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9 August 2011

An email from Sophie

Last week I received a sad email from Sophie in New Zealand, she wrote:

"I just wanted to write you a wee note to tell you of my experinces in the last month. I was away in the US with my daughter having a new baby (she paid for me to go over to her) and my husband was killed in a car accident. He was 52 years old, and I am 51. We had been married almost 32 years and were very happy. 

The main reason i am writing to tell you this is that while I have followed your blog for several years now and posted sometimes I am on my own now and am very unprepared. We have some debt, a mortgage etc. my income for the next five years is going to be about a third of what he was earning. I have never worked outside the home. After 5 years my payments will cease and I am not sure what I will do then. We had no life insurance but do have a little savings which will help with funeral expenses etc. I have learnt so much from your blog and I know I can do it, but I do somewhat regret that we were unprepared. We never thought anything like this would happen to us and that we had time to get into a better position. I am grateful that the government here in New Zealand will help me for the next five years as I know in other countries there would be no help for me. There is no use in looking back and I will go forward and do the best I can."

Although Sophie didn't specifically ask for help, I asked her if she would like me to show this email on my blog, open it up to helpful comments, and for me to put in my two cents worth. She was happy to do that. I think the major help Sophie will have will be from people she knows, but sometimes people who are are further removed, especially people who live in a similar way, can come up with suggestions that others may not have thought about. That was the reasoning behind my offer, as well as offering the hand of friendship and support to someone going through a sad and difficult time.

My first thought was that Sophie is lucky to have that buffer provided by her government - five years financial support.  We have a similar payment here in Australia for widows born before 1955. My second thought was that, depending on how much equity you have in your home, Sophie, you probably have a sizeable asset you can use. If there is not much to pay off the mortgage, I would suggest selling the home, paying off the mortgage and the other debt and buying a smaller house or unit. That would be a huge burden lifted and would open up the future for saving and living frugally. No matter what happens, your debt will have to be paid off somehow. Now that you're on a pension it will be difficult to pay off that mortgage. If it was all paid off using the house, and enough left over to buy a smaller property, you would be in a much better financial position. Did your husband have any superannuation? You say there was no life insurance but if he has been working all his life, there has to be superannuation. 

When your five years is up, you'll be 56 years old - still nine years away from retirement. If I were you, I'd use those five years to build up skills so you can get a job. Hopefully, you can get a job doing something you enjoy. Five years will give you a good amount of time to think about what you could do, then the experience or training you may need.

Overall though, if you've been reading my blog for a few years, you have probably been doing a lot of the things I do. You may already be living frugally, you may already have a vegetable garden and cook from scratch. Keep doing all those things because the lower your weekly expenses, the better off you'll be. It might be a good move, when you can, to sell off anything you no longer need - like a second car, and to pare down on mobile phone, internet and pay TV accounts, if you have any of them. Do a little bit at a time, not all at once, and start with the most expensive things first.

I can't imagine how stressful this time must be for you, Sophie, but if you can pay off that debt, I'm sure you'll worry less and feel better. Moving from the family home will probably be a wrench for you but remember that you carry your memories with you, they do not reside in any one place. I have no doubt you developed the strength to get you through recent events and I hope that strength and resilience continue to support you. 

Now, as a reader, you can offer some wise words to Sophie? And hopefully our New Zealand friends will be able to give very practical, relevant and sound advice about the local things we in other countries know nothing about. Thank you.


  1. Sophie, you have my sincere condolences even though we've never met. With all the heartache you face, it must be troubling to also have to deal with anything as cold and calculating as money issues. I'm sure you will benefit from visiting with a well-reputed financial advisor.

    I second all of Rhonda's suggestions. I would add that if your grown children are in any way able to help you, be willing to accept it. I know some people may feel it's too humbling to accept such help, because we don't want to be a burden. But we could learn from other cultures: it is an honor for grown children to help and support their parents when it's needed and possible. For example, you may be able to live with one of your children while you get some debt paid off. The support might then be both financial and emotional, and maybe it's only temporarily needed.

    Another possibility, if you can't bear to part with your long-time home (or if it is not feasible to do so), is to take in a boarder or two. Students from abroad will pay a substantial amount for room and meals, depending on where you live. This strategy is actually part of my own 'just in case I'm widowed' plan.

    Sophie, your situation puts you in a very unique position to offer help to others who may be facing similar unexpected financial crises. This may sound trite, but just the simple act of writing a blog to share what you learn as you go through these enormous changes, would be so valuable and cherished by others. Please consider journalling your experience publicly and creating a supportive and encouraging community for folks in similar places of life.

    May sunshine peep through those clouds your life, and illuminate true meaning and joy. God bless and comfort you, Sophie.

  2. Rhonda, you are a dear for posting the email from Sophie. I'm sure your readers will post helpful advice right away.

    Sophie, I am so very sorry that you've lost your husband. I came very close to losing my husband when he was only forty-seven years old and was hurt in a very bad car accident. He was not expected to live, but thankfully, he did, though with some pretty harsh disabilities. I tell you this because I can relate to being forced to assume the responsibility for keeping up your own household without your husband. Something that helped me cope in those early days was to write out a list of everything that was owed, the monthly payments and how much money I could expect to pay the bills each month. Just the act of writing out these things eased my mind in the sense that seeing them on paper kept me from going off the deep end with worrying about the unknown. Once I wrote down everything, I began to plan how much (in the beginning, I couldn't pay everything as it came due) I could afford to pay each month and still have groceries and the utilities. When I saw that I was not going to be able to have the lifestyle that my husband and I had before, I thought long and hard about the things that really mattered and what I could do without. Let me say that I was always the one in our family who took care of the finances, but before my husband was hurt I wasn't nearly so carefully with my spending. Now, after years of continuing to write things down, I don't think I could live any other way. It was a rocky time for a while, but I want to assure you that so long as you don't turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to your situation, you'll feel so much more in control of your destiny. I know that by reading Rhonda's blog, you will find specifics as to how to live a more frugal life without feeling deprived.

