Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I stop grief eating?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

My father is dying. The end is very close – he’s in his final hours. In the past, I’ve always been unable to eat in times of extreme stress. My stomach would knot up and the mere thought of food would nauseate me. A bad breakup could be counted on for a 20 – 30 lb weight loss.

This time is different. The only thing that seems to help me cope with my grief is food. I just want to eat and eat and eat all the time, even when I just finished eating and couldn’t possibly be physically hungry. And it’s all high fat and/or high sugar foods that I’m craving – pizza and nachos and ice cream and rich desserts. I feel bloated and sluggish and I still can’t stop eating.

How do I stop this constant grief eating and get through this without a significant weight gain?

- Grief Eater

First of all, Aunt Fattie’s heart goes out to your family. Her advice is no longer as immediate as it once was, so she realizes that your father may have passed by now; in any event, she sends deepest condolences. Illness and death in the family are profoundly difficult experiences. And that is why you must take care of yourself in this trying time. But how does one define “taking care of yourself,” when what you want and what you’ve been told is healthy are so different?

Comfort eating is often derided as a kind of mental disorder, or at least a broken coping strategy. Women who are apologizing for their eating habits will often say “I’m an emotional eater” — as though we weren’t all emotional eaters. Have you ever tried to have a pleasant conversation with someone who’s having a blood sugar crash? Food is supposed to affect our emotions; we take pleasure and comfort in food, and feel anxious and irritable when we can’t have it, not because we are weak but because food is pleasurable and comforting and good for the brain. And it can be hard to find good research on this, because most of the dollars are tied up in showing the negative effects of fat, but there’s evidence that dietary fat in particular — the stuff you’re craving — can mitigate anxiety and depression.

So first of all, Aunt Fattie enjoins you to please let go of the idea that you should be restricting yourself at this difficult time. Food is doing you good now. You need extra comfort, and food provides comfort; your continued ability to function through a personal tragedy is many zillions of times more important than the ten pounds you may or may not gain. Your father is dying — the last thing you need is to also feel like you’re dieting. If this isn’t your normal eating pattern, it’s unlikely that any gain will be permanent. Surely some of your skirts have elastic. You’ll make it through.

But you also complain about feeling bloated and sluggish, and that doesn’t help when confronting grief. One wants to feel, perhaps, a little dulled, but one feels ill enough when dealing with something like this without also feeling poisoned by one’s food. So how do you mediate between not denying yourself the legitimate emotional assistance that food can provide, and not feeling like you’re compromising your health? Back to those studies: as with all science there is conflicting evidence, but several studies suggest that it’s specifically omega-3 fatty acids and other unsaturated fats (the so-called “healthy fats”) that affect your mood. Our bodies’ messages are often rather crude and difficult to interpret, and it could be that the call you’re hearing for nachos and pizza would be better served by an omelet, a nice piece of salmon, or a handful of pecans. (Or all the pecans you feel like eating — again, this is not the time to restrict.) When you just need a piece of pizza but also can’t stand the thought of eating any more pizza, try taking yourself out for a nice, unsaturated-fat-heavy meal; it may help your brain without loading you up with chemicals and other things that might make you feel icky.

Again, Aunt Fattie cannot stress this enough: Do not make conscious efforts to cut down on your food intake right now. If you feel you are developing a serious problem with binge eating, you can process that, along with your grief, at a less fraught and emotional time. You do not have, and should not feel the need to generate, the resources right now to worry too much about what you’re eating, and food restriction is emotionally unhealthy at the best of times. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to figure out what will truly nourish and satiate you, not just what seems easy and comforting — especially when the easy and comforting foods aren’t always making you feel better. You know those friends who are hopefully calling, asking what they can do to help? They can go to the supermarket and find you some food that will shore up your emotions without depressing your body. And then they can cook it up for you, too.

