Helping Grieving Clients

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Practice Management

Helping Grieving Clients

Kristan Wojnar, RCC™ May 27, 2019

Helping clients who are grieving just might be one of the single biggest challenges with which financial advisors are confronted. It is always hard to find the right words to say and to know the right way to act.
Everyone handles grief differently. Grieving is not a linear process. It is very volatile. Your grieving clients are likely just trying to get through day-by-day dealing with the loss of their loved one and navigating a flood of different emotions. They may feel numb, depressed, angry, shocked, anxious or fearful.

There are certainly no rules about how people mourn. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to grief. Chances are just when your client feels like he or she is taking a step forward, they can quickly take three steps back.

Anne Roiphe, American writer and journalist said, “Grief is in two parts. The first is a loss. The second is the remaking of life.”

How can you help your grieving clients through their loss and help them remake their new life?

Be sure to visit the Practice Management to learn about more ways of growing your advisory practice.


Be Available

Attend the funeral or memorial service for your client’s loved one. Often, financial advisors do not attend the funeral or service because they may not feel it is appropriate or they feel like they don’t know what to do or say. Simply being present is appreciated by your grieving clients.

After attending the service or funeral, be available for your grieving client. If it is a death of a spouse, there will be time-sensitive issues you will need to handle with them right away. However, do not rush any other financial decisions immediately.

Meet where it is most comfortable for them. Consider going to their home versus having them come to your office.


Acknowledge Their Emotions

When you meet with them, acknowledge their emotions and demonstrate empathy. Many advisors worry about saying the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on what to say, focus on listening. The most important thing you can do is listen attentively.

When you do talk, however, it is best to avoid using cliché statements. Don’t say things like, “He or she is in a better place” or “time heals all wounds.”

Instead say something like, “I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am here to listen. Would you like to talk about it?” Then follow their lead.


Ask Open-Ended Questions

Amy Florian, grief specialist and CEO of Corgenius, teaches financial advisors powerful skills to effectively walk clients through the grieving process during the toughest times of their lives.

Florian says that grieving clients have a difficult time answering the question, “how are you?” Instead, she suggests asking questions like:

  • What kind of day is it today? Has it been up, down or all over the place?
  • What is happening in your life right now?
  • What has changed since the last time we talked?
  • What do you wish people knew about what your life is like now?

These open-ended questions give you the opportunity to uncover important information and most importantly to build their trust.


Keep Memories Alive

There is no point of closure when it comes to grieving. Your clients will never stop missing their loved ones. They will never forget them and they don’t want to forget them. Help them to keep their loved one’s memory alive.

Talk about their loved ones. Name them by name. Share your favorite memories of them. As the initial days, weeks and months pass, many people forget to check in on those who are grieving. Don’t make this mistake with your clients. Note your clients’ important dates and set reminders on your calendar that acknowledge anniversaries, birthdays and other significant occasions honoring their loved ones.

Continue to show them you care. Send them cards occasionally with an inspirational quote telling them you are thinking of them. Send them a gift card to a coffee shop, flowers or a plant to brighten their day. Drop off a meal unexpectedly for them. Continuing to demonstrate you are in their thoughts will go a long way.


Go Slowly

During your clients initial grieving period, they may not be thinking as clearly as they typically do. Grieving can cause the brain to function differently. While they may be hearing your words in meetings with you, they may not necessarily remember what you are telling them.

Go slowly in all of your meetings. Don’t rush. Frequent meetings that are shorter in length may be far more appropriate than one or two extremely long meetings. Be sure to summarize all of your meetings with a printout of bullet points and next steps. Tell them you will call them prior to your next meeting to remind them of action items.


Resources

Amy Florian of Corgenius is also the author of a book titled No Longer Awkward. This is an excellent resource for financial advisors seeking guidance on working with grieving clients. Her company website also offers tremendous tools and articles at corgenius.com.

Life After Grief Consulting, founded by Christopher Dale, a CFP from Florida, is another company that teaches financial advisors how to speak to grieving clients and how to eliminate the fear of unpreparedness when facing clients dealing with grief. Lifeaftergriefconsulting.com also offers tools to help advisors become more comfortable, prepared and confident when working with grieving clients.


The Bottom Line

Being there for grieving clients during the most difficult period of their lives will deepen your relationship and trust with them. Do everything you can to make them feel comfortable and to help them remake their new lives without their loved ones.

Help them to move forward and remind them that although they may feel alone, they are not.

Don’t forget to visit the News section to stay up to date with the latest news from the mutual fund investing world.


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