Donna Kendrick is a certified financial planner practitioner, a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, and the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller titled “A Guide to Widowhood: Navigating the First Three Years”, which provides a financial roadmap to surviving the first three years of widowhood with a person’s heart, soul, and finances intact.
In 2013, at age 40, Donna lost her husband of 13 years, who had taken his own life. Although she was educated, smart, organized, and financially savvy, Donna was emotionally crushed. She spent the next few years pulling herself together and raising her three young children. When she eventually learned that she was able to successfully handle the incredible challenges that had come into her life, Donna recreated her career so that she could help men and women in widowhood make the right financial decisions to feel empowered, smart, and in control.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- Donna’s transformative journey as she learned to stand on her own two feet.
- How the Grief Recovery method helped Donna to heal her huge heartbreak.
- Why it is important for a widowed, grieving person to get support from professionals for those most difficult moments and decisions.
- The journey of forgiveness Donna experienced during the third year after Greg transitioned.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS DONNA:
- What kinds of helpful support did you receive during your grieving process?
- Why do you state in your book that an often overlooked yet important part of coping with the financial challenges of widowhood is organizing documents?
- What are the stages of financial decisions in widowhood?
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Donna Kendrick: When She Eventually Learned That She Was Able To Successfully Handle The Incredible Challenges That Had Come Into Her Life After The Sudden, Traumatic Loss Of Her Husband To Suicide, She Recreated Her Career So That She Could Help Families Survive Widowhood With Their Heart, Soul, And Finances Intact
I hope this finds each of you so very well. I’m in my studio in West Orange, New Jersey. I am delighted to have this opportunity to interview Donna Kendrick, who is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner, a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, and the author of the Amazon number one bestseller titled A Guide to Widowhood: Navigating the First Three Years. It provides a financial roadmap to surviving the first three years of widowhood with a person’s heart, soul, and finances intact.
In 2013, at age 40, Donna lost her husband of 13 years. The loss was sudden. Gregory had taken his own life. Although she was educated, smart, organized, and financially savvy, Donna was emotionally crushed. She spent the next few years pulling herself together and raising her children, who were 8, 11, and 12 at the time.
When she eventually learned that she could successfully handle the incredible challenges that had come into her life, Donna recreated her career to help men and women in widowhood make the right financial decisions to feel empowered, smart, and in control. Through her company, Sephton Financial, in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, Donna helps families in transition dealing with widowhood, divorce, and blending families.
As an aside, I want to say that I am so in sync with what Donna does because I had a similar experience when my husband passed. If I hadn’t had my husband’s CPA guiding me and helping me, I don’t think I would be on this show. It was part of what saved my life. I am eager to share Donna with all of you.
I’m looking forward to talking with Donna about her journey to standing on her own two feet after years of being out of the workforce and living away from America. Also, the importance of getting support while making important decisions during grief, her volunteer work as a Grief Recovery Method Specialist, her step-by-step guides to the first three years of widowhood, and more for what will surely be a very important interview. This will provide comfort, important insights, and empowerment for many of our audience.
Donna, a warm, heartfelt welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for that welcome and for having me here. I am so excited to share the wisdom together, help share some of my experiences, and see how they can impact and help change others.
I was so excited when you came through for an interview because I loved what you do for people. We’ll talk about it later. We’ll talk about that wagon train concept because I had one also. It makes so much sense to have someone like you on board when people are going into deep grief.
Let’s start with the first question so everyone can get to know you, which is the sad part of your story. The good part is you grew from it, and here you are. Please tell us about your life and your travels with Gregory before you lost him to suicide and the heart-wrenching, traumatic way you lost him.
Thank you so much. I am born and raised in Philadelphia. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. Dad was a Philadelphia firefighter. I had a lovely upbringing. My parents split, but they still loved us very much. Years later, my dad set me up on a blind date with a son of a Philadelphia cop. A cop and a firefighter got together at the credit union and were like, “How about your kid meet my kid, and then we can move the maps?” I feel like that was the conversation, but it was wonderful.
Originally, that is how I met my husband, Gregory. It’s not that I couldn’t get a date on my own, but it was a wonderful way to meet him. He was a very conservative, smart, loving, and moral man. He had a wonderful job with the US government. Before 9/11, it was US Customs and Immigration. After 9/11, it turned into US Homeland Security.
With that, we started traveling. We wound up pretty much a Military life. Almost every two years, our kids switched to another school. We went over and lived abroad in Italy. In 2002, we came back, had our third child, Squish, and then we went back in 2017 and lived abroad there. During that time, I gave up my career to follow Greg abroad. It was a 4 to 5-year stay for us. I wound up teaching English to Italian kids.
