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The Connection between Food and Bereavement


Lifestyle Improvement

Posted On: Mar 06, 2017

The Connection between Food and Bereavement

There's a strange custom connected with death, something we automatically think to do when we hear someone we love has suffered a loss, something we unconsciously expect from our relatives, friends, and neighbors after we experience a loss, ourselves. It is, of course, the giving and receiving of food. News of someone's passing is a secret signal to begin preparing meals for the grieving survivors. Why is that? What does it mean?

It Crosses Cultural Boundaries

Attend a funeral, viewing, or ceremony in another country or attend the funeral services in another culture and you'll notice a few similarities. The largest among them is the passage of food. It may not happen in all cultures, but in the majority of them, death brings food. It happens with indigenous tribes along the Ivory Coast. It occurs in nearly every major religion. Even people who aren't affiliated with a religion bring food in times of need.

We Comfort with Food

In fact, that's the type of food most often delivered to the bereaved: comfort food. Depending on location, country, culture, religion, and so on, what qualifies as comforting may vary, but the sentiment is the same. We send dishes made with love, hearty entrees, and sweet, gooey desserts because those foods are comforting. Perhaps it's the idea that those who are lost in their sadness deserve to feel something warm and to taste something sweet.

It's a Kindness

Bringing food to the bereaved is also an act of kindness and sympathy. If you ever wonder why casseroles and one-pot dishes are so common, it's because they're easy to heat up or freeze and they tend to keep well. That way, the bereaved don't have to focus on cooking or preparing. No one has the presence of mind for normal activities when they're devastated, not even the essential ones.

The next time you worry about bringing your best dish to a grieving friend, or the next time you wonder why your loved ones keep bringing you casseroles in the aftermath of a loss, think of this. Cooking and delivering food is a thoughtful, loving gesture. It comes from the very best place.