Grief kit

January 30, 2009

I’ve been thinking a great deal about philosophical, spiritual and emotional aspects of grieving and probably will be for a long time.  This process I’m going through isn’t something you just get over.  And I’m (maybe perversely) glad of that, that I can’t just dust myself off, say, well, Teddy’s gone now, onto the next thing. I am marked, physically and in the core of my being, with tracks of his presence (dear, dear presence!) and of his absence, which looms so large some days that breathing still (still, still) seems like work.  I’m changed, and changing, and so is N, and so is our marriage.  I don’t know quite yet what or who I, we, will be.  Which is one of the reasons I come here to write, of course.

But I do know some practical things about grief.  Some humble, bodily aspects.

You need really soft tissues if you’re going to be crying for days in a row, or your nose becomes chapped.  Depending on how sensitive or prone to breakouts you are, tissues with lotion may be good, or not.  But the tissues have to be very soft, not the cheap ones you find in workplaces across America, and definitely not the toilet paper you find in workplaces across America.  So, really soft tissues go into my grief kit.

And then there’s a need for more tissues, for travel packs, which are very useful when you venture out in public.  Because while there are worse things than blubbering away in the produce section of the grocery store (or in the public library, or on your way to work) without tissues, it is still highly unpleasant.

You need a good moisturizer, too – something that helps protect and heal the snot- and tear-smeared skin on your face without causing acne break outs.  If you burn easily like me, you want sunscreen as well, but that part is probably optional.  So, good moisturizer, into the kit.

And a good water bottle, or tea, or a healthy supply of your favorite drink, to help rehydrate you from all the crying.

Food – one of the best things my Mom did after Teddy died was to stock our freezer with the same kinds of meals she makes and freezes for harvest lunches and dinners, and then to stock our fridge with staples so if we didn’t want to go out or to cook, we could toss something in the oven or fall back on scrambled eggs and toast.  And friends from work kept bringing by truly excellent hot (and cold) dishes.  Mom is a champion cook, but the next time someone in my life goes through a big loss, I will at least be aware of the value of a frozen lasagna.

Distractions.  Things that give the brain even the tiniest of vacations – episodes of Monk work for me, as did West Wing, and several largely frothy novels.  People shouldn’t sneer so at escapism – it’s not so shallow as is commonly implied, and a little bit of it can allow you to pick yourself up and carry on when you think you can’t.  So, DVDs, books, etc. – into the kit.

If you were making up a grief kit, what would you put into it?



  1. Ah, yes, the ‘practical’ side of grief.

    MY grandmother died in January 2007, and I brought home many of her old handkerchiefs. I thought to make a small memorial pillow out of one that had her monogram. I ended up using them for crying – because they are softer for wiping tears, and, if you are not actually shedding cold viruses, work great for days of sobbing. Plus, if I had used tissues, I probably would have gone through a tree or two…

    I also agree with the distractions – something light like Twilight worked for me. I have many books scattered about the house that I just couldn’t get into, others I fully escaped into.

    I also found that *quiet* was a new favorite commodity.

    And a heating pad, because my back was tired from all the sobbing.

    Sunshine. That helped too.

  2. Good list. And funny you say lasagna. The week after we lost her, I never wanted to see another lasagna again! The sheer number of those things we had dropped on our doorstep!

    And sadly, I think there are a lot of people out there who think “right, well that happened, she’s gone now, best she up and move on with it.”

  3. I definitely agree with need for quality tissues. (The hospital tissues are particularly useless, rough and TINY!) My husband and I have gone through cases of them in the past year.

    Food definitely. Comfort foods–mac and cheese, hearty soups . . . high quality food–rich chocolate, expensive cheeses, good wine . . . I found myself buying things I wouldn’t normally buy, seeking comfort.

    Flowers–But maybe that is partly that the earliest stages of my grief took place in the dead of winter and I really wanted something bright and alive in the house.

    Massage–I got two in the first couple of months and they were fabulous. If I could have afforded it I would have had them much more regularly.

    Distractions are good. I couldn’t always focus long enough for hour long shows, so I tended toward half-hour comedies. I couldn’t read for a long time, and then only “light” stuff. I did lots of Sodoku, though.

    A journal–writing in my journal and online has helped me throughout.

    Yoga/mediation–I was given a gift certificte to the studio I go to and it was the best gift. It was hard sometimes to go, often an emotional experience, but so healing.

    Interesting question!

  4. I would add my cell phone, with text messaging, so that I can send and receive short emails when I need support on the fly (like when I start crying at the grocery store).

  5. Just found this through Glow in the Woods – fabulous. And love the question…
    I so agree to everything on these lists.
    Mine adds the trinkets that people left us.
    – The bead bracelet that my friend made by hand with healing stones and a little
    – The children’s book “The Dragonfly Door”
    – The frivolous little angel magnet that a woman I barely know sent me. She also lost her baby at 38 weeks.
    – The “peace plant” that I got at the 1 year mark, and just can’t seem to kill, no matter how hard I try.
    – And no matter how counterintuitive, sad books. Good for the cry you need when you need it. You’d think the last thing I needed was to read Animal Dreams, but it was so cathartic. And a reminder of not being alone.

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