Facing the Financial Realities of Widowhood
The great story of Ruth is one of the most beautiful and profound books of the Bible. God’s Divine Providence can be seen throughout. Ruth and Naomi, her mother-in-law, were both poor widows. Despite their shared loss, Ruth vowed her love and devotion to Naomi. As I have studied and meditated on their amazing journey and legacy of faith, I too, as a 21st-century widow, can gratefully witness to God’s gracious providential care. However, the purpose of this writing is to share some of my experiences in a heartfelt effort to help others like me, who must embrace their own financial plight.
Reflecting back on my first article here at Boomer Connections, The Challenges of Widowhood, I shared a timeline of the realities of life that suddenly and solemnly confronted me as a widow. The painful transition from wife to widow was a time of financial hardship for me. I suddenly came to the reality that not only had I suffered the loss of a dear husband but the loss of financial security.
According to a research series by Merrill Lynch and Wave (2018), there are 20 million widows in the United States and 1.4 million new widows added annually. Over half are financially unprepared
for the loss of a spouse. These widows report as their top financial challenges: becoming the sole financial decision-maker, adjusting to a loss in income, and having to navigate through endless paperwork.
Having the foresight of pre-planning, including life insurance policies, as well as burial plots and memorial, greatly lessened the stress and trauma of the expenses of my husband William’s funeral. This allowed me to maintain my dignity as a widow. I was able to give him an honorable Celebration of Life and burial. I learned to acknowledge that God’s Divine Providence was at work even when I didn’t realize it and that I could lean on the strength and loving support of an amazing church family and close loved ones.
Once leaving the cemetery, still traumatized, I had to face the reality of obtaining adequate housing and employment. At the time of my husband’s death, I had quit work to become his sole caregiver. Also, the house that we had shared for 19 of our 34 years of marriage was being sold by the owner. Due to William’s declining health, we had been looking for a place to move that was conducive to our needs. Prior to his death, we had finalized plans to move into a 55+ Adult Community. Although he was hospitalized at the time, we were hopeful enough to proceed with the move. However, on the day before moving day, my loving husband was called home to be with his Savior. So, as a man of God, he did move to a “better place.” (2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 1 and 8)
But where would I, his widow, live? Here again, my church family came to my rescue. Several families of the church helped with housing until I could emotionally and economically secure a place of my own. This was definitely a lesson in humility and how to graciously accept benevolence from others. Looking back, I refer to this moment in time as “packing and unpacking memories.” Today, I am thankful to have successfully moved to the senior community as William and I had planned. I refer to my studio apartment as my “Restorative Place.” (Psalm 23)
Returning to the workforce was another emotionally difficult step. It would be 6 years before I was eligible to receive Survivors Benefits. However, work would be a two-fold objective: financial and therapeutic. The job market in 2007 was “unkind” and didn’t help my level of confidence. Having taught for 17 years for the church’s Academy, I sought employment in the field of education where I could utilize my abilities, experiences, and passion. Through much diligence and fervent prayer, I persevered. Despite being emotionally and physically overwhelmed, I obtained employment in various academic settings and ultimately with the local public schools.
In January 2009, as I was moment by moment making the effort to adapt to my new life and new surroundings, I received a call from the doctor informing me that I had cancer in my left breast. Needless to say, this shocking news only added to my state of grief. However, I had to be strong and persevere to the next step. You see, giving up would not be an option! My Heavenly Father was still carrying me, and I had to let Him. (I Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:19). I also had the unconditional love and support of a devoted church family and close relatives.
As I moved forward with breast surgery and treatments, God beforehand prepared for me what I refer to as my “Recovery Team.” This awesome team of professionals consisted of the following: Oncological Doctor, Surgeon, and Radiologist Team, Oncology Nurse Navigator and Nutritionist (www.bonsecours.com)
• Psychologist and Naturopath Dr. Aaron Winston (www.winston chiropractic care.com)
• Every Woman’s Life Richmond, VA, Bon Secours Health System.com
• LINCs (www.Cancer LINC.org)
• The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)
• Senior Advisor, Rita Mcculloch with Boomer 3 Solutions (www.boomer3solutions.com)
• Numerous other community- based nonprofits and private organizations and local food banks.
Today, although still under “the microscope,” I’m feeling wonderfully blessed to be a 10-year “survivor thriver!” Thankfully, I’m growing in faith and gratitude in God’s Divine Providence. To Him be the glory!