Why Your Past Hobbies Help Heal Your Grief

“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.”  ~ Maya Angelou

Long before I knew I would be facing this thing called grief, I liked to cook. I was never the type to follow a recipe, rather I was an experimental chef.  Living on a budget with two young children meant you were creative with your limited pantry. I enjoyed the challenge and thought myself pretty good at it too. I especially enjoyed cooking for guests and happy to see their bellies full. Feeding people was a love language of mine. A way to show you care. A form of comfort and hospitality.

Was a love language? Was? That word implies that I no longer want to share my heart through good food and fully happy bellies. That didn’t seem right, it just has been so long since I found enjoyment in cooking.  After a year of hospital food and then making it through the first years of grieving, a home cooked meal became a low priority. While grieving food and diet can take on its own challenges, which is a topic for another blog but, that said, was a factor in less frequent visits to the kitchen and more trips to Applebee’s.  I had many excuses from pure exhaustion to needing to use onion rings and hot lava cake as ample enticement to spend time with my teenage son. Finding ways to stay connected with him while adjusting to life without Tucker lead to many more nights out to eat.

Just recently I started to cook again. Not on purpose but after several successful meals, I remembered why it was I enjoyed cooking and feeding people.  Sure the food at Applebee’s is great but there is something different when you put your heart into it. Which leads to the question; What is your form of expression? What is it that you once did that grief put a stop to? Intentionally or unintentionally. Look back into your memories before your loss and think of an activity that you enjoyed that you are no longer doing. Start incorporating it back into your life.

According to Dr. Azizi, of Temple University’s School of Medicine, doing something you enjoy stimulates the part of the brain that controls how we feel about life and makes you feel happy.  So it makes sense that the side effect of doing something that you once enjoyed will change how you feel about life.  The end goal is not to change how your feel about your loss. It goes without saying that a few DIY projects are not going to be sufficient therapy to have an affect on all that. However, many bereaved feel a sense of guilt for enjoying their lives again after a significant loss. The idea is to separate these two very different things and feelings.

I have said before and many of you would agree that our loved one does not want us to live with tortured souls. So how do you balance deep sadness with joy.  I tell you it is not impossible, with practice. There is a reason for selecting a hobby or form of expression as Maya Angelou said, that is prior to your loss or trauma. It is sort of an emotional and mental rewind to an untainted sensation of enjoyment. Like a hurdler’s muscle memory helps him sail over the perceive obstacles in his path, your mind will also remember what that joy feels like without the burden of grief.  A mental respite to times more innocent.

Think about it, whenever you are at the country fair you just have to get a greasy corn dog and cotton candy while watching the carnival rides flip and spin. You are instantly taken back to your own youth and a time when you would of been screaming your head off with each loop-to-loop.  Ah, but how times have change and your dare not climb aboard but that does not stop you from remembering how that once felt. This is what I am talking about doing. Instead of trying to learn how to feel joy again trying remembering it. You actually didn’t forget but in the context of your new normal, joy is a foreign feeling. Yet one you can still experience through this form of remembering. With practice you will find creating new joys will come easier.

So back to the pie making and this happy discovery of untapped joy reserves. I started to dig out some old-throw-together recipes and decided to return also to the spirit of experimentation. I started to enjoy my time cooking and how it made me feel which encouraged me to do it more often and that, in turn, encouraged me to do other things and begin to think of future projects and goals. Layers of positive feelings and experiences will start to shape your life rather than a concentration of grief and its negative side effects.

Ode to a Food Blogger.  (I say Ode because I had no idea how much work goes into preparing and photographing your meal to blog. #respect)

Bacon, Onion & Cheese Quiche

Ingredients

1 Uncooked Pie Shell
6 Eggs
1 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
4-6 Slices of Cooked Bacon chopped into bits
1/4 of a Chopped Sweet Onion
2 Clove of Pressed Garlic
Olive Oil
Parsley
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Shredded Cheese Cheddar/Colby Jack

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cook and cool pie crust per package instructions. Saute chopped onion, pressed garlic, cracked black pepper in olive oil over medium heat. Cook slices of bacon and chop into bits. Set aside.  Beat eggs and heavy whipping cream with cracked black pepper. Set aside. In cooled pie crust start with a thin layer of shredded cheese. Add a layer of bacon and onion mixture.  Top with a thick layer of shredded cheese. Smother with egg mixture and sprinkle with parsley.  Bake until done, about 45 minute. You can tell when it is done when you can test with a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let rest for 10 minutes and enjoy. Serves 4-6
Your turn. I ask again; What is your form of expression? What are your untapped joy reservoirs? Seek to remember the experience of joy and then out of those memories continue to create new happy memories and joy reserves. Just as light does not exist with out darkness.  Sadness does not exist without joy.  Sadness is not all you can feel during times of bereavement.  Joy still exists within you and with thoughtful practice you can remember how to be happy again. What better way to honor your loved one than to embrace this beautiful life we all wish they still had.
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