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MetsFan5

Food and Coping with Death

34 posts in this topic

 Please forgive me if this topic exists-- I did search and didn't find anything. 

  That aside, I am dealing with the loss of my brother (aged 33, I am 36) and from taking a step back, it is interesting how my Italian and Irish heritage plays into this situation. Food Ihave been gifted with a lot of freqency to my parents (which makes me very grateful) and booze tends to be the Irish was of coping. At the repast, I definitely drank more than I ate as I find eating hard to do. So that's my Irish side, I suppose. Soup is the only thing I enjoy now which is likely due to soup being a comfort food. 

  I am familiar with the shiva process and the sheer amount of food with alcohol but from what I've seen is a bit less. My mother, who's father was born in Italy and her mother who's ancestors came over on the Mayflower tend to lean towards food. My 100% Irish father, who's grandparent immigrated here and who's family owns large farms in Mayo County, Ireland, tends to drink. 

 

  Food and drink are always comforting at any time. I fall between the lines as I am trying to avoid drinking too often as it can (obviously being that alcohol is a depressant) upset me. I have a poor appetite but have found comfort in the most cheap and garbage foods-- grilled cheese on white bread with Kraft singles, Campbell's chicken and stars soup and triscuits. 

 

   Have certain foods helped you? Does your family have traditions? 

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My sincere condolences on the passing of your brother. It's never easy but 33 is way too young. When my wife passed away several months ago, food came from everywhere and most of it didn't get eaten. I lost quite a bit of weight in the first couple months or so after. I didn't feel like shopping or cooking and didn't really feel like eating. I made sure there was always something for my daughter to eat and that was about it. Whenever I got to a point where I needed to eat, I usually just grabbed a soup and sandwich at Subway and called it good enough. Booze was never a factor, I haven't even opened the door on my liquor cabinet since we lost her. That seemed like a potentially slippery slope in the early stages and just hasn't interested me much since. In the time since those first couple months or so, I've put on more weight than I'm happy about. It's not so much from finding comfort in food, I'm eating less than I did before. I think it comes from an extreme lack of motivation to do much of anything I don't have to since she passed away. I'm not getting the exercise my body was used to getting. So I don't think I can claim any certain foods actually helped me, unless it could be argued that Subway was a temporary fix of convenience that kept me from not eating at all.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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44 minutes ago, Tri2Cook said:

Booze was never a factor, I haven't even opened the door on my liquor cabinet since we lost her. That seemed like a potentially slippery slope in the early stages and just hasn't interested me much since. 

 

I reasoned similarly when my wife passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. 

 

I had little interest in food for the first while, but I approached it the same way I did everything else...just went through the motions of normalcy. I got up at the same time as usual each morning, had my habitual bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, worked for the usual number of hours (I'm a freelancer), ate everyday food every day at the appropriate times, and so on. Eventually the colors and flavors came back, so to speak, and in the meantime I found that keeping my life structured helped me hold things together. 

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Fat=flavor

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I don't work outside of my home. I haven't properly cooked since my brother passed I'm thinking making lasagna (cottage cheese makes me cringe in a lasagna) might be comforting. It does help me to spend time making sauce from scratch and the smell is just amazing.  Hmm I wonder what types of sausages I have. 

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Why would anyone sub cottage cheese for ricotta (or bechamel)?  I cringe too.

 

Nicely balances the spicy Ital sausage.

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Sorry for your loss. Grief affects people differently, but as far as I know loss of appetite is not unusual. Just try to eat something, it doesn't need to be haute cuisine.  

 

 

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7 hours ago, MetsFan5 said:

I don't work outside of my home. I haven't properly cooked since my brother passed I'm thinking making lasagna (cottage cheese makes me cringe in a lasagna) might be comforting. It does help me to spend time making sauce from scratch and the smell is just amazing.  Hmm I wonder what types of sausages I have. 

This is a great idea. I believe deeply in the restorative nature of food as a craft and as nutrition.

 

I'm sorry for the loss of your brother. That's a hard row to hoe. I lost mine a couple of years ago.....older than yours but too young at 50.

 

Also @chromedome mentions going through the motions till they begin to matter again. I found that helpful also......going on cruise control plus a little discipline.

 

Best of luck to you.

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I always found it kind of strange how after a Jewish funeral, we'd return to the bereaved's home and there would be a "spread" waiting (deli platters, very often). Always a side table with booze (very little is drunk, as certain stereotypes do hold true). Someone makes a plate of food for the primary mourner (widow/widower, etc.). I guess it is about finding comfort in some way. And during the period of mourning people continue to bring food so you don't need to cook. I wonder if that is a throwback to hunter-gatherer days when the family might not have someone to go harvest the food?

