Passwords – Keep Private or Share?

In the UK’s Saturday Guardian, Adam Golightly writes an anonymous column (Widower of the Parish) recounting his challenges each week as a new widower and father to two children, since his wife Helen died in early April.

This week, he faced another apparently small, but in experience huge, problem.

The one of passwords.

In my work, I highly advise my clients to share their passwords with another significant person. Yes, I know you are not supposed to do this. Yes, I know it is risky. Yes, they too may die.

But the fact is, when you are newly bereaved there are a lot of things that prove a challenge and emotionally upsetting and draining that could have been taken care of beforehand (assuming the death has not come out of the blue).

Here’s what Adam Golightly had to say on this, and what prompted me to write this blogpost:

“Later, sitting at 2am in front of the school website, I realise I have none of Helen’s passwords to make sure the kids can buy school dinners when they return. Amid the sense of helplessness, I wonder whether I should write a book, A Sad Dad’s Homemaker Guide to the Bleeding Obvious. Any takers?”

How can your heart not go out to this man?  The small but simple fact of not being easily able to purchase his kids’ school dinners online. It seems insignificant in the bigger scheme of things, and it is, on the one hand.

Many sticky notes with the passwords written on them as reminders

Many sticky notes with the passwords written on them as reminders

On the other, something like this can be the cause for being engulfed in tears once more.

Not knowing a password is not only practically difficult, but it highlights the loss.

It highlights the aching gap that person has left in your life.

It highlights the utter awfulness of it all.

I know this because although my husband and I had had ‘The Big Conversation’ – I already knew his passwords for various bank accounts – this made it easy to access online and do some of the myriad transactions that are required after a death.

But we hadn’t taken care of everything.

I was beside myself with despair and in tears one day when I realized I didn’t know how to properly work the TV. It seems so mad that; but I had rarely watched it and he watched sport often.

When I was suddenly alone in the house, with long dark evenings to fill, with the silence around me which I had previously loved now being almost oppressive, I turned to the TV.

Hours of watching undemanding lighthearted programmes felt impossible when I couldn’t think straight enough to get the telly to work. Eventually, feeling silly, I reached out to a friend who helped me work out how to get the damn thing switched on.

You are never going to avoid completely the agony of losing someone you love – nor would you want to.

That pain is in direct proportion to the extent of your love, hence when you love and live with someone every day, it is more in your face than when you love them but they are not with you on a daily basis.

It’s not less pain, of course (depending on the relationship) but it is different if they are not part of the minute trivia of daily life (the neighbor has complained again; the rubbish needs to go out tonight; fancy a beer down the pub?)

But that agony doesn’t have to be enhanced by not knowing the practicalities.

My workbook Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die has at its core the questions Philip and I answered together before he died.

I was so very grateful for this document afterwards. It felt like it was a demonstration of his love for me.

It didn’t cover everything but since then I have learnt a lot more, did some research, worked with others on this, and have increased the questions.

Check it out here if you want to save your loved ones hassle and heartache after you die.

If you find it difficult to actually get the questions answered and down in writing, join me on a group – in person in Forres, Scotland and Totnes, England; and online starting in early August (watch out for more details soon).

But if nothing else – right now, think about who would need to know your passwords, and tell them.  You’ll save your loved one unnecessary pain, not just of school lunches, but of some things that perhaps only you and they know about.

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