And if it turns out that this doesn’t help, and you really do just need to eat nachos and ice cream for a few months, while you get through what is probably the most difficult time in your life? Then by god, you eat nachos and ice cream for a couple of months. Sometimes what’s healthiest for you doesn’t match up with the FDA’s food pyramid, and that’s okay. A few months of supposedly unhealthy food won’t kill you, and it might just get you through.

If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to auntfattie@gmail.com.

41 thoughts on “Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I stop grief eating?

  1. Not to disagree with Aunt Fatty at all , as all of the points here are excellent, but I’d also add that overeating can be a sign of depression; food stimulates the pleasure centers in our brains, but a depressed person isn’t producing enough dopamine, which means that they have to eat more to get the same pleasurable effect as a person who isn’t depressed.

    The concern here shouldn’t be weight gain, but the feelings of being bloated and sluggish; comfort eating is all very well, but only inasmuch as it’s actually comforting.

  2. It might be also that your body is attempting to boost its own serotonin levels through food to counteract this completely understandable depression? I know when I have depressive episodes beyond what my medication controls for, I usually get chocolate cravings, which I interpret as my body attempting to supplement my serotonin levels.

    But yeah. Be gentle with yourself. If this is what it takes to get you through these final hours, it’s okay. And afterwards too. Give yourself time to recover.

  3. overeating can be a sign of depression

    Which is why it’s something to deal with later, if she finds that it’s a continued problem. Right now, the only response to “you may be overeating because you’re depressed” is “HELL YEAH I AM DEPRESSED.” Whether it’s an ongoing issue is something she’ll only be able to figure out in a calmer time.

  4. Right; the fact she may be self-medicating with food is completely understandable under the circumstances. The problem, if there is one, will only be worth worrying about if, when her life has regained its emotional equilibrium, her eating patterns are still in coping-with-grief mode. Er. I think.

  5. My dad died of brain cancer when I was in college, and I ate and ate and ate and was unable to keep weight on. I remember a particular morning of two bagels with nutella plus peanut butter when I realized that this was WAY more food than I had ever been hungry for before, and that I still wasn’t putting on any weight, where weight gain would have been a good thing.

    I was also a full-time athlete, which may have had something to do with not being able to keep the weight on. Nevertheless, that was the first time that I really intuitively made the connection that your body uses a lot of food in stress situations mentally as well as physically. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the weight gain Grief Eater fears does not materialize. I absolutely agree that concerns about eating/weight gain should be a distant second to nurturing self and family in any possible way.

    I found the distracting effects and the serotonin-boosting effects of exercise to be very helpful as well as wanting to comfort eat continually. Stuff I had to concentrate on and be present for was particularly helpful; the repetitive stuff like swimming and running encouraged obsessive thoughts.

    Warm wishes to G.E. and family.

  6. While eating is clearly helping you out, you might try to think of other things that make you feel better when you are sad normally, that you could try. Personally I enjoy going for long drives with music blasting (possibly not as great with gas prices as they are, but a bike ride might do the same) especially when there are too many people around.

    Also, if you are an animal person, animals are great when you are feeling down. Some pet stores will let you play with their puppies. Which while I don’t condone the sale of puppies, is actually good for the puppies and for you. (Kittens too) Some animal shelters actually need kitten cuddlers all the time, but this can be emotionally hard as well. So, yeah.

    Everybody has their own coping mechanisms. When my mom had her stroke I smoked a lot of weed. I’m still pretty shocked that I passed that semester of school. I knew then it wasn’t healthy. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get through the day. Don’t beat yourself up. Just make it through.

  7. As a long-time binge eater – binge eating is what is responsible for my BMI of 41, entirely so – I nearly cried reading this. I’ve never seen someone be so comforting and rational and permissive about binge eating before. Thank you :-)

  8. Persephone, binge eating that goes beyond a traumatic life event is a legitimate eating disorder, and one for which you deserve help and care. (A lot of binge eaters don’t ask for help because they feel their condition is just a symptom of personal weakness.) Morgan at FatGrrl writes about her struggles in overcoming BED, and you might be interested in what she has to say — it’s not all sunny, because it’s been a hard road for her, but it’s a look at what happens when you seek treatment for binge eating. You can decide whether it seems harder or easier than feeling out of control.

