Beyond benefits.gov, reviewed on Grants For Widows With Children, you can also find some valuable resources by investigating some government options such as Social Security directly.
Social Security: You can explore potential social security benefits without filling out the lengthy form at benefits.gov.
To do so you simply make an appointment with a local office. Then you can learn more about Social Security Survivor Benefits. You can also discover Additional Options For Widows With Children below.
Social Security Survivor Benefits have the advantage of being tax-free. And the Social Security Administration actually does a good job providing support.
You can find your nearest office and make an appointment by calling the central Social Security telephone number at 1-800-772-1213.
When you go to your appointment be sure to bring all necessary documentation such as your spouse's death certificate, social security numbers for all family members, your bank account information, and more. Rest assured that the person you speak with will tell you exactly what you will need to have available, so you can be sure to be well prepared for your meeting. Listen carefully and make a list.
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Of course make sure that you collect any life insurance that is coming to you. If you and your spouse purchased life insurance through an agent you should contact that company immediately to collect. But don’t forget that there may also be a policy as part of your spouse’s employment. Contact the Human Resources office if they have not already contacted you to find out what is the procedure to collect. And if there is a close friend or relative who could help you through this please don’t be afraid to ask — they would probably love to be able to be helpful. When you are grieving there is not only deep sorrow but also physical symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. So it can be a big help to have another set of ears listening when people are advising you or explaining things to you.
Social Security Though it may be a small comfort it could make all the difference in the world to your finances. When a working spouse dies, his or her widow(er) and minor aged children will receive benefits (as long as the spouse is taking care of the children and has not remarried). So be sure you are aware of this fact and take steps to ensure that you are receiving the benefits you should be from the Social Security Administration. Don't assume that things will be taken care of automatically. The SSA is actually quite good about helping out with problems and talking to you (yes, in our experience you can get a human on the phone).
Don’t forget about scholarships! They can be a huge help getting through college without a ton of debt! And there actually are some scholarships specifically for those who have lost a parent. Some are specific to the way in which the parent died, so it’s worthwhile searching using the specific cause. Others may be specific to a particular college or university. For example, if the mother is deceased and died as a result of breast cancer or related complications, check out the MaryEllen Locher Foundation. If you live in or near Illinois, or you’re willing to go to school in Illinois (especially if you get a scholarship!) take a look at the Aretta J. Graham scholarship that you might be able to get at the U. of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, College of ACES.
Personal Help: If you find yourself distraught, isolated and exhausted, that is not fun but it’s also not unusual. And while you may need some time to yourself it’s important eventually to express your feelings to those who love and care about you. Don’t shut them out. If your grief seems to be lasting for too long then counseling can be surprisingly effective. And do give yourself time, as you have suffered such a major blow. If you have a church where you feel at home, do attend. And if you don’t have a church you may want to find one. Many of them have groups which help people who are grieving a loss.
Update April 2019
Looking for support without dwelling totally on sadness? The “Modern Widows Club” is a nonprofit serving widows like you. They emphasize that they are not a so-called “grief group” — though grief is a part of their lives they are not stuck in it. They draw energy from the memory of their spouse and make the most of life and help have a positive impact on others. They have active chapters in cities across the country and you can get more details at the modern widows club website. You can also learn more about how to start your own chapter to the Modern Widows Club.
A few pieces of advice to help you especially in the initial stages of widowhood: First, if your loss is recent and you received - or expect to receive - a large insurance payment, beware. The word will be out in the world of insurance and investment companies and you may be hounded by people who want you to put that money into annuities. They tend to be very aggressive because sales commissions of annuities are very high. And they are NOT the best investment you can make, so don’t be taken in (even though they make it sound really good). If you can find an investment advisor you can trust and spend some un-rushed time with him or her, that would be ideal. Perhaps you can find a local or online support group, or try SoaringSpirits.org or GriefNet.org both for support and for local referrals.
- Business Assistance: Sometimes business assistance programs will give preference to women and to widows supporting children. Learn more about how to find financial assistance for your business at Grants For Business. If you have a good business idea and need help to pursue it, discover more about a relatively recent phenomenon called Microfinancing. Organizations offering microfinance loans for new small business ventures often provide training and other support in addition to financial help. And, they are particularly geared to support ventures launched by those without much money and without access to traditional funding sources like banks.
- Foundations and Other Private Institutions: There are a handful of private groups who provide financial and other help to widows. Some have very narrow eligibility requirements so you may or may not qualify. For starters, and for widespread availability and accessibility, try getting involved with a local church if you are not already. You may not be “religious” or you may have had bad experiences with church but there are warm, welcoming and inclusive churches out there who might provide some support. The pastors would also be familiar with local agencies and places of assistance.
widowshope.org is dedicated to providing support for widows, widowers and their children. From “First Steps” to emotional support to a helpful checklist for those recently widowed (as well as for their friends and family), this site can provide some important information and direction. They provide lists of resources, have a blog that can be especially good for the emotionally distressed, a special section for teens and kids, and more.
Perhaps a difficult but useful piece of advice is not to feel you have to be brave and keep your feelings to yourself. Even Sheryl Sandberg,COO of Facebook who lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly several years ago, is learning how tough life can be as a widow and mother. She has tempered some of her advice in her book “Lean In” and now encourges others to deal with their feelings in part by being real and to share their grief rather than putting on a happy face. Ms. Sandberg has also written and posted about her grief publicly and believes it has helped other executives to be more open about personal issues.
An organization called “Acts of Simple Kindness, Inc.” is a non-profit that offers grants to children up to age 18. They do this so that thethese kids can participate in extracurricular activities in a number of areas and not miss out because of financial hardship de to the loss of a parent. They focus on the area of Maricopa County, Arizona. But don’t stop reading: regardless of where you are they may provide referrals or information that could give you ideas about starting a nonprofit or figuring out where to look or what to do to get some extra help supporting your children.
For more formal foundation help, try thelizlogelinfoundation.org (LLF) if it has been less than a year since the death of your spouse. They give out grants to qualifying families to help alleviate the tough financial situation many widows and widowers find themselves in. There is of course a lot of demand since it's estimated (by the U.S. Census Bureau) that at least 267,000 men and women aged 39 or less are widowed. Most (over 80%) of those whom LLF supports had no life insurance. The grants LLF awards are not formally tracked and can be used for whatever the family needs. You simply fill out an application in order to apply for a grant.
You can also apply to tedlilndmanoutreachfoundation.org if you happen to live in Pennsylvania in Bucks or Montgomery Counties. Also see forthekidsfoundation.org and click on “Request Assistance.”
- Housing: Though the government is not giving anybody free grants to purchase a home, there is quite a bit of assistance available in this area. Your local federal Department of Housing and Urban Development agency office would be a good place to start. They have counselors available to assist you with all aspects of buying or keeping a home, and their services are free to the homeless. If there is any charge for their services, they will be minimal and the counselors must tell you up front what their services will cost. Learn more about what help may be available and how to get it at Government Grants To Purchase A Home.