Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching. For coupled clients, it’s a reminder to show appreciation to the one they most love. But what if your client is single, was divorced recently, or had a spouse die? For them, this partner-centric day is often deeply painful. Many want to hide from ads of doe-eyed couples or displays of diamonds and hearts. You may think it’s best to not say anything, to avoid “reminding them” (as if they didn’t know already). But the fact is, when you name the reality and reach out to clients on a painful day, you truly set yourself apart from others in the field.
One way to make a long-term impression with widowed clients, provided it is safe to do so with the state of COVID-19 in your area, is to invite them to a Valentine’s Day brunch and tell them to feel free to invite widowed friends. Then do it up right. Organize it with a nice meal, an attractive centerpiece and attentive staff, so they feel pampered. When setting up the space, print questions for discussion and place them on each table. Examples of questions: How did you and your spouse meet each other? Tell one thing that you most treasured about your spouse and one thing that drove you crazy. What is one well-meaning thing someone said to you after your spouse died that was unintentionally hurtful to you? What is something you wish other people knew about what this experience is like for you?
Welcome attendees at the door and make sure everyone has name tags. When everyone enters and is seated, welcome the group, saying you know Valentine’s Day can be difficult and you hope to bring a little connection and enjoyment. Point out the questions and invite someone at each table to choose a question to start the discussion so they can share with others who understand what it’s like, and then to go on to other questions as they eat and as time allows. Remember, grieving people want to talk about their experience, they want to say the names and tell the stories. It is healing, particularly within the support of others who share their experience. You may be surprised at the free flow of conversation, even among people who’ve never met before!
After the meal ends, thank everyone for coming and encourage them to trade contact information and stay in touch with people they’ve met. Tell them you will contact them in about a week to see what they liked best and if they have suggestions for improving the event next year.
As your guests leave, give them a small token such as a flower or a small four-pack of chocolates. (Or combine the two ideas by giving them a chocolate flower!) Then, of course, do contact them and take their feedback seriously.
A less involved possibility, which you can do regardless of COVID, is to send a card with a small gift to all of your single or single-again clients. Of course, if you organize a brunch for widowed clients, you wouldn’t do this for those who attended. Yet you can do it to reach out to those who can’t attend plus your other singles or single-agains. Depending on the situation, the text could read something like:
- “No gift can make up for Jim’s absence. Still, I hope you can enjoy a few chocolates from someone who cares. We are thinking of you today.”
- “A single rose in memory of Karen. Her love for you and for so many others will live in our hearts forever.”
- “The first Valentine’s Day after divorce can rub the wound raw. Perhaps with the enclosed gift card, you can direct your appreciation to someone who remained by your side through it all, going to a favorite coffee shop together to talk and say thank you. We are here for you, both today and into the future.”
- “This can be a tough day to be single. Yet as we all show gratitude to important people in our lives, we want you to know how much we appreciate you. We hope these chocolates make you smile, and we look forward to the next time our paths cross.”
- “Sometimes you have to be your own Valentine. We hope you can use the enclosed gift card to treat yourself to something that makes you smile! We are here for you through all the ups and downs of life.”
When your clients are grieving, it is not your silence that will be impactful and comforting, but your honest recognition and heartfelt compassion for their situation. Many of their friends don’t even know how to fulfill that role. When you do, your clients’ trust and loyalty increase, and just imagine what they tell friends and family about the financial advisor who cares enough to organize a brunch or send them a gift on Valentine’s Day!
Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professions in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.