We had a wonderful opportunity. When you live abroad in the type of position Greg had, when you go back stateside, you can pretty much wind up anywhere. I was like, “Please promise me we’ll be within an eight-hour drive of home.” I missed home. What a wonderful opportunity to live abroad and see Europe and do it with three kids. I don’t know how we ever would’ve afforded it if we didn’t live over there. It was a beautiful blessing for them, but I wanted to come home. I was homesick for years.
We come on back home. He got a position up in Newark, New Jersey. I was like, “It’s close enough to Philly. Let’s go.” We came back home, lived in the Lehigh Valley for a little bit, and then he got positioned again in Philadelphia. He didn’t want to do the commute anymore, so in 2013, we packed everyone up one more time and moved back to the Philadelphia suburbs. We moved into my sister’s school district. Her kids had been there for 12 or 13 years. I was like, “How is it? Is it good? Are they nice? Here we come.” That’s where we were. We moved there probably in late July or August 2013.
What a lot of people didn’t know is during our time up in the Lehigh Valley, which was from 2011 to 2013, when we came stateside, Greg suffered from undiagnosed depression. It was hard. He had battled what we would say was depression when he was younger and when we were first dating in our twenties. We went to counseling. We went together. He got his toolkits in place, and that helped him for such a long time. He was so established in his career, but there was something.
There was something genetic or something in there.
It got triggered. Something clicked. For two years, he did suffer from depression. It wasn’t formally diagnosed for many reasons why. I sat with him, and we went on that journey. One of the reasons we came to Philadelphia was to lower his stress level at work. He took a downgrade in the job. There were not as many administrative or larger decisions that he had to make.
It was getting better. He was home again at 5:00 PM. He used to drive, travel, and be gone for weeks, months at times, or have a long work day. It was getting better. We were happy. The kids started their new school. We were getting established in such a supportive, fun neighborhood. There were chili cook-offs like good old-fashioned America. I came home one day. It was a weekend. My son had a football game, and he went home to take a nap. When I came home, he had shot himself.
I’m so sorry.
I remember that slow motion. Everything slowed down. I share that because I feel many times in life since his loss, if there’s a time that the powers that be need me to slow down a bit, take a breath, and feel the next step, it takes me back to that moment. I went into action. The door locked, door shut. The kids were on a ride to my sister’s house. Neighbors helped me call the police. The dog was in the cage. We had a big Irish setter. I moved into action so that the house was ready when the police came.
The police had come into the house and they were like, “You said he took his life in the upstairs bedroom.” I’m like, “Yes.” They’re like, “The door is locked.” I was like, “I locked that. I didn’t want my kids coming in.” They were paranoid, like, “Who locks the door if there’s someone who passed away on the other side?” For me, it was completely reasonable. For them, it was not, but that’s where the journey begins. In the book I wrote, I share those moments, those hours from that slow motion of opening the door and realizing he had passed, and how I navigated it the next day, hours, weeks, and years. That’s where the story starts.
I’m so sorry. Your story has such a positive thrust to it because of what you did from this horribly traumatic thing that happened in your life. Gregory has transitioned. You’ve been out of the workforce. You’ve been living away from America. You got to make a living. You have to stand on your own two feet. Do you want to share some of that with us? That must have been something else.
At the time of Greg’s loss, I was working in my kids’ school district as a teacher’s assistant. I was making $17,000 a year. Readers out there, that’s not going to feed three kids. You do have the help of social security if you are lucky. I had control of the finances. Greg and I were savvy. We had a financial advisor when we were younger, so I knew that life insurance would probably be coming in. I knew where most of the accounts were.
I was the partner in the relationship that did the bills as well as the long-term planning, so I had a good grasp on that. You don’t know how you’re going to make it work on $17,000 a year. Within two weeks, I had another financial advisor who was helping me. They always say that usually, after a loss, 70% to 80% of widows and widowers switch their financial advisors. Sometimes, it takes some time.
Did you feel that you needed to go in a different direction?
I did. I will be forever thankful to him. He got that life insurance that has allowed me to keep my house and educate my kids. Three kids through college isn’t too shabby. That’s a good thing. I was very thankful to him. He had transitioned to his own job when Greg and I were originally his clients. He was working more with succession plans in small businesses. I’m like, “I need someone who’s going to hold my little frail hand on the days that are hard and say, “It’s going to be okay. Let’s take this baby step.”
I knew that wasn’t the organic match, so I reached out to the widow of the gentleman that played the bagpipes at my wedding. That’s the connection. I had heard that he had passed and that she was doing okay, and she had four kids. I followed my connections of whoever she worked with to introduce me. That’s how I first found my financial advisor. It was wonderful. It was a wonderful experience to be able to be like, “What do I have to do now, and what can I push off? I’m going to go raise these babies.”
