Why I Drive a Mazda: a reflection on grief

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams

I have been playing out a potential conversation that could, theoretically, occur in my life in the not too distant future.  Let me set the stage: I currently am driving a 2002 Mazda Protégé5 with 214,652 miles on it.  I love my car, but it has come to my attention that it may be time to replace it (this happens when your mechanic kindly tells you you’re welcome to continue giving him money to repair your car, but he doesn’t recommend it because it really isn’t worth it).  I have never purchased a new-new car, so I am considering a trip to Carmax to check out new-to-me cars.  Okay, stage is set.   Here is the potential conversation (this does have to do with grief, I swear):

Scene opens, Litsa walks in to a Carmax dealership.

Me: Hi, I am here to buy a car.  I am interested in buying a Mazda hatchback of some sort – maybe a Mazda2 or a Mazda3

Carmax Employee: Oh, sorry, we don’t have any Mazdas right now.  But we do have a Honda Fit and Toyota Matrix that are similar to the Mazda hatchbacks that you may want to check out.  Let me show you . . .

Me: Ah, no thanks I am only interested in a Mazda.

Carmax Employee:  Well, let me just show you these two cars – I think you’ll be surprised how much you like them.  Toyotas and Hondas are both great car makers – great mileage, reliable, good cars . . .

Me (leaving): Oh, no thanks.  I really only want a Mazda.

Carmax Employee: Can I ask what it is about Mazda that makes you so attached to getting one?  You may be suprised to learn what other brands offer that can compete.

Me: Oh sure, it’s because Mazdas remind  me of my dead dad.


Now this conversation has not actually occurred, but it could.  Not because I am a crazy-person, but because grief does make you think crazy things.  Let me very quickly backtrack.  When I was young, the first new car I remember my dad buying was a gray Mazda 323 that he drove for years.   When he finally replaced the car he got another Mazda – a Protégé, that he drove til he died.  At that point I was 18 and the car became my car.  I drove it all through college and well beyond.  When it hit 235,000 miles the AC didn’t work, it had chronic axle problems, and the driver’s seat somehow always bounced around.  I finally and begrudgingly accepted it was time for a new car.  It ended up being far more emotional that I expected.  I suddenly and unexpectedly felt that getting rid of the car meant letting another connection to my dad go.  So I prolonged the inevitable until I had pretty much no choice but to get a new car 3,000 miles later.  The decision seemed obvious-  I would buy another Mazda, because even if the car had to go at least I could keep the brand.  It made moving on just a little bit easier.

That was 10 year ago and now here I am again.  My dad never sat in my current car, he never saw it, he wasn’t even alive when it was made.  But if I let it go and get a new car that isn’t a Mazda, somehow it will feel like letting a little more of him go.  Now, don’t you worry, I realize this sounds utterly and completely irrational.  There is absolutely no reason that driving a car that my dad never saw should make me feel any closer to him just because of the brand.  But it does.  So the decision has been made – I am buying another Mazda.  Because, why not?!?

reflection on grief

The ways we continue bonds with our loved ones are not always rational.  Other people won’t always be able to relate to them.  Sometimes they seem downright crazy.  And yet there is no reason not to embrace these weird little things, as long as it isn’t hurting us or anyone else.  It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or you are ‘stuck’ or grieving wrong.  It means that you are finding little ways to stay connected to your loved one and that is a good thing – seriously, the grief research tells us so.

I like practical articles and take-aways and concrete coping ideas, and I have none of those for you today.  Just this confession about my slightly peculiar connection to Mazdas.  Judge if you want.  But my guess is that many of you may relate; you have your own idiosyncratic connections to your loved one that are a little odd – you like to drink their favorite drink or you picked up pinochle because they always played, whatever.  We may keep it to ourselves because it seems a little odd, we think people won’t get it or won’t relate.  My guess is if they have had a significant loss they probably will.

Eleanor shared recently how she bawled through The Sound of Music because Julie Andrews reminds her so much of her mom.  I let you all know how the sock aisle has brought me to tears in Target, and now you know that I find some weird griefy-comfort in driving a Mazda.  Sometimes our job here at WYG is being open about our brand of crazy, just to make sure we all feel a little less alone.

Have some weird, quirky thing that makes you feel close to your loved one?  Leave a comment.  Then subscribe to get our posts right to your inbox!

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21 Comments on "Why I Drive a Mazda: a reflection on grief"

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  1. 7hAndrea  March 25, 2022 at 1:55 pm Reply

    I do understand that. Even now that my father is 90 years old I am planning to buy an old car similar to the one he is driving for so many years that is not been manufactured anymore but there is just old versions still being used. I am already relating to the future when unfortunately he will be gone. This is completely crazy. Because my sister passed away and I understand how special things connect us to our loved ones now my mind is thinking in advance and try to prepare me.

