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From One Grieving Mom to Target: I Need Your Help

By Clare Hahneman

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Clare Hahneman

Clare Hahneman | Guest Blog | The Driven Mama

In a world where we can be anyone, Clare is just trying to figure out how to be herself. On her personal quest of self-discovery, Clare reads all the books, listens to all the podcasts, and sees all the therapists. She’s a problem solver, project manager, anxiety enthusiast, amateur wine connoisseur… but mostly, she is just very very tired. Clare lives outside of Minneapolis, MN with her 2.5 kids, 2 dogs, and 1 patient husband.

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I’ve got a bone to pick with Target:  why is it that there is a whole section of the store dedicated to birth and babies, and not even an aisle dedicated to death and grieving? 

Stick with me here a minute, I’ll explain.

As a full-time working, married, 36 year old, mom of two, I am the demographic for retailers.  I have no time, I have money, and I have hungry kids at home waiting for dinner. 

Target shopping is serious business for me. If you can go into a Target and spend less than $100 consider yourself a unicorn, because I am not sure how that is possible.  Target has everything you’d ever need, and so much pretty stuff you really don’t need but can buy anyway.  

But they don’t have a death aisle.

This somewhat ridiculous realization came to me after the recent passing of my mother. 

Death and talking about death is not something as a culture we do particularly well. I mean, why is it that everyone knows someone’s birth story (I labored for 72 hours blah blah blah) but not everyone, in fact very few people, know a death story in all its difficult detail?

We are all born and we will all die, but we talk so much about the beginning in this society and so little about the end.

I remember when I was first pregnant, I felt like I had entered this special club. Women would share with me stories about their pregnancy, their labor and delivery, how they cared for their new offspring. 

Which is what brought my brain to Target.

Go snoop around the baby section at your local store. You will find everything you’d ever need to have and raise a baby (and lots of stuff you never knew you always needed.) From baby carriers and bassinets, to diapers and wipes, to bottle warmers, swings, rockers, and gliders and more. 

The Target baby section has grown so much in the last few years because the modern-baby-mommy-industrial-complex has demanded that society support us. We wanted it to be easier to breast feed while working – now Target has all the pump and pump parts you could possibly need. We demanded more organic choices for baby food and now you almost can’t find the good old fashioned Gerber stuff we ate as kids. 

Target listened to us, because we are the demographic, and we are powerful.  

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But there isn’t a death aisle in Target.

There’s a joke about how you only ever really have to do three things in life: be born, die, and pay taxes.  It is striking me as so odd how two of those things literally happen to everyone, and yet we are fairly inept as a society in talking about them equally.  I think it’s because we shun the grief that comes with death; it’s painful, therefore uncomfortable, therefore best to avoid.

Death is something to get over, to move beyond.  Grief is not something to be folded into the fabric of your daily life. Talking about death and grief is just not part of the American vernacular.

Somehow it’s okay to stand around the proverbial water cooler and talk about your sister electing a c-section, deciding to hand-make all her own baby food, or co-sleep with her 5 year old (all of these are great decisions by the way – if you made them – and perfectly fine things not to do too). 

But I think it would seem weird, somehow oversharing, if you heard someone around that same water cooler talking about whether or not to visit someone “one last time” or how oddly difficult and overwhelming it feels to pick out an urn, or a headstone (who knew there were quite so many choices?).  

Sad Woman | The Driven Mama

I’m feeling cross with the world for being so ill prepared to help me grieve. 

For not even having the language to help me articulate all of these feelings. We are all going to die and we are all going to lose someone we care deeply for – so why can’t we go to the mecca where we get everything else for our lives and have Target show us the way?

I know I’m being silly…sort of…but I am actually serious. 

How I wish there was a grief-industrial complex where I could buy oodles of unnecessary stuff to make things feel better (the stuff wouldn’t actually make me feel better, but then again one could argue against the frivolousness of most of the stuff in the baby aisle too). 

I don’t know exactly what would be in a death aisle at Target, but it feels to me like there should be something.

An aisle with sad movies, Kleenex, and chocolate, at least. An aisle where there might be books on grief, or cards that say things more helpful than the “they’re in a better place” or “at least you had them for as long as you did.” 

Why can’t Johnson and Johnson or Procter and Gamble make up some scented candles for grieving widowers?

Or some sort of draw string hoodie-meets-yoga pants outfit for when you need to hide that you just don’t care if you’ve showered recently or not?

How about an invention to let coworkers know that you are on the verge of tears and not to ask about the TPS? Reports right at that moment?

The truth is there is no one way to have a baby and there is no one way to grieve, and as long as we as a culture fumble with how to handle grief, I doubt Target is going to jump on the bandwagon and create a death aisle (clearly it would need a new name, for starters). 

Woman hugging kids | The Driven Mama

But could we band together as working mothers and try to make death and grief an okay water cooler conversation at least?

Can we decide that it’s okay to in one breath hear your friend talk about the PTA meeting and in the next to talk about watching the color leaving their loved ones face? 

Can we agree that maternity leave policies are as bad as bereavement leave policies?

And can we agree that having kids is the hardest, best thing that’s ever happened to us, and no one really knows how to walk them through death?

Because I sure wish Target sold something to help me with that.

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