The grocery store
The grocery store is an emotionally fraught place for many people in grief.
The grocery store is just a full-on assault of everything that’s gone.
You’re seeing people with what look like intact, perfect family lives. “Your husband is still alive; I just buried my husband. Your child is still alive and throwing a tantrum in the grocery store; I would give anything for my child to be alive and having a tantrum in the grocery store.”
So, not only is the sensory assault happening, but for some very strange reason, the grocery store is where casual acquaintances want to know how you’re doing really?
So you have just pulled yourself together enough to get out of the house. You’ve been sitting in your car in the parking lot for 45-minutes trying to calm yourself down and psych yourself up enough so you can go in and buy your bananas and leave. And, you get to the produce section, and your boss’s sister’s friend’s girlfriend recognizes you and they remember, “Oh my gosh, her brother just died!”
And, you’re just trying to keep yourself together to get your bananas and they come up to you and they pat you on the arm and they tilt their head and they say, “How are you, really?” As though, the produce section of the grocery store is the place where you would like to reveal your most personal, intimate emotional landscape to a comparative stranger.
What do you do if you are a compassionate, aware human being at the grocery store and you see somebody down the aisle and you realize, like, “Oh, right, their mom just died last week! Should I say something? Should I not say something? What if they’re just trying to keep it together. I don’t want to be rude.”
Well, the first thing to do is to not avoid them. Remember that grieving people see you when you turn down and go down an opposite aisle. That is weird. That is a weird thing to do.
At the same time, you don’t want to invade their personal space. So, it’s important to talk about what should we be doing. So, a really great thing to do when you see somebody and you know they’ve been going through a hard time and you want to respect their space is you can just do this [put hand over heart] and make eye contact and give them a little nod. And, then go about your business.
It’s a beautiful way to acknowledge somebody’s reality and respect their boundaries at the same time.