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A Widow’s Identity Crisis

Uncategorized,Widows / December 7, 2021

concerned womanAll of us have an identity – even multiple identities. We see ourselves one way and the world may see us in a different way. Our children view us differently than our parents do. Our close friends view us differently than a business colleague.

When your spouse dies, your identity changes. It’s a very scary experience. I’m not a widower, but my co-author on The Not Just A Widow Guidebook, Patty Desiderio, shared these insights with me in our early days working on the book. They help me appreciate the challenges a widow faces when I do financial planning consultations for new widows.

All widows experience an “identity crisis” of some sort after the death of their husband. There’s the obvious fact that she’s no longer a wife – she’s a widow. Without her husband, friends and family may struggle with how to interact with the widow’s new identity. Other couples may be unsure about whether they should include the new widow in the same couple’s activities. Many widows I’ve talked to have commented that they tire of the pity that old friends can’t seem to help to show. It is this awkwardness that causes many widows to seek out new social contacts. She wants people who don’t view her as the “surviving spouse”, but rather just a woman.

If a couple has children, it’s common for each parent to play a slightly different role. While a widow with children is still a mother, her role as a parent is likely to change. She now has to take on some of her husband’s role. Depending on the age of the children, that may take some time and maturity for the children to appreciate.

For a widow, the workplace can be a comfort. Unless husband and wife were running a business together, a widow’s identity at work is the one that isn’t likely to change that much – if at all. That can be a good thing in the early days when so much is changing. I’ve talked to widows who have said they looked forward to going back to work after the funeral because they could pretend for a few hours that everything was “the same”.

As a widow, it’s important to know that this identity change is normal. Every widow experiences it to some degree. It can take years for a widow to figure out who she is now, and that’s also common. This isn’t some overnight transformation. Many widows are surprised by the changes they go through. I’ve yet to meet a woman who isn’t substantially changed by the experience.

Patty Desiderio and I wrote The Not Just a Widow Guidebook to help new widows be better prepared for the experience of widowhood. It’s available on Amazon and it’s an invaluable resource.

While it was written specifically for widows, children and friends can learn a thing or two about what she’s going through by reading the many insights in the book.

At DouglasBradley, we specialize in helping widows understand their personal finances, what tasks need to be completed, what to prioritize, how to protect themselves and their financial security. We offer services for a fee and never sell any sort of investment or insurance product. Contact us to learn more.

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