grief in a grocery store

IMG_1566 I originally began writing this post on 5.27.14, which was about 6 weeks after we had to let Bob Dylan go. Because I’ve been dealing with grief again as we absorb Bristow’s diagnosis and prognosis, I thought it fitting to share now. My past couple years have been characterized by quite a bit of grief, unfortunately. Yes, it does till the soil of my soul and even fertilize it, but it stinks like manure and hurts like hell in the process. I figure many of you reading this have found or will find yourself in its grip at some point, maybe even right now. So I share these simple thoughts.

Hope and peace and well-lit places to wander in the middle of the night to us all….

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If there were more 24-hour stores, people would drink less. I’m fairly confident of this.

Where can you go, besides a bar, in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep or turn off your brain or need to escape the memory-triggering spaces that are threatening to undo you?

Where is it safe to publically hide? To be anonymous and yet not physically alone?

When BD died, I had trouble sleeping. (Still do.) And being at home where he was glaringly not present, nonexistent, missing, gone—I could not breathe. Which would lead to an overwhelming need to escape. Quickly.

Conveniently (read: could not be more inconvenient), these times were often at night. Lying in the dark, my brain would unspool and then quickly respool into a coil that was simultaneously too tight and too loose. My husband (rightfully) did not want me driving around in the middle of the night, sobbing, distracted. Nor could I safely go for a walk by myself—not in the mean, suburban streets of Pleasant Hill, CA. So, my wound self wound up at the Safeway down the street.

I abhor Safeway, and always have (which was a little tricky when we used to be minor friends with the CEO and his wife.). Organic products and flowers are overpriced, produce is sketchy at best, layout is not intuitive, franchise Starbucks has no consistency and limited quality control…. But, it’s shadow of beauty lay in that it was open. 24 hours a day (whereas Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s—my regular grocery haunts—were not). It was well-lit. It was climate-controlled. It had aisles through which I could aimlessly wander. And, thankfully, no one seemed to care that tears were spilling from my blood-shot eyes as I read the back of every wine bottle in their collection, and bought socks and other random items. I found an interesting community of people there: Loners, scrub-clad nurses (stuck with the shitty shift), alcoholics (purchasing their medicine), college students (probably high w/ the munchies), stockers. And perhaps some stalkers, too, though that was more difficult to discern.

I got to be alone around people. Anonymous. Hidden in plain sight. And, thus, Safeway became a unexpected haven. A soft (with rough edges), bright (read: harshly lit), clean(ish) place to land. To be. To grieve.

Here’s an idea: If you know someone going through a tough time—someone who, perhaps like me, is grieving—consider sending them a list of 24-hour stores in their area. Safe places to which they can escape, no matter the time. Within the grief fog, remembering what’s open at 2am, let alone researching such options, can be overwhelming, so doing for it for them can be a creative way to care, a practical expression of love.

I took my own advice shortly after writing what you just read. One of my dearest friends called exactly 3 weeks later, sobbing, to tell me her dad had been given 2 weeks to live. She was living a new reality–one that involved imminent dying. She had become afraid to sleep. Afraid to absorb the bad news all over again when she wakes. Afraid to be awakened with the unthinkable news that her dad is gone, it is over, and she hadn’t been there with him.

So, I went online and, using Google Maps, found all the 24-hour stores near her, and I sent her the list as a resource. Even if she never uses it, perhaps even knowing she has a place to which she can escape is escape enough on a long, lonely, grief-filled night.

Sure, she may end up buying more cans of soup than she needs, but she’ll eventually eat them (once her appetite returns). And for something that resembles sanity—even if only for a moment—that’s a small price to pay.

Even at Safeway, where the soup was probably overpriced. Especially if it was organic.

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18).

“Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

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