Grieving over the loss of a spouse can be extremely difficult but also unpredictable.
No matter how much time has passed, the heartbreak remains deeply embedded and all it takes is one innocuous moment or reminder to unleash the waterworks.
An example of this was found in the TIFU (Today I F'd Up) subReddit, where a woman inadvertently triggered a grocery store clerk—who had recently become a widow—to tears.
Redditor "eebsy_does_it" carried a wedding ring—belonging to her very much alive husband—for safe keeping to ensure he would not misplace it while away on a business trip.
Discovering the significance of the ring attached to the OP's key chain rendered the emotional employee ineffectual for the remainder of her shift.
Because she thought the OP's husband also died.
What began as a humdrum task of stocking up on groceries turned dramatic with the uncontrollably sobbing employee being relieved of her post.
"My husband works two weeks out of town a month and leaves his wedding ring at home (work safety and fear of losing it). I got into the habit of carrying his ring around with my car keys, attached to a key chain."
"Today, as I'm getting groceries, I am fumbling between my keys and wallet when the cashier (a woman looking to be in her 50s) makes mention of the ring on my keychain, pointing out that it is quite interesting."
"My husband is a huge nerd (love him for it) and the ring is embellished with dragons and sparkles quite brilliantly in most light which makes it eye catching. I thank her and say 'It's my husbands' (EXACT QUOTE)."
"WELL. This lovely lady's eyes almost immediately start to well up with tears as I'm standing there, horrified at what I may have said or done to cause this."
"She is barely able to say that she is sorry but her husband died this year and she is so sorry for my loss."
"I gather that she thought that my husband had died and that I carried his ring around as a memento."
"She apologised profusely, unable to stop crying, to the point where a manager at customer service came to the til to see what was going on."
The OP remained bewildered.
"I gave him a look that said 'I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING.' He offered to take over her til, check me out, and said she could take her break early."
"She agreed, still crying, and walked around the til to me, offered me a hug that I could not refuse, and walked away sobbing."
Many Redditors empathized over the unfortunate misunderstanding.
This person suggested shopping elsewhere in the future.
"Oh man... at that point you really can't correct the wrong assumption without causing her to feel worse. Also, you can never shop there with your husband again." – Page_Frame
Others suggested these workarounds should the couple remain faithful shoppers.
"Just let him be the one with the ring on the key chain next time and say 'it belongs to my wife.'" – "ProtenSLO
"Have him follow you around but don't acknowledge him at all, like a ghost only cashiers can see." – entotheenth
"Hey teller lady, look what I found? A replacement husband!" – Chavarlison
"Just tell him if he shops there with you he has to pretend he's your brother. Bonus points if you look nothing alike at all." – stanleyjkibble
This Redditor used the interaction to serve as a reminder for how we should treat others.
"She was definitely feeling her loss but she was absolutely an empathetic person and that's good. We need people like her."
"You never know what will trigger another person because you don't know what they are going through. That's why we should always be kind." – etreoupasetre
For those who've inquired about the ring's appearance, the OP shared this photo of the Celtic-style dragon ring that she previously posted on Imgur.
"Oh wow OP, that's hella cool. Love it!" – TheAwwwssassin
The OP said that her husband picked the ring himself by Googling "dragon rings."
It cost $10.
"He ordered one for himself and one to propose to me with; hoping that I would say 'yes' so he could wear his right away."
The husband's job was unspecified—aside from the fact that: "when he is home, he isn't working."
Redditors shared their work-related ring-wearing regimen.
"My husband does the same thing. We works 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off in the mines. Leaves his ring at home when he is at the mines. Isn't working in the two weeks he is off." – maneki--neko
"Haven't worn a ring in almost a decade. Have occassionally work on the cars myself. Who wants a circumfrance burn, usually will require amputation as the burn swelling cuts off circulation to the finger."
"Crushed a 18k ring with diamond working IT. Wasn't a flimsy ring either. Finger tip immediately turned blue and started to lose feeling. Fortunately, I was able to wiggle it off, soap and a lot of tears." – kidphc
"When I was working as an engineer, someone scared the heck out of me about traumatic degloving, and now I just straight up don't wear a ring, anymore."
"Neither does my husband, tbf. Only ever even mildly matters when I get hit on in bars, cause having a ring on would probably just make them move on to start with and I could drink in peace." – jessuvius
Sympathetic users offered mutual compassion for the widow and for the OP.
"It breaks my heart to her of an old woman who lost her husband who, either needs to work as a cashier to get by or just works there as of a means to get out of the house. That just kills me inside :(" – thagrassyknoll
"In all seriousness, very sorry for this woman's loss. You never know what someone's going through." – C-57D
"She jumped to a conclusion. Not your fault."
"She needed to cry. 'You' did her a favor. Crying is a sign of giving up, accepting a situation as it is. She's still in mourning. She had a ('good'?) cry. Cut yourself a break; you didn't do anything wrong." – 1st10Amendments
"i can feel sorry for the cashiers loss, while saying that YOU did nothing wrong at all." – odinsleep-odinsleep
Suppressing emotions is overrated.
"Crying is a beneficial activity, not a harmful one. It's like sneezing, coughing, getting rest, etc." – Individdy
"I'm a hospice nurse. I cry a lot. I used to be embarrassed about it. Over the years I've decided through experience that when people share real emotion it's one of the most beautiful things we can do."
"She misunderstood but thank you for letting her be real to another person." – mshawnl1
"It's alright, you meant no harm. When we lose someone close to us we can be 'brittle' for an indeterminate amount of time."
"You can never tell when you are reminded of the loved one you lost and can break down at times that seem inappropriate. F'k it! Cry, rant, rave, do whatever helps..."
"Please go back to the store speak with cashier tell her you are sorry for her loss. You don't owe her an apology, you do owe her compassion. Speak from the heart and you will know what to say." – dcolecpa
Like someone mentioned in a previous comment, you never know what a person is going through. Kindness always matters.
Big hugs to the sweet grocery store lady.