Upon hearing difficult news, we instinctively want to comfort. It’s a logical response since the word comfort means a relief from sorrow and pain. Our family experience and cultural heritage shape the ways in which we comfort. Often the women in our families, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, used some form of food for consolation.

 

It seems only natural that when we look to extend comfort, we most often think in terms of food. And the foods we choose tend to be the very foods that our families used to console us. Sometimes I think it’s not just the taste that we find comforting; it’s following the same rituals our loved ones used when preparing these foods.

 

For my family, it’s chicken soup. It’s what each of us craves when sick or needing sympathy. It’s the most nurturing of foods; the warmth and smell while the soup simmers brings solace while the soup itself has healing properties. Served with matzo balls, it’s the ultimate in comfort.

 

My friend makes custard when anyone in her circle needs some help. After all, her mom always made it for her. Another friend bakes her mom’s creamy noodle pudding. She made it for me during a rough patch and told me how just the smell of it baking brought her comfort. Her mom’s noodle pudding gave me much needed support and I now make it all the time.


 

My mom took a different approach. Her prowess was as a baker so she offered two comforting alternatives; a rich date and nut bread and chocolate chip banana bread. Her friends knew to expect one when returning home from the hospital or while recuperating from a loss. I make these breads often and the wonderful smells from my oven always invoke her comforting presence.


 

It makes sense to prepare food for someone who is ill, going through treatments, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. When feeling hurt or lost, it’s hard to think, no less plan and prepare meals. And when we’re feeling so alone, how comforting to know that someone else is nurturing us and we’re really not alone.

 

So if your first instinct when hearing difficult news is to head to the kitchen, it’s a good one.

 

 

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

 

 

Image Source: StockXchng/arinas74

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Comment by River of Tears on March 28, 2011 at 3:49am
As the days and now months have pasted since my Sister and Mother and Father all have left seemingly all at once , yet each on a separate day . This topic seems to be one that interests me as food no longer is of comfort . Maybe it is because it was never what we ate it was just the time we had together while sharing it all together . Even if once we all moved apart from each other it still seemed that the same foods some how brought comfort to us just knowing this was apart of something more then just the food it self. it saddens me know to see even the same items my Sister and I used to want to send to my Father and Mother in the mail just to surprise them Foods of old or even new ones for them to try . So it seems as many food does become a tying fabric of our lives some how yet it is one that after loosing the ones we love either grow to be one we depend on to seek comfort or one we almost steer away from . I shall say I have done both , during this time .
One interesting note to this all is that I really do not taste a thing any more as though even that has fallen away . Maybe this is why I lean toward the not eating as to eating , for to me it does not make much sense anymore .
If to be asked if I have lost weight it would be obvious to those who truly new me before this all happen . To those now I spend time with this is just what is . A thin a frail fragment of what was . Almost if to be weighed I truly would have to take a running start for it to really show up on the scale at this point . Though to me , none of this has mattered or a thought to be honest , other then to have enough strength each day to do the things I still would like to do for them .
There are the long time oldies that we all loved to have which seemed to be a genetic thing of sorts as all that had children and even there husbands and wives started to love the same things . Silly as it sounds it was those comforts that foods now bring to me . The connection of what it did for all of us . Just the fact it brought us all together at one time or another . To laugh or even cry at times yet it was time we share. This time was not expected to end so soon as it seems my father , mother and sister all left to go to heaven . Yet if this is what food does for me at this time at least to bring the forever memories of times long gone it has then brought some comfort to this shattered heart .
It is amazing how my family gave more then what you could imagine to one , not only food to eat , yet much more then that . Love that will live on with in my heart .

To all may you find that comfort to you comes in memories . While you may be sitting down to eat , as this may been one of the most special times you spent with your family . Memories that you have to keep .

Please take care .

One day I may return to the food that we all used to share yet at the moment it is seem to much to bare .
Comment by Tim's Mom, Vickie on March 17, 2011 at 4:33pm
After losing my son, I had no interest in food. My husband basically made me eat. I stopped cooking anything, and I love to cook.  It was 3 months before I was able to start functioning again, and it wasn't until then I realized how much weight I gained from being a couch potato. Now, when I'm feeling blue, I grab some Swedish Fish from the convenience store.

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