I knew by the end of the first page of Kelly Wilson’s Caskets from Costco that this was a book for me. I thought for a fleeting moment that maybe my friends at Sweatpants and Coffee did this on purpose. Was this a subtle hint that I needed to deal with my deep-rooted depression? Did I need to learn to laugh a little bit more at the humor life has to offer? If so, Kelly succeeded within the first few pages – making me laugh at the absurdities that surround us all the time:
Have you ever seen a collection of caskets in the middle of a Costco warehouse? I haven’t, and I wish they’d carry them in the store instead of only online. I imagine a large circle of caskets set up where the tables of clothing usually stand, arranged head to toe with room on both sides for browsing and comparing. To make good use of this space, some caskets could hold collections of smaller products or trays of food samples.
Of course, this wasn’t a stealthy attempt to get me to deal with my baggage. Nobody really knows that I’ve been in such a funk lately, because I don’t often talk about it. Reading Kelly’s funny and moving book gave me something that I desperately needed: a voice that reminded me it was okay to feel the way I was a feeling, a voice that showed me there was a way out of this depression, a voice that, in its own hilarious way, said, “Me, too.”
In her book, Kelly chronicles her time in counseling with stories interspersed of her experiences in life: loss, grief, and the moments of happiness in between all of it. I found myself crying with her as I read about her near-death experience during the birth of her first son. I wondered, as she did, what it meant for my life listening to her counselor’s explanation of “Learned Helplessness.” And I felt like I was getting punched in the gut when I read about her interaction with a friend who lost her baby:
“Well, the doctors and I are thinking early or mid-June, and I’m going to need to quit my job because there will be two babies instead of one,” she said, and then hesitated. “Since in my mind, all babies die, I don’t really think I’ll need to quit my job.”
I nodded in understanding. A small, sad smile passed between us.
Kelly has a knack for writing in a way that those of us who have dealt with grief only have to sit there and nod (or sit there and ugly-cry, then nod, as it happened for me). When my sister died in February of 2014, it caused a shift in me. Death was no longer an intangible idea. People don’t die “someday,” they die now, while you’re watching them and holding their hand. It could have been me saying those words, “Since in my mind, all my loved ones die…”
And yet it was that next line, that small, fleeting line that really stuck with me: I nodded in understanding. A small, sad smile passed between us. Because even though I’ve been in and out of a deep depression since my sister’s death, even though sometimes I feel like I’m too broken to ever really recover from it, I have never – not once – sat down with someone who made me feel like I was unworthy of love and happiness. Kelly’s book reminded me that there will always be people who nod in understanding with you, who don’t think you’re a burden for feeling the way you do.
This book is for anyone who has dealt with trauma or loss, anyone who struggles with depression, anyone who ever feels that the hole in their heart might not ever be filled. In short, this book is for everyone. It’s an honest and vulnerable portrait of life. It might make you cry, but it will also make you smile. And in the end, I think that’s a pretty great snapshot of the balance of life.
For twenty years, I thought that I had been marching through the stages of grief in a straight line. I had been following the formula, crossing each processed grief experience off my list.
Except that I was totally deluded. And I didn’t discover that until Jim, my beloved father-in-law, died. I found myself drying off from my shower the morning after his death, really hoping he couldn’t see me naked. Or, if he could, that he was averting his eyes.
From that moment, my path through grief resembled a roller coaster, spiraling and twisting and turning, circling back around. Echoes of past trauma, including childhood abuse and cheating death, would no longer be ignored. I somehow needed to get from the beginning to the end of this grief adventure, and I don’t have a good sense of direction.
But what is always present during a journey through grief, regardless of the path chosen?
Caskets From Costco is a funny book about grief that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.
About the Author
Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Kelly writes and speaks about finding hope in the process of recovery. Through both stand-up and improv comedy, she brings laughter to audiences of all ages using a wide range of subject matter, including silly songs, parenting stories, and jokes and anecdotes revolving around mental health issues. Kelly is the author of Live Cheap & Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Caskets From Costco, along with numerous articles and short stories for children and adults. She currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon.