Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Widow writes book on how to cope after losing partner

A WIDOW from Goring has written a book about coping with a loved one’s sudden death.

A WIDOW from Goring has written a book about coping with a loved one’s sudden death.

Two years ago Mary Scriven’s husband Rod died after suffering a heart attack at their home in Milldown Road.

The 68-year-old retired financial consultant collapsed at his computer, where his wife found him and tried to save him with CPR.

In the weeks after his death, Mrs Scriven had to process huge amounts of paperwork and almost paid thousands of pounds to Mr Scriven’s bank and electricity supplier unnecessarily.

She began writing her book, called Challenged But Coping, about three months later because she wanted to help others in her position. It took about a year to complete.

The 66-page volume gives practical advice on subjects such as arranging a funeral, cancelling bills and closing bank accounts, obtaining probate and learning DIY.

Mrs Scriven also gives her thoughts on grief and coming to terms with a loved one’s absence.

She said: “I went through a pretty harsh experience losing Rod. There were many things I wanted to tell people in the same situation. It started with practical advice on day-to-day matters and grew from there. I was concerned about people’s vulnerability after they’d lost someone dear to them.”

Mrs Scriven grew up in Goring and her father Vivian Haines was a chairman of the parish council.

She married Mr Scriven, whom she had met at a tennis club in Reading, at St Mary’s Church in Streatley in 1974.

The couple moved to Dorset in 1976 before coming back to Goring a decade later. They had two children, Tanya, 37, who still lives in the village, and Ben, 35, who lives in Weybridge.

Her husband was well-known in Henley as he often performed at the Kenton Theatre as his comic alter-ego Eli Buckett, a West Country character who told jokes and performed with his band The Haybalers. Mrs Scriven, who was arts and entertainments writer for the Henley Standard until she retired in 2010, said it was “a pretty harsh experience” losing her husband.

“It’s a tough time because you suddenly have to make lots of decisions while you’re feeling least able to do so,” she said.

“You’re very vulnerable and there’s barely time to grieve — that goes to the bottom of the pile amid the flood of paperwork.

“I had so many things to sort out in the first two months. For one thing, Rod died in the middle of a big DIY project at Tanya’s house so there was wood piled up in the windows.”

In the book, she explains administrative procedures, such as registering a death with the coroner and obtaining multiple copies of the death certificate, which is needed to close bank accounts and inform other agencies.

She also warns readers to beware of other people trying to take advantage.

Her husband’s bank almost persuaded her to pay £6,000 to obtain probate on her behalf but she realised she could do this for free with help from a probate registry office.

Mrs Scriven said: “Alarm bells should have rung earlier but I wasn’t thinking clearly and I very nearly paid a lot of money without needing to.

“It was sold to me as the ‘easy option’ to take the worry off my shoulders.

“They said our county probate office was overworked and it could take more than a year if I did it myself, which wasn’t true.

“There was no way I would pay that much but someone less confident and more vulnerable might feel compelled to agree. It was just a try-on, though — the process was actually very simple.”

The electricity supplier later sent an £800 bill to Mr Scriven’s estate, which was higher than the outstanding balance and was reduced to £200 when his widow disputed it.

“You have to watch every penny because people will try to rip you off,” said Mrs Scriven. “That’s hard to accept when you’ve just been bereaved but unfortunately it’s true.” She added: “If this book can make the process more bearable for even one or two people then it will have been worth it. I have received some very positive feedback.

“One person said every word resonated with them while another said the advice was helpful and interesting.

“There’s a big disclaimer at the front which says I’m not a counsellor or financial adviser, which is important. I’m not a qualified professional but I’ve been through it and am sharing my personal experiences.”

Mrs Scriven said the grief never goes away but gradually fades into the background, allowing your life to continue.

“It’s hard to describe but you gradually absorb it and learn to live around it even though it’s always there,” she said. It’s up to you, quite honestly, to try to make as good a life as you can. The Goring community were absolutely fantastic when I lost Rod.

“It was amazing how my friends pulled together and helped with things like organising the food after his funeral. This is a close-knit village and a wonderful place to live.”

Challenged But Coping is available from Amazon and costs £5.

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