    I pray you will adjust to your new life and that as time passes, you will be able to breathe easier with your new lifestyle. God bless and keep you.

    Diane in North Carolina

  3. Being from NZ too I just wanted to make sure that sophie is not getting ripped off, since her husband was killed in an accident she should be entitled to Accident compensations payment for funeral which last time i had a dealing with it was $5000. also check with your bank that you didnt have mortgage insurance built in, sophie may not be aware of what was actually set up with their mortgage, I have to have a compulsory insurance with my mortgage that covers such things, most banks will insist on some life or protection insurance, so its worth checking things. failing that, there is all sorts of help available to pay for housing, you just have to ask Winz (like the CES), if you dont ask, you dont get seems to be the norm with government departments. hope this might help somewhat.

  4. Sophie, I am so sorry you lost your husband so tragically. =(

    Rhonda has given you good advice already and I'm sure many others will add to it in the comments. =)

  5. Morning Rhonda. First of all I would like to say, Sophie, I am so very saddened to hear your news, my heart is going out to you and I really feel for you. Please take some comfort from the fact that we are thinking of you and sending you blessings to get through this unimaginably hard time. Rhonda, in regards to super, unfortunately there is no compulsory super scheme, so unless one has his own scheme or opted into kiwisaver (a non-compulsory scheme govt scheme), it is highly possible that Sophie's husband may not have had a super scheme. Sophie if you are unsure at all about this you could try approaching his work. I only suggest this because I have come across woman that have no knowledge of the family finances and if there loved ones who are earning are part of any schemes. Check with your mortgage and any other debts about insurances attached to them and if they will cover any payments in the event of this happening. Unfortunately Sophie to get some money the easiest option will be as Rhonda says to sell a few things or cut down on your biggest expenses. Have you got someone close to you that can help you draw up a tight frugal budget if you haven't already? Trade Me is an easy option if you want to sell some items to make a little money. In regards to eventually getting yourself in the workforce, as Rhonda mentioned 5 years is enough time to get yourself there. Whereabouts are you in NZ? Local Highschools tend to have community courses so you may find one in computing/admin skills or any other area that may have an interest in. It up to you to think about what you would like to do and then its a case of finding out how to achieve that. There is also the Open Polytech that is a correspondence based university. They have a host of courses available, you can study from the comfort of your home yet be in touch with students in the courses and lecturers online. That way you could still study and gain some skills but not have to face university or training courses if your not up for it. Perhaps you could start a blog about your journey when you feel the time is right? It is a great way to share your thoughts, and it allows you to record your journey, reflect on how you are going and have other people supporting you. You will be an amazing inspiration to other people I guarantee it. Sorry this is very long winded, I just really feel for you. The biggest step for you I think though is get a good working budget happening (you can always tweak it later), stick to it, start to live frugally using ideas from here and other like-minded bloggers and save your leftover money in a jar for an emergency fund. Seek and you shall find. Kia Kaha Sophie xx

  6. Sophie, condolences on the loss of your husband. Just continuing on Brendie's suggestions - find out if your bank has an 'in-house' (free) financial advisor as many financial institutions here in Australia offer this service and we have used it to help us during the drought recently. They can help you do the 'sums' on your income and expenses and offer suggestions for any changes, which you can adapt if you find a better offer elsewhere. Take a relative/friend with you as moral support if this seems a bit overwhelming at first. Also find out if your local pensioners group, if you have one handy, has a friendly financial advisor who can help as different people have different ideas.
    Hoping you have plenty of moral support too at this time and friends you can call on when it all seems a lot to manage.

  7. Dear Sophie,

    I deeply sorry that you have lost your dear husband. Your heart must be well and truly broken :( It is my sincere hope that in time, you will slowly begin to heal and see the small joys in life again.

    You have already in these few comments received some sage advice. If I were in your shoes, I'm not 100% sure what I would do, but this is what I *think* I'd plan to do. Some things are not in order...

    1) check if you have mortgage insurance
    2) compile an exhaustive list of assets and debts and refinance if you can to lower payments just until you...
    3) sell the house and unnecessary contents to pay off debt
    4) sell the second car (if you have one) and if you can afford to keep one car, I'd make sure it's reliable and cheap on gas. Nothing fancy.
    5) consider moving to where immediate family resides for support (moral especially but possibly financial if you can live in a basement suite etc.)
    6) purchase a small home or condo depending on your skills with upkeep/maintenance. A condo can be a good solution if you aren't handy and can't afford to hire out home repairs. I do feel that investing in a wise piece of real estate will make you money in the long run vs. renting if you can possibly swing it without steep payments.
    7) Spend the 5 years wisely. Look to non-profit organizations for guidance and advice about career/job training. Our local library hosts these events for free.
    8) Re-skill yourself in areas such a computers and technology if you are not yet proficient in this area.
    9) Become ultra frugal if you are not already. Barter, buy used, and think creatively to stretch every cent that comes in your door.
    10) When you are ready, start to work part time at first to slowly get yourself into the work force.
    11) Open a savings acct. and tuck aside money every paycheque NO MATTER WHAT.
    12) Get in touch with your local bereavement society. There must be other women who have gone through this and can offer advice.
    13) Join forces with other women who are widowed, and perhaps you can become roommates to share the load.
    14) If you belong to a church, perhaps they could help you until you get back on your feet.

