Articles - 02/10/2019

Preparing emotionally and financially for the death of a loved one


Experience the death of a loved one is one of the most stressful life events possible, according to the Holmes-Rahe Scale, which measures the impact that painful or difficult life events can have on your mental wellbeing. If someone who means the world to you has just been given a tough diagnosis, your mind can be flooded with worry and you may feel powerless against the gravity of what is to come. The death of a relative is tough from an emotional perspective, but also a practical one. How can you best protect yourself and your family and make important arrangements for funerals and other key matters during this immensely challenging time?

Grief as part of life

It is important to understand the nature of grief as it increasingly becomes a part of your life. By reading about grief and embracing philosophies that resonate with you, you can better prepare yourself for the flood of emotions that will arise. One of the pioneering works on grief is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ On Death and Dying. According to Kübler-Ross and many other leading scholars, grief can be divided into five cycles: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People do not go through these stages in chronological order, nor conclusively. That is, one may already achieve a stage of acceptance, only to feel angry the next day, or to deny that death will take place. Grieving is similar to a wave; sometimes it lifts you in its throes and you feel washed at sea; at others you begin to see the shore and feel the sunlight. Be prepared to feel different in stages, each of which is totally normal and expected during this period.

Finding meaning from death

Many people say that the death of a loved one changed them, and enabled them to find greater meaning in their own lives. As tough as it can be when a loved one dies, it can be soothing to find value in their legacy. By working to discover the psychology behind behaviors you are not happy with, by trying to grow and a person, and by giving more of yourself to others, death can lead to a heightened sense of purpose. Indeed, research has shown that having a strong family and social network after bereavement is key to progress, because many people whose significant others have died, also lose the social circles they formed part of as a couple. Having friends and social occasions to look forward to helps battle depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It helps people feel that they are still a vital and cared for member of their community.

Seeking legal help

Financial matters can be very hard to broach indeed, since when a loved one is ill, finances are just about the last thing people feel comfortable talking about. If you are close to your loved one and they bring up the matter of a will etc., do advise them to tighten up their all their financial matters by seeing their lawyer. Many small mistakes can have large financial consequences for families. For instance, a parent cared for by one child may put his or her bank account in the name of both (i.e. create a joint bank account) for practical purposes. In the event of death, however, the entire amount would go to that child, despite the fact that the parent may have intended an equal partition between siblings. To reduce stress and tension among survivors, an airtight will that reflects the loved one’s updated desires regarding his or her estate, will reduce the chances of arguments and confusion. Finally, any desires regarding a funeral, mass experienced by your loved one should be looked into. You might already have a funeral home in mind or think about aspects like flowers, urns and keepsakes, and the like.

Knowing that a key person in your life will depart soon is no doubt a stressful and difficult time. It is key to receive as much support as you can, both emotionally and practically. If your loved one requires, see a lawyer or any other professional that can ensure their finances are well organised and their will and desires, well and clearly expressed. Finally, don’t forget your own emotional needs. Surround yourself by loved ones and if your burden feels too heavy, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. You can also contact organisations that are dedicated to helping individuals and families during the grieving process. These include Supportline Confidential Emotional Support (a UK charity that offers emotional support by phone) and Cruse Bereavement Care (offering face-to-face, telephone, email and website support). You might also like to try GriefChat: a free service open from 9 am to 9 pm (offering support to all bereaved people).

This blog has been written and provided by Jennifer Abraham, a Freelance Writer and Mom.