Taking a Meal to a Grieving Family, because it’s more than just food

I have said this many times about myself- food is my love language. Plow our driveway in the winter? Here’s a batch of dinner rolls. Have a new baby? Here’s a couple meals to throw in the freezer. Come home from vacation? Here’s breakfast, half and half for your coffee, and dinner. This is how I was raised. My mom brought a meal to everyone she knew when life events happened, and that is part of who I am. She never discussed the “why” with us, she modeled the behavior and probably never thought twice about it. But as I watched her bring a meal to those she loved, something became very clear- it’s more than just food. Sound familiar? If you read the tag line of my blog, you now know where that’s from and what it means. A meal can be so much more than food when it is given in love.

I have been on both sides of this gift, and it is one of my very favorite things in the world. As the receiver, I am humbled and so appreciative of the kindness and generosity of my food angel. We have been blessed with meals each time one of our babies was born, after I had surgery, and even just because. After your baby is born, the last thing you want to do is put him/her down to go cook dinner. Having an oven-ready meal is truly the best! Bring it in a disposable container and you’ve made my Christmas list forever. Post-surgery meals are such a blessing. Healing from surgery is painful and just plain exhausting. Knowing there is a delicious meal ready for the oven is a life-saver. Friends usually bring their signature dish, so you are sure to be treated to an amazing meal. And there’s always left-overs for lunch the next day, Mm mmm! My mom normally asks if there’s anything that sounds especially good, and I always say the same 2 or 3 things that have been my favorites since childhood. I am super spoiled because when both of our moms come visit and bring a meal, they usually tidy up the kitchen too, knowing how a sink full of dishes raises my blood pressure. God Bless our Mommas!!

So how is it more than just food? It’s love, caring, excitement, support, and help. We can’t always make a situation better, ease pain, or mend a broken heart, but we can show up in the lives of our loved ones and hand over delicious nutrition that feeds the body as well as the soul. Food given in this way says “I love you” and “I am here for you” and “I am so excited to welcome this baby” and “My heart breaks with yours.” It’s the effort and the time taken to prepare and deliver the meal that shows your love and support in a physical, nutritious way. There are many life situations that words cannot help, but our actions shout through the chaos, and whisper support in lonely hours.

I’m in one of those moments as I write this. In my life I have been blessed to have many extra sets of parents- a couple I love and respect, and can go to for advice or encouragement at any time, and be accepted like their own child. We just lost half of one of those amazing couples to a long battle with cancer. I’m lost! We knew it was coming, we were praying that God would be merciful and end his suffering, and yet I am in a shocked fog. With Covid-19 keeping us housebound, there will be no wake, no funeral, no “normal” way to gather and grieve and support and remember, and laugh. There is no closure for the foreseeable future, and my heart desires the comfort I know is in the arms of my childhood friends who are all part of our huge, made-up family of friends. I need to cry with them, grieve with them, and remember old times and old stories with them. I want to wrap my arms around my extra mom and their kids and tell them how sorry I am, and that I loved their dad so much. I want to join with them in grief and in celebrating the life of a good and faithful servant. But we can’t. For now.

When God closes a door, he opens a window. We cannot gather together, but I can reach out with messages and phone calls and cards. And I can put my love into food and leave it on a doorstep with a prayer for peace that passes all understanding. I can pray that The Comforter will comfort my loved ones in their time of grief. When I take a meal to loved ones who are grieving, I pray that God will do and be all of the things that they need, and I trust that He will.

What do I take? In my experience, the first few days after a death brings the most food to the house. So I like to wait a few days before I make my delivery. Keep it simple! Bringing a dish that requires attention is not helpful, which is why pasta always seems to be popular. Pan of pasta, loaf of bread, bag of salad, done! Think, refrigerator to oven to table to eat. If cooking isn’t exactly your forte, try pre-made club sandwiches with a couple bags of chips and some soda. Throw one meal’s worth of half-sandwiches in a disposable container with small jars of mustard and mayo. Voila! Soup is another great idea, since it can be heated up for all to eat, or a bowl as needed. I once received a gift card for pizza delivery, and it was a God-send about 3 weeks later. Snacks are also a great idea- chips, crackers and cheese, fresh fruit- things you have to go out to the store and get. And don’t forget the coffee and half and half, and paper plates so that dishes are minimized.

A gallon of milk, loaf of bread, package of bacon, a dozen eggs-breakfast at their leisure. This can actually be a great thing when the family all works together to make breakfast. The teamwork aspect brings smiles to faces and leads to positive conversations at the table. Breakfast can be overlooked in the meal delivery world, so try that. I often make breakfast pockets out of crescent roll dough that I fill with cooked & crumbled bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Cook until the crescent is just done (don’t overcook) so they can be re-heated in the oven/microwave/toaster oven in just a few minutes. I cool and separate with parchment paper and throw in a gallon ziplock bag. These are great for throwing in the freezer for later, or eating the next day.

As you peruse your recipes, look for tried and true dishes that can be delivered in oven-ready fashion, or are heat-and-eat. While you’re at it, make a double batch and have it for your own dinner, or give the second one as a freezer meal for a later date. I normally rotate between the same 5 things when delivering a meal because I am confident in the ease of cooking and consistent flavors. Some days I have time to make homemade bread or rolls, other days I head to the store and grab a great looking loaf of bakery bread and some real butter. Remember, it’s more than just food, so put your love into the meal, and your loved ones will feel your support with each bite.

8 thoughts on “Taking a Meal to a Grieving Family, because it’s more than just food

  1. Great answers for “what can I do?” when someone needs comforting and loving!! Adding paper plates to my list too! Never too old to learn a new trick!


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