    If I think of more, I will post again. You are not alone, Sophie :) We will help you!

  8. Sophie...I am really sorry to hear what happened. It must be quite a shock for you, and I hope you are gentle with yourself during this difficult time. I'm not a Kiwi, so I don't know how the New Zealand government works. But I do know there are some ways to earn money.

    Boarders, as mentioned are a good idea. If you get a student from the uni, it is also an avenue to find out about what courses are available there, and I think it can be a real tonic to have a young person around...their zest for life is infectious. You can also arrange for a young person to help out with gardening tasks in exchange for cheaper rent, etc.

    Can you do bookkeeping, play an instrument, babysit? I earned extra money giving piano took me a little while to be guild certified here in the UK, but the money is decent.

    If you want to go back to school, do you have any life experience that would qualify towards credit on a college course?

    I also think this is a great site advising women reentering the workforce (and no, I am not affiliated with it)

    All the best of luck to you

    AM of the Bread

  9. Sophie, There is nothing that I can type that seems right. I am sad for you, even though we've never met.

    When my daughter died our family moved house a few months after. In many ways this was good as it helped us move on after a long period of sickness. But we have no memories of her in our current home. Photos everywhere, but no memory of her in this space. So if you do have to sell your house - a good financial decision perhaps, but heart-wrenching too - I suggest you create a memory box for it. It sounds like a childish idea but we have found these things help with our grief. IF writing is your thing, go round each room and write notes about your memories of each room in the house, why you like it, the quality of light, the colours, the history of it and its decoration, how you used it etc etc. Most importantly write your memories of your husband in that space. Take photos. If that's not your thing, put in samples of the curtain fabrics, small ornaments that represent your life in that house. That way when you are homesick for your family home and for your husband you can open the box and walk through it in your mind.

    I hope this pracitcal idea helps down the line. I'll be thinking of you all day. Jen

  10. Oh Sophie, I can't even begin to imagine what you must be going through. You have my most sincere and heartfelt condolences.

    When I was in high school (which was in the 1980's) two of my friends lost their fathers suddenly and unexpectedly. Their mothers were both in similar situations to yours. The two of them got together and wrote a book called "The Widow's Handbook." I'm sure it's quite dated by now, and I have no idea how much of the information is specific to the American system, but I checked and it's still available on

    I don't know how useful it would be, but it might be helpful just to read about other women who made it through similar situations.

    Please take care of yourself and know that there are many people sending you thoughts and prayers.

    Very Sincerely Yours,
    Rebecca in Denver

  11. I am so sorry for your deep loss Sophie, what a time of emotional upheaval for you, the birth of a grandchild and the loss of your dear husband. Give yourself time to grieve, let some days just wash over you and when you can manage to, write down all the tips and hints coming through here in a large book. Try to get through the mortgage-bank-insurance matters first as that will stop sleepless nights. Let people be there for you, whether it's your church, community group, neighbours, because we need people, in good times and rough times. Life is a wheel, sometimes we coast along, sometimes we push hard but we never have to do it all ourselves. If you follow Rhonda's advice it will give you a clearer path, she is a real gem.
    All my best wishes and prayers go to you,

  12. Sophie, So very sorry to hear of your loss. May the lord be with you in these difficult times. While I am not from NZ, some of the things that I would have missed without the suggestions of others are. Mortgage insurance, many of our credit cards have a small insurance benifit, banks also,employers sometimes offer a life insurance, auto insurance. I would suggest getting in touch with a financial advisor who would know what may be available to you. Education and careers are important things at times like these but do remember you have also lots of experience in child care (your local school perhaps), caring for others, keeping a nice home, garden etc. in a pinch these things may be of monatary value to others.
    Sorry for the long..comment

  13. Sophie, I am so very sorry about the loss of your husband, besides the loss all the stress and dealing with the what now has to be very unsettling. I do not have much advice for you except taking things one step at a will get there. I have no idea how things are in NZ so this may not apply but where I live my mortgage insurance has something in it for accidental loss of life, also my credit cards have them also... so there may be money available that you do not know, I hope there is for your peace of mind. Also, after your grieving period start thinking about what do you like to do, what are you passionate about, what do you really enjoy then find a way to make it into a career, it may not pay much but as you know you will be so much happier than doing something you hate for lots of money. I know at this time all of this advice tips and talk about other changes has to be hard and very overwhelming, and that is ok. You can put it on hold for right now and save them, come back when you are ready. My heart and prayers go out to you, may God bless you and Give you peace.

  14. Sophie, I am so sad to read of your loss. I wish I had a quick solution for you and I have read some of the comments as well as Rhonda's advice and realize that you are in very good hands with the blog world uniting in helping you with financial advice.

    I can offer prayers and suggest that although we do not understand why things happen, we do have an incredible amount of Hope in life through God and the blood of his Son.

