grief & the grocery store

No matter what time of year, the grocery store is one of the worst places for grieving people. Those mundane and ordinary actions are so heavy. Every shelf holds evidence of how your life has changed.

In general, my energy stores have largely come back to their pre-death status. It’s been ages since a day seemed far more insurmountable than I could handle. Every single interaction no longer drains me, as it did in the first few years. I need less time to recover from being “out in the world” than I did when grief was fresh.

I remember those early days of grief – those days when managing to get out of bed was a gigantic accomplishment. When each and every action came wrapped in a haze of barbed wire and molasses. When even the tiniest interaction exhausted me to the point of needing the safety and quiet of my bed.

Here’s what’s true: in those early days of grief, every moment comes with lead and heaviness. Things that would have been no more than a blip on your to-do list take gargantuan effort. A “simple” trip to the grocery store is anything but simple – you could run in to any number of people who want to know “how are you really?” 

You’re just trying to hold it together enough to get your bananas and get out, but the rest of the world sees this as a prime moment to catch up with you on your deepest, innermost thoughts. As though you’d spill them there, in the produce section, to your neighbor’s friend’s barista, when you haven’t shared them with anyone else.

Grief makes a simple trip to the grocery store anything but simple. There are grief landmines everywhere. Click To Tweet

It’s funny – whenever I talk about the specific difficulties of grocery shopping, almost everyone has their own story to share – some only shop after ten pm to avoid any people they might know, others drive an hour out of their way just to be able to shop anonymously. Abandoned shopping carts are quite common in the world of grieving hearts.

Those well-meaning, yet intrusive, questions into your inner emotional state can come at any time, no matter how much you may not want to talk about it.

That’s yet another thing people outside of grief wouldn’t normally think about: how, especially if your loss was out-of-order or unusual, it becomes a topic up for public discussion. Any time you are out in public, people feel the need to come close, to ask, to check on you. It doesn’t often matter whether you are friends with the person or not. In fact, the more distant the relationship, the more probing you might receive while hovering over that produce bin.

I know I stopped shopping at a certain store because a friend-of-a-friend worked there; if she saw me, a long drawn out series of inquiries would begin. I realize I could have told her to stop, but that took energy, interest, and skills I did not have in me at that time.

It didn’t matter that getting groceries took double or triple the time, with that added drive to another town. Shopping somewhere else made more sense. Grocery shopping itself was painful – reaching for his favorite foods, stopping mid-air, remembering he will never eat them again, putting them back, repeating this in every new aisle. The only way to make that pain tolerable was to mitigate any other potential stress or pain.

No wonder grief is so exhausting. It’s not just the intense actual pain of loss. It’s the sheer number of tiny things that need to be avoided, endured, planned for. Impossible to tell from the outside, but those of us in grief absolutely understand. We all have our stories of exhaustion, avoidance, and the need to just not talk.

This week, I’m wishing you the space to tell your stories when and where you see fit, and a vast, invisible shield of protection for you, as you move in the world without wanting to talk to anyone at all. And maybe, someone else to get the groceries for you.


flame-heart-100As always, I love your questions and your comments – do you have grocery store stories to share? How have you altered your usual paths in order to protect what energy you have? Let us know in the comments.