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Cooking Through Grief

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I am a firefly, a fire dancer. I like to stay up late at night and dance around a roaring bonfire, tucked away in the private of the redwoods. I belong to the Fire Family Tribe. I say this because when I found “Through the Fire”, I felt a kindred spirit with the blog purpose, with Charity.

Many times, have I taken my “yuckiness” to the Fire and danced it out through my bare feet, into the ground. Giving it to the Earth, for Her to process and take away. Over the last several years, I have taken grief to the fire with me, grief as it relates to a soul’s transition. A transition we call death.

I have been affected by several deaths in my family and my life over a short period; the grief that came with that was a very new experience for me. Several deaths were sudden and unexpected and several deaths, while the timing was unknown and not unexpected, the passing was sudden. Often in times such as those, food becomes a source of comfort. Food is what the neighbors bring you.

Grief affects us all at very different levels. Having to support not only my own grieving process, but also that of others, has shown me how important the kitchen, cooking and food can become. Sometimes, cooking is the only sane thing one can do.

My younger brother was dying. He was dying from a stomach issue and the results of too many surgeries on his intestines and bowels. Food would go into his body, and pass right on out without his internal processes acquiring any nutrition, anything of livable, sustaining value for his body. We were told he technically died of starvation. What irony. In a land where obesity and overweight children are a problem, my brother died from starvation.

I wish I had paid more attention to that root cause. Many times, I have beat myself up that I did not realize or take action on a nutritional front for him. Yes, I am still working on forgiving myself. Yes, I know that at the time, we all did the best we could, but you know how it goes. When I find myself on all fours, on the floor, flowing with my pain and tears, I don’t remember to forgive myself. It is not until later, when I find the cast iron skillet in my hand and my thoughts churning around what is it that I can cook right now, that I remember to be gentle with myself. Food. Grief. People bring us food. Healing sometimes comes with food.

I have a much bigger awareness now of how I manage food as it relates to my emotions. As I learned to support others in their grief, to be strong for them, I often found myself cooking. The acts of cooking and preparing a meal were my way of showing up, of being in the room with the family and friends. I’d like to say that I made mac-n-cheese and tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches non-stop, but I didn’t. Even through all of that, I held on to the awareness that food of value, nutritional value was needed too.

The neighbors bring you food; they don’t know what to say so they bring you food. Pasta dishes, easy to heat and serve dishes; way too many pasta dishes. It is all good. Everything is appreciated at that time. Each of us handles death and grief differently, some stuff it and smile and keep going, some, like me, fall to the floor screaming it out, and others eat. They eat sugar, fats, and heavy comfort foods. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe a big pan of mac-n-cheese has its own healing purpose, but I also know that it’s not the only thing we need for healing. Me? Well, I would cook a full four-course meal and not want to eat one bite of it.

While I don’t really remember a lot of the details of those many moments, I do remember that after about two weeks the arrivals with food stopped coming. Did you know that for most people, when things slow down, when everyone leaves, is when they allow themselves to feel the pain of grief? During week four, and five and beyond, that is when you should be taking food to them. When no one is there to see if they are eating, if they are drinking water, and if they are even sleeping. That is when you should show up; bring them baked potatoes. I believe our society expects us to “be over it” within a few weeks and experience has shown me that is often not the case at all.

During one particularly hard time of walking through my grief, I discovered green drinks. Green drinks in the morning with veggies and fruits and spiralina. Wow! What a difference that made for me. My body began to feel nourished and with a nourished body, my mind and heart started to be able to process my emotions better. I began to eat less and less packaged foods. I learned to cook vegan. I learned to love avocado and spinach for breakfast. I was able to balance my “as above so is below” much better, a nice morning constitutional proved an added benefit.

Healing can come from food. Healing definitely comes from good, nutritious food. Embrace your grief, cry deeply and cry fully, and then go make a big pot of lentils to feed your body and your heart.

Feed the Fire,

Robin Lynn Griffith
February 2014


Original Recipe:

Lentils in the slow cooker

These are spiced with a South American flavoring palette, but you can really switch up to any flavor palette you like. This could be ready to eat in four to six hours on “high” slow cooker heat, but they taste even better cooked longer. This version is NOT vegan, but you can make it that way by removing the meat broths and using a veggie broth or even water.

Ingredients:
- 1 lb package dried lentils

- 1 medium white onion, cut onion in half, then quarter, sliced thinly
- 32 oz low sodium, low fat chicken broth
- 16 oz low sodium, low fat beef broth
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 of a 16oz container of medium heat pico de gallo style salsa
- 2 tblsps Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning (or any other spicy seasonings of your choice)
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 container plain greek yogurt (or straight sour cream)

Place all the ingredients in your slow cooker. Mine has settings for 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours and 10 hours.  I started the lentils on 4 hours, stirring once every hour and 30 mins. At the four hour mark, I restarted the slow cooker to 6 hours. In total, I cooked the lentils in the slow cooker for 10 hours.

Serve with a dollop of the greek yogurt on top and a nice dark beer.

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