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10 Things I Learned When I Became a Widow

Losing my husband unexpectedly last summer was like a merry-go-round that suddenly stops! Our marriage ended when he didn’t wake up from his afternoon nap. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster; wandering through financial mazes and unknown pathways into this world of widowhood. ‘You cannot start a new chapter unless you stop re-reading the old one’ the saying goes. And yet I cannot put the story of our Great Adventure down. Over and over I revisit the memories and what might have been. Nothing prepares you for having your life interrupted and forever changed, but over the last six months I’ve learned to be a little braver and move a bit more forward as I face life on my own.
widow, adjusting to widowhood, becoming a widow, financial management, midlife, midlife women
  • Your Adult Kids will step up and do what needs to be done. Let them. They will give you strength and comfort as their spouses comfort them. They will use their talents and resources to make things happen. They will shield you when necessary….but give you that push you may need at other times. They will give balance to decision making; knowing when to take over ….and when to step back and respect your choices. My son and daughter were hit hard with the loss of their Dad and their kids’ grandfather.  I’m still amazed at how well we got through it and have never been prouder of my children.
  • Ownership of credit cards, vehicles and houses make a BIG difference in the debt and varying shades of red tape you’ll face! Two of our cards were in his name only; I was an authorized user. I don’t recall us ever considering this or being asked any preference. Visa was quick to write off the balance; American Express not so much. They inquired regularly about the estate, but the calls finally stopped when my lawyer explained there was no estate; no probate. Collection calls are frightening; know your rights and seek legal help if necessary. Our cars and home were in both our names…..with the house having the important “joint tenancy with survivorship” clause in the contract! 
  • Finances I had to think about money. I sold his car and refinanced the house; reducing my payments by $600! My husband was retired, but did free-lance writing for several publications. I would miss that income, so I had to make changes quickly. His insurance money came within weeks; but it took awhile to secure results with Social Security and our pensions because frankly… didn’t occur to me for months to pick up the phone; and the processing took more time. Stopping newspaper subscriptions, reducing cable, phone and internet to the minimum needs… and discontinuing pest, weed and lawn services helped make a dent in monthly expenses. Doing without car washes, hair appointments, Starbucks or browsing Target taught me I could live frugally while waiting to get things settled! Someone told me it takes a year to really know where you stand with your financial future, so I continue to be wise and careful.

Continue reading this post on Joan Stommen’s blog, Gramcracker Crumbs

Joan Stommen

I am a teacher, mom and grandmother of five. I retired after 33 years in education to help care for my mother AND my daughter's new twins! I write about families, education, fitness, aging gracefully and the bits and pieces of my life. Becoming a widow has given me another platform on which to share my thoughts and feelings. Over the years I've written for newspapers, taught writing skills to college students, classroom teachers and children of all ages. My blog posts have been featured on More Magazine's online site as well as other blogs. I enjoy Zumba, hiking, scrapbooking, reading, subbing and learning to cook! In addition to drafting my parents' love story and my memoirs, I'm looking for a writing coach position.

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Suzanne Robertson

Monday 3rd of March 2014

I loved your story probably because I have lived it with one difference... mine was a sudden and unexpected divorce. My new motto in life is... "don't look back, you're not going that way." I have found strength and joy and hope. Life is good. I wish you the best on your journey. Suzanne

Helene Cohen Bludman

Friday 28th of February 2014

You are a strong and wise woman, Joan. Even though I have not experienced a loss like yours, your post touched me deeply as I imagined myself responding much the way you have-- two steps forward, one step back. I am so glad that you've got a strong support system and a loving family to guide you through this difficult time. My thoughts are with you.

Joan Stommen

Saturday 1st of March 2014

I felt relief and comfort in writing it....but the tears have come back with so many sweet comments and encouragement like this. Thank you, my friend.

Petra Prusinowski

Thursday 27th of February 2014

Hi Joan,

I like your blog. People don't realize how much work there is to be done when you become a widow. My sister and I helped my mum to arrange everything when my dad passed away. It was a lot of work and takes a while before everything is settled. It's nice to know that you get support from your family and that they give you the strength to go on. Good luck and a lot of fun with your blog.

Greetings Petra

Joan Stommen

Thursday 27th of February 2014

I am so sorry about you losing your dad. Between Jim and now our Leslie....this has been a hard time for Stommens. Thank you for reading and understanding; so happy we're cousins, sweet Petra!

Carol Cassara

Thursday 27th of February 2014

So sorry for your loss--by sharing your experience you are helping the rest of us make the right plans and arrangements. I know i'll be talking to hubby about some of this today. Thank you.

Joan Stommen

Thursday 27th of February 2014

Writing it was comforting and strengthening for me; but I am happy to know it is helpful to others. There are no instructions or rules to if this can serve a purpose, I am honored. Thank you for reading and commenting, Carol!

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