I hope you are very well. I have not blogged in a while and I apologise, there has been so many changes to adjust to and unplanned events kept coming up.
Do pardon me from regular blogging as I am still adjusting, however I do this for a dear sister and friend who has asked us to share, she recently lost her husband and has some tips. She is African American but some of her lessons may actually help some of us.
Death is such a forbidden topic especially in Nigeria, perhaps Africa, and yet even after the death of a loved one, the family left behind have to survive through the shock, the changes and adjustments.
Enough with my ramblings here is what bougieblackgirl has to say on sudden unexpected bereavement;
I just lost my wonderful husband. my husband of 14 years, Joseph, our family’s provider and protector died from a brain aneurysm last week. He was only 34 years old.
Let me be honest with you, I’m devastated, in shock and in some form of denial. When someone called me a widow I was heartbroken. How am I writing? Well writing for you brings me solace.
You see right before he died, everything seemed so normal. We dropped the kids off at school, I went food shopping and we did our normal routine. Within hours he was found unconscious and later declared brain-dead. I asked myself if I was there would he had survived. Why I didn’t see the signs? What could have I done differently? Unfortunately, there was nothing no one could’ve done. Even after knowing all that, I’m still questioning myself.
How am I dealing? It’s been rough. I can’t sleep at night. I force myself to eat and I cry almost every time I’m reminded that he’s gone. The irony is he’s all I want to talk about. It’s hard living in this house because everything in our bedroom is exactly where he left it before he died. I kept it that way. I can’t imagine moving his things. His bottle of water is on his end table. His gum is on his side of our dresser. He’d prepared his work clothes to be taken to the dry cleaners and they’re right where he left them. He was an old school military man raised by old school folks. You know how we military people are. Everything had to be freshly starched.
Even though I’m grieving, I learned so much from this ordeal.
There are also many important steps we must take after a spouse dies. If you ever have to go through this nightmare or you want to prepare for when it happens (because we all die) here is what I need you to do…
1. Lean on your support system. You’ll need them now more than ever for advice, protection and a shoulder to cry on.
2. Find all of your legal documents. This includes birth certificates, social security cards, a DD214 if they were in the military; insurance policies, etc. (Please put them in a safe place so that everyone knows where everything is.)
3. Contact your spouse’s creditors. Some credit card/loan companies have insurance to cover your loved ones debt if they die. We all die so ask your creditors if you can sign up for it and take it. You don’t want you or your loved ones to have the added burden of debt after a spouse’s death.
4. Contact your spouse’s bank to have the funds transferred over to you, if you don’t have a joint account. If your spouse has a debt with the bank, the bank can seize your spouse’s assets to clear up the debt. If they have a debt, contact an attorney before informing the bank. One more thing! Make sure your spouse lists you as the beneficiary on their accounts. If they haven’t, do it NOW. My hubby had his account before he married me. I am lucky. Some people aren’t when it comes to death and money. If you aren’t the beneficiary, his other family may contest it. To protect you and your spouse, have them change it.
5. Create a budget to track spending and stick to it. Include bills and money coming in.
6. Find out what bills were paid, what bills are due and pay them. This includes car notes, insurance payments, utility bills, etc. I’ve just had to pay tons of bills including part of my husband’s funeral costs.
7. Cancel your spouse’s drivers license to prevent ID fraud. There are vultures out there. To prevent being a victim of identity theft, contact your state licensing agency.
8. Contact your spouse’s employer and old employers for insurance policies, pensions and 401ks to begin the beneficiary process. When you contact your job’s HR department, ask how long you will keep your spouse’s healthcare. Also ask about their last paycheck and ask how you can begin the claim process. You will also get access to their retirement, if they have one. (We all die so get a will, GET LIFE INSURANCE and save for retirement!)
9. If your spouse is an organ donor like mine was, make sure you understand what it means. You don’t have to do it. If you do, I applaud you. Get the representative of the donor organization explain in full detail what they are taking and the condition your spouse will be left in. I had a witness (his mom) in the room with me.
