Monday, December 6, 2010

Shopping Therapy

by Kate Collins

“Life goes on” were words that, at first, cut through my heart. How could my life possibly go on when it no longer existed? My life as I knew it, anyway. For a few weeks after my husband’s passing, I could barely force myself to buy groceries. Shoes? Clothing? Bah humbug. What was the point? Who would appreciate them? The sales clerk?

But then here comes the holidays, with our children expecting to exchange gifts. Home for the weekend, they decided that we should do a family shopping day. We would stop at Starbucks for coffee, then hit the stores, looking for presents for each other.

Sigh.

I couldn’t very well play Mrs. Grinch. It wasn’t fair to them. They’re healing, too, after all. And at least I’d have company for the afternoon.

So we piled into my car and off we went. The department store was jammed, so the kids split up, each heading in a different direction. I followed the youngest to the junior department to search for THE JEANS. (Cough) As if there was such a creature. Got her situated in a dressing room, then reconnoitered with the other two.

Heading back to the dressing room to check on progress there, I spotted a very snappy jacket. For me. I paused. Hmm. It would be a nice buy for my next writer’s conference. Ultimately, however, I continued on.

At the end of the aisle, I did an about face and went back to take another look at the jacket. A little voice in my head said, This is what my Greek would have picked out for me. (He was my personal shopper.) I tried it on, and it did look smart. But I put it back on the rack, the thought of buying something new without my husband too painful.

I found my daughter ecstatic about finding two pairs of jeans. My stepdaughter was happily browsing the make-up section. My son was doing laps around the store, having tired of the whole scene.

So I took another look at the jacket and decided, okay, maybe it would be nice to have something new. I could almost feel my husband urging me to get it. The kids loved it, too. Sold.

I had a few moments of buyer’s remorse when I got home. But then I realized that purchasing that jacket was as much about having something new as it was to remind me that life does indeed go on, even though someone mourning a deep loss often feels like it never will.

Tiny slivers of hope come in minuscule increments, and sometimes they leave behind feelings of guilt. But those, too, will diminish, I imagine. And next April, if you attend Malice Domestic Mystery Writers convention, you’ll get to see my new jacket.

Do you think shopping is therapeutic? Or do you really hate it? Are you a cyber-shopper or a hands-on shopper?