    I pray that you are able to financially overcome the hardships at this time and in the future, and I pray that we all take a moment to really reflect upon our fellow neighbors, widowed, married, aged, young, and with children, as each of us carries something that is difficult. We can lighten the load like Rhonda has by sharing tips on living simple, or even by sharing the abundance of a garden or fruit tree. It needed be about what I can make with my surplus, but who can I help.

    I pray for you Sophie, and although we are a world apart your story could be mine, as I have never worked outside the home and have been married a good long time myself.


  15. Dear Sophie, I have no practical advice to add, Rhonda has mentioned all the things I thought of, and NZers will know the system there and are better placed to advise you there.

    I wanted to offer you my condolences, my heart went out to you reading your email, and I could only think...what a bittersweet time for you, a sweet birth and a sad, sad loss. You might like to think about some grief counselling at some time, there's sure to be a lot of muddled and mixed feelings that a trained professional can help you sort through, and who can help you recognise and acknowledge the strengths that will get you through this, as well as making sense of this tragedy and your world now without your lovely man by your side.

    Hugs and Blessings ....Nanette

  16. Thankyou Rhonda for the opportunity to try to help. Sophie My heart goes out to you and I wanted to share a few things I have learnt from being close to someone who has gone through this recently.
    Try to get in touch with a government financial planner who can advise you in ALL the payments you are entitled to. Sometimes major charities can provide financial planning for free? It's very important to receive all you are entitled to.
    Please don't make ANY major changes to your life for at least 12-18 Mths. You have a grieving process to get through and any decisions you make will probably not be the ones you will make in 12Mths time.
    Selling your home may be a consideration in the future but not now! (Really lousy time to sell at the moment anyway.) Try to maintain the status quo, don't throw anything out, don't sell anything, don't move away don't do anything "big". A change like that will really overload you at the moment , you need the comfort of the familar, and the familar will help you grieve.
    However it would be practical to maybe sell a second car etc if its not needed as that will reduce your costs and give you some cash flow.
    Ponder any advice you get, there is no rush, you owe it to yourself to be gentle. You will have time to design your life and in 12-18 Mths when you have healed just a little, a path will reveal itself. Don't put pressure on yourself to find it now. Much much love to

  17. I am so sorry for your loss Sophie. My heart breaks for you.

    I agree with Rhonda, sell the home pay off debt and downsize. contact any agencys that may be able to assist you. You may be eligible for even more money, or food vouchers. Anything that will help. Dont rush into any decisions, you are not in the right frame of mind. Im sure you have some breathing room. If you owe too much on your home, what about a granny flat in one of your childrens homes. You may be able to get some finacial advice from groups specifically qualifyed to deal with your situation. I hope it all turns out for you.

  18. Sophie, you are in my thoughts and prayers today.Rhonda as always has such great advice and others too will add theirs to give you strength in these early sad days.
    One idea to help save your home could be to look up airbnb. This was set up to help people who were going to conferences and all hotels were booked out. It has since grown to holiday makers and ordinary B&B. The site is worth a look when you are ready. There are comments left by participants and during the recent GFC one member has be able to save their home by offering B&B.
    If you live near a University,students would also be a good idea.
    International students are very focused on their studies and respectful of your property.
    During these early stressful times it could help to also look into relaxation CD's and slow Yoga breathing. This has been helpful for me during stressful times.
    My thoughts will be with you and your family today God bless and comfort you and yours.

  19. Sophie, your email has me in tears. I want to give you a huge hug. What you are going through is every married person's biggest fear I think. The fact that it happened at what should have been a joyous time in your lives makes it all the harder.

    I have no advice that is different to what anyone else has said, I'm sorry. But I really wanted to let you know that there is a world of bloggers out here that care and can offer support. If you have a blog, let us know and through your blog we can offer support. I read a blog of a young mum who recently lost her husband tragically and the outpouring of support for her has been immense. She said that her blog has been her saviour in many ways, just knowing that there are people out there "talking" to her, getting her through the tough days has helped.
    Look after yourself, give your self time to grieve and heal. Take each day, minute by minute.
    Love and hugs

  20. Sophie, my condolences, what a difficult time for you.

    Rhonda and the rest of the readers here have offered some great advice. I would add this: perhaps consider having someone to share your home and expenses. We have a shared household: my husband and I, my elderly mother and also a family friend. Everyone's expenses are reduced. Of course the living arrangements/ rules must be planned well in advance.

  21. Dear Sophie, if the comments on here are any example, you can be assured that people all over the world are sending you their love and on line support. It is a good indication of the support that you will be able to find close to you. I too send my heartfelt sympathies.
    There has been so many good suggestions and writing them all down or printing off the comments is a good idea. That way you can look at them again in a few days when it is not so overwhelming.
    Sending you hugs, prayers and love from Tassie Sophie.

  22. Dear Sophie:
    I am so very, very sorry for what you have been through. I have lived in your shoes. I was 53 when my 57 yr old husband (whom I loved with my heart and soul) died of a surprise heart attack, standing 10 feet away from me. Life changed and was never to go back again.

    Grieving is the hardest work you will ever have to do Sophie. But do it as it comes to you and do not put it off. If you do not go through the grueling, excrutiating work you will not reach a point of healing. For me it took a bit more than 2 yrs, but everyone is different. The first year was "Crying time" and the second year was my attempt to find a new normal. Each first...first Christmas, New Year's etc. was a time to miss him especially. But the second time I went through that cycle I had at least one memory of a celebration without him there.

