Meltdown in Aisle 11


Grief is a strange and beautiful beast. It knows no boundaries and doesn’t care if you are standing in the middle of the frozen foods aisle of Shoprite. Grief will come bounding around the corner to greet you at the MOST inconvenient times.

Grief also requires space.

A lot of it.

It doesn’t follow any rules and certainly doesn’t adhere to 5 consecutive stages, but jumps around from stage to stage, sometimes even within the span of just a few minutes.

Grief also allows you to curl up next to it and find warmth.

It is wild, painful, infuriating, unpredictable and healing.

Meltdown in Aisle 11

Almost a full year has passed since I lost my dad to COVID. We said goodbye to him through a zoom call, due to the strict (and necessary) restrictions. It was the end of January, just before the nor’easter hit and was one of the coldest weeks of the winter.

As the weather starts to get cold again, I think about how my dad grew up in northern Minnesota where the temperature could drop to 10 degrees below freezing on an “average” winter day. He loved wintery weather and would scoff at us New Jersey folk for layering up just after the first frost.

I miss him so much.

Non-judgement is one of the three core mindfulness “how” skills, and it’s the one that I struggle with the most. I remember clinging onto that bag of frozen peas in the frozen food aisle and sobbing over it because it reminded me of his split pea soup recipe, and I began wondering how I would ever be able to replicate it. A fellow shopper stood 6 feet away looking concerned asking “do you need assistance?!” through his mask.

Judgements poured in.

“I must look ridiculous. I shouldn’t be getting so emotional, it’s been months. Why am I still feeling this way? This can’t be “normal”. I’ve got to get out of here before I make a bigger fool of myself.”

This added a layer of shame to the already painful experience of grief.

THEN judgements about the judgements begin to pop up. “I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I am doing this all wrong.”

There are many ways to practice nonjudgementalness, but so far, this is how I have used it during my grieving process;

  1. Observe judgements, comparisons, and assumptions as they arise, paying attention to any judging of the judgements. This can be difficult at first and takes a lot of practice! (Common judgement words: should/shouldn’t, would have/could have, good/bad, right/wrong, better than/worse than…etc.)
  2. Label thoughts by saying in your mind “I am noticing a judgmental thought that I look ridiculous to others”.
  3. Describe feelings in the moment. If you are unsure, try connecting to your body and paying attention to any physical sensations that come up. Use your senses to describe observable reality. “I am feeling sadness” or “I am feeling my throat tighten up right now, and my face feels hot”.
  4. Ask yourself “what do I need right now?” Maybe it is some space, fresh air, a cup of tea. In my case I have realized that even when in the middle of the supermarket, I sometimes just need to let it out and sit with the feeling until it passes.

Millions of people globally are feeling the weight of loss right now. I implore you to check in with yourself regularly, try making space for yourself to grieve, and let go of some of that weight by practicing nonjudgementalness.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it.

One of the attending nurses that took care of my dad in the ICU told my family that grief starts off as a sharp and seemingly intolerable pain, but over time dulls and becomes more manageable. I appreciated the honesty of that statement, and I now know it to be true. Hang in there, it will get easier.

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