By: Kimberly Holmes Wiggins
Widow. Man, I hate that word. It conjures up images of children who hear the word, then cower away from the woman, slowly reversing their tracks, fearful they may catch some of the sadness she gives off as she navigates this world without her husband.
I remember the first time someone referred to me as one. I can still see myself sitting in that leather chair in the funeral home. It was moments after the director returned Rasheed’s wedding ring to me in a small, plastic, evidence bag.
You see, the love of my life left our home on April 16th, 2016 to pick up some stupid snacks and he never returned home. Three cars ran over him. Troopers in Florida are still searching for the first two drivers. I’m now fighting for a hit and run alert system.
It’s all because of him.
Rasheed Amin Wiggins made me so happy. He still does on the days I can get my mind to focus on the love that lives and not on the gaping hole in my life that remains in his absence.
Decide wisely about which assets will be placed in whose name. It all becomes a nightmare after death.
We met as children. I was a 17-year-old freshman at Duke University. He was a senior. Fast forward to two years after my graduation when my sorority sister married Rasheed’s fraternity brother. I thought the wedding would be a chance to connect with an old crush, but this Southern girl was determined not to make the first move. Seconds after the last dance was announced, the waterworks commenced. My one too many drinks from the open bar ended with a pity party that I tried to bring to my sorority sister. She told Rasheed I wanted to dance with him. Moments later, that adorable man appeared and we danced together for the next 12 years.
Most were spent apart from one another. You know how it goes. Graduate schools, jobs, and life always seem to take you in the direction opposite of the one you want to be with. As a broadcast journalist, I bounced from one job to the next in cities across the country. We spent seven years apart from each other.
It’s difficult not to look upon those years that God made us spend apart as anything but cruel. We’re talking about nearly a decade that could have been spent married, raising a family, and just being in his arms. However, it taught us to communicate in different ways. The muscle memory of knowing Rasheed was always in my corner, even though he often couldn’t physically be in my corner is coming back to me.
While losing a soulmate is never easy, certain things we did in our marriage have helped me immensely through this difficult time. Here are my top FOUR!
Communicate the Private Stuff
You got those digits? You know, the code and the passwords. I know. I know. We all like to keep some stuff private. That’s fine; but I do think your spouse should have some way of getting to the pertinent information. Think of it as an “in case of emergency” button. If the unthinkable happens, will your spouse know how to get into your phone, your emails, and other accounts?
Assets and Money Should Be Clear Cut
Oh, goodness. I’m not here to tell you how to balance your budget. I’m also not saying there’s one right way for a couple to handle their finances. However, those codes and passwords we shared meant open lines of communication during our marriage and a real lifeline for me after Rasheed’s death.
Decide wisely about which assets will be placed in whose name. It all becomes a nightmare after death. It’s also wise to find a trusted financial adviser soon after your spouse passes. You may not think you have enough assets to warrant the move, but trust me, even simple planning for your future or figuring out the best way to handle taxes for that first year are reasons to seek out help.
Life Insurance is Not a Dirty Word
Losing a spouse is described as The. Most. Stressful. Event. IN LIFE on the Holmes and Rahe scale. I know when you’re stretching to figure out how to put food on the table, paying for something that may not happen for decades may not seem wise. But consider it. It could mean life after death for someone you love dearly who is trying to survive your loss.
I wasn’t working at the time my husband was killed. I had nearly a year to sit in the suck without the heat of a steady employer breathing down my neck. Most bereavement policies for even the top corporations barely offer a few days. Plus, your mental and physical health take a huge beating. I lost our health insurance just weeks after everything happened. Thankfully, I acquired some on my own soon after Rasheed’s death; doctors said I needed surgery.
After the Unthinkable Happens, Here’s How to Think
Life immediately after loss is horrific, but it’s the weeks, months and years that follow that are the truly difficult ones. As a friend, I urge you to help your friend think. I was blessed to be surrounded by an amazing tribe. My loved ones and friends packed up my house and moved me to my parents’ home up the East Coast within five days.
And please, don’t stop thinking of your widowed friend after the first month. Don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure what to say, but I love you.” Keep inviting your widowed friend to events even though she’ll probably say no. Eventually, she will feel strong enough to venture out. And the grief doesn’t end after the first year. In fact, all widows and widowers agree the second year is the worst.
My life with Rasheed was unique, but my loss isn’t. I hope my words have offered guidance to some, comfort to others, and an understanding that we should never take anything for granted.
About the Author: Kimberly Holmes Wiggins is a television journalist. She launched a faith-based, retail company with a wister (widow sister) called Still His for those who would like to share their love for the Lord and/or for a spouse (whether here on Earth or up above)! They recently formed a partnership with the renowned group, The Dinner Party, to launch support-based gatherings that are full of good food, laughter and understanding for widows navigating the waters of significant loss and grief.