Dear Family Advisor

I'm a new widow, and everyone thinks they know what's best for my life.

Last updated:

June 29, 2010

My husband died six months ago. I have some pretty major decisions to make -- selling his company and selling our home and land, among other things. I then need to decide where to live and what to do (I'm in my 50s and helped run his business.)

One child wants me move in with his family, another says I should move to a senior community. My friends think I should stay nearby and purchase a condo, and my late husband's business adviser is urging me to downsize but still run the company.

I need to do something soon because of salaries, taxes, and other financial obligations and issues, but I'm overwhelmed to the point of being immobilized. I just want to crawl in bed and cover my head, but I don't want other people to step in and make decisions I have to live out.

How do I get to the place to where I know what's best for me?

If you haven't crawled in bed and pulled the covers over your head yet, I hope you will. You may only be there for five minutes or five hours, but give yourself permission to fall apart. Not only have you lost your husband and partner, you've been left with many heavy decisions to make. Take a break first and feel this loss -- as his wife. Grief will not be ignored or denied forever. It's a process, and we really can't move on until we honor it.

You may be afraid that if you "go to bed," both literally and figuratively, you'll never get up. That's not true. You will. Trust yourself. Cry. Lose it. Scream. Sleep until you can't sleep anymore. Eventually the most intense feelings will pass. You won't be strong enough or clear-headed enough to tackle the other areas of your life until you let yourself grapple with the loss of your husband.

Start the practical considerations by thinking back to all the conversations you had with him. What advice would he give you today? Then do what you probably did all along -- insert your opinion, argue, see it in the slightly different light of your own perspective. This is your life now, and he would respect you and want you to follow your heart.

It's probably best not to involve your children in the financial decisions you'll be making. Our family members can exercise too much power over us. We can listen to them a little too much or try to please them instead of doing what's right for us. This isn't about doing what others expect you to do -- this is about forging a new direction, one that you can manage and feel good about.

Give yourself a time frame to decide on your plan and put it into action. Will you do everything "right?" No, because there's probably not a single right. You'll most likely look back and think, *"I should have done this or not done that." * That's life. Don't let being afraid to make a wrong decision paralyze you. We have to keep moving, not in a frantic, panicked way but in a way that allows us to feel our power and strength.

Listen to your body and observe how it reacts. If you tense up and grow anxious about one direction, then that's probably not right for you. We house all our experience and wisdom deep inside, and our hunches are actually based on all we've learned along the way. That information is as valid as what you need to obtain from business advisors, a lawyer, and other sources.

You're still young, so don't feel that where you choose to live next is necessarily the last place you'll live. Keep your options open. After you get through the initial grief and deal with business and financial obligations, you might find that you go through a personal transformation. Instead of seeing the choices you have to make as hurdles, try to view your life as an intricate road map -- with lots of intriguing, even exciting possibilities yet to be explored.