  2. Helen Butterfield  July 17, 2015 at 3:06 pm Reply

    I bought a Mazda last year because my late husband owned one. He loved that car.

  3. Trish  June 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm Reply

    I have several quirky things that make me feel close to Todd -here’s a couple. The first one is a bracelet my daughter made for me days after my beloved Todd lost his battle with cancer. She took the last Valentine’s Day card he signed to me and printed his words ‘I love you so much’ on a copier. She then decopauged them onto a piece of clay and attached it to a bracelet. I keep the bracelet in my car (not a Mazda lol – but a G6 that we used to travel every where together in) on the parking brake. Any time I want to feel close to him I reach over and squeeze that bracelet……and even quirkier than that…okay maybe crazy would be a better word for this one and incidently,I have NEVER told anyone this before…Todd always wore a gold necklace one he never took off. His dad gave it to me the day Todd passed. My daughter got the idea to wrap it around my wrist and I have worn it as a bracelet ever since on my right arm. One day, shortly after his passing I was feeling very down and missing him like crazy. I clasped my hands together and I swear it felt like I was holding his hand! It was like my right hand was his hand. It had the sensation of feeling warming and bigger than my left hand. I could feel the comfort of holding his hand come through. It’s odd, I know but to this day I can feel the sensation of holding his hand when I clasp my two hands together.

  4. Anne Marie  June 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm Reply

    CCR… The band Creedance Clearwater, “my favorite band” (I doubt it would be if it didnt remind me so much of my dad but either way its my favorite)… Along with shelled peanuts, bush beer, MAZDAS, ginormous pots of stew 😉 , crabs, vinegar, turkey basters and knife sharpeners. random as ever but all things that will make me think of my father forever xoxo. Good post Beth! made me cry but didnt suprise me one bit 😉
    p.s. know matter what amazing band or singer comes out CCR will undoubtedly, forever, be #1 in my book

  5. DL  June 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm Reply

    Thank you for making a place where all of our “weird, griefy-comfort things” can have a home where they are welcomed and understood. I have lots of them, myself. And thanks for a place where there are other people who understand this and don’t tell me to get over it already.

  6. Elaine  June 3, 2015 at 5:06 pm Reply

    I also drive a Mazda which my husband choose before he passed away so we never got to drive in it together but it has his seal of approval.

  7. Chelsea  June 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm Reply

    Candy and baseball… and the Dog of Flanders (the anime movie version)

    for the longest time I thought no one would understand why I hold tight to these things. I love peanutbutter cups and crunch bars because these were the sweets Matthew and I enjoyed together when we were little, I love baseball because he loved baseball, objectively speaking I loath baseball, but because he loved it so much, I feel connected to him and a little less alone when I’m watching a game, and then there’s The Dog of Flanders, I bawl at this movie every single time…it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and yet I love it. Why? Because the main character Nello IS Matthew, in personality, and even in similar appearance, the fact that the movie ends with Nello dying right after having realized his lifelong dream at the young age of 9 and his friend Alouis crying out and racing to save him after she realizes that all the hardship he’s endured has finally caused him to give up on life and succumb to his fate breaks my heart over and over again because it’s OUR story, and the fact that it’s a movie also makes me feel less alone in this because it shows me that someone, somewhere (and I don’t mean the characters here) has been through something similar enough that they *get it* and the existence of this movie shows that they do

  8. Nicole  June 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm Reply

    Thank you. Just… Thank you. I used to only listen to country music because that was my brothers favorite when he died. And we also now only but Puma shoes, because that’s what he wore. Grief is a crazy thing, but it’s nice to know that even when you feel like you’re going crazy, it’s normal.

  9. Clif Martin  June 3, 2015 at 1:13 pm Reply

    I love your personal stories. That’s what stays with your readers and listeners for a lifetime. It’s not the clinical stuff. More stories for me. More more more, OK?

  10. Doris  June 3, 2015 at 11:29 am Reply

    I had the same experience trading in my MINI Cooper last year. My husband (died in March 2014) had found that car on Craigslist for me, we shared road trips in that car, we both loved that car. His old Jeep, I found and bought for him at auction (seriously old, 20+ years). I gave the Jeep to his oldest daughter, because it hurt to see it sit in front of the house when he never came home to drive it. I still get teary eyed every. single. time. I see an older Jeep Cherokee on the road. But the MINI. Even though we were planning to replace it in 2014, and when he got sick it was in the shop almost the same amount of time he was in the ICU slowing dying, It took me until March 2015 to finally trade it in. And I still said a very teary goodbye to that car. It was one more connection to him that I was forced to let go. I can now imagine how much fun he would have driving this new one, how he would be smiling at me from the passenger seat as I drive, and he would be glad I have a newer, more reliable MINI–but the act of letting “our MINI” go was gut wrenching. I expect it will be MANY, MANY years before I can consider buying anything besides a MINI or a Jeep.

