Grief is a natural and normal response to loss, and it can be a challenging and difficult experience. It's common to feel a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, confusion, and guilt, when grieving. It's important to allow yourself to feel these emotions and give yourself time to process your grief.

It's also common for people to engage in emotional spending as a way to cope with grief or other difficult emotions. This can involve making impulsive or unplanned purchases as a way to feel better during the tough times. But why do we do it? And it is a problematic habit?

The psychology of shopping. 

When we feel low, our brains crave even a small bump of pleasure, or dopamine. Grieving can make it hard to find pleasure in even the things that brought us deep joy before the loss. 

So when we get even a short, temporary neurochemical bump of those feel-good neurochemicals, from something like a glass of wine or eating calorie-heavy foods or buying something new, it can feel really good.

Grief shopping is an expression of your emotions attempting to balance the sadness you are feeling. That good feeling can be short term, so some of us try to recreate the feeling with more shopping and indulgence.

Emotional spending is a common response to grief.

The activity of shopping after a loss can be a necessity, a distraction, a coping mechanism and part of the healing process while you are in a grief cycle. 

There might be some impulse shopping, a need to self soothe through spending, or even a realisation that life is short, and why shouldn’t you purchase things for yourself that you've always wanted.

Emotional spending, along with other coping mechanisms for grief, is not inherently bad. However, if it spirals into other self destructive behaviour or affects your financial situations, problems can arise. 

When emotional spending becomes a problem.

Emotional spending isn’t directly related to a poor financial situation. However, the practice becomes problematic when you’re spending beyond your means, how often you impulse spend, whether you’re in control of your spending, if you’re spending to avoid emotions or fill a void, and how often you look back on your spending with regret.

If you're struggling with grief and find yourself engaging in problematic emotional spending, it may be helpful to reach out for support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. They can provide a listening ear and offer guidance on how to cope with your grief in healthy ways. 

It may also be helpful to develop healthy coping strategies, such as practising mindfulness or participating in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, or finding healthy ways to express your emotions, such as through writing, art, or exercise. It's important to allow yourself time to grieve and to seek support when you need it.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your spending:

  • Is this item practical or serving a purpose?
  • Is this purchase bringing me joy?
  • Is my spending getting in the way of other values e.g socialising, saving for a holiday, etc.
  • Is the item worth what I paid for it?
  • Why do I want to spend and shop?

At Bare, we're always here for you. Follow the link below to our Grief Resources for videos and articles to support you during this time.