Grief is a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. C.S. Lewis
Chapter Four – New Identity
This is not one of the official seven steps of grieving, but in today’s society you can’t do much without the proper I.D. Once the funeral was over, even while I was disorganized and desperately trying to recapture my thinking power, a new role and a new job were thrust upon me. I was no longer John’s wife. I was now John’s widow. My job was to shut down everything that was in John’s name and let the world know he was dead. Then I had to establish my new identity as the sole owner of all that we had owned jointly.
I was next of kin and executrix and I got lots of professional help.
The lawyer took over the will and transferred property.
The funeral home gave me ten death certificates and CPP forms so I could get death benefits. They said they would help me if I ran into difficulties but I managed to do it alone and was approved for death benefits.
Government pensions were my next job. Both the provincial and federal pension office were already aware of John’s death when I phoned them. I don’t know who told them, but they weren’t wasted calls. Both offices acted very caring and sympathetic.
John had lived in England until he was 30 and got what they refer to as a “works pension”, a government pension like CPP. It started when he turned 65 and as well as John getting his English retirement pension, I got a spouse pension although I have never lived or worked in England. That was sheer good luck, because he was born prior to May 1935, it was assumed he would have an unelaborated wife and be the sole bread winner, so his wife would need a spouse’s pension. If men were born after 1935 they would have more liberated wives who would presumably pay into their own “works pension”.
We used to laugh about this. John’s sister, who is older than I am, married a man who was just a few months too young to give her a spouse’s pension. Although she never worked and lived in England all her life, making lunches for him during his working years, she did not quality for a spouse’s pension or the follow-up widow’s pension whereas I did.
John’s pension and mine were directly deposited into the local bank.
I phoned the pensions an overseas Benefits Directories to Emplaned to inform them of John’s death. A kind, young man instantly asked, “Are you all right?” He acted like I was his granny. He took details wand said, “We owe you money. I’ll get right on to that.” All I had to do was mail a death certificate. Then, before I could get my widow’s pension, I had to have a life certificate notarized so they could be sure I was still alive. An officer of the bank could sign it, and did so for free.
John’s death benefits arrived and England will be sending me a small widow’s pension for the rest of my life. I look upon it as a reward for marrying an older man.
Next came my identity. I have been a very unliberated wife. John and I were always together and his identity worked for both of us. I’ve never even driven so I needed photo ID. I went to the registry office, got my photo taken, and paid $49 to get photo ID that looks like a drivers’ license at first glance.
I also needed a new passport. John’s passport is still valid, but mine had expired. I found prices had really shot up. It cost $140 for five years or $180 for ten years. I am a bargain hunter who always buys the giant economy size so I applied for a ten year passport although I had no travel plans in the near future. I am a very organised person with a place for everything and everything in its place. I couldn’t imagine travelling alone, but my passport had expires so I did what I have always done – renewed. That’s the new widow logic- robotic in action.
A trip will eventually turn up, I told myself, so I should be ready for it. To get my money’s worth I must live for another ten years or more until I see John again. I cried.
When I had my photo ID and passport, the girl at the registry office said, “Now you are a person.” Before I had gotten by as a person’s wife. Now money matters reared their ugly head. The bank helped me adjust from joint account to single account. I had to ask lots of questions as I took over the bank book and credit cards, but I found everyone very helpful.
Credit cards proved easy but time consuming. Call the 800 number on the back of the credit card. Give all details and answer all questions. Mail the death certificate. Then, since he was the primary cardholder, I had to apply for a card in my own name. Some cards transferred cash back and reward points. One would not, so I never applied for that card. It was obvious they do it often.
I still have the phone and utilities in John’s name. I like to see his name on the bills. It’s like he’s still here in spirit. I pay the bills at the bank and there have been no problems so far.
I have met a widow who left all the financial business to family members, but I am glad I looked after things myself. Everyone acted kind and sympathetic and poor strangers politely listened to me as I no doubt rattled on with non essential details. It helped me pull ahead along a few steps further in my grief journey.
It really boosted my self confidence to know I had photo ID and credit cards in my name. I was ready to tackle anything on my own now. I was a person, who could stand alone. I remember thinking John would approve. He would say,” You did good all on your own.”