    Some people need to let his things remain. I needed to clean closets etc within the first few months. The sight of his things was too much to bear. But I kept a "Bob Box" in which I placed one of each collection to be my treasured meomories. Each time I garnered any money from the sale of something we used together, I felt his hand of protection still upon me.

    I found support groups to be moderately helpful. At a certain point I wanted to surround myself with people who were moving forward. And yet I realized that as I moved on in my grief, I owed it to give my support to those who came behind me.

    Write everything down, Sophie. When you are grieving it is almost impossible to keep track of the mundane details of life. I kept a notebook filled with thoughts, questions, financial issues and things as philosophical as "What I value," "What I want in life," and "How to get it." This is a time of great change and a time to reinvent yourself in a new way.

    The good news Sophie, is that life goes on. God sent me another partner to love and to be loved by. We married, moved from New York to Florida and have been facing life's challenges together ever since. But I would not have been ready to give myself to another had I not asked God what I needed to learn in my grief and solitude. My heart truly bends for you. It does not break because I know you can come out of this strong and ready to finish the rest of your journey to the finish line with a smile in your heart and a space that looks like your husband, feels like your husband, and will never be replaced by anyone else. However, there is a lot of heart in there to share and you will give your heart to the life that you live once again. In the meantime you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  23. My condolences go out to Sophie and I hope that she will find something that will really help her among all the words of wisdom and practical advice that has been offered thus far. Reading about Sophie's situation has reminded me that I need to pay our life insurance premium today and it made me think about the policy for my husband that was taken out many years ago for him by his parents when he was just a young man. When we married we took over the payment of the premiums. When times were tight it was tempting to cash it in but I was told by our financial adviser that it is a very valuable policy because it is an endowment policy which companies no longer offer. Hold onto it he said. It's value in the future will be far greater. We followed his advice and it does give me peace of mind. When deciding what our essential outgoings should be, the life insurance and our home insurance stay on our list. I would advise others who do not have a life insurance or mortgage insurance policy to consider one and shop around for premiums vary. We were given a quote for home insurance by another company just last week. Same cover as we have now but it was four times the price of our current premium. I nearly fell over and told them I would be staying with our current insurer!

  24. First off check that the mortgage does not have any life insurance attached to it or the insurance that pays off the loan if someone dies (the bank will not volunteer this info she will need to go and find out for herself) Next step would be get hold of all the financial papers and write down all the info and assets and go to someone who does financial councelling (I'm not sure if you can get these services for free in NZ but I know places here like Lifeline usually offer those sort of services) I believe that is really important as sometimes decisions are made thinking that it will make things better but it's not always the case. Having someone who is an expert in that field and is also distanced emotionally from the situation is one of the best things for someone to do who is going to be going into what is financial hardship, they are able to look at all the situations and tell you what will happen with all the different things that can be done and tell you what is best and what is worst for you. - I am sorry for your loss and hope it all works out for you Sophie

  25. Sophie,
    My heart goes out to you with the loss of your husband.
    I have had 2 immediate family members in such a situation and so have to agree with "Kate King" in saying "Please don't make ANY major changes to your life for at least 12-18 Mths. You have a grieving process to get through and any decisions you make will probably not be the ones you will make in 12Mths time."
    Try and reign in your budget....remember groceries will be more than halved... as will gas,water and electricity, but Do make sure you eat well.
    Another employment prospect that no one else has mentioned is gardening. I have a family member who is fully employed as a gardener for many different people. Horticultural courses are at Tafe and the work can be as big or small as you want. She does old peoples gardens and one day a fortnight at a convent.
    Also, if you are not social Sophie, in the next month or two I would highly recommend you joining a weekly club. They can be inexpensive or even free, but the outing and talking about something other than greiving would help. Can be quilting, walking, over 50's swimming, knitting,etc.
    This helped my family.
    Love to You

  26. Dear Sophie, my heart goes out to you losing your husband so suddenly..
    2 years ago I lost my husband as well, Greg had no insurance or super.. I was also left with a bussiness I new nothing about and four children at home. I have had to go to work for the first time in my life...A rude shock that is for sure..
    My advice to you would be to find a financil advisor that you can trust and get some help. I never did that and thought I could do it on my own, two years later I am in trouble.
    Never say no to help you will need it and it is O.K to ask and receive help...
    I hope this may help in some small way..The blogger community is a great one you will get lots of help right here..
    Blessings to you.

  27. Sophie what a ride of emotions. The loss of your beloved husband and the birth of a loved grandchild.

    First give yourself time. Pamper yourself in anyway it feels right. Many times it is the simplest things that make us relax and go "ahhhhhh".

    Consider homesteading , be you rural or urban, it will feed both your soul and your body. A few laying hens if possible will provide eggs and soothing "chicken songs". A bond. It will also give you something to get up for.

    You can and will learn to go it on your own and you have a whole community of women reaching out to you.

    Back to school for a new profession or a first profession. I was 54 years old when I went back to school to get my degree in Veterinary Technology. It was at a time in my life I thought I may have to provide for myself and I refused to become a low paid clerk at a retail store. I would do something I loved and would make me wake up each morning with "what will today bring, who can I comfort and who can I help heal"?

    Don't let fear and uncertainly consume you , they can and will, but remember when they do you have friends and support and prayer.

