Food is powerful, food is medicine, food comforts. -Melissa Bernstein

Coping with Grief through Cooking

I lost my 98 ½ -year-old mother in early May this year, due to complications following a fall and hip fracture on her 98th birthday. Our greatest fear became reality. Until that point in her life, she had been living in an Assisted Living facility requiring limited help from the caregiving staff for her self -care.

I was and always have been her lifeline. The fortunate daughter, the middle of four, the one my mother, known as Nana Pat, could always depend on. In her early 80s, after retiring as a teaching assistant in the Broward County school system, with a lot of encouragement, she moved closer to my home on the west coast of Florida.

We continued our journey, strengthening our bond of closeness and togetherness. As the daughter, the “it girl” as I called myself, I later became the caregiver. Things weren’t always laughs and highs … we had our moments for sure. My mother was fiercely independent and wanted to do things on her terms. It wasn’t until the last few years that her limitations interfered with our usual lunching out, shopping, or visiting doctors.

Cooking When I was Young

My mother enjoyed cooking – nothing fancy, just home cooking for us kids as we grew up in Buffalo, New York. We had an occasional TV dinner – remember those? Especially when my mom started working, it was the newest and quickest way to get dinner on the table or TV trays while watching our black and white television. 

My love of cooking struck me when I was about 14 as I started helping my mom make dinners. I learned some of the foods she prepared – not that she was a great cook, but we did not starve! From there, I assumed responsibility for making dinner for her and the rest of my siblings who were still at home.

My Own Kitchen

It wasn’t until I finished college and had a kitchen of my own that I really began to cook and expand my recipe repertoire. I got great comfort from experimenting with different ingredients when developing recipes and enjoyed the process. This transcending feeling continues to this day.

In the past few months, I took a break in cooking and creating as I cared for my mother. Since her passing, I have taken the needed time to grieve, reflect on the last few years of our lives together, and to just be.

Honoring My Mom

The culmination of my love of cooking came to fruition in the past five years by writing two cookbooks. My first was to honor my mother and all the caregivers who tirelessly commit themselves to their care recipients. Caregivers put their own lives on hold to ensure a life well lived is sustained as illness or disease takes hold. Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook Caregiver Edition was conceived to help caregivers bring their care recipients into the kitchen for a purposeful and meaningful activity with safety and connection through food.

My second cookbook, Power of 5 Test Kitchen Cookbook Your Guide to Healthy Cooking and Eating, provides my suggestions to make healthy choices when cooking and eating for body, brain, and heart and to maximize wellness and longevity. The cookbook provides not only flexible recipes, but many resources to educate and guide readers to incorporate a Power of 5 cooking and eating formula approach for ultimate health.

From Grief to Reflections

As I reflect on my caregiving journey with my mom, it was joyful, full of singing, conversations, and laughter. Our time was a blessing, though demanding and time consuming. I experienced sadness and a stark reality that life is precious and the moments we have with family, elders, or those we care for is a gift.

As I return to my connection with you, I am resuming my blogs and recipe posts via social media, and I will always take the time each day to be grateful.

Remember … Food is powerful, food is medicine, food comforts. 

Healthy Cooking and Eating!

Melissa

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