The untimely death of a spouse/partner places a huge financial burden on most families, but financial advisors can play an invaluable role in helping parents find their financial footing, according to a nationwide survey.

The New York Life Foundation, New York, published this finding from a poll of 548 parents who lost a spouse/partner and who still had children under the age of 19 living at home. The online poll was conducted between July and October 5 by the national polling firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. 

The research was conducted under the auspices of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, an organization of bereavement centers. The research was underwritten by a grant from the New York Life Foundation.

Nearly six of 10 (58%) bereaved parents agree that “losing my spouse has significantly impacted our standard of living.” And half are “not prepared” for the financial impact of losing their spouse/partner, the survey finds.

Grief’s impact is both lasting and profound, the survey indicates. 

Nine of 10 parents say the death of their spouse/partner is “the worst thing that has ever happened” to them.  Nearly eight of 10 say they think about their deceased spouse/partner every day. And 70% indicate they would “give up a year of my life for one more day with my departed spouse.”

“Clients who have lost a spouse can be overcome by raw emotion, but talking about the death of a loved one can be healing and therapeutic,” said Larry Bennett, a New York Life agent based in Brea, Calif.  “It’s an important and necessary conversation to have.”

Nearly everything involving money—either on their own behalf or on behalf of their kids—is harder to manage following the loss of a parent, the report finds. 

Two-thirds of parents indicated it was harder to “put money away.”  Nearly six in 10 reported trouble managing household finances and just as many had a more difficult time “finding some money to spend on myself.”

Beyond day-to-day living expenses, those surveyed also found it harder to save money for their children’s education (62%), to get affordable health care (48%) and to obtain/get more life insurance (30%).

Two-thirds of those surveyed did not have a professional financial advisor at the time of their spouse’s death, although 63% “wish they did.”  Once someone had lost a spouse/partner, nearly half (46%) found it harder to find someone they can trust to give them financial advice.

But the survey notes that a financial advisor can make a significant difference for parents and families coping with loss’ financial ramifications.  While only one-third of those surveyed had a financial advisor at the time of their spouse’s death, the majority of those said that having an advisor to deal with financial matters was “very helpful.”

While timely financial advice is invaluable, just being supportive of the bereaved can help deeply for, as the New York Life poll indicates, the grieving process is often made even more complicated by the remaining spouse’s interactions with friends and community.