Ashley Contributes to Award Winning Paper on Widows, Grief, and Money

May 4, 2022. By Ashley Agnew:

Widows represent one of the fastest-growing demographics due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since statistically it is typically the husband that controls household finances in most marriages, many widows also lose their family’s financial manager when they lose their spouse. As a result, the widow can experience unhealthy attitudes towards finances and financial anxiety on top of what can be overwhelming grief. It is easy to see why so many turn to avoiding money altogether to cope with the new role and identity that comes with widowhood.

In our work with clients families, we often assist widows through the challenge of such loss. It can be difficult to move through important financial decisions while feeling so numbed by grief, change, and a flood of financial decisions occurring simultaneously. During my time in the Financial Therapy Graduate Certificate Program at Kansas State University I had the opportunity to meet fellow practitioners from across the mental health, financial services, and personal coaching fields of practice who are also passionate about helping widows in planning through grief. Together we formed a research team and presented our research and adapted model to the financial therapy world in our paper titled “When Money Can’t Be Avoided: Helping Money Avoidant Widows Using the Changes and Grief Model” which was published in the Journal of Financial Therapy. 

The Changes and Grief Model for Financial Guidance pairs financial therapy techniques and inquiry methods, such as The Work of Byron Katie®, with the grief process and the change cycle. Using this model enables financial practitioners, mental health practitioners, and financial therapists to recognize the stage of grief the widow is experiencing and use the proper financial therapy modalities to support the money-avoidant widow. The model provides the process to deepen client relationships through meaningful communication while compassionately supporting money-avoidant widows through financial decisions during the difficult initial stages of grief.

Often the advice given after a financial event like divorce or loss is to ‘do nothing’ for the first year to avoid impulsivity, yet there are many important decisions that need to be made in that time to responsibly settle the estate and set a financial plan to move forward. Our goal in writing this paper was to help practitioners and clients move forward thinking both outside and within the numbers. The theory was well received in the financial therapy community and won the Best Paper Award at the 2021 National Financial Therapy Association Annual Conference.  We had the privilege of presenting at the conference as well.

While the research is geared more toward practitioners and is academic in its style, we welcome you to read further if you are looking for some insight regarding helping loved ones through the financial challenges of spousal loss. Click Here to Read the Full Paper.  It was such a pleasure and an honor to work alongside Deb Finnegan Biever, Nipa Patel, Daniel Kopp, Jodi Krausman, and Dr. Megan McCoy in co-authorship.