Losing a loved one is devastating, and can leave you struggling to function. A recent AARP article ("Coping With Loss—One Step at a Time," December 2014) suggests how to take care of yourself while coping with grief:


  • Give yourself a break. Don't expect to function normally for a while. Ask for help with basic tasks until you can focus again.
  • Lean on a good listener. A good listener doesn't tell you to get over it or talk about themselves too much. A support group, close friend or therapist are all good candidates.
  • Remember—grieving takes time. Grief is not suddenly over in a week or a month. It can subside gradually and come back strong later. There is no right amount of time to grieve.
  • Allow yourself to feel. Don't force yourself to be "strong," or push yourself too hard if you don't feel up to it. Grieving is complex and involves a range of emotions.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Too much time alone while grieving can be unhealthy.


The grieving process is often complicated by the legal decisions that must be made at such a difficult time. TIAA-CREF provides the steps you may need to take after the loss of a loved one within the first month, during the first three months, from three to six months and by the ninth month. Some key points:


  • Choose a probate lawyer if you need one. If you can't afford attorney fees, search online for free legal services available in your area. The American Bar Association has a directory of pro bono programs, or you can try local law schools.
  • Apply for survivor benefits from life insurance, retirement plans or other employee benefits, veterans' benefits and/or Social Security.
  • You may need to transfer ownership, change property titles or modify documents to change beneficiaries. You may also need to update your insurance policies or your will. Change the name on your car insurance policy and the title of any vehicles owned by the deceased.
  • Outstanding credit card balances on cards held solely by the deceased should be paid by the estate. If you had joint credit cards with a deceased spouse, notify the credit card companies of your spouse's death so the account can be changed to your name only. In some states, joint bank accounts are frozen when one holder dies, and you should check with the bank to find out how to unfreeze those funds.
  • Review your finances, and consider hiring an accountant to help.