He was one of the people that encouraged me to switch my career after those two years. He knew I had breathing room. I could still work because of the benefits of life insurance, what I was making, and the help of social security for survivors, which are my children. I knew I could keep working for those first two years and mimic my kids’ schedules. They were so new. They were speaking English in a school. For some of them, that wasn’t a big thing.
Not only that, but they were new. They were in a new environment. They were doing all this, and they lost their father.
They’ve become that family quickly. I remember my littlest, Squish, years later being like, “It’s so funny,” and it wasn’t funny. He’s like, “Somebody was sharing a story about when they were little, one of their neighbor’s dad took his life.” He had no clue that we were that family. I’m proud to say this. It’s because of the seamlessness, the counseling, and everything that my kids and I had to be able to hold conversations with people about a very sensitive subject and also about our non-traditional upbringing. They’re like, “What school district did you come from?” I’m like, “We used to have a minivan before we went into school. You don’t do that?” It was those conversations.
What happened career-wise? What did you switch to? You’ve got some stability, but you still need more. What are you doing?
After about two years, I went to my financial advisor and said, “What you did for me, I want to do for other people. How do I get there?” I have a degree in Statistics. I have an MBA. I worked in financial forecasting before. I had the numbers brain. I was a statistics geek. He led me on that guide path of what I had to do to study to be a CFP or a Certified Financial Planner, what experience I needed, what mentorship I needed, and how I recreated my career. That’s what I did.
I started sitting, taking Series 7, Series 66, and anything that I needed. I launched myself out. We called it a zero book of business. There were no clients. It was me out there in the world saying, “I’m working as a financial advisor. I want to help families in transition. I’ve been there. I can hold your hand, and that’s priceless. Do you want to work with me?” Slowly, I built my own practice.
Sephton is my maiden name. It’s a homage to my dad, who worked many a job to educate me. He deserves it. Over time, I recreated my career to help families in transition with their finances. 2020 hit and all of us were like, “What do we do now?” For me, that was an opportunity because we’re licensed in just a few states. Here comes Zoom, and we can connect with so many people. We’re able to get our license if needed in other states. All of a sudden, my message could go bigger. That’s when we took the time to start writing that book. I was like, “Okay.”
I started to feel during 2020 and 2021 that the clients I was seeing, I was undoing some of the mistakes that had been made financially or opportunities that were missed. It was breaking my heart. I was like, “God.” They didn’t even know they could seek social security benefits, for example. Things like that, they missed all of that. They didn’t submit the documents, so we have to fight hard to get these accounts back. It was things like that. I was like, “If I could get the book into someone’s hand so if they lost a spouse early on and in the quiet middle of the night they can read that book and get a few good steps maybe to avoid some potholes, then that’s what I need to.”
The other thing I want to ask you about is, not only did you do this thing where you were recreating your livelihood, but you also had a primary path to healing through what you called The Grief Recovery Method. I would like to share what that did for you and what that is because it helped you heal this huge heartbreak. It gave you tools. You’re certified for that, also. Not only do people get financial advice from you, but they also can get advice emotionally and in other ways. Would you like to tell us about that?
I had gone through traditional counseling. It was needed. I needed someone to listen. You’re trying to act all brave. We call it the award-winning act. That first year for me, I was like, “I’m good. I got this, kids. We’re fine.” You’re then sitting on your therapist’s couch like, “Oh my God.” He used to say, “There are imaginary jars. You have to put things in categories in imaginary jars, put them up on the shelf, and take them down when you think you can digest them. You’re not ignoring them. They’re beautiful. They’re up on that shelf, but put them back up sometimes and deal with what you have.”
I spent a year and a half with these imaginary jars being like, “I’m going to take you down. Let me take you back up.” I had talked to another widow that had mutual friends. She said, “I went to this practice called The Grief Recovery Method.” She was like, “It was so nice.” There was someone who posted it. It was over eight weeks. We had a nice group of people joining in. It talks a little bit about your life experience, how you learned to grieve, and when you’ve hit moments of grief even when you were little and you didn’t realize it. It was through relationships and moving through the loss of finances.
There are 40 different ways to grieve, according to The Grief Recovery Method, but there’s more than that. It shows you a timeline. You can start to see how you are interacting with grief from those experiences you had earlier on. It takes you through a process of looking at your loss history graph or focusing on one relationship that you want to deliver. We call them undelivered communications.
Sometimes, the person that we are focusing on during grief recovery has passed, so you can’t apologize. You can’t ask questions. What you can do is share the messages that you haven’t delivered before. It’s mathematical. It is a process, so it sits well with my statistics brain. It’s a process that takes you through until you can finally relieve yourself of some of the communications you have felt stuck with.
