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There seems to be a “How To” book for everything. So I decided to see if there was a handbook for widows and discovered there are such things out there. I have not read one yet, though. But, if I were to write one from my personal experience, here are some of the things I would include, in no particular order.

The first year is complicated. I have always done my own taxes and was able to plow through these. The biggest issue I had was the COVID rebate debacle. I never did get the $1200 I was due for my husband, but after so many hours of my life wasted on hold, I realized it wasn’t worth it. The second year I’m in the process of right now. Having to file single hits hard.

Death Certificates
They tell you to get ten or more. I found that was too many; I have a lot of copies left. Some institutions would let me scan it; some actually mailed them back to me after they processed my paperwork.

We vs I
This takes a long time. I still feel awkward and find myself going into explanation mode quite often.

This will be different for everyone. I didn’t wait the recommended year because we were already in the middle of selling our home when we got the diagnosis. Get advice; have someone walk through buying a home with you. An extra pair of eyes and ears is always helpful. Several things were missed by me and missed or purposely overlooked by my realtor and inspector. After the fact I had no recourse.

Passwords and Logins
If you have time (not in an unexpected or sudden death) find out all the passwords and logins you will need. Otherwise, this will take you hours and hours of conversations, being on hold, and proving you are really yourself.

The Funeral
Again, if you have time, have that conversation about the funeral. Don’t let others dictate what should happen at the funeral, but if you have children, find out what they want. They are grieving, too. We already had our plot and most of the services prepaid. But, I still had to decide on who would preach the service, songs we would sing. The headstone decision isn’t as immediate, though, if you are going have one.

Name Changes
There are many places where you will have to remove your husband’s name or change an account to your name. Some of these are: bank accounts, checks (if you still use them!), credit cards, utilities, internet service, TV service, insurance, 401-Ks, IRAs, address labels, IRS, Social Security, insurance policies.

Talk to the Boss
If your husband was still working, talk to his supervisor or human resources. Find out what is due you. In my case. even though he died two weeks after officially retiring, I received life insurance money, his 401-k, his pension, and have been able to keep his insurance until I reach Medicare age. I was blessed in all of that.

This can be difficult if you move to another state before selling it or changing the title as every state has its own way of doing things. Try to take care of getting it in your name ASAP – it’s much easier that way. Then you can take your time deciding what to do with it.

Cars II
Keep up with your car’s maintenance. Oil changes, brake pads, tire rotation. I’m learning this as I go.

Look for free financial classes. Sometimes you can get help at the library. My church had a short class and it was helpful. I was happy to realize /I was already doing a lot of things right.

Will or Probate
My husband didn’t have a will (I’m working on mine now). But, because we had no dependent children at home, it was easy for everything to go to me, so I was able to avoid probate.

Try to find a good one! One that comes with recommendations or references. It’s hard to ask family and friends for favors all the time. Sometimes it’s easier to just pay someone.

Eating Alone
Eating alone at home is one thing. Sometimes I’ll cook a real meal just for me, but usually I just cook big when I have company. Eating alone in a restaurant is tricky. I find bringing along a book is helpful.

Traveling Alone
This one hasn’t been too hard so far. But, I have AAA and GPS to help me. And She Birdie.

Ask for Help
I haven’t quite figured this one out yet, but I’m getting weary of being “so strong”.

If you ‘ve got some more tips to share, please leave a comment!


****** Mark your calendars! Hope For Widows Foundation’s annual virtual event has returned on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, 2022! Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcome to participate. The proceeds will directly support widows through the annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program. Do you have or know a business that would like to sponsor? That’s an option too! To register and frequently asked questions- please go here:


Angie Bell was born in Georgia but raised in Florida to where she recently returned after six years in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a former teacher who loves hiking, photography, and writing, often combining all three.

After planning for several years, working on a way to live on a shoestring budget, Angie’s husband of 41 years put in for early retirement so they could move back home. They put their house on the market and had a contract within four days. Less than two weeks later her husband was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. They decided to transfer his care and move back to Jacksonville, Florida, renting a furnished apartment and hoping for a miracle. One month later he was gone. After her third move in less than a year, Angie is now in Tampa where her grandchildren live, trying to find her way in her new life. God, in His mercy, has put numerous other widows in her life and a new empathy for this sisterhood she never would have chosen.