How Grief is Like Driving on Your Emergency Spare Tire

Apr 29, 2019 | 2 comments

Emergency Spare Tire Donut
An emergency spare tire, a.k.a. “donut” tire.

Have you ever had to use the emergency spare tire on your automobile? It’s smaller than your regular tires. As a result, you have to change your driving habits when you rely on this emergency “donut” tire.

Experiencing grief and mourning is a lot like driving around on your spare tire. Consider:

  • You have to slow down. The emergency spare tire’s label warns you to keep your speed below 50 miles per hour. When you are mourning a loss, you need to change your pace of life to recognize and honor your grief. Take the time to slow down, avoid making costly mistakes, and process this major life change.
  • You change your daily routine and route. If you usually go 65 mph or more on the freeway, you’ll need to change to a surface street to keep below that 50 mph maximum (or risk the wrath of other freeway drivers). Unfortunately, many people try to keep up their ordinary routines when grieving. Pretending life is still the same after a major loss can be harmful to your emotional state.
  • You become sensitive to your surroundings. Driving with one less-than-optimal tire, you want to avoid potholes or debris that may damage the only spare tire you have. Mourning is an emotionally sensitive time. Grievers may compensate by going out of their way to avoid situations or places that prompt distress. Some may quickly remove reminders of their loved ones, getting rid of clothing, favorite foods or other objects.
  • You recognize life’s fragility. Driving around with all four regular tires, one may feel in control and impervious to danger. Being aware that one tire failed, you are reminded that life has no guarantees. Grief and mourning remind us that with love comes loss.
  • You want to get back to normal. Sometimes, it takes a while to get a new tire. Drivers may become impatient waiting for the time when the regular tire is ready and installed. Mourners wonder when they’ll be able to feel “normal” after a loss. It’s a process to find a new normal after a loved one dies. Be patient with yourself and the process of life going on.

You never know when a tire will blow, and you never know when a loved one will die. Check your spare tire from time to time, to make sure it can do the work when needed. Likewise, tell your loved ones you love them while you can. Make peace with those against whom you carry a grudge before it becomes an unbearable burden.

As we roll down the road of life, let’s be sensitive to our fellow motorists who may be driving on their emergency spare donut tire.

Gail Rubin with motto
Gail Rubin’s motto is “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, and talking about funerals and end-of-life issues won’t make you dead.”

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. She uses humor, funny film clips, and outside-the-box activities to teach about end-of-life topics. She authored three books on end-of-life issues and coordinates the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. She’s also a Certified Funeral Celebrant and was recognized by Albuquerque Business First with their 2019 Women of Influence Award. Download a free 50-point Executor’s Checklist from her website,

A Good Goodbye