Losing someone important to you is one of the hardest things to experience in life.
It can have a devastating effect on several areas of your life. Not only does it affect you emotionally, but it can impact your plans for the future and your finances.
If bereavement wasn’t hard enough on its own, it can be even tougher when it leaves you in a difficult financial situation. The stress and worry can feel overwhelming, and you can feel completely alone, confused, and lost.
If you have lost your partner, your financial situation may quickly change. According to research by the University of York, the sudden change in financial situation after a partner’s death, or the stress of realising you have to now manage finances alone, can impact negatively on the grieving process.
How can bereavement cause financial distress?
Bereavement may put someone in the following situations:
- They may be faced with additional difficulties if the person they have lost was the main earner, as they could now have to cover all future living expenses, like bills and food shops.
- Some people have to take on debts like joint-name mortgages themselves, which can feel like a huge burden.
- They may have to pay for childcare if they now have to go to work when they were previously a stay at home parent.
- They may have to deal with funeral costs, with the average funeral cost being £4,798.
- It can be confusing and stressful to claim for different benefits, and some people may not know what support is even available to them.
- Some people who go through bereavement find that they suddenly have strong impulses to spend money mindlessly, as their life has suddenly been flipped upside-down.
- They may have had to spend a lot of money on care prior to their loved one dying. The University of York found that nearly half of people who have been bereaved by a partner acted as carers in the months before their partner died. There is a range of additional costs and expenses associated with relatives providing care for someone.
Signs of grief
Grief refers to the intense emotions that we experience when we lose someone or something we care deeply about. This loss is most typically through death, but can also be the result of other factors, such as a close relationship ending.
There are some key signals and symptoms of grief. It is important to recognise them, so that you are able to help yourself and others as best as possible.
- Shock and numbness – In the first few weeks following a bereavement it is very normal to experience shock and numbness. People may seem to be completely unemotional about what has happened, and usually, this will fade as they come to terms with the reality of their loss. If they continue to appear to be numb to the world for a sustained period of time this may indicate that they are not able to begin processing their grief and may need help to do so.
- Withdrawal and detachment – The onslaught of emotions and the pain of grief may drive some to withdraw from other people, to reduce their interactions to the bare minimum and to avoid social contact. Again, this may be something that they need in the first few weeks and months, a period to grieve and reflect out of sight of others. However, if it continues for a lengthy period, it can lead to isolation, depression and disengagement from the workplace.
- Overwhelmed, poor concentration – When we are in the middle of a highly charged emotional experience, such as bereavement, it can be difficult to think about or focus on anything else. Tasks that were previously simple can feel completely overwhelming, and concentrating for sustained periods of time may be almost impossible.
- Anger and irritability – Anger can be directed at the source of grief, at the people around who have not been affected by it (why me?), at the people we believe to have responsibility for what has happened, or it can be directed inwards. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process, and it can be difficult to manage in a workplace setting. We often misdirect our anger, so it ends up being inflicted on someone else as a release mechanism, which can create interpersonal issues and conflict.
- Excessive tiredness and low energy – Grief is mental, emotional and physical. The stress of dealing with grief can leave people feeling drained. When coupled with the inability to get enough sleep when experiencing grief, it can leave individuals in a state of very low energy and almost constant tiredness.
- Increased illness and sick absence – Prolonged stress and lack of rest and self-care often mean that people in grief are more prone to sickness and infection and one of the first signs that they are not managing well may be a sharp increase in illness and/or absence.
- Anxiety – The death, or loss, of a loved one is a life-changing event and can fundamentally alter your perspective. This sometimes also brings a loss of certainty about the world and how it works, an inability to trust that things will work out ok because they haven’t. Anxiety about safety and an unwillingness to take risks, to try new things, or to leave familiar places, can be common responses.
- Depression – This is different from normal grief. A famous saying is: “In grief, the world looks poor and empty. In depression, the person feels poor and empty”. If someone is experiencing symptoms of depression, they should see their GP as soon as possible.
Although it may feel like you are completely alone – you aren’t. There are lots of places where you can get emotional and financial help and support.
- Child Bereavement UK – Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement – https://childbereavementuk.org/
- The Compassionate Friends – Dedicated to the support and care of bereaved family members who have suffered the death of a child or children of any age and from any cause – www.tcf.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0345 123 2304
- Cruse Bereavement Care – United Kingdom’s largest bereavement charity, which provides support for people who have been bereaved and are experiencing grief – www.cruse.org.uk – Helpline: 0808 808 1677
- Sands – Sands is a national stillbirth and neonatal death charity that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby – www.sands.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0808 164 3332
- Blue Cross – An animal charity who also offer support to people who have experienced the bereavement/loss of a pet – www.bluecross.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0800 096 6606