Everyone is going to mourn in different ways, it's going to wind it's course differently depending on how it wants to work it's way out. Perhaps the simple comfort/junk food is just what your broken psyche needs at this point in time.

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"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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1 hour ago, BeeZee said:

I always found it kind of strange how after a Jewish funeral, we'd return to the bereaved's home and there would be a "spread" waiting (deli platters, very often). Always a side table with booze (very little is drunk, as certain stereotypes do hold true). Someone makes a plate of food for the primary mourner (widow/widower, etc.). I guess it is about finding comfort in some way. And during the period of mourning people continue to bring food so you don't need to cook. I wonder if that is a throwback to hunter-gatherer days when the family might not have someone to go harvest the food?

Everyone is going to mourn in different ways, it's going to wind it's course differently depending on how it wants to work it's way out. Perhaps the simple comfort/junk food is just what your broken psyche needs at this point in time.

During the period of mourning (sheva, which means seven, the 7-day primary period of mourning), the mourners are actually not permitted to cook. So the custom is for neighbors, friends, other family members to bring food or cook for them. Part of the reasoning behind this is that the first week of mourning is meant to be a period of introspection (death is shattering, no matter the circumstances), and so the mourners do not participate in any of the "normal" activities of day-to-day life. This eases up over time, the first month is a hallmark, then the first year, etc. until eventually you ease back into your normal routine. I do think the possible hunter-gatherer connection is a good one, because the laws must have been created in response to certain needs. (But I don't know enough about it.)

 

MetsFan5 - I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your brother. 

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10 hours ago, chromedome said:

 

I reasoned similarly when my wife passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. 
 


Actually, I thought about that today after I'd posted it and left for work and I'm fairly sure I unintentionally lied. I think I remember one time during the summer when people were posting about their Eeyore's Requiem they were enjoying and I remembered how much I like that drink. If I'm not mistaken, I think I actually did mix one of those one evening. That doesn't really mean anything in the context of this discussion but it was going to bother me if I didn't correct my previous statement.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Very sorry about your brother. So young.

 

When I lost the love of my life, cruelly, suddenly and unexpectedly, I fell apart. Nothing seemed worth doing; everything was pointless. I slept a lot, ate little and lost a lot of weight. This went on for almost a year.

 

One day, my dearest, best friend, pretended to lose her temper with me and gave me a right, royal dressing down, berating me for giving up. She said I was betraying every memory of my lost wife, whom she knew well.

 

"Do you really think she would want you to be like this?"

I was furious. How could she talk to me that way? She doesn't understand! It's OK for her! That sort of self-pitying nonsense was all I could come up with.

 

But, somewhere in the depths, I knew she was right, and slowly, slowly I began to recover. Forced myself to cook something other than beans on toast or instant noodles.

 

It is such a cliché, but time does heal. The hurt never completely goes away. There isn't a moment of a day that I don't think about her and I desperately miss her. There are still days when sink holes of grief open under my feet, but fewer and fewer. And I am alive again.

We loved to eat, although she wasn't much of a cook. She always claimed that the only thing she knew how to cook was a salad! In fact, we got together over food.

I still catch myself telling her what I'm going to cook today or pointing out something unusual in the market (not literally - all inside my head). The difference now is that when I do so, I smile instead of breaking apart like I did for far too long.

 

And I have to add, this forum helped (without most people knowing it).

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I recently lost my husband too. It's more complicated than that because he's still alive in a skilled nursing facility. He can't eat or drink. He's paralyzed on his right side, so he can't stand and will never come back to the home we shared for 17 years. He can communicate a little, but drifts in and out of cognizance and is unable to help in getting his extremely messed up affairs in order.

 

I was a pretty regular poster on the Dinner thread until this happened. Now, I've pretty much quit. My meals now are pretty simple and designed to provide adequate nutrition. They are lonely too. I don't think they would be of much interest on the Dinner thread anymore. For example, dinner for one tonight was a broiled center cut loin pork chop (looks like the beef cut called T-bone), nuked sweet potato with butter and salt, and some frozen spinach steamed in it's own juices with salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and a little muenster cheese added in at the end. Adequate and nutritious, but not exciting. I am making the effort to walk to some of the ethnic markets I can get to on foot to shop for fresh, nutritious produce. It's time consuming, though, and I have a lot of other demands on me right now. I usually eat a meal once a day, but that was happening before my husband's stroke changed a lot of lives. Nothing tastes good anymore, and I can't find that spark to make me interested in spending the time and effort to make anything that would be beyond basic. Still, with all that depends on me right now, I can't neglect nutrition.

 

Oh, and I have Irish blood in me too. That recessive red-headed gene pops up occasionally in my family. I don't know if that's the reason I'm drinking now, as I have long been wont to do that, but the perceived need seems especially strong now. Perhaps counter productive, but you know what? I really don't think that is going to alter my course at this point. Much respect to those who can show such restraint in dark times. I have never claimed to be a saint.

 

@MetsFan5,

 

I'm thinking of you in the loss of your younger brother. Way, way too young to be gone so soon. I have a brother four years younger than me. We don't always get along idyllically, but he's the only one really helping me with this situation with my husband. I can't imagine losing him; I don't want to.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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@MetsFan5, sorry for your loss, and such a sad situation. I think you've been given good advice here. Try and maintain a routine, take one step at a time and you'll get through this. What's the alternative, and would your brother want that.... 

 

@Thanks for the Crepes, so sad to hear about your loss too. All I can say is keep cooking, (and posting in the dinner thread) your dinner sounds pretty good to me. I'm having a drink for you now...

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thank you, everyone, for sharing your most painful moments here with us; being an emotional sort myself, I want to reach out and hug each of you in an effort to shift the pain for just a moment.  All of you have reinforced how fragile and precious life is and to show love and kindness always.

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5 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

I recently lost my husband too. It's more complicated than that because he's still alive in a skilled nursing facility. He can't eat or drink. He's paralyzed on his right side, so he can't stand and will never come back to the home we shared for 17 years. He can communicate a little, but drifts in and out of cognizance and is unable to help in getting his extremely messed up affairs in order.

 

 

Oh, hon...that's just brutal. All the pain, without the closure. 

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Fat=flavor

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Our Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S. was one of losses present and soon to come.

 

For the holiday Thursday, we did as we've done the last several years and joined our next-door neighbors and other friends. But this is probably going to be the last year when both of them are at home—he's been slipping badly over the last year or so, both physically and mentally. (It doesn't help that he's a diabetic who loves sweets, doesn't care to control his blood sugar, and takes a passive-aggressive stance with his family over it.) Nights are particularly bad: after sitting with us at the dinner table for a few hours, we moved to the living room, and he looked at my husband and asked quite seriously, "What's your name? Where do you live? What do you do?" We've lived next door for over 13 years. After he went to bed, she told us that she's been meeting with people to get their affairs in order for when he can no longer live at home, and that time will come when she can't entertain. His 79th birthday will come at the end of December, right around the time they usually host a big holiday party, but I'm beginning to wonder if that will happen this year.

 

On Saturday, we and another friend drove into the Berkshires, to stay with his dad and watch a few hockey games. Until recently, both our friend's parents lived in the house, but his mom got to the point (we didn't ask why, but we think it might be a wicked combination of Parkinson and dementia) this fall where she could no longer stay at home, even with skilled help. So she was moved to a facility in Texas, near where our friend's brother and family live. Our friend's father is a meat-and-potatoes type who has apparently never been much of a cook, but he definitely hasn't been eating well since then. So we brought along our Instant Pot, our knives, and the traveling kitchen box, did a bit of homework beforehand and a bit of shopping when we got into town, and made a quick pot of stoofvlees (that's the Dutch term; in French it would be carbonnade; in English it's a Belgian beef stew) for dinner, which we served in traditional Belgian style with fries and salad. I'd made a chocolate stout bundt cake, with a beer ganache glaze to use up the rest of the beer, and that was dessert. And then for Sunday lunch, we did peppers and onions and Italian sausages and pasta. I think Dad ate three servings of each, and there was about a serving of leftovers of each too. The whole house seemed, to me, to have an air of sadness about it, but our friend said that it had been months since he'd heard his dad laugh as much as he did for the day and a half we were all there.

 

All of this is a long way of saying that sometimes having other people around can help, even if you aren't sure about it yourself.

 

Hugs to all of you. It makes me feel better, even if you aren't much of a hug person.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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On 2016-11-28 at 6:57 AM, Tri2Cook said:

When my wife passed away several months ago, food came from everywhere and most of it didn't get eaten.

Dear Tri2Cook, I am afraid your post got lost in a welter of posts of personal losses.  You have my sympathy.  Losses of beloved family and friends are so difficult and as we age these losses just keep coming.

And sympathy to all who have posted their recent, and not so recent, losses.  We have all had painful losses.

I do have a food part to my post.  When our son died a few years ago, we had a gathering at the farm of his friends and our friends and some brought food.  And we, of course, supplied food.  The most wonderful food gift was a pan of roasted turkey.  Some of the turkey was off the bird and cut into immediately useful pieces.  Some was off the bird and in larger pieces and the rest was drumsticks and larger pieces.  A terrific gift in that turkey sandwiches could be made in an instant.  And so on.

We put one of the gift plates of sandwiches in the living room and one in the then sun-room.  However, no one was in the sun-room and one of our dogs decided that the plate of sandwiches had been left there specifically for her enjoyment, and she scarfed them down while no one was paying attention.  Quite a snack.

