Coming to terms with a pandemic, such as Corona, is new territory for everyone, especially widows.
Whether it has meant a reduction of income, a shift to working from home or the loss of a job, it has had practical implications. Those are shared pretty universally with everyone.
It has also had emotional implications resulting from the overwhelming unknowns and from too many weeks of sheltering in place: stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, anxiety or fear. Those emotions can strike a unique chord for widows. And widowers.
Let’s look at some of them.
Practical implications that are likely shared by many
The blow of shutting down the world economy has touched virtually everybody. For most, it has meant “re-budgeting” to adjust to a new reality. The basics – rents, mortgages, insurances and other contractual obligations – remain the same.
But everyday expenses have shifted. Commuting and work lunches disappeared. Eating out became delivery or home cooking. Concerts and movies turned into more streaming services. Everything we did “outside” had to find an “inside” substitute.
Even our dreams were touched. Was this the summer of your week in a Paris Airbnb? Or the trip with your grandkids to show them where their father grew up? Or a long-awaited weekend of museums and theater in New York City with a college girlfriend?
But your fundamental finances may have been affected, too. A conversation with your financial advisor could touch on:
- Reviewing your retirement plan and estate plan to see if there are opportunities to strengthen them.
- Looking at lucky breaks offered by the CARES Act, such as preferential IRA withdrawal terms, the holiday from 2020 Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) or the extension of the 2019 tax filing deadline that also extends the 2019 IRA contribution deadline.
- Considering the wisdom of doing a Roth conversion if your income (and tax bracket) will be unusually low this year.
Emotional implications that may resonate uniquely for widows
Widows, by the very nature of their status, have had to endure far more than the changes brought on by the pandemic.
What are the changes?
Well, being constrained from leaving the house to work, shop or socialize. Working from home instead of among colleagues at work. Having to give up parts of life that were nurturing and enjoyable. Missing the feel-good of a gym workout, the warmth of being with friends or the physical support of loved ones. Or sharing special moments with children and grandchildren.
Yes, it’s hard to give up socializing. Part of rebuilding your life as a widow has been to fill it with your family, friends, community, meetups and events. But, you have had to face “alone-ness” before. And you have learned that it is survivable.
Some of today’s constraints touch on wounds unique to widowhood. The irreversible void is one.
Now, having to distance yourself from loved ones – especially grandchildren – triggers an all-too-familiar emptiness. Granted, in this case, you do have technology – such as Zoom and Skype – to bridge the gap, as imperfect as it might be.
But the pandemic and its darkest consequences are temporary, even if we don’t know how long they will last. Becoming a widow was not.
And you weren’t facing the experience along with billions of other people around the globe. You faced it by yourself.
In the depths of your grief, like it or not, you learned to spend days and nights alone. You learned to deal with stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, anxiety and fear. (Two steps forward, one step back.) You learned to count on yourself for solutions when your cheerleader was no longer beside you.
Most of all, you survived the unimaginable. As unpleasant as this pandemic might be, you know you will survive this, too.