    (This is me assuming, of course, that you’re not in treatment. Because if you are, I would hope your therapist would be comforting and rational!)

  9. Pet peeve time: losing a parent is a perfectly normal reason to be “depressed.” It’s actually NOT “depression” it’s called GRIEVING. I get so tired of every bloody thing anyone (especially women) does being slapped with a pathological label out of the DSM. Yes, grieving looks a lot like depression. But grieving is not an illness or pathology or something to seek “treatment” for. (Though seeking help in the form of support people, groups, shoulders to cry on, etc, is always a good idea.) It’s not something to try to “fix” with antidepressants and therapy and vitamins and exercise or whatnot. It’s something to experience and live through, and it can be slow and difficult. It is normal to not be able to “function” while one is grieving. It is completely normal and I am tired of seeing it get slapped with the “depression” label and the well meaning but not innocuous “seek help” directive.

    On a more personal note, when my best friend was diagnosed with HIV I could not eat much of anything for almost a month. It was such a shock and so horrifying (I had already lost a close relative to the disease) I just could not stomach going through the motions of normal life for a while. For a week or so in the worst of it, the one thing I could think of to eat was banana splits from Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop. I ate one per day, and some snacks here and there, and lost probably 30 lbs. It was a miserable time and I still have a vivid memory of sitting outside trying to eat my “meal” for the day at Ben and Jerry’s, looking at all the carefree people with their ice cream cones, thinking of how quickly everything could go wrong.

    I guess I was “depressed” and should have been locked up and put on meds so I’d eat something proper. Pshaw. I lived.

  10. Aunt Fattie is very wise.

    Of course its perfectly okay for food to bring your comfort. I think during this very difficult time you should be thoughtful of what will bring you joy/comfort/ease the pain. Whether it be food or long walks or 2 hour crying marathons with the assistance of Steel Magnolias.

    I also think if, when you feel the urge to eat something you go through a mental list of what sounds good to you that will help you key in on what will really comfort you instead of blindly reaching for the first thing that sounds okay but then it doesn’t work so you reach for something else and you end up over full. Of course you may not be doing this but when I’m stressed and I eat I often find it very difficult to figure out what it really is that I want so that’s what I do.

    My heart goes out to you and your family.

  11. Lily, right on to your rant, but I don’t see anyone in the comments suggesting that grief should be medicated. The discussion of neutotransmitters is about what’s happening in your brain, not what chemical assistance you should be seeking. People who are sad have low serotonin, even if they don’t have a chronic serotonin deficiency (i.e. clinical depression), and so they can derive some short-term happiness from something serotonin-boosting like chocolate or exercise. That is by no means the same as saying that anyone who experiences sadness should have their serotonin levels medically altered.

  12. With any letter to an advice columnist, there’s always more going on than is expressed in the letter. So taking the letter at face value (that is, no eating disorders, just reaction to outstanding grief), I agree with Aunt Fatty. When your world is thrown off its foundations to this degree, you do what you need to do to get through it. And I agree with the advice to seek out a variety of foods along with the comfort foods – under stress, sometimes it’s really hard for the body to send clear messages about what it really needs.

    But the “bloated and sluggish” comment also makes me agree with some of the other commenters that maybe adding in some other ways of being nice to yourself are needed, because the comfort eating isn’t doing it.

    I’ve found that gentle physical activity (read: going for a walk) has helped in so many ways during my times of great grief. Not only does it let the muscles move, but it physically removed me from the situation, which allowed my brain to reset. It doesn’t even have to be outside – when my grandfather died, my brother and sister and I went to a Toys R Us store, wandered around, and bought a few little things. I remember being surprised at how much it restored my coping ability, just from being somewhere else and thinking about something else for a short while.

