I don’t feel like there is a magic age, but eventually, we realise how short life really is. Maybe it’s just more of an awareness as we keep journeying through these milestone “new decade” birthdays, like turning 60.
We are halfway through this year, and I now know six more widows. Some are family members, others are friends, and still others are family members of friends. When I spoke with my mother-in-law recently, she had attended five funerals in the past couple months. “When it rains, it pours” was never a phrase I associated with loss before. But as we get older, it comes with the territory.
If you have read some of my past blogs, you may feel like I obsess about planning for the next chapter of our life. Talking about dealing with the risk of running out of money, incapacity, and end-of-life planning is not high on anyone’s list of fun things to do. It can be hard to think about, talk about, and even hear about.
One client recently was talking with an adult child about her cremation wishes and one of the grandsons happened to walk in on the conversation. He got very upset and said, “You need to stop talking about that, grandma!”
But I implore you to think about how difficult loss is for most of us. So we often don’t think about it or do enough about it in advance, which makes it even more difficult for family left behind. And being “older” doesn’t make the loss any easier.
One recent widow I spoke with, after years of care and an age difference with her spouse, shared that she had never imagined it would hurt this much. Loss of a parent can be similar, even when you know it may be soon, it doesn’t matter. Loss changes life.
And that old saying about how “time heals” is only partially true. Healing is not forgetting. And the wound is still there, just scarred over. It’s not something you get over, you just get through it, eventually with less daily pain.
You may already know or be surprised that widows often find the second year harder than the first. There is often so much change and so much to deal with in the first year that it almost helps to keep busy with your mind on other things.
One young widow understandably re-iterated several times when I saw her: “I am just so exhausted from all of this!” But then in year two, all of the “firsts” take place. First Valentine’s Day, his birthday, or your anniversary without him. First Christmas or other holidays without him. First anniversary of losing him. First grandchild, graduation, or wedding without him. All of those “firsts” in the second year can feel exhausting again.
Loss and celebrations of life can bring some gratitude, peace, and memories. I have always admired hospice staff/volunteers for their amazing attitude and role during end-of-life experiences. I would feel forever sad, depressed, and crying in that capacity, but I’ve talked with several who have chosen that path and they have a different perspective. They feel honored, grateful, and helpful to a family in need. And they certainly are!
Perhaps part of our solution for dealing with this “when it rains, it pours” time of life is two-fold. As a society, we need to do a better job of educating and openly discussing death. It is definitely going to happen to all of us. Somehow, we need to have conversations about facing that and how we want that to go.
Secondly, we can’t control when we will pass away, but we can plan for the things that we can control. So preparing for the unknown timing of passing, in advance, involves not only putting wishes in writing in documents, but also making sure titles/beneficiaries are correct, passwords are accessible, and a list of assets has been compiled. My Before and After Loss Checklist is a great double-check to confirm that you, or a friend, or a parent are ready to help your family weather through loss, whenever it comes.
One client recently told me his current favorite line when talking to friends is, “What are you waiting for!?!” He was referring to spending/gifting/donating or enjoying travel or a new “toy.” We could apply his question to many things in life, especially this topic of preparing for loss.
If I asked you, do you have your financial house in order? I hope your answer is a resounding “yes!” Then you can spend the rest of your time focusing on living out and enjoying the rest of your story. But if the answer is “no,” then “what are you waiting for!?!”
What have you found helpful in dealing with or preparing for loss? Any words of encouragement for each other on the challenges of this next chapter in life? Let’s have a conversation!
Tags End of Life Planning