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The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

| August 28, 2018
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First Things First

For centuries, some of the world’s greatest thinkers have contended that helping others is the key to happiness. So you might think that volunteering your time, talent and treasure is a surefire and instant way to get through the grief that widowhood brings.

I have found that simply isn’t true. Or at least not at first. As a widow, I have discovered that forward movement just can’t happen without first allowing yourself whatever time and space you need to experience the natural pain and loss that accompanies the death of a spouse.

You must first catch your breath, allow yourself to sit in stillness and get your bearings, and then start to move forward like the newly emerging butterfly that you are, looking beyond your own needs and reaching out to others.  When the time is right, giving can benefit you immensely. And the gifts don’t have to all be financial… they may be gifts of time, talent or treasure.


Finding yourself saddled with a to-do list of decisions and responsibilities that were once divided by two can leave you feeling as if there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Yet a 2013 Stanford study suggests that people who find the time to help others actually feel less time-constrained, less stressed, and more capable of handling tasks and responsibilities. You don’t have to commit days or even hours to volunteer work to see the benefits. Even spending five minutes writing an encouraging note to another widow can make a difference!


Widowhood can sap your confidence and sense of self along with your energy, hopefulness and purpose. But it can also give you the impetus to rediscover your passions, talents and gifts – or even discover new ones. Author and lifestyle coach Barbara Sher explains how:

Get out of the house. Take a walk… take a notebook and take a trip back to your childhood. Make a list of all the things you've ever loved, all the subjects that piqued your interest, and all the things you've ever shown the slightest aptitude towards. Did you love to build models? Were you always performing made up plays? Did you love roller-skates, or were you fascinated by polar bears, trains, birds, or science?

…Make a list and then examine the feelings you experienced from doing those things. Do you see any patterns in the outcomes that motivated you? Did you love to create and experiment? Did you crave freedom and adventure? Or did you always want to relate to other people and connect with them in some way?


In the wake of grief, donating to a cause in memory of your loved one can be both consoling and uplifting, as can giving money to help an adult child, other family member, or deserving friend. But at a time when emotions often rule, being prudent about such gifts is as difficult as it is critical. A caring and competent financial advisor trained in understanding the human, as well as the financial, implications of widowhood can help you determine what you can give wisely and affordably in light of your specific circumstances and where you are in your transition.

If you allow yourself the time you need to heal and surround yourself with the right support team, the day will come when you can finally begin to see past your pain. When that day dawns, finding a way to give to others can also be a wonderful gift to yourself.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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