The Grocery Store

This week I felt like writing about how the arrival of the holidays has already been extremely difficult for me. These are the first holidays without Clayton. Those Facebook “memories” that pop up in my news feed are like a sharp knife from a friend. Nothing is safe from the reminders. I don’t know if I can even decorate this year but decorating is not what my words are for this week. It is the place that no one would ever think could be a heart-wrenching trigger. A place everyone goes that is designed to help you live but, as a widow, it is a place that can take more of you away…The Grocery Store.

I walked through the store early last week grabbing regular groceries and saw the turkeys on sale. Thanksgiving was days away. I had the holiday off but I don’t have friends here because Clayton was sick soon after we moved here. I’m friendly with my staff but I can’t hang out with them on a regular basis because others would fear favoritism – Career FOMO. (Side note - Snowflakes are making my life way harder than it should be. If they can’t handle that Starbuck’s ran out of pumpkin spiced everything than I pray for them when real life hits…) I digress. So here I am in the grocery store grabbing a turkey. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday so I started thinking about the different sides I would make and then there it was – A box of those crispy onion things that go on that green bean casserole stuff (Not my tradition – Sorry, not sorry). I froze.

“Clayton loves green bean casserole. Wait, Clayton loved green bean casserole." 

My heart sank. Tunnel vision. Deep sadness. Anxiety. Panic. Dizzy. I had to get out. This wasn’t the first time I had to just leave a cart and walk out but I had to buy dog food so I rushed up to the front to checkout.

“Hi. Having a good night?” The cashier asked.

Oh God! I thought to myself. Don’t ask. Please I can’t.

“Yup! Just in a rush.”

I made it out the door. I put the groceries in the car. I returned the cart. I sat in the car. I lost it. I couldn’t control myself. A good 10 minutes of intense hurt and sadness. I pulled myself together. Drove home. Fed the dog and went to bed. For a holiday known to make people feel full, I have never felt so empty this Thanksgiving…

Fast forward to today. I stopped at the store to grab dinner. Everything was fine until I heard the Christmas music playing. I bit my tongue to fight back the tears. Everywhere I looked were foods Clayton loved, foods that brought back memories, foods I have been avoiding because they remind me of him. I had to get out! This time I felt the sadness, tears as I drove but I narrowly escaped the meltdown. I had gotten out before the full effects hit. I was lucky tonight but I don’t know what’s going to happen the next time I have to go back into a place I need in order to live that constantly reminds me that Clayton has died…



Showing 5 reactions

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  • Candace Woodring
    commented 2018-12-10 23:13:16 -0800
    Thanks for sharing Bryan. I’ve held back tears many many times in the grocery store, and other times couldn’t hold them back. It triggers an acute sense of the emptiness of not being able to share one of the most lovely and basic joys in life, enjoying a meal or a treat with the one we love. We know how tough the holidays are, especially the first year. This is my 2nd and it’s a bit easier most days, harder on some. Know there are others out there who truly understand.
  • Cathy
    commented 2018-12-10 09:35:11 -0800
    I’ve abandoned a few carts shopping too, and took to shopping late at night so as not to run into people. I think this time of year is the most difficult season for widowed, it starts way too early and lasts through 3 holidays. The time leading up to those days is harder than the day itself. I’m 8+ years out, still find it difficult to listen to Christmas music, and have finally realized I probably always will. I do limited decorating, and less gatherings, mostly immediate family. The reminders of the past will lessen thru the years, but they will always be there. Be kind to yourself, escape when you need to (always have an escape plan from parties) and cry when you need to. We understand.
  • Wendy Klock-Johnson
    commented 2018-12-09 19:21:42 -0800
    This is my 4th holiday season and it’s still difficult and mostly in the weirdest ways.

    Grocery shopping was “his” job so that was just hard anyway. Then I caught myself putting things in the cart for him. Things I didn’t even like. That happened for basically a year as we moved through the fresh fruit and veggie season and things he liked were bountiful in the stores.

    I love the holidays and he tolerated me loving the holidays. He didn’t hate them but I truly am a bit over the top. The first year I put lights up myself. I had never done it – I have a very very small house – it nearly took me 2 days. It took him about an hour and a half. It is a real pain and I just felt terrible that he did it every year for me just because he loved me. I felt guilt that I can decorate any old way I wanted spend anything I wanted – sounds great to a holiday fanatic but the new found freedom came at the cost of loosing my husband.

    Finally I am settling into my own patterns and changed traditions. I doubt it will ever be easy, it will never be the same, but it’s turning out that it isn’t always horrible.
  • Beth Ensign
    commented 2018-12-09 18:21:31 -0800
    It’s cooking, more than shopping, that triggers me. You see, my husband was the cook. For years. And did most of the shopping, too. I am only now managing to cook food for myself on a regular basis. It’s been two years.

    I made roasted vegetables tonight. First time in many, many months I have done that. Of course, I forgot to start the rice first so the the vegs got done too fast. One pan very crispy. One pan not. I forgot the garlic completely. I could feel Terry’s head shake. But, I could also feel him encouraging me. He was always encouraging me. He took care of me in so many, many ways. As I come to grips with taking good care of myself I often feel his silent encouragement. I miss him just as much as ever, but I feel I am standing on my own two feet now.
  • Gayle Goldberg
    commented 2018-12-07 07:04:55 -0800
    The supermarket is a common trigger for a lot of people. Seeing his favorite foods, seeing couples shopping together, the music…
    Be gentle with yourself.