Pre-pandemic, I used to fly around a lot. For many passengers, the ritual was similar. They would call their loved ones, tell them they were about to takeoff and end the conversation by saying: love you.
Those words are touching and meaningful. Are they authentic?
A huge obstacle
When you really love someone, you do your utmost to be sure they will have a decent quality of life after you die.
There’s a big impediment that prevents many men (in particular) from fulfilling this responsibility: They deny their mortality.
Intellectually, we know death is inevitable. But we often believe death is a reality only for others.
There’s evidence the inability to confront our own mortality has a basis in neuroscience.
According to researcher Yair Dor-Ziderman, at Bar Ilan University in Israel, who, together with his colleagues, conducted a study on this subject, “The brain does not accept that death is related to us. We have this primal mechanism that means when the brain gets information that links self to death, something tells us it’s not reliable, so we shouldn’t believe it.”
If you really love someone, you overcome this obstacle and accept the fact that we’re all going to die.
Special responsibility of men
If you’re a man and your spouse is a women, you have a special responsibility.
Approximately 75% of women will become widows. This isn’t surprising because women tend to outlive men and often marry older men.
Here’s data that shocked me:
The average age of widows is 59 years old, which means many are much younger.
If you really love your wife…
Here’s what you would do if you really love your wife.
1. Start “the conversation”. Confronting your death and what will happen to your wife is daunting, but absolutely necessary. Talk candidly about what she will confront. Understand that her issues won’t just be financial. The negative physical and mental health ramifications of widowhood, include “psychological distress, physician visits and institutionalization, and higher rates of morbidity and mortality”.
Her relationship with friends and family may change, especially if step-children are involved. She may have to relocate.
Each of these issues can be overwhelming, but imagine how difficult it will be for her to cope while grieving your loss.
2. Formulate a plan. Ask her what the two of you can do now to lessen her burden. Put together a “swat team” she can call upon for help. This team may include spiritual advisors, therapists, trusted friends, an estate planning attorney, an accountant and a financial advisor.
3. Get organized. We live in a digital world. It’s easy to store all your important papers on a thumb drive or on a portal provided by a financial professional. Doing so now will ease the strain common to widows who spend hours trying to locate important financial documents.
4. Review your finances. Review your finances to ensure she’s well protected. Pay particular attention to insurance. My experience is the same as many others. I’ve never met a widow who complained that her husband left her with excessive insurance benefits. We’ve all counselled widows who were shocked their husbands had no insurance and little savings. I recall one widow saying to me: How did he think I was going to get by?
If you really love your wife, you won’t let that happen to her.