In the days before Christmas I had to venture to the grocery story. I couldn't just pop in to the one down the street. The holiday called for a visit to the most wonderful grocery store - Wegmans. When we first moved to Northern Virginia in 2008 we lived in Arlington. The closest Wegmans was in Fairfax, about 20 miles or an hour of traffic. Yet each week, Waverly and I would pick Matt up from work and we would make the trek out there. We would have a delicious sub for dinner and then fill the cart with supplies. It was our young family's routine. Eventually baby Oliver joined in on the fun and joined in the ritual.

When we moved back to Virginia after our stint in London, we were living in a new area. Everything was unknown, except for that same Wegmans, which was now a few miles closer. I would run off during the day while the kids were at school, sometimes Oliver would tag along and push the cart for me, and we would still find ourselves there for dinner as a family. Although Matt would usually take the kids to the car for a video while I shopped.

I bought favorite foods for the kids, lots of bananas and yogurt. They carried the largest size pull-ups for my ever growing kids. They had a British area, where we could buy Crunchie bars and biscuits. I transitioned to the baby food aisle as Wavey's swallow worsened and bought Pediasure to pump up her caloric intake. I picked out birthday cakes with polka dots and Mickey Mouse. I requested a Caroline's Cart and months later received a call from the manager letting me know it had arrived. Waverly and Oliver took turns shopping with me in a new and safe way. I remember friends texting me from Wegmans when Waverly was on hospice to ask if I needed anything. A request for Matt's favorite chocolate cake was made for his birthday and it was delivered a few hours later.

Since Waverly died I have avoided Wegmans. Days after she passed I went to gather supplies for friends who would descend on our home for her funeral. I felt like a huge spot light was shining on me as I wandering the aisles. "This woman's daughter is dead" was blaring on the intercom, alerting others to avoid me. I felt naked and raw. A friend referred to this feeling as being without skin. Each time I passed something I had bought for Wavey, hot tears would fill my eyes and my breath would quicken. Wegmans became a trigger for me. So I avoided it.

Wegmans was one of the few constants in our lives. It was a place where toddler Wavey helped fill the cart. It was one of the first places we took Oliver after he was born. And it was one of the first places we returned to when we moved back in the midst of diagnosis chaos.

My desire to cook dissipated. I would stop at more convenient shops and quickly buy only the essentials. No memories to impede my perusing of the shelves. Ordering online was safer.

However this year the Christmas spirit flickered within me. I wanted to buy the baked brie we would always eat. I wanted fresh crusty bread and cannoli dip. So after Oliver went to bed and I thought the crowds would be fewer, I ventured back to our Wegmans. And as I entered I started to cry. Tears slowly dripped from my eyes as I grabbed our favorite olives and found the last small brie. Smiles came across my face as I saw the puffed cereal Oliver used to love to eat and the Ella's smoothies that Wavey adored. And as I weaved through the store I realized that in avoiding Wegmans I was trying to avoid my grief.

If you haven't been through loss this may sound nonsensical. But I hope to some of you this will be a reminder that you are not crazy. Triggers are part of the process. Avoidance is sometimes the body's way at self-protection.


cratessc said…
Thank you so much for sharing this. You are correct - you cannot understand unless you have been through a profound loss. I avoided many things during this past year after my husband passed. I just couldn't face the memories. However, I have come to realize that we must face them, head-on. This is the only way to embrace the grief and work through it. It never goes away, but at least we can learn to acknowledge and manage it. :)

Stephanie in Portland
lesley said…
As I read this, I think of the triggers I will have after my daughter passes. I fully understand.
Elise said…
Oh, these triggers are so difficult. There are many things I no longer find pleasure in because they were associated with my mom. People say time heals, but I think it's more that it softens things, takes the edge off. Not all wounds heal, you just figure out how to live with the pain. For me, some of those happy places where things were "normal" are forever changed. There are places I go (or things I do) where all I can do is very briefly acknowledge the triggered memory and then push it back into its box so I don't fall apart.

I wanted to share that even though I know your blog name, I always Google "Waverly McNeil" to find you, saying her name if you will.

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