What I Eat When Grief Makes Eating Hard + Super Easy Plant Powered Sandwich

What I Eat When Grief Makes Eating Hard + Super Easy Sandwich

I love, love, love, love to eat.
It’s one of my favorite things to do.
I love eating at home the most because only I can make my food exactly how I want it: plant based, oil-free, LOTS of flavor. Well, our Meal Plan subscribers can also cook this way because we give them step-by-step instructions each and every week. 

Point is, I love the shit out of eating. 

I look forward to eating. I love grocery shopping for the ingredients. I love cooking the food. I love the act of eating. I love how I feel after I’m done eating—totally satisfied, not wanting more, not wanting less. I love eating alone. I love eating with people. I love eating outside with the sounds of nature. I love eating inside with my jams playing. I love eating breakfast. I love eating lunch. I love eating dinner. And I love eating a snack if I need it. 

I’m usually pumped to eat a Big Ass Salad. Excited to eat my morning porridge loaded with fruit. Elated to eat a bowl of veggie soup. Titillated to eat layers of rice, beans, veggies, and cheesy sauce. Brussels sprouts and lentils, YES PLEASE. Butternut squash and black beans, sign me up. Broccoli, kale, and cabbage, bring it! I love eating ALL the plant food

And then sometimes, life sucker punches you directly in the crotch, and it feels like your world comes crashing down. People you love die, beloved pets die, you get fired from your job, your partner leaves you, you get sick, something happens that rocks your world so hard, the only thing left to do is grieve. And I don’t know about you, but when I grieve, I want nothing to do with food. It feels like all of the joy and desire and oomph has been sucked out of eating and in its place is a constant ache in the pit of my stomach that doesn’t go away. 

And then sometimes, life sucker punches you directly in the crotch, and it feels like your world comes crashing down.

When this happens I do not love eating. Eating and everything involved with eating feels like a chore. Going to the grocery store is the last thing I want to do. Batching sounds like actual hell.  Even cooking a simple recipe is not at all appealing. Washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen feels like a monumental task. As for the actual act of eating, I go through the motions of it because I have to, not because I want to. 

Heat up food. Put food on plate. Put food on utensil. Put utensil to mouth. Chew while trying not to gag. Repeat until the very first sign of not being hungry anymore. Stop eating. 

My usual excitement and euphoria over veggies, whole grains, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds is gone. No excitement. No euphoria. No elation. No titillation. Just an urge to vomit every time I put something in my mouth. It doesn’t even matter if it’s my favorite meal, or something that I usually love. It’s all in the same bleh category when I’m feeling this way. 

Having recently experienced deep grief, once in August when my godfather, Rick, died, and once just two weeks ago when we had to put down our sweet kitty, Panther, after a five-week battle with feline lower urinary tract disease, I decided to keep track of what I’ve been able to stomach during these times of grief and share them with you.

Keep in mind that some of this isn’t the most healthy advice, nor is all of this how I usually eat. This is the healthiest I can do when I absolutely don’t feel like eating and don’t have the energy to make food. 

