her decision alone. So go ahead and remove “it’s time” and “it’s too soon” from your vocabulary. Dating sucks enough before adding in the W factor. Oh, and saying “What would <<insert late husband’s name here>> think about this,” is a quick way to get excommunicated from our lives. We knew them better than you did. Even if we’re not always confident they’d approve of all our decisions, we don’t need their approval. And we sure as hell don’t need yours, just your support.
You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but you don’t get to question her decisions. With one caveat. I agree that W’s can be more susceptible to manipulation (and not just from men, losers come out of the woodwork if they think there is money to be had), and it’s critical to protect assets while a W is healing so that she can eventually figure out a new course.
Tread lightly. Suggesting a meeting with an attorney, tax accountant that specializes in estate planning, and financial advisor is fine, even encouraged. I’ve yet to meet a W who didn’t have a friend/family member/Widow Hunter make a run at her assets. And before you think it won’t happen to your W, lemme tell you it does. Even to me. It happens to all of us. So advice of this nature is good. Help your W protect herself. (Scroll to the bottom for a good tip on how to handle this.)
What you don’t get to do is question how she spends her money. If she spends every last red cent on shoes because they make her la-la-louboutin happy, so be it. Should she choose to give it all away to a group of Irish nuns, great. If she buys or invests for her future, fantastic. Buying people gifts because they make her happy, wonderful. If she uses it to hike mountains, walk beaches, jump out of airplanes, and enjoy the best art/music/food the world has to offer, good for her.
The point is, the decisions are hers alone. Don’t make her second-guess herself any more than she already is. Instead, encourage her. Support her. Love her. No matter what she decides.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
TIP: One of the best things I heard after Dan died was from another W. Like the rest of us, she’d had people making a run at assets. This is my favorite response to date.
“Because I’m still grieving, all of my financial decisions are on hold and are made only with my financial advisor’s input to ensure I’m protected during this difficult time. You wouldn’t believe how many people try to go after a Widow’s money, even if there isn’t any to be had.”
If you’re not totally committed to your W’s financial well-being, perhaps you need to take a good look in the mirror and then go f@#$ yourself. (And you can file that last in the Reckless Truth Telling category. Love you long time!)