For instance, in your case, if you want to say a few things to Gregory where you’ve got some unresolved things you want to say to him and you’re working with The Grief Recovery Method, what does that look like? What is the advice for doing that? Do you try to talk away?
It’s a process. It’s a method. When I tell you when I’m sitting with a group and I’m guiding them through this eight-week period, it is a method. I’m like, “Don’t read ahead in the book. Do your homework and trust that we will get you there.” It starts with first understanding grief. It is understanding how we learned to grieve and starting to think, “Maybe it was when my dad told me, “Kids are quiet. Don’t be heard.” It’s things like that. They have to be seen, not heard. You’re like, “What did that mean when I was upset one day?” Those are those small things that you start to dissect.
In no way are we saying, “Blame it on the parents.” That’s not it. It’s, “How did I learn? How did I see my brave grandmom still be happy in the midst of a huge divorce? How did we see these things happen?” You map out all of your losses from the dawn of conscious memory to where you are. You focus on one of those relationships, the unresolved messages, and what you want to send.
I’ve gone and I’ve done not just even as an advisor. I’ve done two rounds of The Grief Recovery Method as a student. I have yet to “pick the relationship of Greg” to heal through. I’ve healed back relationships with my mom, who’s still alive, and with my dad, that passed. My relationships with those two and how I learned to grieve impacted my year of fake it until you make it after Greg and how I still refer to my loss of Greg several years later. That’s The Grief Recovery Method. I can’t give you all the steps in the final part.
That’s okay. It’s another wonderful tool for people to have access to work through. I imagine that when you go through the history of the things that have affected you and grieving, you start to realize, “Maybe I can choose to react a little differently. Maybe what I learned in the past wasn’t the best way to deal with what I’m going through now.” It’s a discovery,
I will say one thing, too. There’s such a very sharp focus on confidentiality and being completely honest. It was the first time that it was a group of strangers pretty much, but I didn’t feel like they have a judgment on me. They don’t know me, so I’m going to be completely vulnerable and maybe share that I was so mad at Greg. You feel like, “They’re passed.” There’s sainthood there, but I was so mad. That confidentiality and that complete devotion to the process, to be honest, is helpful.
Did you do The Grief Recovery Method online or you worked with a specific person?
They did not have it available online until after 2020, so I did it in person. I offer in-person classes throughout the year here in Wyndmoor on a volunteer basis. It’s my give back to this community that rallied around my kids. They didn’t know us. We moved to the community after two months before Greg passed, and they’ve been a lifeline for us. I give that back to them. Over 2020, The Grief Recovery Method certified many of us to teach online. The Grief Recovery Method is offered online, and that’s what I’m offering in March and April 2023.
What you have become, which is the way I would phrase it, is you’ve become part of people’s wagon trains. What happened to me when I was grieving my husband, I had certain people that I called on my wagon train. I had my life transition coach. I had an energy healer. I had my accountant. I had certain friends.
People come and go off your wagon train. You are on people’s wagon trains. How about telling everyone why it is important to get support, especially from professionals who can walk a widowed grieving person through these most difficult moments? We already know you had an accountant helping you and you had The Grief Recovery Method. What other kinds of support did you put on your wagon train during your grieving process? It’s important for people to know that they can do this. They don’t have to navigate this by themselves.
I love that you used the term wagon train. I call it your trusted contacts. They are your go-tos. In my book, I use the example of my son in football. They have the defensive or offensive line protecting the quarterback in the back. That’s who it is. That was my wagon train. I was lucky. My sister was like, “If there’s a problem, she’s fixing it.” She was my blocker. She’s polite. She’s succinct. No one feels like they got told off, but they did for being very helpful. They were maybe a little too nosy or things like that. She was my first one on deck and she offered herself up there.
I did have the one person that I walked through with all of my financial decisions, which was the financial advisor or the accountant because I wasn’t always fully present. Your mind drifts. You’re making decisions with widow fog. Sometimes, you’re emotional. She’d be there taking notes and making sure that when I came back, I’m like, “What did they say about the life insurance? How do I file that?” It was those parts.
I had the team of my late husband’s family. They did all of the funeral plans. We buried Greg within two days of his loss. It was very quick. Unfortunately, they had buried two parents within that last 5 to 10-year period. They were going. They already knew the process. They knew who they had to talk to. They would come to me and be like, “Is that a good decision?” I had veto power, but they were running it. Some people are even like, “How did you do that?” I’m like, “I don’t know.”
You were in a fog anyway. What a relief that they were able to take over.
