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