    Please feel free to email me if you need to. You can do this!

  28. I don't know if you are allowed to comment twice?!!
    The well meant advice regarding selling and moving into a granny flat with your children concerns me! Sophie you are only young, very early 50's you have a long life ahead of you and it would be wise to retain your independance and slowly rebuild a new life when ready. I just think the reality of such suggestions rarely work out and once made they are very hard to change. By all means rely on your families love and support and visit them but don't move in with them or give up your own home, not yet, not while you are grieving. Best of luck to you,

  29. My advice is more on a personal note, rather than a financial one. I almost lost my husband (totally different circumstances) earlier in the year, and the most confronting issue I had to face was life without him.

    That's about as confronting as you can get, especially when the connection (partnership) has surpassed the first decade.

    Suddenly, you're on your own and the first natural thing which hits you is trying to carry on the burden of two people. You still have the responsibilities of two lives, but suddenly one person has all the responsibility.

    It certainly didn't hit me at the time but I was compensating for the loss by trying to double my efforts. I could have easily burned out if it wasn't for a few wise people who said, be kind to yourself.

    What does that mean when your world has suddenly been turned on it's head? Well, it meant I had to accept help when it was offered. I had to accept I didn't have my partner riding shotgun with me any more. I didn't realise it, but I had to give myself permission to accept help from others. It's not betraying the memory of your partner, although it feels like it the first few times.

    The other wise advice I was given was not to rush into making big changes. Make only the decisions which require you to function each day, because feelings of insecurity are going to be with you no matter what you try to change to bring back security.

    It's part of the grieving process.

    So while you take on board a lot of advice in these comments, please consider being kind to yourself as you receive them. Your world has been turned on it's head through no fault of your own. Above everything else, be accepting that you're allowed to grieve during this time of change, and to accept help when it is offered.

    In my experience, I realised there was a world of help out there and every time I humbled myself to accept it, I healed a little more. :)

  30. Oh, Sophie, dear, surely you feel the love of so many dear people who care about you and are sending you compassion and understanding, not to mention good, sound advice!

    I shall not try to add my two-cent's worth as so many wonderful suggestions are already made. However, might I suggest that all these loving notes be printed and stored in your Bible next to your bed? Then, on those nights when you are feeling overwhelmed, you will remember that folks who will never grace your table, have graced your life.

    You will make it; you are strong; you are able; you are just scared and sad. This is a terrible thing to get your arms around, but you will. Minute-by-minute, day-by-day, you will walk through this and come out the other side as a shining example and support for others who, sadly, will follow.

    Sending you many warm thoughts and prayers... Matty

  31. Sophie, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish that I could pass on financial advice, but I'm not familiar with New Zealand's regulations.

    The only small thing I can offer is that if you do decide to go back to work remember that your age is a positive. We have consistently employed staff who are in their 50s and 60s for the front desk of our business.

    They need only basic computer skills (easily taught on the job) and are preferred for their experience, and professional manner. We think they are our greatest asset. You can do a short course to update your skills. The pay for a medical or legal receptionist is usually good and often you can work part time.

    The local library often has resources for community based groups that may be able to offer advice and support in these and other areas.

    Finally, be careful not to rush into any decisions during this time. Take things slowly and seek financial advice and support from those who have only your best interests at heart. You have taken the bravest and most important step, and that is to reach out to others for help. Please take care, Sophie, you are in my thoughts.

  32. Just a thought..what about doing some 'home day care' Im sure there are many young mums out there that would love to know that their kids would be looked after by a 'grandma'
    Lots of government help and training for that :0)
    Wishing you all the best Sophie.

  33. My thoughts are with you Sophie.

  34. I am so sorry Sophie; I can't begin to imagine what you're going through, but you seem to be a very strong woman, and you will get through this.

    There has been some excellent advice given here. WRT financial advice, you may want to consider contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau, who may be able to provide some guidance.

    My thoughts are with you.

    Kind regards, Bev from NZ

  35. where can i start?? i am overwhelmed by all the lovely, kind and useful comments left for me to read. i certainly have much food for thought. it is my intention to print all these suggestions off and paste them into a book so i can refer back to them at various times. thank you for all the condolences. just a little more information that hopefully will help to clarify some things better. about 18 months ago, my husband and i sold our big home and bought a little cottage on a 1/4 acre. the cottage is 70sq metres. not big at all. it was to be our final home. there is still a mortgage on it. if i sold it i would not be able to buy anything else so there is that to consider. in new zealand superannuation is not compulsory. we had been talking about joining a scheme but felt we should pay the debt off first. i need to buy another car as our other car was written off but the insurance company have been amazing. they have paid out already so i am looking for something else. we only had the one car. although it is a sad time for me, i have so many good things in my life, children, 8 grandchildren, sisters etc. one of the good things that has happened is that a few weeks before my husband was killed, he had chosen a little dog for me ( a bichon). his boss breads them and mac wanted to get one for me for when i came back from the U.S. he was meant to get it for a very discounted rate but the breeder/ boss ended up giving me the puppy.
    he has been so nice to have around. he cries if i dont get up to him in the morning and has to be walked etc so i have had a reason to get up in the morning and he has been nice to talk to when i am on my own. so i am thankful for that. i do hope that someone can learn from my situation. we should have been better prepared and made better decisions all those years ago but tomorrow is a new day with a fresh page. once again thank you all for your kind words and support. sorry this has been so long.

    sophie in new zealand

  36. Sophie, even though we have never met, my condolences are with you. After reading everyone's replies, it seems like a lot of good advise has been written. This is something I have never had to deal with yet in my life and after reading all of the comments have me thinking about how would I deal with this sudden loss. I am glad you reached out to Rhonda.
    Most important of all....take care of yourself and your health.
    I know this is a tragic time for you and a lot to take in and cope with.
    My thoughts are with you.
    ~Laurie in Amish Country, USA

  37. Sophie - my heart goes out to you in the loss of your dear husband. It's wonderful that you're reaching out for help - that is so important in difficult times.