As time went on, that wagon train would ebb and flow. Sometimes, it was people on my kids’ team. I had a lacrosse player, a football player, and a baseball player. How do you, as one parent, get there? I remember having someone teach my son how to drive. We had a Google document so people could sign up and teach him how to drive because it stressed our relationship so much. I wanted to continue to love my son, but teaching him how to drive did not help that.
That’s brilliant, though. People reading this episode are saying, “Maybe I don’t have to go through that. I can get people to help with that.”
I’ll tell you. It was very nice because I would always have a bottle of wine for some of these volunteers, knowing that they were going to need a stiff drink when they got out of the car. It was a win-win. My son got to drive. He learned how someone else drives. We all have our own habits. I got to decompress with someone afterward. They got to share that moment with me. What a nice way to connect. That was a good one.
My wagon train, throughout the years, has come and gone. You have those friends that know you intimately, have unconditional love, and not going to make that judgment. You have that new friend that didn’t know Greg, but once they hear the story, they love you for exactly who you are. Several years later, I forgot some of my friends had never met Greg, and they had to remind me. They’re like, “We never knew the beige boy. We didn’t know him,” but what a great thing to them.
Through you, they know him.
The kids and I are sharing funny stories and how he built our family. I love that, wagon train. I’m using it. I’m going to steal it from you.
Go steal from me. Go for it. I talk about that in my own book. That was so important to me. I didn’t realize until I had been through my widowhood a little while, like, “I have these people in place. They’re my wagon train.” I had a dear friend who had known Saul. She was my cry. She was the person I could let it out and cry to.
People had different roles on the wagon train. They came and they went. They came in depending on what was going on. Since everyone is reading this, tell us what inspired you to write your book, A Guide to Widowhood: Navigating the First Three Years. Why don’t you talk about the stages of financial decisions in widowhood? Let’s get to the nitty-gritty with this because it’s so important.
As I shared a little bit earlier, it was like, “How do I get this message out there to a bigger bunch of people? How do I let someone feel independent and in control when I can’t be sitting next to them? How do I help that person find that great financial advisor and how to put their wagon train in place or their trusted contacts?” It went step-by-step. It has a little bit of my story, so people understand where I came from. Sometimes, it’s your story that builds that trust and that relationship. They’re willing to read the rest of the pages because they’re like, “This sounds like she came out okay at the end. How’d she get there?”
It’s a great book for someone to gift someone who has lost someone, also. I would think that would be a wonderful gift for someone to give your book.
Thank you for saying that. I couldn’t get it in the hands of people quickly enough sometimes. We buried Greg within the first two days. Sometimes, it’s a week or two. There’s a section on how to write an obituary. It’s those stepping stones. We recorded an Audible. My kids voted and they said that I should read the Audible. What a great way to even sit at night one night, put in your earphones after a loss, and be like, “Let’s go together. What do I do next?”
What are those stages of financial decisions in widowhood?
We say first is the immediate goals. Those are the ones you have to make. There’s no choice. They’re hard. They’re unfair, but you have to make those decisions. Sometimes, you need to go ahead and file for life insurance because you don’t have any money to pay for the funeral. That’s a have-to. There is also notifying employers. They’re immediate goals. They’re things you have to do, like applying for social security or filing the loss of your husband or wife.
We then go into transitional goals. For everyone, these are sliding scales. I was a person of action. I was getting them done quickly. If you could’ve gotten me to year 3 goals in year 1, I would’ve tried to do it, but there’s a process. It’s a have-to. We then have transition goals. They’re the ones that are usually between years 1 or 2. We took care of all those immediate things that had deadlines. We needed to make sure we kept the lights on in the house. We had to process.
In years 2 to 3, you might have processed that life insurance and then put it in a safe account. This is for FDIC-insured people. Make sure it’s a safe account, and then wait to make the decisions with the money, whether you fund the kid’s education, pay off the house, or put it towards retirement. You don’t have to make that decision right away if you have those immediate ones done. You know that you can pay the bills and be able to wake up every morning in a safe house.
The transitional goals are the next leading goals. The things that we tabled, we couldn’t do when the world was spinning, but we’re coming out of it. Also, remember, too, the world feels very different in year 2 than in year 1. What you thought was maybe shared goals with you and your spouse, it’s just you. That might have changed a little bit.
We talk about long-term goals. That’s year three and beyond. That’s when I say, and I mentioned it in the book, it is when you get your groove on. I changed my career in years 2 to 3, so my goals were very different for me to go back to school full-time. I was like, “How will I be able to support my kids without me working? How do we do this?”
