In our third installment of our new series on Grief—New Beginnings—our Everyday Being Circle Partner, Michele Ricciardi-Lamberti, talks about what she learned she didn’t know about all the things her husband took care of.
Michele lost her husband unexpectedly ten years ago, and through her shared experiences, Michele will guide you towards finding your strength through your grieving process.
HOW DO I SHUT THE WATER OFF???
Those were the words I had my first melt down with. I was in the kitchen observing the scene thinking how surreal this all is. People were coming and going with food, supplies, condolences or just milling about in a daze not knowing what to do.
And then it happened. Hyperventilation, body shaking, uncontrollable laughter through the extreme sobs that were coming out of me. I can’t remember who grabbed me shouting “what’s the matter”? I looked at everyone in my kitchen and screamed “I don’t know how to shut the water off”! Silence.
I remember the exact spot I was standing, but not who grabbed me or who was in my kitchen that morning. Looking back, I realized I remembered the most mundane, insignificant things throughout the days leading up to my “rebirth”. Then I started wondering about all the other things Rob did around the house that I was now going to be responsible for.
I was in overload—my head spinning. People were asking me where things were, how something worked, and where they should put stuff. Oh, they meant well—as they were trying to help—but those innocent questions were leading me further down into the vortex that was to be my home for several years.
So, let’s take a step back this week to something most of us don’t think about. What does our other half do? Who is in charge of the household finances, the kids’ schedules, where are things stored? Your life and what the other half does.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
Two months before Rob died, my friend Kathy lost her husband. We spoke almost daily about the challenges we were encountering. While I had my issues with learning the house, she had a much pressing issue…the “F” word. Finances. In today’s world everything is user/password protected, security questions, or abstract entrances. Because her husband handled the finances, she was not privy to this information and her accounts were frozen. And in today’s world, these entities don’t care—pay up. It was a long and frustrating process to have the freeze lifted and her name put on all the assets. I keep a little black book—remember those?—with all my financial data in it. The phrase “women and children first” in a disaster has changed to “get the little black book first” in my house.
WHY AM I READING ABOUT THIS NOW?
If I had known this beforehand, it would have been helpful. How many of our friends and family could use this advice—and with some—could be useful now? And that what today’s blog is all about. Taking our experience and paying it forward.
MY CONTINUOUS MELTDOWN
My husband could fix anything, so he always threw away the instruction manuals. Can you imagine what my life was like without those foreign reading pieces of confusion? ALWAYS, always keep these. Not just for you, but for repairmen. For instance, my Jacuzzi tub was not working. It’s an older version, so the repairman asked for the instruction manual to see the model number and other pertinent information (the motor is in the wall so to see the model specifications is difficult). P.S….my Jacuzzi is still not working.
Last point…..the electrical panel. Have all the circuits clearly labeled. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Also, know what to do if a circuit trips. Don’t always assume someone in your life will come and do all this. That may be true, but if a situation arises in the middle of the night and no one is available, you’re the one to count on.
NAMES, NAMES—WHO IS ON THE ACCOUNT?
This is two-fold. When I went to question or change something on our finances—cable bill for example—Rob’s name was on it. I couldn’t do anything. They needed to speak to him! So in my sarcastic humorous way I would say “well when you do, ask where the—fill in the blank—is.” And before anything could be rectified, I had to send in the death certificate AND marriage certificate. In the interim, the problem is not being resolved, nor is the bill being paid. Then again, if you fall behind in your bills and the account is in is your partner’s name, your credit score doesn’t get affected! (But I didn’t tell you that little tidbit.)
Another hindsight…have everything in both names. One person is the main account holder, and the other is secondary. Also, each person should have a separate bank account in just your name. No…it’s not your “cheat” fund! When your partner dies, you may have all the precautions above in place, but there is always room for a snafu. Having a bank account in your name removes you from the situation enough to be able to keep up with your financial house until all the dust has settled on the estate.
For those of us who have lost our partner, have one of your children’s name on the accounts. This also helps when you pass, with inheritance taxes, etc. I did this with my dad. And when he passed away, there were no issues that arose because my name was on everything.
I realize this was long and drawn but I felt this was important to know. There are many things that are never thought of until it becomes an issue. I hope this helps some of you.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE RIDICULOUS BREAKDOWNS OVER NOTHING!!!
And in the end, Kathy paid her bills and I learned how to shut the water off.
Until next week…