What would your spouse do if you died? What would your children do? What would your parents or siblings do?
Five years ago, my father in law passed away unexpectedly. It was an incredibly difficult time for my husband, his siblings and his mother. It forced my husband and me to have a very difficult conversation. It made us realize we need to talk about what would happen if either of us died. We had not had any children yet, but our mortality was eerily looming over our heads.
One evening shortly after the memorial, my husband suddenly sat up in bed one evening and said, “I want you to find someone else to love if I die.” I almost fell out of the bed because the thought to me was so shocking and terrible and inconceivable that I did not want to think about it, let alone talk about it. “Promise me you will move forward in your life if I die,” he said. “That’s ridiculous,” I replied, “We will die together when we are over a hundred holding each others’ hands.”
“We need to talk about what if,” he said. “I want my ashes strewn in the sea at our beach in Samos.” He spoke about how he wanted to make sure I would be OK financially if anything happened and how he would want a memorial and so on. I threw in a few thoughts here and there, but mostly I was trying to change the topic.
A year later, we were pregnant and my husband being the practical and amazing man that he was made sure he had life insurance in place for us both and he insisted that we update our will. We spoke for hours on end late into most nights on how we would raise our daughter and future children and how we would build a beautiful family life based on beliefs, value, and tradition. He even wrote a letter to our daughter before she was born and encouraged me to do the same. Thankfully he did.
Ten weeks after our daughter was born, my husband was killed. It was the worst day of my life. It was the most difficult thing I ever had to endure. I pray that no one else should have to experience it, but sadly, many people do. That is why you have to talk about it. I pray nothing happens to your spouse or your child or your parent or sibling or any loved one. But we have to face the truth that we all die at one point or another.
I will not ever be able to explain what I went through that first week. All I know is, that as melancholic as it sounds, I was incredibly grateful we had that difficult conversation after his father died. In that week that I had to plan a memorial, decide if he should be cremated, wonder about my daughter and my future, wonder how I was supposed to carry on living, his words came back to me and our will was in a place I could easily find. I dare say that nothing makes it easier when you lose your true love but the fact that we had spoken about it gave me some form of peace that the decisions I was making and the way I went about dealing with his death was what he would have wanted. There was no guilt or regret. I knew it was all the way he wanted it to be.
So please, for the love of your spouse, for the love of your children, for the love of all your loved ones—talk about what would happen should someone die. I recommend that you have this conversation at least once a year with your whole family, but perhaps only include the children when they are old enough to understand.
The following is so important:
- The will and all that it contains (be specific about cremation, memorial, assets, and to be honest I wrote in my updated will that all my “crap” be donated or disposed of, do not make your spouse or children decide what to do with your university textbooks just because they were yours, leave specific, meaningful items to them in your will)
- A living will if you choose (please do not make your spouse decide whether to keep you on life support or not if it ever comes to that)
- Guardians for your children and how you would want them raised
- Passwords to emails and banking etc. (it’s best to set up a master password and have a vault of all other passwords stored somewhere like Last Pass, write this master password down in a sealed envelope with your will)
- Write a letter once a year to your spouse and each of your children and to a brother/sister/parent/friend, you will not believe how much this will become to mean to them one day, keep it with your will or better yet give it to them every few years
- Tell your family that should you die you would want them to celebrate life and live and love as deeply as possible, in fact write that down for them, it will make a world of difference, tell your spouse you would want them to find love and happiness again, tell your children it is OK to love someone else like a parent
- Lastly, please, I implore you to get life insurance
There is actually far more I can advise you to do in hindsight. These few are what I found the most important. The last thing I will say though is to take videos. I am so grateful for all the photos I have of my husband and him and our daughter together but I wish I had more videos.
So please have this conversation. It is so important for your loved ones to find peace should anything happen to you and in turn you need peace should anything happen to them. But every day I implore you to tell all your loved ones you love them so and hug and kiss and laugh. You need to talk about it but do not dwell on it. Live for each day but love fiercely as if you have a lifetime.