Is spending part of the grieving process?

by Kristina Tahnyak on June 25, 2012 · 3 comments

It has been over a month since my father in law passed away suddenly and my boyfriend is trying to get back into his normal routine, but it definitely hasn’t been easy for him to try and live a normal life after having it fall apart due to the loss of a loved one.

My boyfriend recently went on a shopping spree and I can’t help but wonder if he is trying to ease the pain of trying to continue on with his life after losing his father so suddenly.  I am lucky to still have both parents in my life and therefore I can’t even begin to try and understand what my boyfriend, his sister, and his mother are going through during their time of grief.  Since I can’t comfort my boyfriend and his family during this very difficult time, all I can do is try to make everything else in our life a little bit easier for him.

I stood by silently and without judgement as I watched my boyfriend spend money during his shopping spree on everything from expensive meals to expensive electronics.  However I couldn’t help but wonder if his recent actions are a coping mechanism as he grieves the loss of his father.  This is the first time that my boyfriend has actually lost someone in his immediate family, and I think that he is trying a variety of methods to try and maintain some sort of reality in his life which currently seems to be a bad dream.

This is not the first time that I have experienced an out of control spending spree by family member when they lost a loved one. A few years ago my Aunt lost her husband in a tragic car accident.  Not so long afterwards she took our entire family on a two week vacation to the Caribbean. The vacation was definitely the trip of a lifetime but now that I look back on the experience I couldn’t help but wonder if that money could be better spent (or saved).

There are several emotions that people experience during their time of grief such as sadness, anger, denial, and regret; but people may also lose control of certain aspects in their life such as excessive personal spending, a breakdown in their daily routine, or a change in their career as a way to cope with the loss of a loved one.  Although I am sure that there are worse ways to cope with grief other than excessive personal spending such as excessive eating or substance abuse. So in the grand scheme of things a little spending never hurt nobody, after all it’s only money and we can’t take it with us.

The need to spend money may stem from the belief that money can buy happiness and if we spend money on expensive things it may void the feeling of complete emptiness that comes from the loss of a loved one. If people receive a lump sum of money from insurance proceeds it may be hurtful to keep the money.  Holding on to money that we gained from the loss of a life may act as a constant reminder that we no longer have that person in our lives; therefore we may want to get rid of it by spending it.

What is your best advice for dealing with the loss of a loved one?

Read More:

Photo by Twon

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hb June 25, 2012 at 8:59 am

I’d say you’re right, that spending can definitely be part of the grieving process for some. I’m in my early twenties and lost my mother to cancer this last winter, and I also have found myself making purchases I normally wouldn’t. Nothing I purchased was overly expensive or frivolous, I just normally wouldn’t spend so freely when the alarm clock, coat, or kitchen tool I already have works just fine. Perhaps it’s a combination of distraction through fun new things and subconsciously wanting to enjoy some (relative) luxuries at a time when you begin to comprehend the true nature of the fragility of life.

I don’t think there’s a lot of advice that can be widely applied to everyone’s different grieving processes, but one thing that stands out in my mind is that when grieving a loss you should always be patient with yourself and not try to compare what you’re feeling to others. Society, especially in America, expects you to move on so quickly when it really doesn’t work that way. It seems that in a month or two people expect you to be “fine now” when often times that is just when the shock is starting to wear off and the real pain sets in.

2 Kristina June 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm

@hb – I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. I think that we all grieve in different ways, but I don’t think that anyone really ever gets over losing a loved one. Thanks for reading.

3 Jessy December 30, 2016 at 10:05 pm

I know that this comment is coming a few years too late, but I found your article through google-ing the subject, and it was really helpful. It let me know that I was not the only one who is / has gone through this.
My parents are a same-sex couple, so I grew up with two Moms. One of my Moms, Sheri, passed away a little less than a month ago, suddenly and unexpectedly..but my biological mother was due to receive a retirement check for over $20,000 due to the fact that a hospital she use to work at is closing it’s doors, so they are paying out all of their 401Ks.

We knew the check was coming for months. Mom, Sheri, and I had planned what we were going to do with the money when it finally got here. But then Sheri got sick…and didn’t get better. The check came 3 days after her funeral.
It’s weird receiving a check for $20,000 in the mail, and staring at it like it’s no more than a national geographic advertisement.

In addition to everything I had received for Christmas. When my Mom would leave for work, I started going to the mall and just shopping all day. I’ve been at the mall every day this week. It got to the point where I didn’t even know what else to buy. I’ve already gotten everything I can think of! I realized I was leaving the house every day because Sheri stayed home all day, and I didn’t know what it was like to be home alone all day. And I was just needed to leave the house more than anything.

It’s about trying to fill up a void. Trying to replace them with things. It doesn’t work. Running from the grief so the grief can’t catch you. Like if I buy an iphone, I won’t be sad that my Dad is dead. If I buy a pair of Nikes, I won’t be sad my Dad is dead. All this stuff…it’ll make me happy again.

I don’t plan on heading to the mall tomorrow. I hope your boyfriend came out of it okay, and even though this is a really old post, maybe it’s still been able to give you some kind of perspective.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: