It’s all about the small stuff or
When light returns after the eclipse of the sun
In 1997, Richard Carlson wrote a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …and it’s All Small Stuff. In most circumstances in our lives, I would agree with that sentiment. But when we experience the death of someone we love and we are grieving, the pain oftentimes comes from the absence of the small stuff.
What is it that you miss about the person who has died? Is it simply not having their presence? That is probably part of it, but when the grief wave hits; when the pain shoots to your very core, what is it that triggers those grief attacks? Usually, it’s the small stuff.
Keep Me in Your Heart was the last song
Warren Zevon wrote while he was dying from cancer.
“Sometimes when you’re doin’ simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while.”
There is nothing much simpler or smaller than the buttons on your blouse. He is talking about the connection we have with our loved ones that permeates everything we are and everything we do. Do you think of your mother just as an amorphous idea? I wouldn’t think so. Do you think about cooking with her when you walk into your kitchen and grab her cookbook with all of your grandmother’s recipes? Or, do you think of her when you find the quilt she always had on her bed when you were a kid? The same quilt she would wrap you up in when you didn’t feel well. Do you wrap yourself in it now to remember her? This is the small stuff…
How about your Dad? Do you remember his cologne? When you hear an old song, do you remember dancing on the toes of his shoes? Do you have his robe that he wore every weekend morning to read the paper? Do you feel his strength if you put it on like he has his arms around you? This is the small stuff…
Brothers and sister…cousins and friends…these are the people that anchor us to times and places and are oftentimes the unseen compasses in our lives. Do you think of your sibling when you reach up and touch the scar on your chin from where they pushed you out of the bunk beds? Did you clean out your attic this spring and find the Rick Springfield poster your best friend who just died of breast cancer gave you for your 14th birthday? How many nights did the two of you stay up talking about Rick Springfield? Don’t you wish you could call your friend or sibling and hear their voice again? This is the small stuff…
Warren Zevon goes on to sing…
“Hold me in your thoughts,
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you.”
How often did you sit next to your spouse on the couch or in the car holding hands? Do you think of them as your hand brushes against their pillow at night? Do you feel sad and a little foolish when you still walk in the house after being gone and say out loud, “Honey (or darling or sweetie …) I’m home”? The rush of the recognition that they are not there comes at you like a gale force wind but in the quiet breeze afterwards you might still hear, “Welcome home Sweet Heart.” This is the small stuff…
In grief, it can feel like the “small stuff” will always have the potential to overwhelm. Pushing memories and unbidden thoughts away may feel like the only way to survive. But, in the long run, the small stuff is what keeps us connected and staying connected is what helps us heal. The small stuff is what life is made of and telling the story of the small stuff brings our loved ones back to life in our hearts and memories.
Sometimes it can feel very much like the light has been turned off on that part of our lives. Virginia Woolf wrote, “How then does the light return to the world after the eclipse of the sun? Miraculously. Frailly. In thin stripes. It hangs like a glass cage. It is a hoop to be fractured by a tiny jar. There is a spark there.” The spark is hope. Hope is what moves us forward in our grief. Hope that the memories will bring more smiles than tears. Hope that the pain will lessen. Light comes back after the eclipse of the sun. It returns to light the path of your grief journey and too illumine the small stuff that is, in the end, the enduring connection to those that we love… Because love is always stronger than death.
Betsy R. Kammerud, LCSW, MVF-CSW, ACHP-SW is a Bereavement Counselor with Full Circle Grief and Loss Center located at 6000 Business Center Drive in Savannah. Grief counseling is provided to any child, teen or adult at no charge as a community service of not-for-profit Hospice Savannah, Inc. Reach Full Circle at 912.303.9442 or visit