That’s why I always say if you are working with a financial advisor, make sure they have a plan for you. That plan isn’t static. That is living. It’s breathing and moving with you as you move through life with a guidepost. We can do everything within reason because we have big long-term and short-term goals to balance. Those are immediate, transitional, and long-term goals.
I love my long-term goals, too, because it lets you dream a little bit. My three-year was when I started dreaming of, “What do I want next? I’m not staying stagnant in this world. I’m moving. What’s it going to look like? I’m going to close my eyes. I’m going to vision it. I’m going to get there.” Some people don’t feel that way. They’re still curled up in a ball in year three, and that’s all right. You can dream again. Those are the transitional goals.
Also, your book inspires people that they can get through this, which is great. You also state in your book that an overlooked yet important part of coping with the financial challenges of widowhood is organizing documents, which sounds so boring, but it’s important. What would you like to tell people about that, and is there anything else you’d like to tell them about your book?
My website for the book is Widow-Wisdom.com. You’ll see it says Download Your Personal Document Locator. I walk the walk. I talk the talk. Not only do I want you to have a filing cabinet like my mom’s envelope system when we were younger that says insurance, dog food, restaurants, life insurance, or water bill. I want you to have that, whether it be virtual or paper.
The Personal Document Locator is almost like that gift that if you aren’t here, how’s the next person going to find that? The reason I say that is because I was extremely paranoid after Greg passed that something was going to happen to me. I was like, “Bad things happen to my family.” That was my thought process. I needed to be so organized so that the executor of my will, who is one of my good friends, knows where everything is and can take care of my babies. I was like, “Here are the decisions I want for my babies.” That Personal Document Locator is a little clip inside my mind where your basic information is.
My girlfriend, Kristen, the executor of my will, had no clue what my social security number was. Why would she? She was a good friend, but she wasn’t my mommy. Where is that information located? Where is the key to the safe deposit box? Which bank is the safe deposit box in? There are many police and fire credit unions in Philadelphia. Pick one. I’m like, “If I don’t say it, how’s she going to know? She’s going to stand there with the key and doesn’t even have a place to put those passwords.”
I was so lucky that I was the spouse who handled all of our finances. Sometimes, you can’t do anything unless you have the passwords to get into accounts. That’s that Personal Document Locator. You’re like, “Where are things? Where’s the name of my accountant? Who’s my estate attorney? Everybody, get your new six-pack if you’re a couple. That’s your will, healthcare directive, and power of attorney. It’s your six-pack. Have a party. Do your state documents. That’s important.
You need to know that you can trust these people who are going to have access to your documents. I was also going to comment that it would seem important when someone’s choosing a financial advisor during widowhood, like what you do. They need to feel very comfortable with that person’s persona, their style of communicating, and all of that. Someone like you understands what they’re going through. You have tremendous compassion and understanding. That’s important. I’ve experienced where I’ve gone through different things that a person is so dry. They’re like, “Don’t bother me with your neediness.” It can be very off-putting when you’re grieving.
I often say, too, if I’m putting on my financial advisor hat that I’m not the match for everybody. Maybe it is that I move fast. Maybe it is that I am an optimist who worries. Maybe it is that I’m someone who mommies you through. I’m making sure you do those next steps. Maybe you need someone who gives you more of a wide birth. That’s okay. My job is to make sure that you know about the financial process. That’s what that book was for, too. It’s how to find that financial advisor and how to have the people you love make those first calls, so you don’t have to. It’s hard to share your story a few weeks after a loss.
I love that you give people advice for that. That’s wonderful.
There are checklists and everything. If I can make it organized and systematized and you can follow a checklist, do it. That’s because then, we can put our brains on pause and follow the checklist. We can hand it to our wagon train or the people that are helping us and be like, “Can you call these 5 advisors and give me the 2 you think I should talk to.” Trust their judgment. Don’t put them in charge of it if you don’t trust their judgment. That’s how you free yourself up so that maybe you can take a bubble bath, stick on some earplugs, and listen to an audiobook.
You’ve got an inspiring story about working with your client, Marie, which is probably a great way to show how you work with people and how they benefit from your work. So could you share that with us?
Yeah. Marie had lost her spouse through a long battle with cancer. She was a caregiver. She was spending all of her time, and he kept reassuring her that she was going to be fine. He was like, “Financially, you’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about it.” She took that as truth. After he passed, she was numb. Paperwork would come in and it would get put on a dining room table. She wouldn’t take action on it. She’d get a reminder saying, “You only have a two-year period. How do we do this?”
I got connected with her through a friend of a friend who knew I specialized in this. He talked to her as a widow. He was like, “We need her to start making those next steps. It’s been a while,” and I did. It wasn’t a perfect fit. It was almost as if she engaged with me as a financial advisor. She was going to have to start actioning these things.
