We all need love to thrive, and when you’ve found the love of your life, it’s hard to imagine losing that person. While we know that everything precious has an end point, it can be a difficult reality to face head on. This can be even more difficult when you’re facing the loss in a young family.
We’d rather live in the clouds and float away from the haze of despair, but darkness has a way of slithering in and smothering the fragility of peace. Losing one’s spouse is a devastating burden that can wrench a family apart. In the event of a terminal illness, it’s important to make preparations so that your loved ones can support each other as much as possible after the inevitable.
1. Prepare Yourself
When you fall in love and make a lifelong commitment, you vow to be there for your partner during any hardship. Nothing can compare to the pain of death’s imminent arrival, and when it approaches sooner than expected, keeping your head above water can seem like a trial of futility. However, it’s vital that you give yourself time and energy so that you can persevere.
It’s easy to get caught up in only focusing on your spouse and family, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to fall into a well of depression that’s hard to climb out of. In order to properly grieve, consider making prior arrangements for time off from work, school, and any other responsibilities.
Reach out to family members or friends for help with child care and transportation, and don’t forget to schedule time for being alone. While having a support system is important, it’s also therapeutic to spend some time in isolation, especially if you’re the type who would prefer to grieve and reflect privately. Visualizing a future for yourself is one step towards being at peace with death.
2. Prepare Your Kids
As overwhelming as it can be to lose a spouse, affected children are especially vulnerable. It’s difficult to lose a parent at any age, but death can be a difficult subject for small children to understand. While it’s important that kids aren’t shielded from the realities of death, it’s necessary that one reach out with comfort and hope. Everyone needs hope to flourish, and children need to be assured that their parent isn’t lost forever.
Try to communicate to your children that the love of their parent will never fade. It can be comforting to offer strength in spirituality when blunt truths of mortality are difficult to convey. Try to be as honest as possible with your children because they deserve to live in the moment as much as you do.
By keeping lines of communication open, your family can stay connected and aloft even in times of deep sadness. Tell your children that it doesn't matter how their grieving manifests. Whether they want to cry and cling to you or be silent and withdrawn from others, it’s important to give them the space and freedom to accept and cope with the situation in the manner most fitting to them.
3. Prepare Your Finances
As the costs of funerals, burials, and memorial services continue to rise, so does the anxiety and dread of families in times of tragedy. While one doesn’t want to make a death about money, the reality is that the loss of a spouse often means the loss of a career and, in many cases, the bulk of income a family is living on.
It’s necessary to make financial preparations to help ensure the security and needs of your family in both the short and long term. It’s a good idea to assess your current finances, including pension plans and Social Security benefits, and what you can realistically put toward a burial. A burial and funeral arrangement can total thousands of dollars, but a cremation is a significantly cheaper alternative. Make sure you have all paper work regarding assets, insurance, and financial accounts in order. Having these organized beforehand will allow you to spend your spouse's last days as you wish and allow you to grieve as you need.
Losing your spouse is one of the most excruciating moments a person can experience, and the truth is that it’s a circumstance with no real solution. Yet there are certainly ways a family can cope, face death, and find the strength to continue living.
Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for West Michigan Social Security DI. She regularly produces content for a variety of family blogs, based around the transitional challenges which come with having a family member with a disability or illness.