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“Done Procrastinating” – How the Loss of a Loved One Looks and Feels for Those Left Behind

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Here at AgingOptions we like to share articles that tell a familiar tale in an unconventional way. That was our reaction to this touching and poignant article from the Washington Post just last week. At first, we weren’t sure how applicable the message in the column, written by writer Emily Maloney, would be to AgingOptions blog readers and radio listeners, but as we read further, we felt Maloney’s message carries a powerful reminder to every one of us.

The question we found ourselves asking was, “If we could see how our death might affect those left behind, would we do a better job preparing for our eventual passing?”

Trying to Cope After an Unexpected Loss

Maloney lost a beloved, aging aunt to tragic circumstances just a few months ago. “Recently, we unexpectedly lost a member of our extended family,” she writes. “She was there, and then she wasn’t. Now she is gone, and we are trying to figure out what to do next. We thought we had more time with her.” By her own admission, Maloney has never been particularly organized or driven. “I’ve never done well with New Year’s resolutions. Like everyone else, I think about doing them for 10 minutes and then find something else to do,” she writes. “I think of myself as the kind of woman who, if only I were better organized or had less ADHD, could really make a difference in everything I do.”

But the sudden loss of her aunt has triggered an unexpected reaction in Maloney. “Suddenly, inexplicably, I have become a now person,” she says. “I want to do everything I need to do, right away.” She adds, “Maybe it feels wrong or weird to think about mortality in this way, but there is something about losing a member of your extended family that makes you think.” Becoming someone who is actively doing things instead of chronically putting them off, she writes, “helps stem our grief.” As we read her words, we can imagine how someone we love might react if we were suddenly taken from them.

The Gift of Being Organized

One of the great gifts Maloney’s aunt left behind for her family was the gift of being organized. “We are grateful that all her doctor’s appointments and other obligations were taped up inside one of her kitchen cabinets, that it was easy to find everything because it was clearly labeled,” she writes in the Washington Post article. “We didn’t waste a lot of time pawing through things unnecessarily. Everything was organized, enabling everyone to find what they needed in what was otherwise a time of absolute crisis. That’s a hard final gift to give someone, but she gave it to all of us.” Having walked alongside thousands of families dealing with the loss of someone dear to them, we have seen the difference between the stress of dealing with a mass of disorganization and the peace of mind that loved ones can experience when things are in order and plans have been carefully made. There may be no greater gift that you can leave behind for your family than a well-ordered estate and a solid, comprehensive plan.

It Doesn’t Pay to Put it Off

Based on her personal experience of loss, Maloney writes with conviction. “Having spent weeks looking through [my aunt’s] personal effects, hoping to find what is needed to complete various tasks, I can say it doesn’t pay to wait to organize this stuff.” A few basic examples:

  • Make sure you have a will.
  • Make sure you have explained what you want to happen when you die.
  • Make sure you update the beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement accounts.

“Is your 401(k) beneficiary your ex or your deadbeat brother? Change it now. Don’t think about any of these tasks too much (that’s always my problem). Try just doing instead. You might surprise yourself. I know I did.”

Summing up her feelings, Maloney says, “Sometimes, a change in perspective is all you need. For me, it was our unexpected loss. We’re still grieving. Everything feels urgent and important.” Still, the take-away from this Washington Post column for us – and, we hope, for you – is the importance of blessing your loved ones by planning now for the day when you’re no longer here. Her aunt, says Maloney, “taught us a valuable lesson: In being organized, you’re better connected to the people who matter most.”

The Best Preparation: a LifePlan

This touching remembrance of a beloved aunt is a strong reminder of the importance of preparation. When you use the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan to chart the course for your retirement future, you’re also laying the groundwork for a great blessing that your loved ones will experience after you pass on, as they see how well-ordered your affairs have been. A LifePlan blends together financial planning, housing options, a legal strategy, your medical coverage and a communication plan involving those closest to you – all the essential elements of retirement living. You’ll be able to navigate through all the phases of aging with assurance and security, creating the retirement you’ve always hoped for, and leaving a well-prepared estate behind one day in the future. Remember, too, that retirement planning isn’t about dying, but about living your days to the fullest. Having a LifePlan in place will build confidence and peace of mind.

Why not invest a few hours and find out more? We offer free LifePlanning Seminars with Rajiv Nagaich at locations throughout the region. Visit our Live Events page for a current calendar, or give us a call. The key to a brighter future for you and those you love is a LifePlan from AgingOptions. Age on!

(originally reported at

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