REINVENTION: IT’S NOT EASY.
When your spouse dies, so does the future that the two of you planned together. You’re overwhelmed by the grief, newfound responsibilities, tangle of emotions, and resulting exhaustion that so often accompany widowhood. And now you’re also tasked with reinventing yourself and reimagining a future that no longer includes your partner by your side as the two of you realize shared hopes and dreams.
As a widow myself, I can personally attest to just how long and hard this journey to a meaningful and rewarding new life can be. But I can also attest to the fact that it can be an amazing and liberating one as well. I can’t help comparing the process to a caterpillar’s metamorphosis.
REINVENTION: IT IS NATURAL.
Science tells us that in transforming to a butterfly, the caterpillar basically digests itself using hormone-triggered enzymes. Only then can stem-cell-like sleeping cells grow into body parts for the future flutterer. It’s a rough, lengthy transition, but the beautiful butterfly outcome sure seems worth it.
Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed 3-step or 5-step or even million-step program for going from a caterpillar to butterfly after the death of a spouse. But eventually, you will achieve readiness to explore, reimagine and reinvent yourself and your life. What’s more, there are a few tips that my personal experience, as well as my work with widowed clients (not to mention my study of human responses to life-altering change), tell me might make the journey a little easier:
GET TO KNOW YOU.
Now that it’s just you, you have both the freedom and the necessity to do so. You might start by asking yourself a few simple questions like these:
- What matters to me most?
- When do I feel happiest and most energized?
- Whom am I with and what am I doing during those times?
Consider keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and dreams (recorded honestly without judgment) or starting a Pinterest page. Patterns and themes that emerge can help you make plans and set boundaries (financial and otherwise) as you consider the direction you want your life to take now. Keep in mind that it’s perfectly okay if those plans and boundaries differ from the ones you and your late spouse envisioned together.
CIRCLE YOUR WAGONS.
Some say that widowhood is a time when friends become strangers and strangers become friends. It’s true. You and your late spouse’s “couple” friends may quietly distance themselves from you now that you’re just one. Other friends who haven’t been where you are simply don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. But widowhood is a time that’s too lonely to let yourself be truly alone. Consider seeking the support of other widows. Having traveled the road you’re on, they can help you find the strength to see hope and possibility in the distance.
GET ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GROW.
As you slowly gain/regain your self-awareness, confidence and strength, be open to paths that you have never before considered. There’s no harm in listening, asking questions, imagining and exploring – as long as you take your time before making any irreversible decisions. Social worker, author, and widow (at age 33) Kirstin Meekhoff recommends asking yourself one key question as you explore new possibilities for your life: “Is this going to expand my growth or restrict it?” It seems like a great benchmark for differentiating a rewarding odyssey from a dead-end.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Meet the Founder of our Widows Division, Joy Kirsch.
At age 30, is when Joy became widowed, she lost her husband, best friend and business partner. She quickly discovered that she had no real education or training about how grief affects our brains and bodies. Her natural curiosity and desire to “get it right” led to years of study around life-changing events and how they affect financial decision-making. She now devotes her time to helping other women prepare for life’s transitions with the goal of improving financial well-being. “Life Happens and sometimes it’s difficult, but we get to influence the outcome. I want women to have the resilience, courage, and wisdom to make good financial decisions while moving forward through difficult times with confidence and a sense of purpose.”
Joy believes that true wealth is not just a measure of one’s financial assets, but the sum of a person’s health, wealth and personal relationships. She has devoted her professional career to helping others define their values, dream new dreams and align their wealth accordingly. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Practitioner, a Certified Financial Transitionist® through the Sudden Money® Institute and the founder of The Widows Journey, a non-profit entity dedicated to educating and empowering widows to allow them to lean into life and make a difference in the world. She is a member of the Dallas Financial Planning Association and former chairman of the Fort Worth Business and Estate Section of the Tarrant County Bar Association. She is securities and insurance licensed and graduated cum laude from the University of Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.
Although Joy has won several industry awards, she is most proud of her twenty-five talented, beautiful and exceptional nieces and nephews. When she’s not hanging out with those little family members, she enjoys golf and tennis, weight training, yoga, meditation and trying every new restaurant in Dallas with her beau, Ron.