    You are still a young person and I'm sure that you have much to offer the world, even though it may not seem that way right now. As a homemaker, you have learned many skills that would be valuable to others. Know that you have the strength and resources to do what needs to be done.

    Much love to you, Sophie.

  38. Sophie I'm so sorry that you are going through this sad time!

    The love of my life died 2 1/2 years ago. We are Kiwi's living in Oz and there is no financial support for me, unless I was to go on unemployment, which is very low, due to my kids having left home.

    Number one thing I learned was ... don't make any big decisions while you're in the depths of grief.

    I went to my bank and received excellent advice from them. My daughter and son went with me, which was a help, as I found (and still often find) it hard to concentrate on what people were advising me.

    If you need budgeting advice, your bank will hopefully be able to help or at least advise you who can help.

    I did voluntary work for the budget advisory service in NZ ... and what I learned through them, has helped me prepare and keep to a budget.

    My mortgage broker was my next greatest help and he was able to sort out a way that I can keep our home and my wonderful vegie garden. My house won't be paid off until I sell it ... but at least I don't have to make that decision until the time is right for me.

    I find it hard to ask for help, but there are many wonderful Kiwi's (and Ozzie's) in this area and I'm learning that they don't know what my needs are unless I tell them. I'm still finding that hard, but I'm trying to ask for help with some things.

    I grow most of my own vegies and give them to friends in exchange for things I don't have. We swap seeds and seedlings.

    I use many of Rhonda's ideas for being more frugal and keep cleaning products to a minimum, using vinegar, baking soda and salt for most jobs.

    Grief ... don't allow people to influence your grief. Don't think that grief is something you can 'get over', or cope with in a certain time frame. I am a qualified grief and loss counsellor and I quickly realised I couldn't use those skills on myself. I went to my doctor who organised for me to see a counsellor and I continued meeting with my counsellor for more than a year and can go back anytime. I learned ways to help with practical situations as well as healthy ways to deal with my often consuming grief.

    The months ahead will be tough ... but it will get easier. I talk to my hubby all the time and I can hear him talking to me. We were best friends, and I now know that heartache has a physcial pain, as often my chest feels like it will explode and my heart feels like it's breaking.

    I have also learned that death does not stop you loving that person ... but that's ok, as I would never want to stop loving him. You may feel like this ... but if you don't, that's good also ... as grief and grieving are individual processes.

    Kia Kaha!

  39. I am so sorry for your loss. That's really too bad that he didn't have life insurance; it's such a cheap way to make these situations less stressful. I can't imagine how you must be feeling now, it breaks my heart. :(

    Everything Rhonda said was right on, except I would think about working as soon as possible. There's really no need to sit around for five years relying on the government, and only start working at the last possible second, when it becomes truly necessary. I would start seriously thinking about what direction you want to take now, that way you can be earning money in addition to the government aid, and pay off your debt twice as fast. Also, it may help take your mind off of things.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, God bless.

  40. Sophie,
    The first thing that came to mind was my mother. My father died at the young age of 58. She had been working full time but chose to retire and move into a home in our neighborhood. This was two and a half hours from her prior home. Locating yourself near your family and grandchildren could be a very good move. It is working very well for us. We love having her nearby and she enjoys being involved in our lives and that of our children. Mom found a job in a local theater where she is a manager and works part time. Perfect! Perhaps this deals more with the emotions you will face but it would also allow you to be in control of whether you bought another home or lived in a smaller apartment.
    You have my thoughts and prayers as you learn to live this new path set before you. Hugs.

  41. Rhonda, thank you so much for letting Sophie reach out here. You have a lot of great readers with a lot of valuable advice.

    Dear Sophie, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss in a time that should have been a very happy one.
    A lot of wonderful women have suggested a lot of great things. I'm sorry I can't help you, not living in New Zealand.
    I just wanted you to know that you and yours are in my thoughts !!

  42. If your family home holds special memories and you don't want to give it up you might want to consider taking in" borders" perhaps older, single women that could be both compay and provide you with income. I would also not make any "big" decisions for the next 6 months if you can help it give yourself time to grieve.

  43. Sophie, I'm so sorry for your loss. I scanned through the comments (I'm on lunch hour) and I have one other thing to offer. I am in the USA and had a co worker's wife killed in an accident. The auto insurance policy paid some life insurance ($30,000 I think) even though the accident was clearly her fault. So check that because they certainly will not volunteer the information. Also check the other party's insurance if another vehicle was involved and especially if it wasn't your husband's fault.

    But remember this is the US and things are quite a bit different here it seems.

  44. Sophie, I'm so sorry for your loss.

    Rhonda and others have given sage advice. I'd go back to school or find work as soon as possible so that I could support myself, all the while living simply.

    You'll be alright, no matter what you decide.

