My brother David and his co-pilot Tomas died on 9 September 2011. David was 29 years old.
I like to write about David. It feels good when I say his name aloud. Sometimes I wonder if my friends think I talk about him too often, but honestly, I have a hundred thoughts of him for every one I orate.
When Kerrie from the Ground Swell Project approached me and asked me to curate a list about grief and food for Dying to Know Day; I readily agreed. I’m in the unique position of being able to put together a bite-sized list of advice for helping the bereaved.
Grief is an individual processes. Everyone reacts differently. In a recent discussion with five bereaved people I was stunned to find that they'd had polar opposite reactions when offered the same words intended to comfort. People have a similar reaction to food. I've heard people bemoan the constant stream of casseroles and others who have genuinely appreciated the help. That said, if you're considering cooking for them; it’s likely that you already know which camp your grieving friends are likely to fall into. If you're going to cook for a bereaved family, here are some ideas.
7 tips for cooking for the bereaved
Consider all the members of the family. Aim for a meal that everyone will be able to share.
Don’t send a meal in your Grandmother’s prized casserole dish. In fact, don’t send a meal in any kind of container that you want back. Spare the family the stress of remembering to return dishes to their rightful owners and buy disposable trays. Tell the family you don't want the dish back.
If the meal requires extra cooking or reheating, write some instructions. Grief made me exhausted and forgetful. I was flat out remembering to eat, much less recalling directions. Consider printing/copying the recipe and writing the date it was cooked on the top.
If the meal needs to be served with pasta or spuds, throw them in. Provide the entire meal. Think about including some sides – if you're sending a lasagne, consider sending a salad and some garlic bread.
Better looking at it, than looking for it. If you're visiting, think about taking a loaf of bread, milk or some fruit. In the weeks after David died, I dreaded going to the shops. I wanted to shy away from the well-meaning checkout operators and their well meaning “how was your day?”
Send a fruit basket. Our friend Jenny, a bereaved wife herself, sent a fruit basket after she learned of David’s accident. It was waiting on the fence for us when we returned to the farm from Brisbane. The true thoughtfulness of her gift became apparent in the following days, when wracked by the physical pain of grief; it was all I could do was survive the day. It was a relief to have something easy and healthy to offer the Big Sister to eat.
Call before you go. There were some days where I just couldn't face anyone. I didn't pick up the phone. I wasn't up to visitors. I just wanted to be alone. To lick my wounds in private. Call ahead. If they don't answer, leave your visit for another day.
Dying to Know Day is August 8.
The hope is to encourage people to have open and honest conversations about death, dying and bereavement.
do you have any tips for cooking for the bereaved?
what are you dying to know?