Monday, December 5, 2011


from here

The grocery store

It's been one of the biggest grief triggers for me. At first, I couldn't bring myself to go at all. Thank god for the kindness of friends and coworkers who kept my fridge and freezer stocked for the first month or so. Thank god for my closest friends who grocery shopped for me at first.

Eventually, I managed to go on my own, but only to grocery stores Dave and I hadn't frequented too often. Finally, I was and am now able to shop in "our" stores, but every time it's a set-my-teeth, white-knuckle, hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with kind of experience. There is so much Dave in every store I go to. The items we loved, he loved, the items we argued about, the times he'd reach out to snuggle me in the middle of the frozen food aisles when I was freezing from the cold air. It seems like every damn item and aisle there has some history of Dave and me.

I went to our neighborhood IGA today to get my prescription refill and a few food items. I was standing in front of the canned beans, awash in sadness. I must've looked stricken, because an employee walked by, tapped me gently and said "Oh, today isn't THAT bad, is it?"

Inwardly, I said MY HUSBAND IS DEAD!
Outwardly, I couldn't look at him and instead just continued to stare straight ahead at the damn beans. I knew if I looked at him or opened my mouth, I'd come unhinged. So I tried to think of reasons why that day wasn't all that bad. I thought of my friends, my blog, my cats, my house, my health. I got the beans for chili and hightailed it out of that store.

Eventually, it'll get easier to grocery shop, and the holidays are making it especially dicey right now. But my plan to make it easier on me is to take some cooking classes. I used to love to cook. I think I still do, it's just that I need some inspiration. I need to get excited about making new dishes again. Once I do, I figure I'll be able to focus more on that mission while I grocery shop, than on how much I miss Dave. There will be a nice payoff when I get done grocery shopping and more motivation to get it done in the first place.

The second part of my plan is to go to a brand new grocery store Dave and I never went to together. It's going to mean a substantial drive, but it's only 25 minutes from work, so it's not terrible. It's also the same store where I'll take the cooking classes.

I figure once it gets easy and maybe even enjoyable to go there, it'll be easier to go anywhere. That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, grocery stores could make it easier on me (and other widowed people...oh hell, on everyone, I'm guessing) by doing the following:

1. Provide a little free booze. Just hand me a glass of wine on the way in.
2. NO CHRISTMAS CAROLS OR NOSTALGIC MUSIC! Just don't play music at all. How about a comedian's stand up act instead?
3. Samples. Distract me with yummy samples.
4. Provide tissues here and there. You never know when I'll need a few.
5. I get a free magazine just for looking sad.
6. No more carts with the wonky wheels. They make me mental as it is.

Safeway? Are you listening?


  1. Cassie, as a widow of two years I can tell you it will get easier, but there will srill be things that trigger the grief again. you are on the right path by doing things that help you to continue to live life, even though sometimes that is the hardest thing. I use to keep a list of things that I needed to get done and try to manage to do one or two of them a week, Now, I keep a list of things I want to do and doone of these things along with what needs to be done. It has helped to put joy and fun back into my life which makes the times when I still feel the grief less hurtful.

  2. Cassie, absolutely great post. It has been 21 months for me. I remember trying to grocery shop those first few months and it was always a disaster. My husband (he went because he was the cook) and I went grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon and he had a fatal stroke that night. I will NEVER go into that store again. So I endorse your idea of picking another location even if it means a little bit of a hike for you.

    We will all rally around you when you submit your suggestions to Safeway!!!

  3. Cassie, thank you so much for sharing this. It's the first mention I've seen of grief grocery phobia (let's call it that, shall we?), and I thought I was the only one dealing with it. I've switched to a store that's a little pricier, but it means fresh food vs. fast and less Xanax, so I think I just might be breaking even.

    I also have real dread when I *know* I don't look well about someone giving me that tap on the shoulder or the "cheer up" comment. I've had it for three years, since my husband's cancer diagnosis right before Christmas, and it's just as real now, one year after his death.

    I don't know that I could continue to stare at the beans.

  4. Whoo-boy. I remember that step. Walking into the grocery store and then reminding myself that I didn't need to buy so much because I was now shopping for one. And then I got mad because things are very seldom packaged in "ones". The first two years after Greg died were a haze for me. Trust me, it does get easier. I'm almost to the 5 year mark...and still trying to figure things out, but now having lots of "blue sky" days. Life now is really about developing a new kind of normal. Don't worry, you will get there.

  5. I am 7 years in and still amazed at the little things that will trigger the "grief sadness" to surface. It does get easier but knowing that there are others out there feeling the same way as you makes it easier for me. Whenever one of those pangs of sadness comes around, I reach out to a few friends that I feel comfortable sharing my "widow woes" with - the most helpful being a fellow widower.

