Coping with loss, incapacity, fraud and separation

Helping you to cope with the grief experienced due to loss, incapacity, fraud and separation.

Bank of Ireland teamed up with Dr David Coleman, a practising clinical psychologist and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at University College Dublin to bring you this article. Views expressed are Dr David Coleman’s own and not the views of Bank of Ireland. The article is for information purposes only.



The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful life events that can occur to us. Death can lead to a whole range of powerful emotions, like shock, deep sadness, despair, anger, hopelessness and so on. There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone dies. Despite your feelings, however, there may be many financial decisions to be made and this can create its own pressure.

  • Give yourself time when approaching financial matters, since you won’t want to make any snap decisions while your emotional world is upended.
  • Look for as much advice and support from family, friends, or financial advisers regarding things like assets, investments, and bank accounts.
  • The number of tasks that may be involved with changing things like bank accounts or household utility accounts may seem like too much to bear, when you are already emotionally overloaded by your loss, so be patient with yourself.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, then just take more time, or lean more on others. Very few decisions are so time-sensitive that they must be done immediately.
  • Acknowledge that making changes to financial accounts may underline the loss you have experienced and may lead to an upwelling of feeling. This is normal and will pass.
  • Be gentle with yourself in the recognition that you are grieving, and your grief may be more important than anything else.

Reduced Personal Capacity

There are many situations that can occur, with things like age, dementia, strokes or brain damage when someone you love may no longer be able to manage their own finances. This can be a challenging time, when you may be burdened with lots of physical care, alongside the emotional distress of missing the person they used to be. Taking care of their financial matters may be just one of many tasks you might be taking on.

  • Recognise the burden you may be experiencing and seek as much social and practical support as you can to share the load.
  • There are times it may be frustrating when dealing with organisations or companies who insist they can only talk to the person with reduced capacity and you may have to breathe deeply and dig into your reserves of patience. Try to remember that these companies are also trying to protect your loved one’s assets or privacy.
  • Be kind to yourself since you may be grieving the loss of the relationship you had with your loved one and their inability to look after their own affairs may heighten your distress at the changes you and they are experiencing.
  • Having to take on the additional responsibilities may underline your changed circumstances and that may bring its own pain.
  • Try not to overburden yourself with too many financial decisions at one time. Perhaps look to see if someone else can assist you in the changing over, or accessing, of accounts.


Phishing and Smishing scams are so prevalent on the Internet that falling foul of online fraud, in particular, is a greater danger than ever. Should you have been defrauded you may feel embarrassed to have been hoodwinked, alongside a strong sense of hurt and anger that someone could have taken advantage of you in this way.

  • Notify us as soon as possible, despite the shock or hurt you may initially feel when you realise, or suspect, you have been defrauded.
  • There is no shame in being a victim of a scam. The people targeting others in this way are very sophisticated and create scams that are designed to be believable.
  • Your goal is to protect your assets as quickly as possible, more than your pride. Minimising your potential losses may mitigate the distress you can feel about the fraud.
  • Trust is one of the key areas that may be affected by fraud, especially if the fraud was perpetrated by someone you know or knew.
  • Your sense of a loss of trust may extend to other areas of your life and you may feel increased anxiety with regard to other financial decisions, so do rely on family or very close friends to help you navigate other financial matters until your sense of trust has been re-established.


Separation from a spouse or partner can be turbulent. The reasons for the separation may have been distressing or stressful. Even when the separation is planned, it can still lead to a lot of uncertainty about the future and that can be anxiety provoking. You may find yourself missing the life you had and worrying about how the future will unfold. Separating family finances that may have been in shared accounts, for example, can be challenging. Even with separate accounts, unwinding a shared life, financially, may be difficult.

  • Seek clarity and some independent advice about what a fair division of previously shared finances is.
  • Be wary of making quick decisions as these may have long-term consequences. You may have to recognise that any decisions you do make could be challenged by your ex-partner, so having advice about those decisions can help you feel on sure footing.
  • Be prepared for likely conflict, since most couples describe separating their financial affairs as among the most contentious areas following separation.
  • If you can at all, acknowledge the hurt that you or your ex-partner may be feeling. Being able to see their perspective as well as your own can make it easier to be compassionate when discussing the division of assets.
  • You are always welcome to talk to us for advice or guidance about your accounts.