I Cried in the Grocery Store: A Story of Soup and Loneliness


October 15, 2022

person standing between shelvingsI cried in the grocery store.

No, it wasn’t over the outrageously high prices that we’re facing post-pandemic. It wasn’t because they were out of a favorite, or needed product. It wasn’t over someone saying something unkind to me.

I cried because I suddenly realized how lonely I’ve been.

I’ve been a single mom for many years. My home has been filled with the sounds of my twins’ unrestrained laughter, their warmth, hugs, unwavering support, and love. But, times have changed. Now that I’m an empty-nester, I’ve filled my last couple months with work, music, and countless old Survivor episodes. I’ve pretended that my world is full even though I now spend countless hours alone. The truth is, I had almost convinced myself that I was enjoying the solitude. Almost.

Then, I bought soup.

I walked down the grocery aisle trying to find the perfect organic, French country vegetable soup. It’s Amy’s, if you’re wondering. After using grocery delivery services for many years, I changed the pattern and began shopping in person. Each time, I found myself near tears as I realized that buying food for one person is a sad, smack in the face emphasizing that I’m alone.

Yesterday, things were going to be different. I faced the grocery store with anticipation and excitement. Why?  Because my daughter was coming home from college for the weekend. As I searched for the perfect soup, I suddenly realized just how lonely I’ve been. I fought to hold back the tears burning my eyelids.

Loneliness is a Common Problem

So many of us deal with loneliness in silence. Whether it’s because your children have grown up and moved out, a relationship with your significant other ended, you’ve lost a loved one to illness, or countless other reasons, loneliness is everywhere. According to Cigna’s 2020 U.S. Report: Loneliness and the Workplace:

  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents say they always or sometimes feel like no one knows them well, up four percentage points from 2018 (54%).
  • More than half (52%) report sometimes or always feeling alone, up six percentage points from 2018 (46%). Those reporting that they feel left out has seen a similar increase from 2018 (52%, up from 47%).
  • Half (49%) always or sometimes feel as though they lack companionship (2018: 43%). Similar numbers report they always or sometimes feel isolated from others (48% vs. 43% in 2018) and that their relationships with others are not meaningful (47% vs. 43% in 2018). Nearly half (45%) say they sometimes or always feel that they are no longer close to anyone (2018: 39%).

This report published pre-pandemic so it stands to reason that those numbers would be even higher now. I look forward to Cigna’s upcoming research on 2021.

You Are Not Alone

I share all this not only as self-therapy, but in hopes that if you’re lonely and reading this, you’ll know you are not alone. I also want to highlight that wherever you go in the world, realize that  other people are struggling with this too. So next time you’re in the grocery store, if you see a woman crying as she buys soup…it won’t seem that strange.

I’d love to hear your stories and how loneliness is impacting your life. Feel free to share in the comments, email me at TrishaM89@gmail.com, or tweet me @TrishMcFarlane.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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