Two weeks ago, one of our patients died after a year-long battle with cholangiocarcinoma. She was only 50 years old and left behind her husband of 25 years and her 2 teenage daughters.
Yesterday, I called her husband to check in and see how he was doing now that all the services were complete and the out of town guests had returned home. We talked about what he was doing, how he's been feeling and how his daughters were responding to the loss of their mom.
At one point in our conversation he said, "Have I told you about the mustard moment?" And I said, "No. What was that?" He recounted how he had been food shopping the previous weekend and he came upon the mustard section. "I stood there for like five minutes with all of these thoughts swirling around in my head. My wife always preferred Grey Poupon but I like Gulden's. I couldn't decide which one to buy and obviously, now that she's passed, I didn't need to buy the Grey Poupon." I asked him "So which one did you buy?" He replied, "I bought the Gulden's but I had a lot of guilt about it afterward."
Grieving takes many forms and moments like "the mustard moment" will undoubtedly present themselves at strange times. Even in food stores. Even with something so benign as a decision between mustards. As I said to him, and to everyone I know who might be dealing with a loss of some kind, "be gentle with yourself. You're going through a very difficult process and there is no right or wrong answer." Even if her husband had bought both mustards, that would have been OK.
I imagine there will be more moments for him as he grieves his wife. I certainly appreciated his sharing his mustard moment story with me and so I share it with you. Losing someone you love hurts. Be gentle with yourself.