    And please accept my condolences – such a loss is so very difficult.

  13. GE, when I lost my father, I also had to move out of the family home so that it could be sold, as specified in the will. I did a lot of comfort eating and crying. I (temporarily) lost about 25 pounds.

    Treat yourself as kindly as you can during this traumatic time. You deserve it and you’re worth it. My thoughts are with you.

  14. Grieve, and cope with anxiety the best you can. Consider walking, alone or with someone. It can help you get your head straightened out, and most people don’t mix walking and eating. Just because food brings you comfort, does not mean it is the ONLY thing that can bring you comfort. Remember that.

  15. I am so sorry about your dad and am thinking of you and your family.

    Just wanted to put in a quick note here for other comfort modalities:

    Allow others to care for you while you care for your dad. If you have a friend who is organizationally inclined, and who has asked how they can help, ask them to set up other friends to bring meals, etc.

    Take a half-hour each day (if you can) just to go for a quiet (or Ipod blasting) walk.

    On the food front, many people find that dark chocolate is very helpful during stressful (especially sorrowful) times.

  16. Some families/cultures recognize the psychological need to eat (a lot) at times of death. Every time someone in my mother’s family dies, there’s the massive funeral lunch afterwards, with most of the dishes donated by the community. I’m not the only one taking third helpings of corn pudding–both that day and days later. The food does help you process the loss, in part biochemically, but also because it serves as a connection to family and community–we’re all “indulging” together.

    So, I’d say–go ahead and eat, but do it with friends/family/those who make you feel better. Use it to reaffirm/establish connections with those still here.

  17. Oh, GE my condolences on your loss. Everyone else has given such good advice, I can’t think of anything new to add.

  18. My condolences, too. Mourning is a different planet.

    When my mom died a family friend really helped us by bringing us meals that we could heat up. None of us felt up to cooking and the meals she made for us nourished our souls. Without those meals I probably would have gone for fast easy packages of things but I’ll bet they would have left me feeling hungry (even if they would have filled me up fine before.)

    I hope that you have friends who will care for you and about you. I suspect that you are longing for something beyond food, but food does help.

  19. If at all possible get lots of hugs too! In general we are a touch deprived culture and hugs can bring comfort no macaroni & cheese can touch.

    Do reach out to friends and family and my heart goes out to you.

    Hugs & Peace

  20. GE, my condolences. Grief can be so raw and visceral; for me, it impacts my body in really visceral ways, from appetite to sleep patterns to how much air I feel like I’m taking in. I remember when my stepmother died I want to smoke, a lot, because it made me think about my breathing and in a weird way it forced me to take deeper breaths.

    My heart goes out to all the Shapelings who have lost someone close to them.

  21. Grief Eater, condolences to you and your family. Eating is normal and so is crying.

    In some cultures, people cry, wail, tear their clothes, fall and roll on the ground, pull their hair, and don’t wash for days while they grieve. Letting your emotions out as much as you can if you haven’t been able to do it is also very helpful in coping with dying/death of a loved one.

  22. Oh man, Katia, you hit that one on the money! Mourning is, indeed, a different planet.

    GE, my deepest condolences to you and yours. Having lost both my own parents and my husband’s parents, let’s just say this question really hit home to me. The good news is, Aunt Fatty and the other Shapelings are right: grief takes a lot of energy, which is a big part of why you’re eating the way you are right now. Food can give a temporary mental and emotional boost that you need. But if you’re feeling sluggish and unwell, do try to find a couple other coping mechanisms.

    I tended to turn to movies and books that had both really funny scenes that would make me laugh out loud and terribly sad ones that allowed me to cry my eyes out. It needed the balance. Think Four Weddings and a Funeral (I’ve never made it through the funeral scene without going through at least half a box of Kleenex!). Walks are good for clearing the mental cobwebs and getting your circulation going, as well. Oh, and howling along with angsty Melissa Etheridge songs is one of my favorite ways of coping with grief. At the end of an album, I’m exhausted and emotionally cleansed.

    Just thought I’d mention that and the movies because I hadn’t seen those ideas upthread. But the point isn’t ‘do this’ but to help you see that whatever you find works for you is what works for you and it’s okay.

    Oh, I took bubble baths with rubber duckies, too. I find it impossible not to smile in the presence of rubber duckies.

    Take care of yourself, GE, whatever that happens to involve for you.

  23. Right after my mother died, the most helpful advice I got was, “Do more of what makes you feel better, and do less of what makes you feel worse.”

    For me, that mostly meant “Stop beating myself for not being ‘better,’ because I feel like shit when I beat myself up like that.”

    And sometimes it meant, “Don’t drink as much as I want, because that’ll make me feel like shit”; and sometimes it meant, “Stop worrying about how much I’m drinking, or how much I’m not exercising, or how out of control I feel — I’m functioning, I have professional and social support, I have people around me who I trust to step in if I *really* spiral out.” Having people around who I trusted (in my case, a good therapist and some very caring friends) made me feel like I had a safety net that let me drop some of the “should”s that were taking up my energy.

    Good luck to you, GE. It sucks, and it sucks, and it sucks some more. Do what you can to take care of yourself.

  24. My mother died four weeks ago of cirrhosis. She was dying for three years. It was an awful and long process. I tried to adopt Intuitive Eating during that three year process. Can I say that was the wrong time to engage Intuitive Eating (for me)?

    I read healthy messages in the books, and I found some lovely people in the Fat Acceptance communities during that time, but I had to shelve the idea that I needed to focus on eating patterns right then. I needed to focus on me, my mother, my family, and my grieving. I’m still grieving. When the time comes when I can focus on IE, I will. Right now, I find myself craving very distinct foods, and I try to nourish myself with those things. Sometimes I wonder if that’s IE, but I don’t get bogged down in the details. I’m just taking care of me.

    Take care of you right now. You are walking a painful road right now. I am thinking of you and your family. Do not beat yourself up for any choices you are making right now. The loss of a parent is like no other loss you will experience. I am so sorry you are joining this club.

  25. Speaking of Omega-3′s, I think everyone should take fish oil supplements, the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. (You can get fish oil in softgel-pills at Walgreen’s, CVS, or the grocery store.) Omega-3 needs a certain amount of Omega-6 fatty acids to be able to work, but in our society, that’s not a problem. We pretty much guzzle Omega-6 with the current western diet. We get so little Omega-3 to balance things out that I wouldn’t be surprised if the imbalance was responsible for some health-issues. Essential fatty acids such as the Omega-6 and Omega-3 groups are used by our bodies to form something known as eicosanoids, which act as triggers to a complex array of important biological functions. The body does not use Omega-9 fatty acids for this purpose and can also synthesize its own Omega-9, so Omega-9 is not considered an essential fatty acid.

  26. I’m so sorry, GE.
    May I gently suggest that if seeing a “professional” has been helpful in the past, it might also be so now, not to put a stop to the grief-related eating but to help with all the feelings your having. As someone who finds therapy very helpful even when my life is calm, for me it would probably be a lifesaver. Therapy isn’t only for “abnormal” things, it can also be good for “normal” grieving. It’s not an “instead” but an “in addition to” all the other things you may be doing to comfort yourself.

  27. Oh GE, I’m so sorry you are going through such a difficult time.

    Aunt Fattie’s advice is right on – you have MUCH more important things to worry about than worrying about what you eat. When my mom died, I ate the bizarrest convergence of stuff for quite a while, including a nightly large dish of ice cream for about a month. Never mind if I’d already had a sweet “treat” that day or not. I just gave myself permission to do whatever, because I was hurting so bad.

