How Grief, Growth and Gratitude Advance Financial Well-Being For Couples

gratitude grief growth Sep 01, 2023

Helping couples connect the relationship between grief, growth, and gratitude is not always immediately instinctual. Still, over time, it becomes a way that they can find new levels of financial well-being together. 


Take a few minutes to slow down now and reflect on your initial impressions of how grief, growth, and gratitude relate to each other. 


As we move through life together as a couple, there will be losses, times of change, and times that we are grateful.


Let’s start with acknowledging that grief, growth, and gratitude are all mind, brain, body, and relational processes. We can not buy them on Amazon or get them at Target. Instead, these essential human processes are profoundly related and can be cultivated with intention and practice. 


As we work with our spouses to build, maintain, and restore our financial lives ,we will encounter grief, growth and gratitude. As a couple, depending on your starting point in life, you will likely be working towards building increasing financial security and abundance over the arch of your life together. 


The financial security and abundance you are working towards creating are both financial and relational. Who you are to each other matters as much as your net worth statement. Relational and financial security walk hand in hand. 


You have each brought a host of hopes, dreams, and ambitions to the relationship, as well as fears, doubts, and losses. The reality is that your past experiences with money, especially those that have led to fear, doubt, and loss, will impact your future expectations. 


Because we bring painful experiences with money and relationships, it is essential to develop ways to grieve your losses, hurts, traumas, and pains. When we don’t recognize these experiences, it will be hard to experience the growth and gratitude we desire. 


When we go after growth through higher and higher education, career advancement, sports/competition, etc., but we do not feel the satisfaction that we would expect with such advances, it can give us pause as to what we are missing.


I have found that in my journey and those of the many clients that I have worked with that, growth has some unintended consequences. Mainly, growth can lead to an identity crisis. We can pursue growth obsessively and compulsively, much like the alcoholic or drug addicted seeks their next fix. Obsessions consume our thought life, and our compulsions are the behaviors that fulfill the obsessions. 


In time, our growth will expose our insecurities. When you hit a certain job title, level of education, income, net worth or whatever other external marker of success that you thought would make you happy and it does not, you are more likely to experience anxiety, depression a crisis of identity.


Yet anxiety and depression, as ubiquitous as they seem, are often misunderstood. There is more than one way to understand anxiety and depression. Looked at one way, anxiety and depression are defense mechanisms trying to get your attention. They are serving a good purpose.


They are inviting you to wake up to the new questions you need to ask of yourself and your partner. 


At this point of transformation and growth, you are least likely to feel grateful, which is understandable. Because what you likely need to do first is experience your grief. Not just know about grief, but feel it in your body and acknowledge your losses. 


Don’t rush gratitude to get through grief. Gratitude will come as you grieve your losses. The trap many externally successful people feel is that they do not have a right to grieve because they “have it so much better”. Perhaps at one level, this is true, and yet at another, you are still living through big changes that will evoke grief. Grief is part of the growth process. 


Grieving will point you in new directions of growth. This growth is more about growing inward, not outward. Many of us grow outward without recognizing the need to grow inward. 


Growth inward is about who you are and how you experience yourself and your relationship with significant others. The journey of growth inward will bring you back through grief as you begin to recognize and acknowledge what you did not get but needed in your infancy and childhood. 


Many of us deny or never learn about our inner needs because we were not taught them alongside learning about basic math and reading skills. But there is a knowing of how we work and what we need that exists at the biological and physical levels that, no amount of justifying or rationalizing, can rid us of these fundamental human needs. Oh can we do mental gymnastics to avoid the science that reveals our fundamental need for relationships and bonding for healthy brain and relationship growth. 


I invite you to stop and reflect, cry, and become curious about what is moving inside of you and what is not moving inside of you. 


Grief, Growth, and Gratitude show up in Financial Planning 


Cash Flow


   Whether we are an entrepreneur who has had a string of bad financial decisions leave us in crippling debt, or we are a stay at home mother overwhelmed by trying to pay for the kid's and families needs, there are no roles in life that are exempt from feeling the grief that can come with the reality of the money that is flowing through our lives and struggling to meet the wide variety of needs.


Many of our current cash flow concerns have echoes from the past of our childhoods where our parents either chronically struggled to manage the flow of money through our lives, or they went through a period of time of significant struggle as they navigated other life circumstances. These lived experiences influence our experience-based brain and nervous system.


InorIn order us to get control of our cash flow, we don’t need to start with budgeting. We need to start with grieving the pain and confusion we experienced. 


