Navigating Loss

An area often overlooked is the intermix of grief and money.  Coping with a loss can present challenges when managing money and making important financial decisions. This isn’t a topic most of us like to think about, or even talk about.  Grief could be encountered during any loss (divorce, job loss, family conflict, terminal illness, or death) and recognizing the potential stages can be useful in navigating what’s next.

The concept of the “7 Stages of Grief” was popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying,” published in 1969.  These stages describe a series of emotional responses that individuals may go through when facing their own terminal illness or the death of a loved one. As with most emotional experiences, everyone has their own journey.  Many may experience grief differently or not incur all the stages. For some, stages could be combined, or may not occur in linear order.

The stages are as follows:

1. Shock and Denial: The initial reaction to loss is often shock and disbelief.  It may be challenging to accept the reality of the situation, leading to temporary denial of the loss.

2. Anger: Feelings of anger, frustration, resentfulness, or injustice of the loss may lead to someone feeling anger towards others, themselves, or even the deceased.

3. Bargaining: In this stage, individuals may try to make deals with a higher power or fate to reverse the loss.  They may believe that if they do or don’t do certain things, the outcome could be changed.

4. Depression: Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and a deep sense of loss may arise.  This stage could be a time of emptiness, or lack of interest in normal activities that were once enjoyable.

5. Acceptance: In this stage, the individual starts to come to terms with the reality of the loss.  They begin to understand that the loss is permanent and adjust to life without their loved one.

6. Testing: There could be a stage of testing or exploring when a person may try to find a new way of living or seek support from others to cope with the loss.

7. Finding Meaning: In this stage, an individual may work toward finding meaning in the loss.  They may seek to integrate the experience into their lives and find a sense of purpose amid grief.

Ultimately, a non-financial loss could lead to a financial one if not managed properly.  While this article is not meant to be all encompassing or address every situation, here are some financial checklists that may come in useful for the three big “D” events that could accompany grief:




As Financial Planners, we can often be on the list of “who to call” or we may get involved somewhere in the middle of the financial upheaval that results from a non-financial loss.   If you have a need to develop or update your financial plan, we’d be happy to help you.



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Pittenger & Anderson, Inc. does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.  Additionally, the information presented here is not intended to be a recommendation to buy or sell any specific security.  To learn more about our firm and investment approach, check out our Form ADV.


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Since 1995, Pittenger & Anderson has guided individuals and families going through money-in-motion events. We are a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor and a full-time fiduciary providing investment management, financial planning, and complimentary services to 800+ clients in over 30 U.S. states.

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