Resilience – Planning to Bounce Back for Widows
March 31, 2014 | Joy Kirsch
My friend Sheila just found out that her husband is suffering from a fatal heart disease. Sheila was widowed previously, about twelve years ago, and I wonder what it must feel like to be faced with the loss of yet another husband.
I can’t imagine that this is something that we get better at with experience. I wonder if being here has her revisiting the darkest parts of her heart where she’s hidden all the grief from losing her first husband. I wonder if she is already preparing for the worst or if she believes that this time the outcome can be different.
I wonder if she’s thinking about the steps and the decisions that she can take to make her journey easier this time. None of us get immunity. We all have to experience the grief of loss. And yet research shows that the ability to bounce back from traumatic experiences is something that we all possess.
The American Psychological Association reports that “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” The APA states that factors that lead to resilience include the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out; a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities; and skills in communication and problem solving. But these important characteristics of resilience all reside in the cognitive part of our brain, the part that is not accessible to the widow who initially suffers “temporary cognitive diminishment”.
Until the grieving widow can access that critical thinking part of her brain again, she shouldn’t be making important legal or financial decisions. This means that she should rely on decisions that have already been made prior to her loss. And yet, Wiki Answers reports that over half of all American adults don’t have wills and the American Association of Retired Persons estimates that of the widows now living in poverty, 80% were not poor before the death of their husband. Based on those statistics, we are woefully under-prepared.
We intuitively know that that we should all be pre-planning for the inevitable and no one knows this better than someone who has already been widowed. For this reason, I am confident that Shelia isn’t spending what are potentially the last months of her husband’s life rushing to prepare legal and financial documents.
I’m also grateful that she’s motivated me to update my legal documents now that I’m planning my own wedding ceremony this summer. Although pre-planning won’t allow Sheila to avoid the pain of loss, it will help her to be a lot more resilient. I just wish she didn’t have to practice those skills yet again.
~ Joy Kirsch
Securities, advisory services and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.