After death, what’s next for me?

It’s Not Over ‘Till It’s Over:  What’s Next Once They’ve Passed On.

When your mom or dad dies it’s going to take an emotional, maybe even physical toll on you.  There’s little getting around this.  If you have a remaining parent, they’re going to need your help not just through grieving, but also in managing their legal and financial affairs.  Things can easily slip through the cracks and money they may need could get forgotten, lost, or left on someone else’s table like the government, a former investment advisor, old bank accounts, insurance policies, or more. 

If the family member who died was your last remaining parent, when you start caring for final affairs, it’s going to feel sometimes like you’re going through their passing days and grieving all over again.  I’ve asked others, including my own financial advisor whose wife passed a few years back, if he felt like this too.  He responded “yes, and if felt like that for a long time.  It sometimes hurts even years later.” 

It’s unpleasant at best, painful at worst, but it’s normal and you’re not alone.  The rest of the world will think that everything snaps back quickly after they’ve passed.  Well, don’t concern yourself with that: you’re not being obsessive, things simply don’t snap back.

The hard part is that settling their affairs can take years.  As time progresses, the pain lessens, but memories will often flash back with each document read, each phone conversation and email, and with each frustration faced while closing all the details out.  

Siblings and families can change behavior patterns after a parent dies.  Family members may not understand or appreciate what you’re trying to do. They can become incredibly supportive and kind, or divisive and mean, even greedy.  Emotions are difficult to predict. In fact, they may misunderstand, mistrust, heap abuse on you, and obstruct you when they can.  This is when you need to communicate well, and importantly, take a firm stance. 

True story:  A longtime friend was the Executrix to her parent’s estate.  Less than a week after the passing of the final parent, her brother called to ask for a full accounting of their father’s finances.  She’d been both her parents’ primary caregiver, and this just added to her hurt. Through the final years she’s also kept the family apprised of his medical care costs over the years.  There was little left to squabble over and there were still bills to be paid after he was laid to rest.  

I recommend finding and building a good relationship with an attorney, perhaps the one who helped your parents establish their will.  If that’s not possible, hire an estate attorney to help you with the details of settling their affairs.  Yes, you can do this alone, yet having the support of a trusted advisor like this can go a long way to lifting some of the emotional burden off your shoulders.  

Here again, there’s a lot more detail to managing this part of your caregiver journey.  However, once you’ve settled all your legal, financial, and emotional tasks, you can go back to caring for yourself and others you love too.  Life will never be the same. But life is all about change.  Maybe it becomes your turn to be the matriarch or patriarch of your family.  The lessons you’ve learned along the way can be put to good use in many ways.  Trust in your strength.  Move forward with the joy your parents would want for you. And live well until your final breath too.  

Sending tons of love and caregiver support.


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