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A Widowed Parent’s Guide to Finances

As if the grief, anxiety, and soul-shaking pain weren’t enough? Being a widowed parent and coping with finances. The heart-wrenching reality of planning your loved one’s funeral and managing all the financial burdens comes to light. Losing a spouse is devastating and alters the family dynamic significantly. 

An emotionally available parent/caregiver is required to help facilitate the re-adjustment to life with one parent. This is easier said than done, as there is normally a persistence of depressive and grief symptoms among widowed parents over the first two years following bereavement. 

This makes it difficult for the family dynamic to adapt easily, due to the unique set of bereavement challenges faced by widowed parents: including facilitating their children’s grief, assuming sole parenting responsibilities and managing a household on their own.

Furthermore, if the widowed parent was not previously involved in managing a household then things may be a little more difficult. This will be a learning curve to understand how everything works and to also thrive. But it is not impossible…

First of all, let’s look at the term ‘widowed parent’. We refer to a widowed parent in this article as being:

A  young widow or a widower who has lost their spouse or civil partner to death, who also has dependent children. 

However, it is completely up to the individual what they refer to themselves as, some prefer the term only parent, lone or single parent.

The main theme of this article is to provide information on finances to support a struggling widowed parent, following a loss of a spouse/partner as they navigate through their grief journey and re-balance their finances. 

Annoyed african woman, single mom, sitting at table with laptop, dealing with financial problems, feeling pressure because of mortgage debt, feeling anxious over money and utility bills

How do Young widowed parents struggle financially? 

A widowed parent encounters many challenges but one of the most prominent areas is finance.

According to the Office for National Statistics (2020) report, there are a total of 2.9 million single parents living in the United Kingdom. Almost 86% of the total are women, and the average age of a single parent is 38 year.

Some coping strategies to manage the finances of a young widowed parent?

  1. Compile and prioritise your needs: As a young widowed parent/single parent, you may find it helpful to plan or create a strategy for your family either by yourself or in collaboration with a trusted friend/family member. To do this, we suggest you make a list of all your needs on the basis of priority. One of the ways to prioritise your needs is to use the Moscow prioritisation (Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, and Will-not-have). I.e. within a specified period like the next 6 months, what are the needs that must be met, should be met, could be met and would not be met
  1. Child care expenses: To compensate for the family needs, you may need to work if you don’t have a job already to compensate for the loss of income. Now as a single parent, you might choose local child support centres to take care of your children while you are at work. But, this can be costly. However, their are incentives such as government’s child support that you may qualify for and, if not possible then ask a trusted friend/family member.
  1. Utilise skills: One of the major problems a widowed parent faces is having only one income source. So, to relieve yourself from a thin budget of a single income, you can embark on a side hustle that may still afford you time with your family. For example, start a blog, make or create something sellable or something that you can easily handle along with your current job if you are employed.
  1. Food and resources: Unhealthy food is generally cheaper but can have multiple negative consequences in the long run. You can opt for home cooking, or if you don’t have time due to work, then batch cook on days off and freeze food and reuse it. It can also help manage household expenses and create a bond between you and your children.
  1. Pay close attention to your credit: keeping ont op of your expenses may be difficult after being widowed, especially if you were not responsible for the family finances before the loss of your partner/spouse. It is easy to lose track while rebalancing and may have had to borrow through loan, credit card or from friends/family members. Please remember that not fulfilling your financial obligations could cause your more distress in the future.
  1. Emergency fund: As a widowed parent, having no emergency fund can be disastrous. One can face many issues in life, and with children, you can never predict anything. We encourage you create an emergency fund account and to begin to contribute to that account every month. Every little helps. That can cover unexpected costs such as home or car repairs and emergency bills.
  1. Lean on your Social Network: Ask for help when you’re struggling. We understand how difficult asking for help can be. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to let your friends and family members know the areas you need help.
  2. Sick Leave: As a widowed parent who is working, you are the primary carer for your dependent child/children. So this may mean on days when your children are sick, you may have to take time off work. Which can affect your pay and potentially your availability at work. Try to incorporate a plan with family and friends that could help support this for sick days. Alternatively, you can negotiate with your employer that you work from home on those days if this is possible of course in your line of work.
American African children playing on the bed, live at home

What types of support are available from the government to Widowed Parents?

The government of the United Kingdom has set up multiple bereavement funds for widowed parents. 

  1. Bereavement Support Payment: You can apply for this if your spouse or civil partner died. You need to claim this within the first three months to get the full amount. You can also claim it within 21 months, but the amount will be a bit less. For complete eligibility criteria, please visit the government site.
  1. Widowed Parent’s AllowanceYou can apply for this if your spouse or civil partner died before 6th April 2017 and the cause of death has just been confirmed. Furthermore, if you were pregnant at the time of your husband’s death, you can also apply for this. For complete eligibility criteria, please visit the Benefits and financial support when someone dies site to get through this tough time.
Cute little boy sifting flour over bowl while going to make dough for homemade pastry in the kitchen

Are there any charitable organisations in the UK that help people struggling financially?

Yes, there are a number of charity organisations are operating in the UK that can help you with advice, grants and practical skills. 

  1. CAP provides free debt help and local community groups across the UK.  
  2. Food Bank Try accessing your local food bank for support
  3. Letters of Hope: support to help deal with the various challenges through free care packages, resources.
  4. Turn2us: Turn2us is a national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially through their benefit calculator or grant search
  5. Little Village: is a society supported by Prince Harry and Meighan Markle. They provide children with support and equipment.
  6. Compliments of the House: is specifically a food distribution charity based on helping all the needy.
  7. Refuge is based on protecting vulnerable children and women.
  8. Beam is focused on tackling homelessness.
  9. Sufra: is also acting as a food bank and kitchen for those who can’t afford to help themselves.

We hope this article has been a beneficial starter on the area of finances for anyone bereaved but especially a struggling widowed parent. 

We aim to delve further into this discussion and provide more practical ways to rebuild your finances following the loss of a spouse/loved one. It may seem daunting to discuss the issue of finances, we understand that we all have various capacities in how much we can handle. 

We want to assure you that little steps are also sufficient, so if you can only do one or two of the suggestions, it’s OK. Go at the pace that is right for you. We understand how important it is to rebalance finances after the loss of your spouse/partner and we are here to help. 

Are there organisations you are aware of that provide financial support to bereaved individuals? Please let us know in the comment section

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