The day after my husband died, I awoke experiencing all types of thoughts and emotions but the dominate one was, “How in the world are me and the kids going to survive financially?” Instead of being able to process the loss of my life partner, I was worried about how I was going to prevent our family from becoming homeless because when Chuck died, we lost over 70% of our family’s income. We had no significant savings, and to top it off – he had no life insurance.
Our life path was a bit atypical. When we met, I was 18 years old and he was 19 years old. We had our son the following year. We both thought finishing college was important, so Chuck worked while I finished my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Then I supported the family while he completed his degree.
Although we knew it was important, saving was never at the top of our priority list. Like most families, we were primarily living paycheck-to-paycheck. We were focused on paying back our own student loans and not saving for our children’s college. However, after many years of struggling, we were both in our respective careers and making decent salaries. For the first time, we were financially stable and planning for the future.
So, just four months prior to Chuck’s death we bought our dream home. Two months prior, we bought our 17-year-old son a car. We were also planning for our son to go to college in a year, so we started a savings account and anticipated being be able to afford his tuition without having to take out any student loans. We felt like we had finally “made it” – but this feeling was very short-lived for me.
Immediately after Chuck died I knew there was no way I was going to be able to pay all of our bills by myself, not even for a month. I was in a panic! However, I was very fortunate. Our friends and family donated to a GoFundMe account and Chuck’s employer generously offered to help me out for the first 6 months after his death. So, that 6 months of support gave me a little bit of breathing room to figure out what I needed to do to survive. During that time, I sold our brand-new home, bought one I could afford by myself, and we moved. I also sold Chuck’s car, got his student loans and medical bills forgiven, and refinanced our son’s car. I also applied for social security survivor benefits for my kids and was surprised to find out the benefits would end when my son graduated from high school – so he would not receive any money while he was in college.
As you can imagine, I was stressed to the max! Just buying and selling a home is a huge stressor. I was doing it alone, while grieving Chuck’s death, trying to be a solo parent to my kids, helping my son apply to college, and still maintaining my day job. Looking back, I’m not sure how I did it. I know money does not fix everything, but it sure would have made things so much easier then – and even now. If Chuck had life insurance, I would not have had to focus most of my time and energy on our financial survival immediately following his death. Instead, I would have been able to focus more on our grief and healing.
The biggest problem was I never really thought about myself before Chuck died. I was worried about how he and the kids would manage if I died, so I had a large life insurance policy on myself. On a few occasions I asked Chuck to get his own policy and he did look into it, but he never followed through. In hindsight, I wish I had insisted that he get a life insurance policy. He wasn’t getting the policy for himself; he was getting it for me and our kids.
I am very fortunate that I am resourceful and have a stable career that I can continue to grow in. I am also very lucky that I have an amazing stepdad who has selflessly helped us, so my children can continue to do the extracurricular activities they love. He has also helped with college expenses. However, I would never wish this experience on anyone. We all think that we are young and bad things will not happen to us, but I am here to say they do. Since Chuck’s death I have met so many young widows like myself that had to struggle because their spouse did not have life insurance. So please make sure that both you and your spouse have life insurance, because money should be the least of your concerns when you lose your partner.