Dealing with the Loss of a Spouse

Whether you have time to prepare for it or it is sudden, the loss of a spouse is one of life’s most traumatic events. For most, it means the loss of one’s soul mate and life partner, one with whom so many past memories and future goals and dreams are woven.  If you have recently lost a spouse or know someone who has, it is an understatement to say that there is an initial feeling of being overwhelmed – there is so much to do at a time when you feel the least capable (and the one with whom you’ve always shared the decision making duties in the past is no longer there to help you). There seem to be lots of people around but you are feeling numb, lost, and alone. 

To make things a little easier to handle at this time, you can break things down into things you really need to do now, things that need to be done soon, and things that can be done later. 

There are very few things that need to be done immediately/now (see my previous blog: Dealing with Death: A Financial Guide). We often encourage clients at this time to do only what is absolutely necessary and leave any bigger decisions for much later when you find yourself in a better place where you can think more clearly and confidently. This space we provide is called the Decision Free Zone – it gives you permission for yourself (and others) to not make any big decisions until you are comfortable moving forward in this time of transition.

Starting soon, it’s important to make sure you are taking care of yourself; eating well, trying to get enough rest, exercising, and trying to stay social. Support groups and counselors can be extremely helpful during this time. You will also need to meet with your professional advisors to make sure needed details and changes are taken care of on financial accounts, legal documents, etc. You will work with your financial planner to determine your income and budget needs for yourself going forward during this transition period, determine how cash will flow, etc. Decisions during this time can take months to years to refine and complete.

Later (and depending on the person this can be a few months or a few years since your spouse’s death), you will be able to look forward and visualize your new life and future. You will be able to work with your advisor to create a Bliss List that will include new goals and a plan for your “new normal.” You will determine: how you want to live your life going forward; what makes you feel joyful and fulfilled; and what is on your bucket list that is left undone? 

The devastation that you feel with a loss of a spouse seems insurmountable. With time, self-care, and the help of your financial planner who can hold your hand through the painful transition, for as long as it takes, you will be able to get through this! If you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a spouse and could use our guidance, please contact us at

Sandra Adams, CFP® , CeFT™ is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Opinions expressed are those of Sandra Adams and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James Financial Services and its advisors do not provide advice on tax or legal issues, these matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.