Everyone Around You is Grieving. Go Easy.

The day my father died, I was at the grocery store buying bananas.

I remember thinking to myself, “This is insane. Your dad just died. Why the hell are you buying bananas?”

But we needed bananas. We’d be waking up for breakfast tomorrow morning, and there wouldn’t be any bananas—so there I was.

And lots of other stuff still needed doing too, so over the coming days I would navigate parking lots, wait in restaurant lines, and sit on park benches; pushing back tears, fighting to stay upright, and in general always being seconds from a total, blubbering, room-clearing freak out.

I wanted to wear a sign that said: I JUST LOST MY DAD. PLEASE GO EASY.

Unless anyone passing by looked deeply into my bloodshot eyes or noticed the occasional break in my voice and thought enough to ask, it’s not like they’d have known what’s happening inside me or around me. They wouldn’t have had any idea of the gaping sinkhole that had just opened up and swallowed the normal life of the guy next to them in the produce section.

And while I didn’t want to physically wear my actual circumstances on my chest, it probably would have caused people around me to give me space or speak softer or move more carefully—and it might have made the impossible, almost bearable. 

Everyone around you; the people you share the grocery store line with, pass in traffic, sit next to at work, encounter on social media, and see across the kitchen table—they’re all experiencing the collateral damage of living. They are all grieving someone, missing someone, worried about someone. Their marriages are crumbling or their mortgage payment is late or they’re waiting on their child’s test results, or they’re getting bananas five years after a death and still pushing back tears because the loss feels as real as it did that first day.

Every single human being you pass by today is fighting to find peace and to push back fear; to get through their daily tasks without breaking down in front of the bananas or in the carpool line or at the post office.

Maybe they aren’t mourning the sudden, tragic passing of a parent, but wounded, exhausted, pain-ravaged people are everywhere, everyday stumbling all around us—and yet most of the time we’re fairly oblivious to them:

Parents whose children are terminally ill.
Couples in the middle of divorce.
People grieving loss of loved ones and relationships. 

Kids being bullied at school.
Teenagers who want to end their lives.
People marking the anniversary of a death.
Parents worried about their depressed teenager.

Spouses whose partners are deployed in combat.
Families with no idea how to keep the lights on.
Single parents with little help and little sleep.

Everyone is grieving and worried and fearful, and yet none of them wear the signs, none of them have labels, and none of them come with written warnings reading, I’M STRUGGLING. BE KIND TO ME.

And since they don’t, it’s up to you and me to look more closely and more deeply at everyone around us: at work or at the gas station or in the produce section, and to never assume they aren’t all just hanging by a thread. Because most people are hanging by a thread—and our simple kindness can be that thread.

We need to remind ourselves just how hard the hidden stories around us might be, and to approach each person as a delicate, breakable, invaluable treasure—and to handle them with care. 

As you make your way through the world today, people won’t be wearing signs to announce their mourning or to alert you to the attrition or to broadcast how terrified they are—but if you look with the right eyes, you’ll see the signs.

There are grieving people all around you.

Go easy.

 

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156 thoughts on “Everyone Around You is Grieving. Go Easy.

  1. Beautiful! After my daughter’s death, I could not stop talking about her even to strangers. The morning she died in our arms, all I could think about was cancelling a doctor’s appointment. I drove to spend the morning with a close friend after her husband passed away the night before. She was concerned that she did not have casters for her dining room table and chairs. I took her to Home Depot and purchased them. She does not remember. Grief does crazy things to us. We are not rational. Thank you for your words to encourage us to feel and Love ❤️To our fellow an before we speak or act .

  2. Hello John,
    How right you are! I am a Grief Counsellor and a group facilitator for sudden loss. In my work I come face-to-face with those among us who are hurting. But in my daily life I often encounter strangers who are desperate to share their story with anyone willing to ask. I approached a man sitting on a bench recently and sat down beside him. Are you okay? No, he said, today is the anniversary of my wife’s death and I just don’t know how to go on without her. This man was contemplating suicide. While this example is on the extreme end, we walk every day beside people who are grieving for a myriad of reasons.

    Thank you for the reminder that a little human kindness can go a long way!

    Cheryl

  3. I have re-read this many times now. It is so simply wonderful.

    Such great advice — thank you for putting it out there

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  5. My son just fueddon February 27th and I’m having a very hard time with this. I loved him so much and I couldn’t help his alcohol addiction. I feel so guilty.
    My daughter is trying to help but she is being hateful, but i know she’s grieving too.
    Im saying many prayers to get me through this devastating time.

  6. Thank you for this. I recently just lost my dad and I too found myself wandering aimlessly around the grocery store (oddly enough to buy bananas, and frozen cauliflower). So many times the thought has gone through my head that “none of these people have any idea what’s going on in my life and I know nothing about what’s going on in theirs. Here I am, walking around as if all is ok in my world when it’s not.” I put on a smile and exchange pleasantries with the people I encounter. The simple acts of kindness of strangers help me and mean so much. The quote is true, “be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Having lost both my parents by the age of 35 really puts things into perspective and makes you realize that life is too short to not be kind. You’ll get much further and feel much better for doing so. And who knows who you might help along the way.

  7. Grieving never lessens, you just learn somehow to live with it. The hole in your heart never quite heals. Every day I miss my parents and daughter. Every. Single. Day. There is no respite, no “getting over it”. Only a numbness of your soul.

  8. Interesting you should say that, because Trump has received much the same shit as Jesus. Jesus was accused of hanging out with murderers and prostitutes. Trump gets accused of ties with prostitutes and “racists”. Jesus and Trump are both put on trial. Both are censored, judged, and condemned.

    • Nevermind my post, it was supposed to go in a section about Jesus in Trump’s America. Then this website redirected me here.

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  16. I really great article, I love it, I just find it concerning that one thing that is missing is the parent/adult with a medical issue. As a cancer survivor, I go through my life every day, without many people around me knowing. Several years later, people still don’t know because my hair has grown back. I don’t look sick, but I still have a lot of struggles from the Illness and treatment. I have friends who have cancer, and other illnesses, or chronic pain-we are not all in the hospital or resting at home. We too are buying bananas. Losing our physical wellness is another kind of suffering.

  17. What a well-written, well-thought out piece! Thank you so much for putting that “on paper” and sharing it with the masses. I hope it gets shared around the world and a positive different takes hold.

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