The sudden loss of a military spouse is often devastating – a young person cut down unexpectedly early in life. Those widowed by war, often young parents themselves, are launched into a confusing sea of military benefit programs at the same time they are dealing with the grief that comes with a sudden loss of spouse. While widows (and parents of unmarried service members) receive some immediate financial assistance through a gratuity, they often have to make choices about life insurance and other benefits very soon after they learn that they have been widowed. I know from my training in NLP (neurolinguistic programming) that the brain is not able to make

Photo Credit Tony Fischer Photography

decisions in a cogent manner when you are dealing with the loss and grief of being widowed.

So I am giving kudos to an organization called TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. TAPS is a peer-education, hands-on support group for those widowed by war (and even for returning service members and families of those currently deployed). They have teamed up with Citi Bank to provide military survivors with advice and information on debt management, loans, budgeting help, foreclosure prevention, home purchasing, and more. Getting educated about finances sometimes can seem like it is a full time job in itself. Becoming educated on finances while dealing with grief is a tall order. The TAPS folks should be commended for starting this program.

When you are widowed you must seize on financial opportunities at the time you feel least able to deal with this seemingly daunting task. The emotions of being widowed sometimes are compounded by the finality that receiving the life insurance check or other lump-sum benefits can bring. So many of those widowed by the 9-11 tragedy told me that they felt guilty taking the settlement money. It just felt like blood money. And it made the death of their spouse absolutely real and final. Sometimes they even confessed that they let the check sit, unopened, for weeks or months because they simply could not think about what the check represented.

Don’t delay getting some assistance if you have been recently widowed.  The magic of compounding interest makes it imperative that you make some decisions so you don’t miss out on that magic. If you are not a military widow eligible for the TAPS financial education program, don’t worry. I put together a book for your first financial steps after being widowed. It’s called the New Widow Financial Lifeline.