The dark clouds of grief from the past can blind us to our current cash flow dilemmas. This grief comes from being teased for not having the right clothes on our bodies, food in our tummies, watching other “richer” families go on trips you could not, etc. Our own sense of deprivation can be carried forward into our adult relationship with money even beyond when we are no longer experiencing financial modesty or poverty. Yet many will recreate that experience of financial deprivation in their adult financial lives even when they have the ability to no longer live in financial deprivation. 


Emotional misattunement to your childhood desires to have and spend is a significant source of loss and pain for many adults who have been unacknowledged. You were a beautiful, intelligent, curious child who could not possibly know or understand the adult world of money and the various attitudes about wanting to have things. Wanting to have things (often toys and candy) for yourself is part of childhood development. Our relationship with the material world and ownership is rapidly developing in childhood. 


This is why marketers target children and marketing ethicits argue against marketing to children.  




As we move over our life, our sense of what we will need for the future can vary drastically. Some give seemingly little attention to this, while others obsess. Many of us live between these polarities. 


We turn to investing to provide for our future selves. We want to make good decisions, and yet for many of us we make decisions that create loss in finances, trust, and hope. If our investing losses become too great we can spiral downward into shame, regret, and resentment, especially if our spouses are unaware of what is happening in our financial lives and what this reality will mean for both of you. 


Even learning financial concepts like the time value of money can evoke excitement and hope for some and grief and loss for others. There are many factors that will impact how someone responds to learning important financial concepts. If you end up on the grief and loss side of the coin, it is essential to process those emotional reactions so that you can invest in the time you have ahead of you.


I have talked with many people who carry parental grief for their parents in attention to their financial lives and their inability to build and save wealth for themselves. Now, as the adult children, there is anger and despair about seeing their parents in a dire position financially. This grief can also extend to siblings who are not developing a secure base for themselves financailly while you are. Your growth and increasing financial security can evoke a sense of grief for other family members not being able to enjoy the benefits of financial security that you are. 


I didn’t pay my taxes for years, and now our bank account has been garnished. While this may be extreme for some, the experience of taxes has a lot to do with grief, growth, and gratitude.


If we are on a path of increasing wealth and income, then we will have to contend with what it means to pay more and more in taxes in many cases. This growth can evoke grief and not gratitude for many. Yet if we do not face this grief head-on, it can cause us to avoid a vital part of our financial lives. Leading to some very adverse outcomes in the long run, financially and relationally. 


Explaining to your spouse why their income just got taken from their bank account because you did not pay the taxes for years is a difficult spot to walk through. 




Insurance is not necessarily a place that couples and individuals get super excited about in their financial lives, and yet it is an essential part of a comprehensive financial plan. Having the proper types and amounts of insurance in place can provide a sense of financial security and provision.


While we don’t want bad things to happen in our lives, we do want to be able to go on with life after a loss, which, of course, will have grief associated with it. Insurance will not be able to stop bad things from happening to us, but it can help us recover if bad things happen. 


Given the health and longevity statistics, it is in our best interests to ensure we have the proper insurance in place to help us in times of need. Many of us may not have considered how our early childhood experiences of trauma can predispose us to have a higher likelihood of experiencing disease or premature death. 


Part of helping to make sure that we reduce the risks of the adverse outcomes of childhood trauma is first opening our minds to the much wider definition of childhood trauma then is likely what is in your mind. Then getting help for working through your traumas and grieving your losses. 

Estate Planning


Greif, Growth, and Gratitude may only partially come to mind regarding estate planning, yet they can all be a significant part of the estate planning process. 


Sadly, many families do not talk openly about their financial lives or what will happen after their deaths. They leave it to their adult children to figure out after they have passed, which is a major barrier to growth and gratitude for the lives lived by their parents. 


Depending on our particular family constellation, we may need to grieve that our parents and siblings have not grown and matured emotionally enough to have the types of conversations we would like to have to make it a meaningful and dignified life transition process. 


We can grow through our losses of not having a family that openly talks about the estate planning process by creating a new family culture in the next generation where you talk openly and honestly about your estate planning intentions with your adult children—leading to more gratitude in the next generation. 

Grief, Growth, and Gratitude Have A  Beautiful and Complex Relationship With Eachother


Our exploration and relationship with grief, growth, and gratitude can be a deepening and evolving one. It is far more a process than an event to encounter grief, growth, and gratitude. You do not get one of these without the other. 


Sometimes, it helps to have someone identify the different elements of grief, growth, and gratitude alongside you and your spouse as you navigate your shared financial life together. That is why I created Therapy-Informed Financial Planning™ to help individuals, couples and families identify places of grief, growth, and gratitude in their lives so that they can foster greater connection with each other. Let’s talk about your life and money schedule a 30-minute consultation here.


Moving Through Grief, Growth and Gratitude,

Ed Coambs


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