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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Helping a Grieving Client

It’s very difficult to help another person grieve unless you’ve been invited into the process. Until that invitation presents itself, you may feel helpless and there is little you can do to comfort your grieving companion or client. This feeling is natural and one that should not be dismissed. However, you can provide support by making yourself available. You can offer to help with practical things such as accompanying the person when making funeral arrangements and being available 24/7.

It’s important to be a good listener. Encourage your client to talk about their emotions and vent their frustrations. Take interest in the stories about his/her loved one’s life and death. One suggestion – don’t offer advice unless you have been asked to provide it, and encourage your client to re-engage in their social activities, hobbies and interests.

Few people can cope with the pain of losing a loved one on their own. They need to talk about their loss and share their pain. This is a normal part of the healing process. However, if your client’s reactions are extreme, suggest professional help and assist them in taking this step.

Janice recently lost her husband Herb. He had not been well for the last 6 months and though the doctors were optimistic of Herb’s recovery, Janice thought the worst. When Herb eventually died, Janice’s immediate reaction was denial. Herb was always there and he will return. Janice then became angry not only at Herb for leaving her alone in retirement but also angry with herself for being reliant on him. He paid the bills, did the banking, dealt with their financial advisor, all the things Janice now has to do.

As part of Janice’s grieving, she began thinking Herb would have lived longer if she only had made him see his doctor when he started to complain about his ailments. She also thought Herb would have survived longer if she was a ‘better wife’. As weeks passed, Janice became resigned to Herb’s passing and she began to pick up the pieces. Janice began paying the bills, closed out Herb’s bank account, contacted a widow’s support group and met with her religious leader about volunteering. Janice was moving on.

Throughout her grieving, Janice’s friends and financial advisor were with her every step of the way. Though it was a little awkward at first for the advisor as most dealing were with Herb, the initial discomfort disappeared when Julia, the advisor, called Janice when learning of Herb’s death. Julia followed up by dropped over with flowers and a card. Along with Janice’s friends, Janice and Julia shared frequent phone calls, met for lunch or just sat to talk. Janice now considers her advisor, Julia, a friend and someone who acted as an anchor as Janice navigated through the stormy seas of grief.

There is the Golden Rule we all grew up with: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ As a financial advisor, you have a unique opportunity to help clients with many of their life’s occurrences. In return, clients reward us by not only recognizing our caring but by referring our services to family, friends and acquaintances.


Richard (Rick) Atkinson, Founder and President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is also author of the best-selling book, Don’t Just Retire – Live It, Love It! Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others. Rick now offers ‘Women’s
Only’ retirement planning workshops. To contact Rick, call 416-282-7320 or Twitter: @dontjustretire.