How can grief affect decision making?

Asked by Anonymous

Grief is typically experienced after the loss of a loved one, usually a spouse or life partner.  Grief impacts every person differently; the grieving process is different for everyone, and the length of time it takes to go through the process is also different.

Grief impacts people on both an emotional level and a physical level as well.  Grief can confuse and often be a period of adjustment for people as they are figuring out and learning how to navigate life and life-impacting decisions independently.  Because of this, it is often recommended people delay making life-altering decisions for a while until they have begun to adjust and accept their new reality.  In addition to confusion, people can also experience memory loss.  Both can occur because a person’s brain is actually functioning differently than someone who is not experiencing grief.  There is actually a disconnect in the brain, and it may be imperative for some people to write things down.

It is often recommended to wait six months before making any major, life-altering decisions which can include: buying or selling a home, eliminating memories or possessions of the deceased person, quitting one’s job, moving in with family, loaning money out, or even making major investments.

Grief has many different elements that include, but are not limited to, depression, anger, denial, and acceptance.  When a person is in one of those stages and experiencing one of the emotions previously listed, that person may make a completely different decision if they were experiencing a different emotion.  Some of the decisions may be wrong for the moment or the long term and can be, at times, difficult to change.

When making decisions based on emotion, it can also be called a knee-jerk reaction.  When a person makes a decision when they are in an emotional state, they often cannot look at consequences (healthy or unhealthy, positive or negative) in an unbiased way and are focusing on the moment and not the immediate, foreseeable, or long-term future.  If a major decision must be made while grieving, the grieving person should reach out to friends and family for support before making the final decision.