I've had the content of this blog written for a long time - in fact, the subject matter is one of the main reasons I started financial coaching in the first place, because I know that its a topic of conversation we shy away from.
But with the passing of my beautiful 99 year old Nana this week, it is the natural time for me to release the content and start the conversation around this difficult topic. It is the end of an era - they don't make them like that any more, but I know she'd be pleased that I'm talking about this because, apart from anything else, she wanted to ensure that she had a "good death".
5 ways to reduce the financial stresses when battling through grief
Losing someone is very often the hardest thing that we have to deal with in life, whether it’s a parent, a child, a partner, a friend or another family member.
Textbooks will tell us that there are 7 defined stages of grieving that we will go through – in order. Yet in reality, moving through these various stages is different for every one of us, and will likely be different every time we go through it.
Whether we want to try to keep busy, or wallow under the duvet, whether we want to celebrate their life or mourn their passing, whether we want to take a few days to gather our thoughts, or spend months or years getting used to life without that person, dealing with death is a fact of life that we will all face at some point.
That loss can have significant impacts on our relationship with money – and not just if we have inherited money that we need to consider doing something with.
During periods of change, including grief, we have a whole new set of emotions to be dealing with. I know that when I lost my Dad, suddenly, almost 20 years ago, those emotions were often not what I would have expected to be experiencing. This led me to not only start on my own journey as a coach, but I also studied as a bereavement counsellor too, as I realised the impact of life events like this.
We often find that we are dealing with the impact of grief at the same time as other big life events – losing a parent often occurs at a similar time as going through the menopause, or dealing with a divorce, getting the kids through university, or going for that last big promotion at work. Although life events are unavoidable, we don’t prepare for the financial implications that can follow.
As already mentioned, everyone is different, but common emotional responses can include increased spending as you wake up to the realisation that “life’s too short” – extra holidays booked, that new car deposit paid, the school trip for your kids signed up for.
It could be that you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself (understandable!) and you want to cheer yourself up with a bit of retail therapy. The credit card comes out – you’ll worry about the balance owing another day.
It might be that you’re drifting into a grief-stricken period of negativity and instead of spending because “life’s too short” you get sucked into negative behaviours such as drinking, gambling, or binge eating, all of which include an additional amount of money being spent.
All these, and many more, are likely to be temporary, but they can also become habitual and then the impact on your money is greater over the longer term.
We often have no warning of these events, we often have no expectations of our emotional responses – so it is difficult to plan for them, especially from a financial perspective, which is likely to be an area that you don’t ever consider when talking about your grief.
So, what can you do?
- Be aware of your feelings, and your responses. Likewise, be aware of the feelings and responses of others around you who may be mourning the loss of the same person, but in a different way.
- Have your finances in place so that you have a bit of leeway in your monthly budget to have that “can’t be bothered to cook again” takeout, or that bit of retail therapy.
- Have your “freedom fund” building up – regular savings now will allow you to book that “life’s too short” holiday to Disney with the grandkids, without resorting to the credit card.
- Don’t feel guilty about any spending at this time. Money guilt is one area that you do not need to add to your already lengthy list of emotions you’re dealing with.
- Most of all, talk about it. Not just during the grieving process. The more we normalise the money conversation, the more able we will be to address the changes and ask for the support we need when the time comes. In turn, this will also help us to support others when they need it – even when their emotional responses are very different to those which we experienced.
Benjamin Franklin said “in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes”. We can’t avoid them, but we can certainly mitigate the financial impact of them to allow us to focus our energy on other things.
Money, let’s talk about it. If this blog resonates with you personally, or you think that someone you know could benefit in reading it, please let me know and feel free to share it.
And if you feel that some time with an experienced financial coach with a real passion and understanding of both the emotions and the practical aspects that need attention at these difficult times, please just reply to this email or come and find me on LinkedIn or Instagram - @kimuzzellmoneycoach.
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