Cooking is really not my forte. To be honest, I’ve never really enjoyed it, so the food I prepare tends to be bland and quite boring. Truth be told, I’m one of those people who could eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday (and often do), and I’m perfectly happy and content living this way. Thankfully, I married a man who is an amazing chef (well-taught by my mother-in-law who is also an incredible cook), and because of him our family eats very well at home!
My passion has always been baking. I’ve loved baking for as long as I can remember, and could often be found in the kitchen as a tween and teen growing up, baking some new, sweet recipe for family and friend alike. Today, it’s fun to see my own kids transitioning from being my little taste testers, to now becoming bakers in their own right in our kitchen in Flower Mound, Texas. Plus, they have far more recipes to choose from in this day and age, with the Internet and Instagram videos a simple click away.
A few years ago, when I was going through a hard time in my life (and let’s face it, we all experience these ups and downs in our lives, don’t we?), I came across an interesting book by fiction author Marian Keyes called Saved by Cake: Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy. More truths here, I bought this cookbook, but never actually baked any of her recipes. It’s an English cookbook, and the baking conversions were simply not worth the trouble at that point in my life. But, here’s what stuck with me all this time, when this author was going through a severe bought of depression in her life, she realized that baking helped her to simply get through each and every very hard day. Plus, sharing her baked goods with her family and friends helped bring hope and joy back into her life, day-by-day, cake-by-cake.
This reminded me a lot about the times I’ve gone through periods of grief and loss in my own life. In each instance, I’d typically first turn inward and start to isolate myself from family and friends. Grief, in and of itself, is such an individual journey, and often we do feel very much alone in our own personal pain. I found that when I was feeling sad and lonely, I’d turn to the kitchen and the baking I love to help me feel a little bit better. Partly because just the process of doing something I thoroughly enjoy helped to keep me present and grounded in that particular moment. Especially when I could so often be lost in my head, lost in my own thoughts, or just simply feeling lost in general during those hard times. I also found myself giving away these treats to family and friends, as a way to connect with them, when I was feeling so disconnected from those around me. These simple acts of service helped me because I was doing nice things for others, but they were also a reminder to others that I’m still here, doing the best I could, each and every day.
When there is a loss or a big change in your life, people are generally pretty good about checking in right after this major life event/major life change. But, when the initial numbness and shock start to recede, replaced with a myriad of emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, worry, etc., the time when you often need more check ins and “I’m thinking of you” sentiments, is often when you aren’t receiving this level of support from others at all (possibly because they feel that they have already checked in on you and they don’t want to over step the boundaries and invade your privacy).
Where then does this leave you if you are the one who is grieving?
If you are feeling isolated and alone, you can either continue to feel that way on your own, or you can reach out to others and ask them for the help and support that you need. But, this is really hard to do on so many different levels. First, you need to have the strength and energy to reach out to others for help (which is often so hard to do even when you’re not grieving). You also need to check in with yourself to figure out specifically what you need from others. This is again so very hard to do because when you’re grieving you often don’t know what you need, you just know you’re feeling terrible in that specific moment and need something in your life to change for the better.
Acts of kindness/acts of service come into play here because you may not know exactly what you need from others when you’re grieving, but often it’s simply connecting with them that can be most helpful to you when you’re hurting and in emotional distress. This connection lets you know that others still care about you, and lets them know that you still care about them too, even if you’ve recently needed a lot of time and space alone to start your own process of healing.