Retail Therapy: How Widows Might Pull Us Out of the Recession

Let’s face it.  We start spending the moment our loved one take his last breath.  Wait a minute–we really start spending way before that.  Most of us are the reason why our own personal physicians drive such nice cars.

But if you think about it–our contribution to the healthcare industry is just the beginning.

Once everything is done, we have the funeral to deal with.  I’ve been to small funerals and elaborate ones, but, even on the small side, we usually spend at least a couple thousand dollars.  You’ve got a casket or a seriously overpriced urn.  You’ve got flowers with ribbons that looked great in the catalog, but you think look a little cheap once they’re sitting next to that shiny new casket.  You’ve got all that food you had catered by Chick fil A.  I’m telling you–this really adds up.

You’re welcome, Funeral Business.

Now, I realize that this isn’t fun spending, but for some of us, it sends us into a credit testing tailspin of epic proportions.  Because once the dust settles on that whole memorial business, most of us are left wondering, “What the heck do we do now?”

That’s when the bright lights and self-opening doors of Target start looking like the safe haven we can’t get enough of.

It starts small, doesn’t it?  You pop in there thinking, I’ll just pick up some new linens and give my bed a little lift, or I’m having so much company lately, I really need to get more towels.

The next thing you know, your new towels don’t match the paint color in the spare room.  And we all know that that just will not do.

Enter Home Depot.

Now, once that spare room gets a little pick-me-up, we start wondering why we would spend that much money on a room just for our guests, when we really need a place to call our own.  I know some of you out there wouldn’t dream of changing your bedroom and want it exactly the way you had it when your spouse was with you.  However, others would rather make a space that is entirely different so that they are not reminded of the intimate moments they shared in that room with a love that they’ve lost.

That’s when those TV ads for Furniture Row begin to look reeeallly inviting.

I don’t know about you, but once I got that new bedroom all spruced up and organized, it really bothered me that I didn’t have the right clothes to go with my new room.   I mean, if my room got a little face lift, surely I deserved one, right?

It started small. I just began looking for the perfect red purse.  Then I realized that the coat I was wearing did nothing for my new purse.  Eventually, I just moved from the outside, in.

And it ballooned into my own personal parking spot at TJ Maxx.

Eating out because we don’t have the attention span to cook.  Extra daycare because we don’t have the attention span to parent.  Gym memberships because we don’t have the attention span to do anything else other than walk on a machine that takes us absolutely nowhere.

Think of it, people.  Without us, the entire economy would just collapse. Hallmark would lose at least a fourth of its business.  Florists would never make it.  Airlines would feel the pinch because we wouldn’t be trying to escape from wherever it is we are.

And wineries–where would they be?

We know why we do it.  It’s instant gratification.  Knowing that we’ve found just the right thing makes us feel better for a minute.  And in the grieving game, if you can feel better for a minute, you’re doing pretty good.

It’s busy work.  It keeps us from thinking about what’s really bothering us.  Concentrating on not falling off the escalator at Foley’s gives us an escape for just a moment and we’re not thinking about the world falling down around us.

It’s empowering.  It makes us feel in control of something, even for just a second.  And when you’re living with how out of control life can be, you’ll take what you can get.

I’m not saying this is healthy.  I’m not saying you should run out and blow your entire savings just so you can feel better for a minute.  I’m saying forgive yourself a little.  And be aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.  I know that always makes me think a little before I hand over that piece of plastic.

I mean, right now, I’m feeling a little small and powerless.  And there’s one thing I keep thinking over and over: I’d feel a lot better if I just found the right car to go with that purse.

Catherine Tidd 2010

Catherine Tidd

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Catherine Tidd is a widow and the Founder of, a free social support network dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other. She is also a writer, public speaker, and mother to three young entertaining children. She received a degree in English from Rollins College in 1998 and has since worked as a writer, editor, Marketing Manager, and Event Planner. Originally from Louisiana, Ms. Tidd currently lives in Denver, CO. To read more of Catherine's work, visit


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  • Diane says:

    I have a different view of the shopping. After my husband died, I sold our house, and moved to a condo near my son and his family. I did spend some money fixing it up, and added a couple of small things I needed to complete it. Mostly I am surrounded by the things we had during our only 7 years of marriage. Now that it’s finished, I don’t need anything else. The only thing I need is my husband. I feel guilty when I buy stuff, because the only reason I have extra money is because he died. I return many items after buying. When I try to bring new, un-needed things into this place, they feel out-of-place, and I end up not liking them. It feels as if the condo “rejects” anything that isn’t connected to him. Or I guess it’s me doing the rejecting.