It felt so much better to live with her husband’s words if he was going to be okay and not dig into that box of paperwork, organize herself, and find out, “You are going to be okay,” or, “You’re not.” She didn’t want to find out if it was a yes or a no. It was a yes. Let’s say it’s a yes. When I talked about organizing and I talked about the Personal Document Locator, which came in with a box of paperwork. We sat there. We got a coffee and an herbal tea and we took the time.
There was a shred pile, and there was a keep pile. There was a we-have-to-understand-more-pile. In further visits, we’d go through those piles again because something that we went through becomes the shred pile. I often say to grievers, “Do that with the clothing. If you don’t want to give away the lost spouse’s clothing or your mom’s clothing, start with those piles.” You’re then like, “What’s a definite keep? It’s emotional. I got to keep it.”
We can do that with paperwork, too. What’s a, “I got to hold onto that one. It’s too important.” We would start to organize. For the end-all-be-all, she’s fine. She’s going to be on her own two feet. We talked a lot about budgeting and income flows. It’s so that she could know when he said, “We’re going to be okay.” Did it take some effort? Was he the most organized? No. Did he have good intentions? He did.
The beauty of that relationship is 1) Seeing her flourish and 2) The person that connected us dropped a note at my house that said, “Thank you for taking care of her. It’s a different person. We’ve got her back.” That’s why I wake up. That’s why I don’t mind spending the extra time going through those boxes and being polite. Sometimes, you bump into things that they don’t want to share with their financial advisor. It’s in a box. You have to be polite. I’m like, “I’m going into confession here. Whatever happens in this conference room stays here.” That’s it.
She has brought the next generation. She was like, “Can you teach my daughter about understanding her employer’s benefit? She graduated college. What’s a 401(k)?” To be able to know that this person is trusting financial education to the next generation of women, none alone, because she didn’t have that financial education herself, generational. That’s a win.
She passed it forward, which is even better. That’s fabulous. I also wanted to ask you about, you describe in your book a journey of forgiveness that you experienced the third year after Greg transitioned. Forgiveness is such a big subject, especially when it comes to people who are widowed. Would you like to say a few words about that?
Yeah. I’ve alluded to it earlier. I was angry. I missed him terribly. He was only 42. We had gotten to America. That’s the life I wanted to live and raise my kids. He changed the plans. We were that couple that had a happy marriage. I was like, “We were the ones that were going to make it. I was very positive about that.”
I had to step back and understand it’s not about forgiveness for me and Greg. I can step out of myself and be like, “I understand it. It was depression. I understand why people take their lives, the journey, the path, and how I can help people in the future.” Personally, you can still stamp your feet sometimes. I had to sit and be like, “I cannot control what God does. I cannot control what anyone else does. I can only control what I do.” That’s where the forgiveness came in.
I didn’t want to walk around angry at him. I wanted to walk around celebrating him. I wanted my new friends to know how great he was. That’s when it changed when I realized like, “I’m on this journey. I have a second chance in this whole world. I’m still young. I’ve got these three babies to make into incredible humans. That’s going to be my best gift on this earth. How do I do that if I’m walking around mad that this happened to me?”
It’s not only that, but you’re not being a good role model for your kids because they’re going to think that no matter what happens in life, they have to hold onto that. They can’t move forward.
That was it. Every morning, I say to myself, “I have a fresh 24 hours. What are we going to do with it?” I’ve got to forgive myself for what I did, the 24 hours passed. There’s a lot of forgiveness I have to give myself. I carry some baggage. I’m like, “I have to forgive myself. This is a fresh 24 hours. What am I going to do with it?” I can only control myself, my outlook, and the experience I want for my kids, my clients, and my family. Sometimes, that’s realizing, too, that I forgive myself that I can’t change others.
You have an eight-week virtual recovery support group. Tell us about that because that sounds like a positive, constructive thing for people to participate in. Also, let us know. How can the members of our audience connect with you? Do you have a special offer for them?
Yes. The Grief Recovery Method that I do in person since 2020, we’ve been able to do on Zoom. We’re offering new Zoom classes. They’re limited to eight members. Why? It’s because it is small group-oriented. We want to make sure that these groups build that foundation within one another. If it gets a little bigger than eight on Zoom, I can’t control that. It’s a very nice, intimate process. It’s 2 hours a week for 1 day and the same night. You can find any information on that on my website for the book. It’s www.Widow-Wisdom.com, or go to The Grief Recovery Method. There are microsites.
It’s mostly an emotional support group with a little financial flavor thrown in occasionally.