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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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To all of you who have lost physically or otherwise loved ones I just want to visit you...hug you...and cook for you.  Years ago I read a book by a pair of southern writers(sorry I hope someone can supply names) about how they deal with death in the south.  I've also read some of Julia Reed's work on the same subject.

When my grandfather and later my mother died on the east end of Long Island folks brought us food and casseroles.  Especially that funereal favorite out there of jello with cottage cheese, pineapple and sour cream.   I was younger when Pop died and did remember getting drunk at the wake(what we called the repast) and then shoving a piece of cake in my cousin Bertie's face.   Not my best behavior.

When mom died I found solace in cooking - for others.  I did not want to eat.

John has lost his grandmother and mom but food is NOT part of their world.  The repast for Grandma was catered by Subway.  For his mom people sent some cakes, cookies and fruit to the house and some to the nursing home that the family shared with the staff.

 

To those dealing with loss I would like to offer an idea - HALT.  Hungry, Angry. Lonely, Tired.  Please recognize this and try to take care of yourself by having a few bites of something you want or have a taste for or a few sips of some tea or seltzer.

 

There are two other phrases that have been alluded to above - Fake it until you Make it. Act as If........  the pain diminishes with time though never goes away.


Edited by suzilightning to add other phrases which may help someone (log)
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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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On ‎11‎/‎28‎/‎2016 at 8:57 AM, gfweb said:

Why would anyone sub cottage cheese for ricotta (or bechamel)?  I cringe too.

 

Nicely balances the spicy Ital sausage.

I have to use drained Lactaid cottage cheese just so John can eat it...

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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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My deepest sympathy goes out to all of you that are hurting.  If I could, I'd make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and pasta and send it.

 

 

And, I think I'm going to be kicked out of Egullet.....my husband detests ricotta cheese....my lasagna uses cottage cheese.  *ducking head in shame*

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@MetsFan5, my deepest sympathies on the loss of your brother. He was, indeed, far too young.

 

I think there is comfort both in the giving and receiving of food in a time of grief. I know my immediate response on hearing of a death of someone in my "circle" of friends and family is to take to the kitchen. There seems to be so little that a friend can do that cooking and bringing food becomes a tangible expression of sympathy. And when my parents each passed on, there was comfort in knowing that so many people cared about them that our refrigerator, and indeed our kitchen, overflowed with food.

 

(My standard dish to take is a big tray of sausage and biscuits. They don't have to be refrigerated or warmed, and they're easy to grab and eat without preparation, at any time during the day or evening)

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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1 hour ago, Shelby said:

And, I think I'm going to be kicked out of Egullet.....my husband detests ricotta cheese....my lasagna uses cottage cheese.  *ducking head in shame*

 

Here in my neck of the woods ricotta's about twice as much as cottage cheese ($5-ish per tub) so local dairies do a fine-curd cottage cheese described on the label as "lasagna style." I've used it many times when making lasagna for friends or family, just so it's not quite such a budget-busting extravagance. When I'm making it for myself, I usually opt for a bechamel layer rather than the cheese. 

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Fat=flavor

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1 hour ago, kayb said:

 

I think there is comfort both in the giving and receiving of food in a time of grief.

 

Interesting point.  At the gathering of friends, referred to above, not one of Steve's friends brought food.  Steve was 48.  They would have all been between 35 and 50.  But all our friends brought food...still the 'parental' generation I guess. 

 

ps.  I use cottage cheese and a bechamel topping on my Lasagna.

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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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1 hour ago, kayb said:

I think there is comfort both in the giving and receiving of food in a time of grief. I know my immediate response on hearing of a death of someone in my "circle" of friends and family is to take to the kitchen. There seems to be so little that a friend can do that cooking and bringing food becomes a tangible expression of sympathy. And when my parents each passed on, there was comfort in knowing that so many people cared about them that our refrigerator, and indeed our kitchen, overflowed with food.

Agreed. Ten years ago, about a week before Christmas, my FIL died. The worst part of it for me was that I was effectively barred from the kitchen. It wasn't that there was a ton of food brought to the house, because that wasn't really the case. The funeral took place at the country church, and the lunch after the service that the church ladies prepared and served was non-descript, but I don't recall that any of the leftovers came home with us. The usual two family Christmas get-togethers, for my MIL's family and my FIL's family, both took place in the days following the funeral during the week leading up to the holiday, as they always have. There was a lot of food around, but people weren't specifically bringing it to the mourners as part of a timeless tradition. I wouldn't say that I felt unloved or uncared-for, exactly, with all the family around, but I certainly felt uncomforted and at loose ends.

 

That was the pits, for a number of reasons.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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When my mom passed way at 53 I cooked all the food for the gathering at the house. SHe was a good cook and baker so I honored her by making her specialties. It was  miserable time but the food that friends and family were familiar with opened the door to some great conversations about mom.

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