Grief Lessons From the WalMart Truck

I have used many analogies and metaphors to describe my grief journey in the seven years since my daughter Jeannine died.  During my early grief, I frequently described feeling, on a good day, like I had been consistently pummeled with a baseball bat. On an excruciating day, it felt like two baseball bats were simultaneously pummeling me.

As my journey has progressed, my analogies are not so much related to the pain of Jeannine’s death, but rather on what her death has taught me.

Late last week, I was driving to a baseball game. As soon as I pulled onto the highway, I found myself behind a very slow moving Wal-Mart truck.  I have never been a patient driver, and most of the time experience extreme frustration when I am behind a slow moving vehicle.  There were also two other cars in front of me.

None of us could pass the truck because a solid yellow line divided, for the most part, the two-lane highway.  Since it appeared that I was not going to be able to pass, I decided to just settle back and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the present moment.

During the next three to four miles of my ride, here is what transpired and how I feel it relates to our grief journeys:

The car directly in front of me attempted to pass the Wal-Mart truck, realized that he couldn’t and got back behind it.  During my early grief, there were days that I wanted to get around my pain or just simply avoid it. When I attempted to do that, it just made my emotional pain worse. I learned that the only way to deal with my pain was to ride it out, until it became tolerable. Also, the driver recognized his limitations in that situation.

At any time during our grief journeys, we need to recognize that there are certain situations that we may not be able to handle. Recognizing our limitations is a key ingredient in learning to take care of ourselves during our lifelong journeys.

As I continued to enjoy the scenery around me and the present moment, the truck suddenly pulled onto the shoulder of the road and let us all pass.  I appreciated his thoughtfulness, particularly in this day and age where chivalry is sometimes an afterthought.  His action reminded me of two very important lessons that I have learned since Jeannine’s death. The first relates to the importance of dealing with our own pain by doing something nice for others.  Using our pain to help others is a key component of service work.

The second lesson relates to the importance of taking care of the present and letting the universe take care of the rest.  When I have been able to accomplish this, I have been able to find joy, meaning and develop a greater appreciation for those around me.  Being present-minded has also allowed me to appreciate the connectedness that I still have with Jeannine and her continuing influence in redefining who I am.

What situations have you encountered that have helped you to reassess your grief journey?  When has slowing down actually helped you to move forward?  How can we use this knowledge to help others who also grieve?

David J. Roberts became a bereaved parent after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer at the age of 18.  You can read more of his work here:

Photo Credit.


  1. Susan Hines said on February 13, 2013 at 9:00 am ... #

    Hi David,
    Thank you for writing about your grief. My brother lost his wife in September 2012. They have three boys, 19, 26 and 30. The two youngest are at home with my brother who is trying to work and continue soldiering on. But the 26 year old has started drinking heavily and has wrecked several vehicles. I know he’s just hurting, but trying to drown it. They don’t know me as well as they do their other aunts, but I still love them. This middle son in particular is suffering the worst (well probably not, but more obvious due to the drinking)
    I know that no one really talks about Amy. They live there in that house that has every memory she ever made in it. it’s like living in a ghost house. I would probably drink too. I don’t know if she said goodbye to them. I did not get the chance. They did n’t let us know how bad it was getting. I’m thinking about just going by and talking to him. I know he wants to talk about her. I’ve gotten both of them a journal. Their Mom journaled all her life until she got sick. I think maybe she knew she was dying and just couldn’t put it into words. I’m so glad there are others that put their grief out there to help all of us.
    Thank you.

  2. Dave Roberts said on April 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm ... #

    You are welcome Susan. please accept my condolences for both your brother,s and your loss. I am glad you are considering stopping by and offering your support. journaling was very comforting to me after Jeannine died and writing has helped me develop increased clarity. Journaling is another nice way for individuals to get their grief expressed if they are uncomfortable talking about it.

    I wish you all peace.

  3. Julie Aikens said on April 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm ... #

    Hi Susan and Dave,
    I also journal not just for myself but for my grandchildren so they know how I am dealing with the grief. I started with a little note to them stating that many of the entries would not be in order but more of what just popped into my head at that moment. Funny things I may have remembered about their uncle/dad. Things they may have done that made me smile when I was at my lowest to left me up. Sad things they should know, the little things I wish I had changed and understand that many times we cannot change the past and that’s just the way it is and we need to except it. Someday maybe one will write a book and title it Crazy Grammie, but a camp on Whitelake, sit around the campfire and remember all the good times, sad times, laugh and cry together.

  4. Dave Roberts said on April 11, 2013 at 10:20 pm ... #

    Hey Julia:
    The journal for your grandchildren is a great idea because you are creating a history of their dad/uncle. They will always know who he is and they will be able to one day make who he is a part of who they are and will be.

    Wishing you peace…..always

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