How to Grief-Proof Your Kitchen

Grief is a full-body expertise. This is one thing I’ve realized inadvertently the previous 4 years as I’ve grieved the lack of considered one of my dearest and finest associates. Precious was her title. We met as eager-eyed graduate college students within the fall of 2010 wanting to take our writing extra significantly. Throughout the years we went from informal classmates to group members for sophistication initiatives to ultimately shut associates; from going backwards and forwards in a shared Google Doc to laughing for hours over meals and drinks. 

When she died in a automotive accident in the summertime of 2017, I used to be shell-shocked. And I turned to meals as a method of consolation. This isn’t uncommon — if you realize something about grieving and loss rituals, meals is an integral a part of what it means to be bereaved. Often these grieving find yourself with an attention-grabbing relationship with meals. For me, I overindulged; others could battle to discover an urge for food in any respect. It’s all regular. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, whereas most of us nursed tons of losses in our houses away from the world, I wrote Self-Care for Grief, which is lastly out right now. In my e book, I wrote about just a few practices that concerned meals, however there’s no direct information for managing your grief because it pertains to the kitchen and consuming. This is what this piece is meant to be — just a few ideas for serving to you embrace what you eat (or don’t eat) with ease as you gently maintain what you’ve gotten misplaced. Grief is quite a lot of issues, however it’s not precisely predictable. Brace your self to stream with what comes — and to eat what feels best for you. 

In the earliest days of grieving — referred to as early grief these first 90 days — you would possibly discover that the majority duties that had been best and instinctual change into herculean. At least that was my expertise. My pal had died. I used to be emotionally wrecked. I felt like nobody understood. My mind was so busy attempting to maintain all these truths on the similar time that my place of pleasure with meals now not existed. But I nonetheless wanted to eat, because the starvation pangs jogged my memory.

Casseroles and baked dishes had been first on the checklist: broccoli rice casserole, a creamy rooster bake, my Mom’s famed rooster tetrazzini. Anything I may make a large quantity of, slap within the oven, and eat off for days turned my go-to. Dutch ovens stuffed with soup had been useful, too. When lunchtime or dinner rolled round, I now not had to cease to suppose what I may eat that was quick and low-effort: I merely positioned that pot on the range till I may hear it come to a low, rolling boil. 

As a toddler, I grew up in a house that had a number of freezers. There was one connected to the fridge within the kitchen and a separate one within the storage. My dad and mom had 4 children — it made sense for them to inventory complete chickens, floor beef, fish, and different odd ends. Now as an grownup, my freezer is immaculate, too. There’s not lots I gained’t freeze. I realized in the course of the starting of the pandemic, as an illustration, that blocks of cheese and flour freeze properly. Stocking your freezer and pantry properly are important kitchen survival instruments — particularly for those who’re grieving. 

Think about what you want to eat and construct from there. Love pastas and sauces? Use the primary suggestion on the checklist to make a wide range of them on a kind of days when you’ve gotten the vitality. Then freeze flat in a gallon freezer bag and label with what’s inside and a date. Whether you refill in your favourite freezer-friendly meals from Trader Joe’s or leftover pasta sauce, meatballs, or individually wrapped items of fish that may be simply defrosted and pan-seared — each well-stocked freezers and pantries can take you from scrambling for an additional meal whenever you don’t have the vitality, to going from hungry to fed in lower than an hour.

Every grieving individual is totally different. Every loss is totally different, too. This is the true measure of the complexities of grief — loss is loss is loss. And after we lose one thing or somebody, reeling happens as we modify to a brand new life. Which is why for some their urge for food leaves altogether. This wasn’t my general expertise, however there have been durations the place the nervousness of every part I used to be carrying took away my capability to take pleasure in meals. To which I had to embrace one thing else: the artwork of grazing. 

If the considered consuming whole meals makes you nauseated or fills you with dread, lean into making small plates of meals periodically all through the day. You can pair crackers, cheese, deli meats, tinned fish, veggies, totally different sorts of dips and sauces. Take no matter odds and ends you’ve gotten available, throw it on a plate, and nibble. 

If all else fails, drink your meals. No, I don’t imply alcohol or binge-drinking. Please don’t do this. Smoothies, smoothie bowls, and fresh-pressed juices are some concepts. Either make them your self utilizing inspiration from social media (Pinterest and Instagram are nice for these sorts of issues) or use your diminished urge for food as an excuse to assist an area enterprise that sells these for you to purchase. As a bonus, you’ll get out of the home, which is sweet for you even when it feels horrible and pointless in the intervening time. Those grieving typically want to be pushed out of their isolation bubble for a burst of endorphins: to be reminded that they don’t seem to be as alone as they really feel. 

A full disclaimer: No, this isn’t an purpose to get you on a juice cleanse. It’s solely to give you different choices to getting the meals and vitamins your physique wants throughout a tough, tender time. 

5. Ask for assist. Lean in your assist system and wider group. 

Last, however maybe a very powerful, tip I can present to anybody grieving: Lean on these round you for assist. Ask for the assist you to want with consuming and making duties like grocery buying much less laborious. Call in your individuals. This is what being in group with others means — you rejoice and elevate one another larger in these moments of joyousness, and bind collectively in instances of sorrow and loss. 

A superb web site for organizing that is On the web site, associates, relations, colleagues, and neighbors can enroll on a digital calendar to deliver meals or ship reward playing cards for eating places or meals supply apps. There’s even an possibility to set up grocery buying, too. If you might be actually combating consuming and nourishing your self as you grieve, step exterior of your pleasure, your disgrace, or no matter different emotions could also be supplying you with reticence and communicate up. State plainly what you want. 

Know that these round you take care of you and love you. They could also be struggling, too, in seeing you in ache and never understanding how to present assist and luxury. This is a method that they will help. Remember that. Remember that you just deserve to be supported. That grief is part of what it means to reside and love. And in the future, when others round you discover that they’re in a interval of loss, they will look again in your instance of vulnerability — of you asking for assist when it was neither straightforward or snug — as a reminder that they will do the identical, too, and be supported.

Nneka M. Okona


Nneka M. Okona is a Nigerian American freelance author from and primarily based in Atlanta. Her work focuses on meals and journey and the way race, tradition and historical past, specifically of Black individuals, intersect with these two themes.

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