I ooze talking about money, but this is going to be The Grief Recovery Method. It’s a little separate. I do have a podcast, too, which is called Widow, Wisdom, & Wealth. That’s where you’ll start to get that financial flavor in light of family transitions or divorce. For some time, I stayed away from the divorcees because I was like, “I do go with widows. I don’t know how to do this divorce thing.” Their grief is so different and sometimes so hard to progress with because it’s ongoing.
I knew where I stood after Greg passed. I knew it was a hard journey, but my finances were stuck in time. Divorcees are still impacted by someone else. That’s where I started working with divorcees, too. It’s being able to ride that wave of ever-changing and being able to prepare for the, “What might happen?” It is those rainy day funds and things like that.
You can find the podcast Widow, Wisdom & Wealth on Google, Spotify, and Apple. That’s where we bridge that grief and the finance talk together. There is a free group out there, too. On the virtual groups, there is a fee for the virtual groups out there. That’s a requirement for The Grief Recovery Method, but I offer scholarships. If that’s something you can’t afford, please reach out to me. It’s Donna@Widow-Wisdom.com. We’ll see what we can do. The Grief Recovery Method is not therapy. It’s a linear transition of your timeline that can help you improve your relationships moving forward. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. That’s what it is.
Is that your special offer? Do you have anything else that you want to tell everyone about?
Yeah. We have the free download of the Personal Document Locator. If anybody wants to talk in reference to the finance stuff, you can go ahead and talk to me on Sephton Financial. I do no-charge discovery sessions for an hour and a half. I say, “I’ll point you in the right direction.” You’ll come out knowing something you didn’t know.
That’s fantastic. What is your important message about the importance of healing? You’ve done a lot of that. How does that Grief Recovery Method help to turn those lemons into lemonade for people?
My message out there is to find what works for you. The Grief Recovery Method fit for me. I am that Statistics major, that linear person, and that cold Brit, because my dad was from Britain, who cries at anything. I got to unleash through it. That worked for me, but maybe it doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe you need one-on-one. Maybe you need a dart league. Find what works for you and keep that as yours. Not everyone needs to know your magic solution. It’s okay. Don’t stop. Keep the community around you, but find what works for you.
Find something that works for you because you do not have to stay in pain all the time. You can move through it, and we both know that. What is your important tip for finding joy in life?
I will go back to my 24 hour-rule. It’s that and the second husband who’s cute. He’s awesome.
We got to talk about that tidbit.
That’s another episode. He’s adorable inside and out. It is the 24 hours. It was author Joe Vitale that shared this. It was, “To lay in bed for a little bit in the morning and say to yourself and your inner self or that inner soul, “Thank you. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” I lay in bed and do that for a good five minutes in my head to refocus myself on, “I have this moment. I have the soul that I have inside of me. This is the journey we’re on together. To my soul, thank you. I love you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry because we’re not perfect.”
We’re going through this lifetime. We have lots of things that we’re learning all the time. This is our journey. That’s true. Your book, A Guide to Widowhood: Navigating the First Three Years, provides such a valuable resource that helps grieving people navigate those challenging years of widowhood. Thank you. I mean that. Thank you for being such an admirable role model and guide for this incredibly difficult challenge that no one ever wishes to face. I thank you from my heart for this comforting, insight-stilled, and empowering interview.
Here’s a loving reminder. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you’re watching on YouTube, click Subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode. As I like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now. Thank you so much.
Thank you for this opportunity. It’s been glorious.
Thank you so much. To be continued.
- Donna’s book: A Guide to Widowhood: Navigating the First Three Years
- For more information on navigating widowhood, visit the Widow and Wisdom Website
- Follow Widow and Wisdom on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
- Widow, Wisdom & Wealth™ with Donna Kendrick on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts
- Claim your FREE Personal Document Locator
- Reach out to Donna via email
- Visit the Sephton Financial website
- Irene Weinberg on Instagram
- Irene Weinberg on Facebook
- Irene Weinberg on Twitter
- Irene Weinberg – Grief, Rebirth + Healing Podcast on YouTube
About Donna Kendrick
Donna Kendrick will never forget that “Omgosh, what just happened?!?!” moment when she discovered her husband Greg passed away suddenly in November 2013. During her time of grieving Donna quickly realized that she had stepped into a new role overnight, one where she had to take control of her family’s finances in order to keep life consistent for her and her kids.
Important family decisions came on real soon and real quick, and Donna had to figure out how to navigate this new season in her life, which meant finding the professional resources to help.
Like the Tilt-a-Whirl on a seaside boardwalk or carnival, the world feels “spinny” after a loss. Now Donna has made it her life’s work to help other widows and widowers navigate their own financial decisions in the first days, weeks and months of widowhood… and the years to follow.