    And right there, I had one of my first really good lessons in intuitive eating. I hadn’t given myself any real time limits, but just about the time I started to go, “Wow, I’ve been eating crazy for a while now,” my cravings started to change. I think there were a lot of things at work, including recovering from my grief enough to be able to contemplate very simple cooking again, but that’s just it – as I recovered mentally and emotionally, my eating began to return to something more “normal” for me as well.

    And Lapidary’s point above held true for me too – stress is stress, and the body releases the same stress hormones whether you’re in physical peril or emotional turmoil. Stress is just enormously depleting, physically and mentally. I’m also not surprised you’re feeling sluggish – just like stress often makes people eat more, stress is also just simply exhausting.

    Please try not to worry so much about the “should’s” and just do what helps you get through. Remember that mental health is a part of health, and also remember that there’s a reason we call things “coping mechanisms” – they help us cope with difficult situation. If you’re managing to keep your life going, at least in the broad strokes of the matter, then you’re coping just fine, and the rest you can handle later.

    Don’t be afraid to rely on friends, and don’t be afraid to give yourself time and space to just shut down once in a while. Loss of a loved one is ranked as one of the five most stressful things that can happen in our lives – it’s okay to feel out of control and discombobulated.

    Big hugs to you and your family, and my sincere condolences.

  28. This post is truly great advice. No, great wisdom – there is a difference.
    You know in Judaic tradition the period of mourning allows for the family to grieve completely but I think it is not a tradition that should be limited only to Jews. The mourning period includes almost prescribed overeating, not showering, not tidying the house or themselves, the mirrors are covered and the mourners mourn. That’s all they’re allowed to do, and people bring them comfort food, and lots of it as they aren’t allowed to cook for themselves. I like this part of the tradition because it normalises grief as a process over time, as Aunt Fattie advises. It is only right to mourn, and to be left undisturbed by the world and all its petty rules during that time.

    Part of the underlying thinking is that when grieving there is no real thought of self when we mourn. We remember the gift of another life that we shared in, and that is where all our energy goes. Possible weight gain pales in comparison to the loss of your nearest and dearest, and indeed as this tradition suggests there isn’t any need to draw lines for yourself during this time. It is the world who should step back instead, and only provide whatever comfort it can, not seek to add to your sorrows.

    You also have my condolences.

  29. I have no real commentary, just major sympathy. Losing three family members in a year and a half sent me into a hellish tailspin that I still haven’t quite pulled out of.

    GE, please remember to love yourself a whole, whole lot, and surround yourself with as many loving people and animals as you can.

    And please, try not to push yourself around about how you should feel or should be reacting. This sort of thing will seriously mess you up, so it’s okay to not really know where you’re at. Just give yourself room to feel and just . . . be. Give yourself permission to be really weird for a while. It’s okay.

    Meh. I’m babbling. I just want to give you hugs and tell you that I am so very sorry that you have to lose someone you love.

  30. GE, when my grandfather died recently, after a long and hard battle with cancer, I tried to eat my pain away. I was too sad and sluggish to exercise, and I found just getting on with normal everyday tasks so demanding that even the thought of doing my usual previously enjoyed activities such as yoga was exhausting.

    I’d spend my days eating whatever I wanted, and whatever my body craved. I wasn’t even aware at the time that I was substantially increasing my usual amount of food, and it was after his funeral that it all suddenly hit me when I realised I’d gone up a dress size.

    Here’s the thing, though: no one can tell you that you will or will not gain weight, and Aunt Fattie is right when she says that you do not need to worry about that, right this minute (or ever, really; weight gain is not by definition a bad thing). The loss of a loved one knocks your world sideways, and if you need to eat more to feel some measure of comfort, I don’t see why you should take that comfort away just because we’re told by others that comfort eating is ‘wrong’, as if it’s some kind of moral failing.

    By getting back to my usual routine, by getting active again, AFTER I processed some of my grief, I lost the weight I gained. But, most importantly, I felt better in myself. Having that time to grieve in my own way made my personal healing more natural than if I’d tried to fight my body at a time when I was deeply unhappy and stressed.