  45. Sophie--I can't imagine... The first thing I'd do is get a budget in hand. Find out what your debts are and make a plan to attack them. If the NZ economy is like the US then finding a job is a long-term plan. Be grateful you have so much support from your country!

    My Mom was widowed a little older than you and was employed at the time, but still had mountains of insurance paperwork to deal with from Dad's illness. The best thing she did was sit down with someone else to help her sort and file it all.--Find yourself a "caseworker" who will help sort, file, unload, pack away and give away.

    Also based on Mom's experience--get outside every single day! Do things you DO enjoy as well as "dealing with" business.

    Don't rush to sell a home, but if you had an extra car--sell one and use the profit (if any) to start an emergency fund.

    Maybe try volunteer work to see if you want to get into the work force. No harm done if it's not the right time.

    Start a blog and tell us how you're doing....there are lots of other women out there who would benefit and, in return, would offer you emotional support.

  46. Dear Sophie, I feel the hearts here cocooning you in love. Such kind and tender hearts.

    Baby brother has had multiple gunshot wounds overseas, but he is pulling through and will be returning to a hospital in the states soon for further recovery. We are so thankful. I've never been fond of Facebook, but family members used this tool to reach out for prayers, and the results have been astonishing. So many offered to pray, add him to their prayer warrior groups, offered kind comments and support for his wife and our family. I'm one that has trouble asking for any kind of help, but my middle brother just slings it on out there without hesitation. I think he's a general in the prayer army. I think maybe you and I would do well to learn to be more like him.

    So, first you are in my prayers. And second, continue to talk to folks through this Rhonda community, your local community, whatever works for you. And let folks share their gift with you. Whether they offer prayer, or comfort, some veggies, or maybe some offhand comment they make gives you clues to your direction - you staying open and letting them share blesses them as well as you.

    Hope I don't ramble too much.

    Love from brenda in arkansas.

  47. My mother moved in with my brother and rented her house for 2 years to make sure she could part with it.

  48. Sophie, you seem like such a lovely woman. Your comment made me tear a bit about the puppy your husband got for you. Yes, sometimes in grief if we are alone it is hard to find a reason to keep going (even having faith). I bet that sweet little puppy brings a smile to your face in a time of great sorrow. No one knows what it feels like to lose someone they love dearly until they go through it.

    Having been through a very great loss myself (just different than yours), I found the first year to be a very big blur. It was very hard to focus and to make decisions. I very much second, third, and fourth, etc. what some have said about not making big decisions right now. It is hard enough to just get up every day and to put one foot in front of the other and to take care of the necessary things that must be done.

    I moved clear across country in the U.S. less than one year of my loss. It was a lot to bear and I would not recommend it to anyone unless absolutely necessary.

    Grief is handled differently by every person who experiences it. There will be many people in your life who will be lovely and giving, and there will be those who have no clue what to do or say, or they will put their foot in their mouths by saying unhelpful things. Be honest and speak of your needs when asked, and share when you feel the need, for not everyone will know how to be there for you, and some may do or say nothing (which tends to hurt the most).

    One of the hardest things I have found through the years is when people don't remember my loved one or fear to mention their name as if I will be pained by it. No one wants someone they love to be forgotten.

    I am only a bit younger than you and it is hard to think of losing my husband - but the reality is it can happen to anyone and often does.

    Don't be too hard on yourself thinking that you should have done this or that and should have been more prepared. It is what it is and like you said, you can only go forward. You did make plans by downsizing your home, and that is wonderful. I bet there are many people in this world who think the very same thing that they have time to prepare. None of us know when such difficult times will come upon us - but the thing is they will for us all.

    My kind thoughts are with you and I only wish you great love and support as you go through this difficult journey. I'm so glad to hear you have wonderful loved ones in your life to be there for you.

    Sincerely, Lyn

  49. Sophie,I am so sorry to hear of your pain.
    I lost my husband of 40 years 5 years ago.
    The most helpful advice I recieved was from two widowed friends. One, Rosa,advised me not to make any major decisions or changes for one year.She had well-meaning and loving friends who "took over" and within months she found herself in a lovely new unit far away from her neighbours,Church, shops and everything familiar. There was no "clutter" in her lovely new unit because her friends has given it all to Charity. I was sure my family and friends would not do that to me, until I came back from a walk to find that my daughter and daughter in law had cleared out my husband's wardrobe and packed away all his bits and pieces. Like Rosa'a family they meant so well,How could I tell them that I wanted to open the wardrobe door and smell his clothes?
    I then told the family I would not make changes or big decisions for one year. Sometimes I did need to remind them about that.
    My second widowed friend warned me that I might feel worse after one year. This might not be true for everyone but it was for me. Perhaps it was because it took that long to really understand deep inside that he was never coming back. I was so grateful to be surrounded by all the things he built and made.
    Sophie, it takes time. Give yourself space to grieve in your own way. No one knows better than you what that is. And if you don't know that is OK too.
    Six months after my husband's deathI did a Certificate 3 in cookery at TAFE. I made some new friends, I learnt some new skills and gained a new dimension to my life without throwing away the past.Good luck Sophie

  50. I am not sure if anyone else has suggested it, but if moving seems to heartbreaking, perhaps you could consider taking on a roommate. There are services that can provide bacckground and crecit checks to applicants. I wouls also advise interviews. Maybe they could help not only with financial issues but housework as well and companionship as well.


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