    This blog is a fantastic reminder to all of us that we are not alone! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. It helps so much to know that grief grocery phobia is common among so many of us. At this time of the year I vote for Wine when you walk in the door and no music at

  7. Cassie,
    I think switching stores is a great idea. I admire your clearheadedness and ability to make helpful plans for yourself in the midst of all you are experiencing. I had to switch stores too because all the checkers knew my husband, and I was also not wanting to run into other people I knew there. I just wanted to go somewhere w/no memories and nobody talking to me. It's been 2 years now and I'm glad to be back at the original store since it's closer. It feels good too to see that I am actually able to do it now, where before it was such a trigger. Hugs to you, Maria

  8. Thank you.
    For myself, it's not the store so much as just the simple act of shopping and making purchases for one.

    To date almost two years out, I cannot buy lamb, his favorite. I pass by quickly....

    My cooking pleased my spouse; he loved the smells and would comment as things came out of the oven.
    No more.

    Not easy.
    So "Lean Cuisine" became an option for awhile.

    However I am slowly beginning to cook again. Also I have found that having guests helps me enjoy cooking again.

    Slow steps.

  9. I often shop at a local cooperative store, you can by smaller quantities, more organic, and, being much smaller than the chain stores, you can enter and exit more quickly. The selection of dark chocolate is better too!

    I have abandoned too many carts in the larger chain stores when I could not wait any longer to check out, I needed to get out now! Not fair to those stores, but....sorry, this is my life.

    With cooler weather, I cook lots of homemade soups, whatever is in the fridge goes into it. It's not really what I call cooking, but it's a start.

  10. Thanks for sharing... it's so good to know I'm not the only one. My wife died 6 months ago and at my first food shop I decided to ignore the world and just cried like a baby all the way round. It got better, sort of, with kindness from strangers. A month in I retreated to a campsite in my motorhome to grieve alone. I entered reception and burst into tears... strange for a 6 foot middle aged bloke. I explained why and they kindly gave me free days. A month later I returned and without the tears I shared that I was there to scatter Jane's ashes in the sea... they gave me a free week. Some freak out if I share, others are absolutely compassionate... I just cry a lot whatever and get on with it.

  11. Thanks so much for the comments. It's so helpful to be reminded that I'm not the only one going through it and that it won't always be this intense.

    David - I don't know what it is about my desperate need to NOT cry in public. Logically I understand that I certainly have earned the right to do so, and that many people would be compassionate, but I just panic a little at the thought of anyone seeing me cry in public. Can't even put my finger on why, exactly.

    Anonymous #6 - I have abandoned carts, too. It's like I've hit a point at which I can't be there for one more second or I'll suffocate and I just flee. I can just imagine a store employee cursing me as he/she empties the cart. Oopsies! If I can find a coop not TOO far from me, I'll try that. Good idea.

  12. Not grocery stores- but all social functions- Last month close friends' 50th anniversary... got as far as the parking lot.. and left in tears before anyone saw me. NO way could I bear to see the happy couple.. not fair...should have been us. He died 5 years ago next May and I still cant bear other people's happiness... selfish? sick? I still have more questions than answers. So I cocoon and become a recluse. People stop asking... and that makes it worse.

  13. This isn't the first time I've read stories about how hard it is to go to the grocery store - but I appreciate it every time. Even after 2 1/2 years, shopping still brings tears. I still cry in public sometimes, but I've never experienced any acts of compassion from anyone - people look away. I know it would make me cry even harder if someone was nice, but I think I would be grateful. I also tend to cry in doctors' offices...wonder if anyone else does that? I think it's because the idea of facing health issues alone is so sad.

  14. Diane .... Oh the doctor's offices in which I've cried ..... too many times to count really. And yes, I think that's mostly it .... facing health stuff alone. Even minor things. Though the thought is exactly the same as it in anywhere I cry ..... "He SHOULD be here!"
    Hugs .....

  15. Oh, yes. The doctor's office. That's an alone that is extra scary. Not to mention how it brings back the sensation of being in the hospital during Dave's final days.

  16. I've tried other grocery stores, but the one we went to together is the best one in our area. Some days I hate every couple I see in there, especially ones who are arguing! My husband used to love the Chinese food they made, and the dessert bar, so at 13 months it's still hard to pass by those spots. I still fluctuate between a week of planned healthy meals (which is actually one thing I cook on Sunday and eat the rest of the week) or just eating frozen burritos. The doctor's office is also a sad place to go, and I also find taking the cars for service depressing (I still have both of our cars) because we were always there to pick up and drop each other off.