• Neva Bryan

A Million Tiny Fish

Updated: Jun 19



Search the word “grief” on the internet, and you’ll get about 185 million results. You’ll see articles about the process of grief, its symptoms, or its stages. For many years, people supported the theory of psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross that there are five stages of grief.

Belief in the five stages has fallen out of favor in recent years as experts have come to realize that grief is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It isn’t one big life event that you go through, and then you’re done. You see, grief will never be done with you.

I liken it to being nibbled to death by millions of tiny fish. Insignificant things can tear you open without warning, years after a loved one has died.

Most of these little fish come to me through three of my senses: smell, sight, and sound.

The first year after Mom died, I couldn’t handle Jeopardy. I didn’t want to hear the theme music. That game show was one of our mother-daughter bonding experiences. We watched it every evening. Even the thought of it made me heartsick.

For a couple of years, I got sick in my stomach whenever I saw a late afternoon sunbeam angling through the kitchen window. I can’t pinpoint a reason why that golden strip of light reminded me of my mother. It just did.

I believe there will always be scents or sounds or other sensory experiences that remind me of my mother in ways that make me sad. But I know there are just as many that remind me of her and make me smile.

Even today, six years later, I have a lot of sensory grief triggers. Those tiny fish are still nibbling on me.

If I hear Willie Nelson on the radio, I cry.

The sound of Mr. Rogers’ voice makes me weep. So does the gentle music that accompanies him.

I used to love the scent of lilac, but now it reminds me of the last week of my mom’s life. I remember bringing lilac to her and holding it close to her face so she could smell it. She didn’t pay a bit of attention to it. That’s when I truly knew that she was going to die. She passed soon after that.

I don’t plant marigolds anymore because they were her favorite flowers. Their bright blooms and unique smell make me sad.

Sunny Sunday drives give me pleasure, but occasionally I feel grief welling up inside me at the memory of rolling along those back roads with Mom.

Nibble nibble.

I believe there will always be scents or sounds or other sensory experiences that remind me of my mother in ways that make me sad. But I know there are just as many that remind me of her and make me smile.

The scent of bleach wafting through the house brings to mind summer mornings when I was a kid. We had a wringer washing machine on our kitchen porch. Mom got up early to do laundry, and I would awaken to fresh air purified by Clorox.

I love the smell of soup beans simmering on the stove or potatoes sizzling in a cast-iron skillet. Those are quintessential examples of foods that trigger pleasant memories of my mother.

Birdsong of any kind is a happy sound. Mom loved songbirds. We used to sit on the back porch swing and try to identify as many different types as we could. My mother instilled in me a great appreciation for the beauty in nature.

I guess I don’t mind when the tiny fish come nibbling. Those brief, returning moments of grief remind me that there’s been a significant loss in my life.

The reason it’s so great is that I was loved so hard.

It never hurts to be reminded of that.

What is your grief trigger? Is it a scent or a sound? Or is it an event, like a holiday or an anniversary? Please share your story below.



34 views
Subscribe to The Last Biscuit

© 2023 by Neva Bryan. Proudly created with Wix.com

Copyright © 2020 Neva Bryan

All Rights Reserved. Contents of this site, including text and media, may not be reproduced without prior written consent.