Death is never going to be avoided.

This blog is a difficult one to write even after 7 years, merely because I have often wondered why there was nothing out there to help me when I searched the internet at a time when I had to deal with so much else.

They say that “Grief is love with nowhere to go”

After nursing my late husband through many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, countless operations and having to adjust to being the sole breadwinner, house fixer, carer, financial guru, lawnmower fixer, boat driver, and later as sole parent and grandparent – there were all those things he had done for me over a happy 35 year marriage, the last thing I needed was to worry about how I was going to pay for everything even though we had enough, it seemed because everything in our joint accounts would get frozen.

Even though he was given 2 months to live, but survived 22 months after a brave battle against the disease, I was still not prepared for the day when it came.

You always hope and believe that it will not happen

Most of us who have been in a relationship for many years, do not really think about what would happen if we were all of a sudden left on our own.

If you have joint bank accounts, when one of you dies everything gets frozen.

Those faceless customer service people who are supposed to help you at the time of such loss, often seem quite uncaring as they tell you that you have to prove that your spouse has actually died by producing a death certificate and a will and sometimes even proof that you were married, before they will change the accounts into your name only.

Utility accounts are the same. Sometimes harder to deal with too.

The TV paid subscription service whom we had been with for 9 years actually told me I had to re-negotiate a plan which would have cost me more because I was now on my own. The telephone and internet provider said the same.

All of a sudden because I was widowed, I was now expected to pay more. My credit limit on my credit card would also change it seemed, never mind the fact that I had never had any debt and I had kept it in credit for as long as I had it.

Apple wanted the will, death certificate and proof of purchase and took years to sort it out so the phone was out of date and the photos lost when they got round to it.

The worst confusion began as soon as he died in the hospice wing of the hospital. I was so exhausted and did not want to leave him in the hospital morgue, but that had to happen until I could provide details of an undertaker.

I was in no state to start negotiating a fee for a funeral

After all, who takes note of the undertaker adverts in the foyer?

Not me it seemed. Their websites and faces all told the same story. I chose the kindest face, which sadly turned out to be the most expensive undertaker.

The decisions have to be made, so would it not be better to have a few things in a file for those left behind when it does eventually happen.

There are many things other than your grief and loneliness that you will have to cope with if your loved one passes away before you do, so hopefully the list below will help in preparing for the event when it happens.

Important things to know

  • If you have joint accounts, it is wise to each have a separate bank account with enough in it to provide for necessities and the funeral costs.
  • Make sure you have wills and an enduring power of attorney for health directives signed. You can be each other’s executors if you wish. ( I asked my husband to get his health directive witnessed by his Oncologist as to what his wishes were, as I did not want to be the one to switch any machine off in the event that he was brain dead, which was his express wish.) These are the difficult things you face if you know you are going to die, but most people don’t know, so would it not be logical to have your spouse or partner know your wishes beforehand?
  • After the funeral, don’t be badgered into moving if you don’t want to. Well-meaning relatives and friends often will offer to help you clean out your spouse’s cupboards. You are in no condition to make any emotional decisions. Let time pass.You are grieving so cannot think straight and certainly should not be making decisions that affect your future without a slow considered approach to anything that will inevitably be a change for you moving forward.
  • Facebook – you can fill in a form so that your loved one can access this account.
  • Superannuation accounts – complete the beneficiary form so that you know that your spouse is looked after. Even though you leave everything to each other the Superannuation company will still seek approval from any children in order to release to you the superannuation that you have both contributed to most of your lives.
  • Apple – Make sure you have the iTunes/iCloud passwords – then transfer the account into your name.
  • If you do not do the monthly accounts, make sure there is a spreadsheet somewhere handy with all the accounts that need to be paid. All the accounts that have to be put into your name.
  • Car registrations, Insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, titles to any properties- know where the folder for all your important documents are.
  • Passwords for online accounts like Gas, or other utilities accounts
  • Write a list of things that most of us take for granted : i.e. If you are the one to organise the upkeep of the pool or garden, write down where you get the supplies from and what you do with them. I had no idea how to stop the pool filter making a certain noise, neither did I know how to backwash the pool when it flooded one night shortly after my husband died.
  • It sounds awful, but research undertakers if you know that you are going to die. I would never have done this, but now wish that I had had more information on the night, so that I could have known what was going to happen. They could only take his body to their funeral home the next day. We had to wait for the death certificate and then they arrived in the afternoon to discuss the funeral and the arrangements. I was in no state to agree to anything, so signed everything and actually paid for a lot of things to do with catering which were really not necessary.
  • If you are going to be executor of each others estates, see a solicitor and have your wills witnessed correctly naming each other as Executor. If there are not many bills or expenses to be paid it is a simple matter and you are able to avoid exorbitant solicitors fees by not going to probate.
  • Don’t say No to a Grief counsellor if you are offered one. Go for as long as you need to.
  • Talk about your loved one whenever you want, more rather than less – you keep them alive in your heart and memory. It eases the grief.
  • Keep busy. Take time for yourself. Be kind to yourself.

“Fear of death is ridiculous, because as long as you are not dead you are alive, and when you are dead there is nothing more to worry about!”