OMG, I’m a widow. I first uttered that phrase six months after my husband Lee died. That is who I am now, my new legal entity. Widow.
My husband was fifteen years older than I. We knew that I would likely outlive him, but when he died, I was not ready. I would never have been ready. You probably weren’t “ready” either.
When Lee first died, all I wanted to do was sit and absorb the deep loss I was feeling, but though plenty of moments like that would come—and will come for you—this is not a book about grieving. It is about the business that I had to attend to, and that you will have to attend to.
I want to be considerate of all who have lost their mates, and whether you have lost your husband or your wife, the information in this book applies to you.
There was such a lot for me to learn that I had previously thought nothing about. I had so many questions in my head. There would be so many things to do and people to consult! But just what and who? I needed lists, and I needed to know what should go on the lists.
I had gone online to Barnes & Noble (www.bn.com) to see if any books were available that could tell me about the seemingly overwhelming tasks that lay before me. It would have been so consoling, so helpful, to find a woman who had gone through the first few months I was facing and had left notes that would tell me what all I had to do—and how soon I had to do it!
Whatever words I did search at www.bn.com didn’t turn up the books I imagined might be waiting for me. I found books on grieving and funny books on husbands, but nothing on what I needed. I didn’t enter the word widow in my book search. I hadn’t applied that word to myself yet.
When I first checked off the “marital status” box for widow, the moment was indelibly printed in my mind, but I don’t recall which form it was on. During this time, you can’t count on much being indelibly printed in your mind. I have found the crackers in the refrigerator and have searched all over for things that were within easy eyesight. I totally forgot that I had had a friend to dinner a couple weeks after Lee died.
Be gentle with yourself, as such things will probably happen to you. Someone aptly called it “widows fog.”
The point is, you can’t count on your memory. Checklists and to-do lists need to be your constant companions, or you will forget to do something—or forget that you have done something.
Where was a short, simple book that would hold my hand from planning the memorial service, through completing all the business, to filing the estate tax report nine months after Lee’s death?
I began making to-do lists, my own checklists. Before I even knew it, I had started collecting material. This is the book I needed. I hope it is the one you need.
How to Use This Book
You can read this book from cover to cover and know more about what my experiences were, or you can skim each chapter to just the italicized sections, which contain checklists that apply directly to the things you will have to do as a new widow. Or you can go to the Table of Contents and consult just the pages with the information you need at the moment. The chapters are in the order that I dealt with things.
You can use this as a workbook or as a number of to-do lists. You can circle the boxes of the things you need to do and check-mark them when they are completed. You can write in the margins or between the lines, cross through information that doesn’t apply to you and add to the lists the things that you might want or need to do. I left plenty of room for notes.
No book could include everything for every set of circumstances—though I sure tried to accomplish that—and no woman will have to do everything in this book!
Chapter 1 contains information that would be practical to know in any circumstance. If your husband is living, the two of you can discuss matters you might not yet have thought about.
Chapter 2 deals with a widow’s most immediate needs—from where to get help, to what information to take with you to the mortuary, through your husband’s memorial service or funeral.
Chapter 3 is all about getting organized in the early days following your husband’s death.
Chapter 4 addresses money—where to find it, its incomings and outgoings, how to deal with it, and what to be wary of—from others’ expectations and recommendations, to scam artists’ attempts to take it away from you.
Chapter 5 covers to-do lists—from the most important things, to things that can wait a bit, to other things to be done that are not so pressing.
Chapter 6, the final chapter, discusses things you might do to plan ahead. Ideally, you came across this book while your husband is living. If so, the two of you have the chance to make plans so as to avoid some of the additional tribulations that come when no advance thought is given to the matters of trusts and Wills and bequests.
I constructed the book in an order that will help you cope with the tasks ahead. There will be repetitions because you might choose to skip around, and some things just shouldn’t be overlooked.
Also, please excuse me if it seems that I have assumed that you know less than you do. It is my intention to provide as much information as the reader with the least knowledge would need to have.
The information in this book is not intended to be taken as legal advice. It is likely you will need professional advice, and if you don’t have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), I strongly recommend that you hire one. If your total assets, which comprise your estate, are in excess of $100,000, you could require legal advice. If your estate is large or complicated, I strongly recommend you make use of the services of a trust attorney (sometimes known as an estate attorney). You can also look into free legal services or ask someone to research this for you.
All best to you,
Liz Swiertz Newman