  11. sandy frankel  June 3, 2015 at 11:23 am Reply

    My son wore stripes, he was a graphic designer, so perhaps it was the clean lines or the simplicity of them. He had his favorite striped lucky shirt from American Apparel that he even made a taxi drive turn around on his way to the airport as he forget his lucky shirt. When he was in the hospital, we carefully placed his lucky striped shirt over him as he fought for his life. I have that shirt in my top drawer and can smell his faint scent as I hold it close to me. I subconsciously wear and buy only striped clothing. From my dogs collar to my patio pillows-all stripes. And I think of him. The rest of my days, I will proudly adorn stripes in every way possible.

  12. Theresa  June 3, 2015 at 10:15 am Reply

    Timing is a funny thing. I just accepted a new job which will keep me on the road almost all of the time. It does not provide a car but does allow a hefty allowance. My current vehicle is one I love but isn’t practical for road travel. The best thing to do is to buy a new one. Not so small, sporty and with less inside engine noise.

    The thing is my son, who passed away a little more than a year ago, was instrumental in my choosing that sporty little red car a few years ago. When I took him with me to buy a new car and went to select something “practical” – he looked at me with that adorable grin saying, “mom, is that really what you want?” He showed me this one and that was it. I feel like it’s tied to him and it was a gift he gave to me of sorts. I cry at the mere thought of parting with it. I can hear his voice now saying, “it’s just a car”….doesn’t matter. It’s a great memory as well.

  13. MaryCQB  June 3, 2015 at 9:56 am Reply

    Ethel Merman’s “God Bless America”, brings me back to the scene of my Mom washing dishes, and singing that song. Of course, I was drying them;) I must have been 12 ish, so 46 years ago. I even bought her CD and “Sound of Music” to listen in my 4th Honda! Yes, and my parents posthumously helped with the down payment for the last one.

  14. Johanna  June 3, 2015 at 9:43 am Reply

    Great Post – yesterday I went into Target after work for small hooks – cup hooks. I started crying walking up to the door. My husband died 5/19/13 suddenly and unexpectedly. Saturday night, the night before the morning he died, he said “Want to go to Target”? We did that quite often. Just something to do, and always ended up with a basket full of stuff we really didn’t need, just wanted. Well I said “not tonight”…..boy I wish I would have said “Yes”. But I was surprised that yesterday I started crying going into Target. The grief never ends and the memories just keep coming up when you least expect them.

  15. Mary Kate  June 3, 2015 at 9:26 am Reply

    Loved loved this post. You should definitely buy a Mazda. Your connection to the brand makes perfect sense to me. Anything that keeps you connected to a loved one who is deceased is worth pursuing. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

  16. "Suzie"  June 3, 2015 at 5:55 am Reply

    Love this post. I think I worried about my “crazy” more because my grief is quite solitary (honestly, your post on disenfranchised grief saved me) and the added pressure of secrecy / lack of ability to connect with other mourners seemed to amplify everything. Anyway, I get this totally. Despite hating red wine, I decided to start teaching myself to like Shiraz because it’s what she used to drink, and I took to buying the odd item in a particular shade of pink (even if it was just a keyring) so I could have the odd reminder of her around me. It’s sort of like a private joke I guess, but it means the world to me. Buy your Mazda if you want 🙂

  17. sandra  June 3, 2015 at 5:43 am Reply

    My husband pass away on april 22,2014 and he was amazing keyboard player i still have his thing like Hammond b3and other thing too i love look at them even if i can’t play ☺

  18. Jonathan  June 3, 2015 at 4:25 am Reply

    Great post, Litsa!

    Like others are saying: where’s the crazy? Ha

    Lost both my parents in 2014. Now they have product placement all over my everyday life.

  19. Jane Duncan Rogers  June 3, 2015 at 4:03 am Reply

    And I brush my teeth still with my husband’s electric toothbrush, 3.5 years after he died. Sometimes I remember him using it, and recommending it when I was just using an ordinary one. I’m just grateful I have it to use!

  20. Diana  June 3, 2015 at 2:24 am Reply

    Your connection to Mazda does not sound irrational or weird to me at all. I totally get where you’re coming from. I still have a couple of ties that my dad used to wear often and a pair of his glasses and even scraps of paper with his writing on it regardless of what is written because it’s still some of his things that I have, so it’s like he’s still around & having some connection in some way 10 years on.

  21. leanne401202@gmail.com  June 3, 2015 at 2:23 am Reply

    I read this and thought the whole time of all the things I do in honor of my son Ethan Cody Bleu. He was killed at the young age of 16. He use to take a McDouble and a Hot n Spicy take a bun of each slap the left over parts together and eat them. Now I do that quiet often. There are a lot of little things I do that he used and I totally think you should buy a Mazda!

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