For decades, the experts have claimed there are five stages of grief — denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. As probate attorneys, we have worked with clients at every stage. But we have also wondered if a certain stage was missing from the list. A recent essay in Vogue (of all places) confirmed our suspicions. Some researches are arguing that anxiety is a common response to grief, and that it should be recognized as an additional stage of the grieving process that many people must pass through.
“When you’re grieving, you have such a heightened awareness of the fact that we have no control over anything. It’s there that anxiety really blooms,” says Claire Bidwell Smith, LCPC, a Los Angeles–based therapist specializing in grief. And this anxiety is only exacerbated by the frantic pace of modern life and the pervasiveness of social media, which encourages us to share our grief and share in others’ grief when we might not be ready or capable of doing so — which makes us feel even worse than we already do.
Many of our estate planning and probate clients are clearly dealing with anxiety and how to process grief in a social media obsessed society, so it is good to see this is finally being addressed by medical professionals. As attorneys, we can’t treat our clients’ anxiety, or compose the perfect Instagram post to express their loss, but we can be compassionate and caring. From personal experience we know that matters almost more than anything.
We can also help those who are grieving navigate some of the tasks that may trigger anxiety. We know how to manage the mountain of paperwork that appears when a loved one dies. From death certificates and medical bills, to letters from the credit card company and everything in between, we can help sort through documents to find the important ones. We can figure out what accounts to close, and even help you to get through the process.
We also do the things that need to get done in order to start the process of sorting through the physical items that are left behind when a loved one dies. We can probate your loved one’s will so family treasures can be passed on to the rightful heirs, and everyday items that nobody needs or wants can be donated to charity or thrown out.
As attorneys, it is our job to help clients control the few things that are controllable when a loved one dies. The paperwork; the stuff; the organizations, people, and business who all need contacted are things we can do so that those who are grieving can focus on their grief and work on picking up the pieces and starting to put things back together again.