How Food Can Impact Grieving

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In my own journey, I have noticed how food can impact grieving. I have always wondered if other widows have felt the same.

Recently, my cousin sent me a New York Times article, For Many Widows, The Hardest Part Is Mealtime, which made me realize that I am not alone. The article talks about the role of cooking and food in regard to grieving. 

There are so many ways in which food can impact grieving but these are some I have dealt with in my own life:

  1. The Grocery Store –  This seems like a harmless errand but when you are a widow, especially a recent widow, it is a minefield. During those first few months, I almost broke down in practically every aisle. The pretzels that he loved, the iced tea he drank, eggs that he would make for dinner when he worked late. Even peaches, which he hated because of the fuzz. Every step going through the store was torturous.
  2. Cooking – This is a similar feeling to the grocery store. My husband liked to cook (he also liked to make a mess, but that’s another story). There were meals he made that, once he was gone, my children wanted me to make, but it was so hard for me. Putting the ingredients together and standing over the stove reminded me of him every step of the way. Plus, his was always better than mine.
  3. The Dinner Table – There is that empty chair. A screaming at me empty chair at the table. I hate that chair.
  4. The Adventure of Eating – My husband was a foodie. He tried everything and liked almost all that he tasted. I had followed a simple diet of pasta, chicken and salad before we met. I had no interest in trying new and weird things. Little by little, he had me eating sushi, Thai, Indian, and vegetables such as brussels sprouts. I loved the adventure of eating with him.
  5. Celebrations – What do you do on occasions such as birthdays? You go out to eat. Our dinner celebrations without him always felt a little emptier.
  6. Dinners with Friends – I was lucky in that my married friends still included me. I loved being with them but it was hard being the third, or fifth, or seventh wheel at a dinner table.
  7. Commemorating Him – My girls and I always remember him on “anniversaries” with food. We always make his favorite lasagna and boxed yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
  8. Watching My Daughter Like What Her Dad Liked – My oldest daughter inherited her father’s love for food. She enjoys many of the same meals and even condiments that he did. I love to see that part of him in her.
  9. Empty Nest Eating – Now that our daughters are off in college, I eat dinner alone most of the time during the week. I actually don’t mind this at all – it is peaceful for me after living frantically for years. I do imagine how different our empty nest meals would be if he was here. He would cook crazy concoctions or we would meet after work at a local restaurant and sit at the bar together. 
  10. Even Iced Coffee – My husband would sometimes run to Dunkin’ Donuts to get us iced coffees on summer weekend mornings. He knew I liked Sweet ‘n Low – it dissolves the best in something cold – but he would always ask for sugar because he thought Sweet ‘n Low was unhealthy. I was always annoyed when he did this but, after all this time, I still sometimes miss the sugar.

So much about food  impacts grieving not only for widows, but for all who have lost someone. Food is a part of relationships, and can be both a celebration and a reminder of a loved one after they are gone.


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