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The Road Beyond: What to Do First When Grief is Fresh

December 28, 2016 View all posts by Atlas Wealth Advisors Atlas Wealth Advisors The Road Beyond

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Laozi

To embark on your most trying journey yet, you must take the first step.

This trek will, by no means be easy, but the first hurdle is simply getting started. Finding the motivation to take control of your affairs when facing the death of a spouse or divorce can be trying all on its own. But rest assured that it can be done.

Samuel Johnson once said, “While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates.”

We don’t recommend that you engage in behaviors to divert yourself from what has occurred. However, it’s normal to initially assess your situation and find that there are simply too many moving parts. It can be overwhelming. The light at the end of the tunnel may seem like a candle on the ocean at this point. For this reason, we advise women facing these difficult transitions to walk through the process of mapping.

Of course, even the best map is useless if you don’t know where you are.

Look Behind You

In most cases, this one included, a good way to find out where you are is to retrace your steps. If you can figure out where you’ve been, where you’ve come from, finding where you are now becomes easier.

This is where you get to tell your story. Write it down, all of it. Begin wherever it makes sense. Leave in all the details. How did you feel when certain things happened? Who else knows these pieces of your story? Draw on friends and family to help fill in gaps in your memory. This process can also result in some catharsis, and speaking with trusted confidantes only serves as further therapy.

No small piece of this is to catalogue and understand your financial situation. Every job, investment, property and donation are important. If you don’t know everything, that’s ok. It’s important to establish what you know as well as what you do not know.

Once you’ve written out your story, and helped yourself understand where you are, you should address the things that you fear most. Everything counts and nothing is too small. This may be a time of seemingly ceaseless fear and uncertainty, but it’s important to quantify the different fears you may be experiencing.

Look Ahead
Start by making a list of everything you can think of that inspires fear during this experience and for the future. Even simply writing a stream-of-consciousness style list can be helpful.

Once you’ve reached a stopping point, it’s time to rank the fears you’ve come up with. Read through your list again and try to tap into the source of each fear and understand which are the strongest and weakest. During this assessment, try to imagine how each could happen. Is it unlikely, plausible, possible, probable? Understanding the scenario that brings the fear to reality will assist you in ranking your fears.

Once this analysis is complete, it can help to rewrite the list in order, from biggest fear to smallest.

Now that you have your list of fears, you should identify people in your life who can help you overcome or address each one. For personal fears, such as loneliness or overwhelming household duties, it may be a friend or family member that can be counted on to come through with help. For others, such as fears about finances, it may be helpful to enlist the help of a professional.

Look Around
Write a name and contact information next to each item on your list. This is the person you’ll contact when this situation arises or causes anxiety. This is the first step to building a support system that will keep you moving forward, even if you feel like giving up.

The truth of the matter is, having a roadmap to address any uncertain situation is more effective than setting off on your own into some unknown future. Everyone needs directions from time to time, and especially in the case of divorce or death of a spouse. There should be no shame in depending on others to provide whatever assistance is necessary.

In the next chapter, we’ll discuss how to manage cash flow during this trying, and often confusing, time. The decisions you make early regarding income can either set you up for success or come back to cause more trouble later. Identifying the right choices when it comes to cash flow is of vital importance.


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