10. When we picked out a funeral home we asked for recommendations from family members. Ask around! Our family made an excellent choice. We went with a Black owned funeral home that did a spectacular job. When meeting with the funeral director they will ask you if you want a full funeral with burial, cremation with or without a service, etc. Funerals are expensive. Here is a tip. Let them know up front you only have a set amount of money to pay for the funeral. I negotiated prices with the funeral home. You can too. Stick to your budget and don’t spend more than you can. Some relatives will pressure you to spend more, but they aren’t paying for the funeral services. You are! Lovingly ignore them. I’ve had relatives who spent in the five-figure range for another relative’s funeral. Don’t do it!
11. Once you’ve set the dates with the funeral home for your spouse’s service and set up the burial:
- Contact the place of service if it is not at the funeral home.
- Contact the funeral participants and confirm their attendance.
- Create a program. You can have the funeral home design it or you can design it yourself. If you do design it, you will save hundreds of dollars. That’s what I did. I am self-taught in Photoshop, Indesign, etc. I made the program just the way my hubby would want it. You can also get pre-made pamphlets designs. All I paid for was the printing. The funeral home will charge you for the number of pages printed in each program.
- Ask yourself will there be a repass? If so, are you using a caterer? If you need to save money, let family cook or have everyone bring a dish. Do what works for you.
- Get the word out about the funeral and burial date and time. Since my hubby was young and his friends were online, I used social media using images expressing the date and time of his funeral. If the person is older go where your spouse’s friends are.
13. Once the funeral is over, get multiple death certificates from the funeral home. You need this document for #3 and #8 during the claim process.
14. Don’t forget to send out thank you cards. This is simple etiquette. I’m doing mine now. Some funeral homes offer them for free. Use them.
15. Go to benefits.gov to see what government benefits you are and your children (if you have any) are entitled to after a spouse dies. Make sure you have your family’s social security numbers, birth certificates and your proof of your marriage. You’ll need them to go through with federal survivor benefits.
16. Ignore the pressure to give away your spouse’s items before you are ready. My hubby died a few days ago and I still haven’t moved his stuff. Yes, people have asked for his things, but I told them to wait.
17. Get a lawyer if you need one. They are there to protect you.
18. Grieve in your own way and seek counseling. My kids and I start counseling next month. Do it.
19. Finally live your life. Life is so short. If something or someone isn’t making you happy change your situation. We take life for granted when it is really a precious gift.
These past few weeks have been the hardest in my life. There are days when I’m too tired to do anything and there are nights where all I want to do is cry. I know things will get better.My husband’s death has devastated to my sons. They cope in their own ways. My oldest is like me, reserved. He asks questions and then goes back to his space. My youngest is hurt, but needs to be around people who love us. We’re lucky. My husband has an amazing family and a group of friends and we have you who are helping us get through this trying time.
I’m not done yet. I have one more thing to tell you. People will probably get mad at me, but I want you to focus on the one word I used throughout this post. What was the one word I used over and over? The word was spouse. Now just imagine if I was just a girlfriend after 14 years of co-habitating? I wouldn’t have been able to make the medical decisions or even have access to his room before he died. I wouldn’t have had access to our car or even have a legal right to stay in our home. I wouldn’t have had a legal say in his funeral arrangements. I’d be at the mercy of his family. Luckily they aren’t like that, however, like I said before, some people are. Just imagine. I’d be in probate for my sons’ inheritance. That can take months and even years depending upon who contests it. Who wins? The lawyers! So before people say marriage is just a piece of paper, I’m proof that is so much more. Look, marriage ain’t for everyone but it’s easier when you are dealing with the passing of a spouse.
Please consider protecting your family and yourself. Get insurance and a will, keep your documents in a secure place and make sure your beneficiary information is up to date. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, prayers and support. I love you so much!!!
The only limit you have is the one you have is the one you have placed on yourself. Think and be limitless.
Bougie Black Girl
Mena says: This is a very strong minded, opinionated beautiful friend and even in her grief she still cares for others by sharing this in her blog (in reference within this blog) and allowing for it to to be shared. This is the 5th unexpected death news I have heard so far and each of them, have families still trying to adjust to the new situation. It is not easy! Please visit her blog and if you want to, kindly support in what way you can. May J's (BBG's hubby) soul RIP and may God grant the survivors favour, Grace and peace to go through this difficult period. Amen