According to The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, the accidental death of a spouse is the most stressful life event a person can have. At 37 years-old, Christi Staib's life was turned upside down without warning when her husband drowned in a scuba-diving accident. Devastated, she went through a period of deep depression imagining her life without him.
Trying to find a way to move forward, Christi went to support groups for recent widows and widowers. Being able to share her pain with others who shared the same struggles was the first step to helping Christi heal emotionally.
By talking and sharing, Christi quickly learned that many of the people in her support groups were going through extreme financial challenges. It turns out, finances are one of the biggest stresses about losing a spouse.
A fundamental aspect of marriage, or a long-term partnership, is that people end up falling into various "chores" or responsibilities. Even if the survivor is the one who handled the finances, they quickly find that their lost one did many things which they now have to figure out and do.
Emotionally, losing a spouse is shattering. People often go into extreme spending or even excessive philanthropy in attempts to numb the pain. They fail to manage their wealth and often create new financial problems.
In those support group sessions, Christi began helping other people. She saw a serious need, because over the previous 20 years. Christi had self-taught herself financial literacy. Having grown up poor, she made it her own personal quest to be financially successful. Helping those in her support group became Christi's purpose. It gave her a way to make sense of her loss. She found great joy in helping others who were hurting see a brighter future.
This is an amazing real example of turning a painful experience into a powerful purpose.
Christi became a certified financial advisor, specializing in helping widows and widowers. Over the past 16+ years, she's done just that, and received numerous awards for the work she's done in this area.
I met Christi at a marketing mastermind group I'm a part of, and quickly saw her as someone from whom I could learn. In full transparency, I'm not her client, and she's not mine. She is just someone I wanted to learn from and interviewed for this article. No financial compensation was received.
In this brief article, I'm going to share a few things Christi recommends to those who have recently lost a loved one to potentially set their financial futures up for success.
Even if you haven't gone through something tragic, these strategies are helpful if you want to improve your life and future. In the words of Strategic Coach founder, Dan Sullivan, You should "always make your future bigger than your past." Sometimes, it takes an extremely tragic experience to shock your system into making a big change. Such doesn't always need to be the case.
Here's how you can make your life bigger, especially during times of challenge or transition:
Reach Out to an Advisor You Trust
It's easy to make bad financial decisions when you're emotionally shattered or overwhelmed. This is common for people who have recently lost a loved one. But in general, many people never get emotionally mature about their money.
Finding an advisor you trust and respect is worth the time and money. A benefit of a good advisor is to help their clients be less emotional about money and finances - especially at this time of personal loss.
I can personally attest to this. Over the past 12 months, working with my financial advisor, he's helped me make huge financial decisions without stress. He's helped me put systems in place where I'm consistently and automatically investing and saving money every week.
Join a Support Group
According to trauma expert, Dr. Peter Levine: "Trauma isn't what happens to us, it's what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness."
When we're going through challenging times, instinctually, we often retreat inward and isolate ourselves. This is what psychologists call "suppression." It's not a good idea. It's how initially difficult experiences become long-term trauma.
Instead, join a group of people with whom you can speak openly. The more open you can be about your emotions, the faster the healing process will probably be.
Gather All Important Documents
A probate is a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased's will or the estate of a deceased who had no will.
A fundamental aspect of becoming emotionally healthy, and ultimately confident and excited about the future, is getting extremely clear on "where you currently are."
Going through the probate process may help you with assessing your own situation. What this means is that you need to get a clear view of where you currently are regarding all of your assets, and what will happen to those assets when you ultimately die. Probates are best managed with the assistance of an attorney who specializes in this field. Examples of the documents you'll need are:
- Death certificate(s)
- Birth certificate(s)
- Social security numbers
- Wills and trusts
- Mortgage documents
- Insurance policies
- Bank statements
A fundamental aspect of transforming traumatic experiences is re-framing them. One way of doing that is recognizing that everything you're going through is happening FOR you, not TO you.
Yes, the death of your spouse is painful and not something you wished upon yourself. Even though this is difficult and painful, it can actually be the springboard to improving your entire life.
Christi has learned to help people find meaning in the transition, and elevate their own vision of the future.
As someone who has personally coached thousands of people, I can attest that this is hard and important work. When people are in transition, they can go one of two ways: get even more stuck, or they can use the transition to totally alter their identity and future. You might as well do the latter.
You can set your future or financial and emotional abundance. But you need help and support doing so. You'll also want to start asking yourself bigger questions:
Where do I want to be in 10 years from now?
What would I like to do for the world and the planet?
What matters to me?
You can create a powerful purpose for your life. Today is your chance to start. Although you may have gone through a deep and devastating loss, this could become an incredible blessing in disguise.
What you do right now will determine that. Reach out to someone you trust, or have someone help you. And what Christi has found by helping thousands of widows and widowers (including herself) over the past 20+ years is that experiencing the loss of a loved one can become a powerful turning-point in to potentially create an abundant future.
That's a powerful message. Any obstacle can be an opportunity, even something as devastating as losing a spouse. I'm humbled and grateful for that reality.