MEALTIME FOR A WIDOW OR WIDOWER --- Why It’s Hard, And How To Work Through It ---
Updated: Jan 6
AS WRITTEN ABOUT IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ON OCTOBER 30, 2019
By Jill S. Cohen, NYC family grief counselor
Back in July, a reporter from The New York Times called me to talk about a topic she was considering writing about. She had been noticing that whenever she went to visit a certain relative who was newly widowed, she noticed that this woman was usually microwaving her dinner ... a simple piece of fish, perhaps. The unusual part about this is that this woman used to cook and entertain, and make proper meals. So, this was out of character.
The reason for this change is very simple. Her husband died, and like so many other widows and widowers, she found it simply too difficult to make a “real meal” for dinner.
Why? Here are just a very few of the reasons.
It feels lonely.
It’s hard to know how to cook in portions for one, fear of wasting food.
It’s a very physical reminder for the widower/widower that their spouse is absent.
You don’t have enough energy to cook. (Grief is very tiring).
There’s less interest in eating; it’s just not as enjoyable anymore.
Your spouse used to do the cooking and you’re not used to doing it and don’t know how to prepare meals as well.
Dinner time is the end of the day, symbolically the end of another day alone in grief. You used to share the activities of the day and talk about the day with your spouse at this time.
You feel uncomfortable sitting at a table alone.
If you’re thinking, “this sounds like me” or “wow, it’s not just me that feels this way” you now know that you’re not alone. In fact, as you’ll see when you read this article, this is a very real and sometimes intense part of grief. Mealtime without your spouse or partner is sometimes even casually referred to as “the sixth stage of grief.”
Thanks to the attention to this topic in recent years, there are workshops and support groups that focus on this. A free support group called Culinary Grief Therapy evolved from a research study called Culinary Grief Therapy: Cooking for one Series, that was conducted in Chicago, and researched the difficulties of eating and cooking as a widow. Culinary Grief Therapy was then developed with a culinary arts program there.
I urge you to read through this article and share around the link or the blog.
The readers' comments from this article online were many --- proof that the topic really resonated with people on so many levels. On November 1, The New York Times compiled some of the interesting readers' comments /stories. Here’s the link to that article.