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Death, Grief and Pasta

When grief sneaks up on you –Part 2 in a series on Death

Grief and mourning are processes that we all go through when someone you love dies and there is no getting around it. As I write this I am nursing second degree burns from pouring pasta into a colander, an activity I've done literally hundreds of times before, that managed to splash on me instead of the sink. I’m in pain and wondering what was that about and what exactly is the lesson in this if there is one. It felt stupid as most accidents do and I tried to make sense out of what happened. Well, two months ago to the day that I managed to get burned, my mother died. She was eighty- six years old and lived to a ripe old age as many reminded me, but a big loss to me nevertheless. As a clinician I had to examine if there was any connection.

Early in my career, I taught a course on death and dying. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled with the subject matter but happy to have the opportunity to teach a college course. Much of the subject matter in that course delineated behaviors, patterns and stages of grieving. There are in fact things that are predictable with grieving the death of a loved one and knowing that many behaviors and feelings are normal helps a lot and can go a long way in helping with the mourning process and with coping with the death of a loved one. Being distracted or spacy is part of grieving and that’s normal.

So what does happen when you are grieving? Well for one thing there are moments, and they come in waves, when you are foggy and your mind is somewhere else. During those waves, the "you can’t believe your loved one died” reality moments sneak in. You might not be thinking about much of anything and neither might you be distracted by any particular activity nor is your mind particularly occupied with something else, but that painful wave of sadness, remembering your loss, just happens. That's a normal part of grief.

And then there are also those moments when you don't even realize that you're grieving and it's just there. Like the other day when I was going about my business cooking and thinking about not much of anything, when I accidentally splashed boiling water on myself. In hindsight, I was probably missing my mother who had poured pasta literally thousands of times. I was distracted-- a spacy, grief moment. That is not to say that accidentally getting burned is part of grieving but being preoccupied, sad or spacy is.

Lessons to be learned

1- Grief is a process that weaves in and out of your life for a good bunch of months following the death of someone close.

2- Be a little more cautious and careful -- you just might be distracted or spacy.

3- Cut yourself some slack—grieving is hard.

4- Finally, for me, I just think I should never cook.

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today
More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today