    I am so sorry for what you are going through, and my heart goes out to you and your family. Please know that what you’re experiencing now happens to many of us, and that it is something you can process and deal with only when you are ready to do so.

  31. I always feel like when someone I know is greiving, there’s something I should be saying, but I always feel like I don’t know what to say.

    My condolences go out to you, i have a very close relationship with my dad, so I can only imagine the pain you’re going through.

    As far as comfort food goes, I’ve heard chocolate is good for producing extra serotonin.

  32. I always feel like when someone I know is greiving, there’s something I should be saying, but I always feel like I don’t know what to say.

    Speaking only for myself, it’s never been exactly what anyone said, it’s that they said it. So many people don’t say anything because they don’t know what to say, so nothing is said. And even though it’s almost always not the intent, silence often comes across as indifference.

    It’s not about the eloquence or originality; it’s about the sentiment. The two most important things people have said to me during times of grief were “I’m so sorry” and “how are you doing?”. They meant the world.

  33. I find that sometimes when the world feels out of control, I turn to fretting about how much or little I’m eating, almost like an echo or a metaphor. In me, this is Ye Olde Disordered Eating brain, but I’ve noticed a lot of women go there in one way or another in times of stress, even if they don’t have any signs of disordered eating in their histories. Anyway, I don’t know if that’s in your thinking at all, but if it is please be gentle with yourself.

    Of course, be gentle with yourself regardless. Grief is hard.

    Should there be no physical issues that make it hard for you to move around, I do echo other people’s suggestion about walking (or swimming or dancing!) I have found that movement really strengthening, but sometimes putting myself back in my body has brought up more grief. The advice my mother gave me which proved invaluable was this: “don’t worry what you look like: let your emotions come”. I went for several long walks during one particularly grief heavy time of my life that ended with me sobbing on park benches. It really *helped*, even though it was odd: I needed to walk, but I also needed to feel free to grief.

  34. It’s not about the eloquence or originality; it’s about the sentiment. The two most important things people have said to me during times of grief were “I’m so sorry” and “how are you doing?”. They meant the world.

    I completely agree with TC. You can even say “I’m so sorry, and I don’t know what else to say,” and your friends will appreciate that you reached out. Your friends may also want to talk about the person they lost; being a willing ear is also a very kind and generous thing to do.

  35. Grief Eater,

    I’m sorry you’re experiencing such a difficult time–during moments of grief what works for me is structuring my comfort eating (not in a punishing way, but in a gentle loving way that embraces what’s happening). I become my own (fantasy) parent, heeding–welcoming–the sound of my own voice.

    When I want to eat scads of ice cream w/ honey roasted & salty peanuts and drink icy martinis and scarf back bags of salt & vinegar chips and Ghiradelli brownies and endless loaves of toasted sour dough dipped in peppery olive oil, I present it to myself in a soothing, internal voice that urges me to eat, as well as love myself in other ways (i.e., “You’re so smart, Lola: it’s good that you want to eat certain things–you’re taking care of yourself, and that’s so smart–maybe a walk first? And a good book in a hot bath, alongside the brownies?” And if I rebel against the walk or book or whatever, no problem: the voice still praises me for the choice I’ve made).

    It sounds like cheap, 80′s ladiez magazine bullshit (“DO take a bubble bath with candles!”) but consciously invoking an understanding and loving parental voice encouraging the use of food (instead of pissing all over you for eating) , while also including other things to heal you, can make all the difference.

    Because–in the end–if your heart is breaking over loved ones now forever in a grave, you might as deploy your hunger with awareness & love & gratitude that you can still hunger for *anything*–while also feeling a sense of awe and respect for an appetite still awake and alive during your grief–to eat, to live, to taste: to remember those you mourn through the act of speaking softly & tenderly to yourself, even as you lift a spoon to feed your mouth & heart, to ease body and soul.

  36. So much great advice on this thread, and much love.

    Big hugs to you, GE, and all those who have lost someone.

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