Advice for moms who are unexpectedly left alone with all the responsibility
Recently, two of my friends suddenly and tragically lost their husbands. They went from being wives to Solo Moms in an instant. And in that instant, all the responsibilities of parenting, running a household, and dealing with the finances fell on them.
Four years ago, my husband left. Poof! He was gone . . . just like that. I, too, found myself suddenly solo with two children and a puddle of sadness.
Life can throw cruel and unexpected curves; it takes only two seconds for a life to do a complete flip-flop. For a mother, the trauma and grief that come with loss is confounded only by the weight of parenting alone and the overwhelming tasks that accompany this. So many things to do. How does one begin to deal with all the responsibilities that just yesterday were shared by two?
I made my way via trial and error . . . mostly error. But for my two friends who now face their own shocking loss, I mined my experience to make them a list of the most basic yet immediate steps to take when there are hundreds of issues requiring attention.
It goes without saying, but just in case it doesn’t: Do not make any big decisions. Don’t put your house on the market. Don’t pull your kids from school. Don’t let anyone convince you to invest in that great property in Florida.
Don’t do anything. Get your bearings, regroup, ask for help, and in the meantime, follow these steps to get your life in line order so you can focus on your children’s and family’s emotional healing:
- Make notes. Your memory is foggy, so write things down.
- Notify your children’s schools and pediatricians. You need emergency support and some extra TLC, and you should temporarily cut your kids some slack. Now is not the time for your son’s teacher to reprimand him for a bad grade (and yes, that happened to us).
- Gather important documents, and create a filing system that you understand. It takes one afternoon and will reduce your stress drastically.
- When dealing with a death, order several copies of the death certificate (from the local office of Vital Statistics or funeral home). You will need them for future administrative tasks, and they may take a couple of weeks to arrive. Also, contact your life insurance company to assess death benefits.
- Contact your insurance agent and notify your financial institutions. Cancel credit cards, phone cards, business expense accounts, and any other active account in which late charges may apply.
- Find out about insurance benefits. Ask each company if there is insurance that pays off the account in the event of a cardholder’s death.
- Organize and pay off your monthly bills.
- Find a reliable accountant and/or financial advisor—someone you trust who can answer questions, clarify your bottom line, and guide you into a stable future. Make sure this person is available, will take your calls, and promptly return your e-mails.
- Get a handyman! In the beginning, have this person come once a week—even if you don’t think you need it. The extra set of hands for lifting, carrying, and fixing will spare you the extra burdens until you learn how to use a screwdriver yourself. Plus, just having someone to drag in your trash cans will provide some comfort.
- Find a go-to computer person. My guy helps me with all my technology—from laptop to TV remote to iPhone issues when I’m having a meltdown.
- Get your butt to a probate attorney. If you don’t already have a will, now is the time. (God forbid something happens to you and you don’t have things in order for your children.) And while you are at it, get your advance directive.
- Open an Uber or HopSkipDrive account. In a pinch, these ride services can be lifesavers. Also, Postmates or other meal-delivery services can be helpful. What is generally a luxury might be a necessity those first few weeks.
- Most important, find your circle of support. Delegate, ask for help, and allow people to help you. They want to.
You are in transition. Friends will fall away. New friends will emerge—your best friends for life, the ones who will stand by you, thick and thin. They are blessings born from tragedy and a gift you will cherish forever. You will form a new and different family—and you will survive.
Always remember you can’t do everything; you can only do the best that you can—and that’s plenty.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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