As a financial planner, I work to create long-term relationships with my clients. Through this relationship, I am fortunate enough to be able to celebrate the family’s successes and achievements. I also realize that during times of crisis and grief, I will serve as an additional outlet of support. This is not the typical expectation that many people place on their financial planner, but through my experience, it is an important role that I have; I am in a unique position to assist the family during these periods. If you find yourself acting as a support person to someone dealing with grief, here are a few thoughts to consider.
Grieving is a process – this is crucial to understand. Everybody has a different process in how they grieve and how long the process takes, so don’t assume that if you have a short grieving process, everybody does.
Sit with them – this can be one of the most important levels of support you can provide. The pressure of having to share any feelings or words can be taken away, and they just have a person who can simply provide a supporting presence.
Let them feel sad – during a period of grieving, your sympathy and support will be more important than trying to cheer them up; sadness is a normal emotion to feel. Look for cues that they may be experiencing more than sadness and may be suffering from depression.
Be a good listener – let the person have an outlet to speak and share their feelings. Let them do the majority of the talking, and try not to give advice.
Ask about their feelings – this can be difficult, but it allows them an opportunity to express themselves. They may surprise you with some of the feelings they have.
Share your feelings – even if you’ve never gone through this experience, they may take comfort in knowing that they have your sympathy and that you have an emotional interest in them and their well-being.
Be available when you can – this just reassures them of your support, and they can know they have people to turn to.
Talk about your own losses – you may not have experienced the same type of loss, but you can share memories of your own experiences to help provide comfort.
Remember the loss – at times it may be uncomfortable to bring up the loss, but it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge the person, the loss they experienced and see that they’re moving through the grieving process.
These are just a few of the ways you can help support somebody that is experiencing grief. Here are two links to provide additional resources on the grieving process:
When working with families that have experienced a recent loss, I may play an active in role in helping the family deal with settling the financial affairs. Since I’m active in this process, I’m able to provide support to the family and see if lingering feelings of grief may be present. I also need to respect the feelings and situations these families are in so that I can make appropriate recommendations to the family on how to proceed with the financial goals or if the financial goals need to be reevaluated. It is important for me to anticipate that after a person has experienced a loss, they may need additional reassurance about their investments, investment strategies and goals. It is not unusual to see an attachment to certain investments; that will require me to address recommendations about these investments in a different manner.
A financial planner isn’t necessarily the person you would identify as being a support person to a family or person in grief, but because of the unique relationships I create with my clients, I am generally more involved in the grieving process than many people would expect. While I am not the one drafting the wills or other legal documents, I work with the family and their attorney to help make the process of settling the estate as easy a transition as it can be. I can help the family start to refocus on their goals and help them find motivation in moving forward. If through these conversations, I feel that they may need to seek additional assistance, I can voice my concerns to them in a professional manner.
If you’re experiencing grief, look for support groups in your area that can help provide additional support and resources to you.