How My Partner’s Death Led Me to Become a Financial Services Professional
If you’re a widow, widower, or someone whose partner has died, you’ll probably identify with my story.
Rick and I weren’t married, but we’d been in a committed relationship for years. We lived together. We bought a house together. We constructed our lives around each other. In the eyes of our friends and families, we’d always be together. We were each other’s “person.”
Then Rick was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. For the three plus years I spent as his caregiver, he was my focus. It was a very painful time, but rewarding. It was also scary. My life felt like a train that was going too fast. I knew it was going to go off-the-tracks but I didn’t know when and I couldn’t do anything about it.
And then he died. I became a widow at age 49. Even though we’d known the end was coming, his death was as traumatic as if it were sudden. For almost two years, I was both numb and hypersensitive, exhausted, and my brain was wrapped in a lingering fog.
I needed to move forward but I wasn’t sure I could. Up until then, I had worked as a librarian for a library vendor services company managing large projects for mostly academic libraries. Before that, I worked for various nonprofit organizations such as The Mark Twain House.
I knew I wasn’t going to make my living the same way, but I didn’t know what I wanted any more. So I made a conscious decision to just be quiet and not to try to figure it out. That’s when it came to me: All that I had gone through, the emotional and financial fallout from his death—that was something I could help others with.
Gradually I began to explore other careers. Ultimately, I chose to become a financial services professional. It was something I could do to make my experience meaningful. I could educate people and help them come to conclusions, while understanding personally how filled with loss those conclusions were for them. I could help them address both the immediate issues that they needed to attend to and the larger questions they faced.
Creating a New Life
When your partner dies. Everything changes Everything. You might still live in the same house, but everything about that may be different. Your daily habits—like when you eat and what you eat—change. How you spend your time changes. Your social identity changes. Your community changes. When you’re no longer part of a twosome, that may change how you fit into other people’s lives.
You are forced to reinvent yourself at a time when your capacity to do that is severely compromised.
Dealing with the Nitty-gritty Details
Despite the trauma and numbness I felt when Rick died, there was a long list of practical matters I needed to deal with immediately, like canceling his credit cards and calling every utility company to change the account information. It felt like I was removing him from my life. Over and over again, I had to explain to strangers what had happened. Making those phone calls was so painful that I left some things undone.
I didn’t know what my financial options and legal responsibilities were. Looking back now, I see that having a financial planner could have helped me a lot.
Making Bigger Decisions
When your partner dies, you have to make big decisions, yet your capacity to make them is reduced. I had lost my sounding board. Rick and I had always decided together what to do and how to do it. We both had skin in the game. Now the person I would have worked everything out with was gone.
Here are some of the dilemmas I had to find answers to:
- What to do with the funds I received as a survivor? Should I save and invest it, or restructure the mortgage, pay off my car loan?
- How to deal with the things that were so connected to Rick―his guitars, his clothes? What should I keep, or give away, or sell? I still have his jacket and hat hanging in the front hallway.
- Can I stay in the house we bought together? How much money would I save living in something smaller?
These questions are daunting for a variety of reasons. First, there’s the numbness and fog. Second, it’s difficult to know the resources you’ll need in your new life. With just one person in the house, what’s the impact on your electricity bill? If you stop cooking meals, how much does your food budget increase?
Because of my own experiences, I can be helpful to people who, like me, have lost their spouse or partner. I understand the trauma that’s involved and how that affects your ability to make decisions.
My other life experiences link with people who don’t fit into a traditional family structure. For example, I’ve spent more than half my adult life as a Solo (someone without a partner and/or children). And because I was raised in part by a gay father, I’m keenly aware that every couple isn’t male-and-female. All around me, I see family structures that aren’t prototypical.
I’m delighted to have “found” The Davis Financial Group. It’s a practice that understands financial decisions are always tied to our emotions and overlap with many aspects of someone’s life. I look
forward to partnering with clients of all types, connecting with them and hearing their stories.
Securities and investment advisory services and financial planning services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investor Services, LLC, member SIPC, Supervisory office: 300 Whitney Avenue, Suite 600, Holyoke, MA 01040, Tel: 413-539-2000. The Davis Financial Group, LLC is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC.