Grief is one of the most complicated emotions. When a loved one passes away, our grief can take on many forms. We may feel guilty, become moody, have anger problems, distance ourselves from others and turn into a completely different person.
One of the side effects of grieving a loved one might come in the form of grief spending, or spending a lot of money on unnecessary items. I experienced grief spending firsthand, and I know it is a real problem.
During my freshman year of college, my grandfather passed away. I was still adjusting to college life and it didn’t help that he and I were on two different continents at the time. I couldn’t interrupt my semester to fly there to be with my family, so I had to deal with the loss on my own. It was a very hard time for me and I didn’t quite know how to handle all of the emotions I was feeling. Somehow I kept up with my studies, but I found that my grief took a different and dangerous form.
I began grief spending.
I didn’t realize at the time what was happening, but looking back I see I definitely fell into the trap of spending way too much money on ridiculous items as a way to cope with my sadness and anger. I bought new decorations for my room, a ton of new clothes and even a new laptop. Somehow, the feeling of buying new items made me feel just a little bit better.
It is common for people to grief spend after they receive the life insurance money from the death of a loved one. Often, it makes it feel like the deceased is still with us through the item we bought with their money. I think I got caught up in the rush of making these purchases and somehow thought that the items I was buying could replace the memory of my grandfather. Of course, this was a very unhealthy way to grieve.
I eventually learned how to cope with my grief by volunteering at a nearby residential living community for seniors. This turned out to be a much better way of dealing with my emotions. It allowed me to feel connected to my grandfather and like I was making a difference without spending a dime.
Advice for Others
For those who may be experiencing what I experienced, I have some advice. I know how difficult the time after losing a loved one can be, and I understand the temptation to fill that void with items. However, I would strongly suggest avoiding that feeling however you can.
If you come into a large sum of money due to a loved one’s passing, take out only what you need for the funeral expenses and any other pressing expenses. Then, put the rest into an account where it can grow until you really need it. This will help you avoid using it.
It is also important to remember how grief changes us. Grief blurs our decision-making and rushes us into rash and unhealthy choices. Understanding how your grief is affecting you can help you take the necessary measures to avoid spending money as a coping mechanism. You may even want to see a therapist to work through your grief in a healthy way.
Above all, don’t let money get in the way of your relationships with family members. Luckily, my grief spending didn’t affect my family since we were so far away, but I have heard many stories about families that have been torn apart because of money once a family member passes away. Remember that being with each other and supporting each other is the most important priority in times of grief. The money and material possessions should come last.
Have you ever used spending as a crutch to get through a difficult time in life?
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