  • I know that my body needs veggies, and usually, I love eating veggies. But when I’m down, I have no interest or motivation to eat them. Because I don’t want my body to suffer more than it has to, I will eat raw lettuce, raw carrots, and raw cucumber slices. It’s not terribly exciting, but nothing is exciting when I’m down. This isn’t about excitement, this is about getting nutrients and fiber into my body in the easiest and most time efficient manner so that I can go back to the couch and continue distracting myself with Netflix because I need a goddamn break from crying. Grieve, eat some veggies, distract. Works for me. 
  • I usually never drink soda, but when it’s hard for me to get food down, I drink ginger ale with my meal and it goes down easier. 
  • For some reason when I’m in a deep funk, I can’t eat bowls of grains and beans and veggies like I normally do. I don’t know what it is, but this does not appeal to me at all. However, if I put a small amount of bowl ingredients into a warmed up tortilla and I wrap it up, I can usually finish it. 
  • Toast with vegan butter. This is about the only thing I crave when I’m grieving. So I eat it as often as I want. I haven’t been eating gluten for the past 4 months because of my skin, so I’ve tried quite a few vegan gluten-free breads lately. Little Northern Bakehouse makes a pretty decent gluten-free bread that is also vegan. It’s the best I’ve tried so far. 
  • I can usually eat a bowl of Mac and Cheese, even in the grips of sadness. 
  • All I can say is THANK GOD for green smoothies. I might not be thrilled about them when I’m super sad, but they are fast and easy to make, and they provide a huge boost of nutrients that I would otherwise not be getting. Leafy greens are the last thing I want to eat when I’m filled with sorrow, but when they’re in a smoothie I drink them down. If you make a blender full of smoothie, you can drink one right away and have extra for later in the day or the next day. 
  • Sandwiches are one of my comfort foods. I have cherished and happy memories of my mom making us sandwiches for lunch when I was little. When nothing else sounds even remotely good to eat, I can sometimes count on a sandwich. One that I can tolerate when I’m down is today’s recipe (below). I didn’t include it in the recipe, but sometimes I add vegan mayo if I really feel like it. Think back to a meal that you have happy memories of. Is there a whole food plant based or vegan version of that meal that would bring you some comfort and sustenance? 
  • At one point a few weeks ago, all I wanted was cookies, so I asked my mom if she would make me a batch. She made Luanne and I the most delicious gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies ever. Luanne then asked if she would make 100 of them for us. And you know what? That sweet woman baked us 100 cookies. So now we have a freezer full of cookies and I couldn’t be more pleased. If you need a recipe, this is a yummy one. 
  • I can usually eat a couple of pancakes for breakfast (or lunch or dinner) when all else fails. I make this recipe because it’s delicious and it makes a lot. I usually freeze half and then keep the other half in the fridge and pop a couple in the toaster when I need something quick. I top them with fresh fruit, and sometimes a bit of maple syrup. Sometimes I put a spoonful of vegan yogurt on top if I have some in the fridge. 
  • Speaking of vegan yogurt. It’s not something I buy when life is jolly, but when I’m grieving or going through something heavy, I will buy a few small containers of vegan yogurt because it’s soothing and it requires no work. 
  • One of the issues I have with eating when I’m down is the actual act of cooking and preparing food. When I’m low, low, low, I have zero energy. It’s a stretch just to go from my couch to the bathroom to pee. So spending a lot of time in my kitchen is not going to happen. A big batch cooking session is out of the question for me when I’m in the middle of grieving, but I also know I need to eat plant-powered food in order to help myself through difficult times. So instead of batching our Meal Plans like I usually do, I pick a few recipes from the Recipe Vault and make those. I choose a salad dressing, some baked tofu, some toasted seeds, and a humongous salad with lettuce, cabbage, celery, bell pepper, and carrot. I portion out the salad into a few containers so I can grab one during the week, add some baked tofu, some canned beans, some toasted seeds, and some dressing, and I’m ready to eat. I might not feel like eating a salad, but if I have all the components, I will put one together because I don’t have to think about it and it requires little effort. On my mini batching day I will also cook a Cheesy Sauce so that all I need to do is boil pasta for Mac and Cheese. And I will make a batch of Pancakes. This mini batch session does not require a ton of time, and if I do it first thing in the morning I can get it out of the way early before I crash on my couch and stay there. If you need other ideas for super quick meals, check out Kitchen Play. I created it for when you want fast and easy meal ideas. 

My last tip isn’t about food, but I have found it to be just as important. When you’re sad, grieving, depressed, or worried, give yourself time to go through the process without putting demands or expectations on yourself. Do what you feel like doing. If you feel like sleeping, sleep. If you feel like watching TV, watch TV. If there is the slightest spark to go outside and take a walk, move on it quickly before it goes away. If you feel like eating cookies, eat cookies. If you feel like reading all day, read all day. 

When you’re sad, grieving, depressed, or worried, give yourself time to go through the process without putting demands or expectations on yourself.

Be gentle with yourself and know that you will eventually feel better. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Time is the best thing for healing that sweet, tender heart of yours. Whatever or whoever you are grieving is deserving of your grief. When I think about it like that I am less likely to try and rush the process. As far as food and what you eat while you’re grieving, just do the best you can until you love it again. Easy as that. 

I would like to leave you with a text that my sister, Annelies, sent me the day after Panther died. May you find the same comfort in it that I found. 

“I am thinking of you in grief’s understanding embrace. She is your strength, she is your comfort and she understands. Take the strength and protection that she is giving you now… I love you.”

What I Eat When Grief Makes Eating Hard + Super Easy Sandwich

Super Easy Plant Powered Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich, all ingredients are to taste.
Author: Molly Patrick

Ingredients

  • 2 slices sprouted grain or gluten-free bread, toasted
  • avocado, mashed
  • salt and pepper
  • tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • cucumber, thinly sliced
  • sauerkraut
  • sprouts or lettuce

Instructions

  • Spread some mashed avocado on both pieces of toasted bread.
  • Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper on the avocado and then add some tomato, cucumber, sauerkraut, and sprouts or lettuce.
  • Put the two pieces of bread together and dive in.

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Written by ex-boozer, ex-smoker, Co-founder, and CEO, Molly Patrick. They will help you eat more plants while throwing perfection down the garbage disposal.

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10 Comments

  1. Carol Fischbach on November 14, 2020 at 9:20 am

    How apropos. I received the sad news of a friend’s husband dying. My husband took me out to dinner to spare me from having to cook. We went to an Italian restaurant and I ate Veal Parm with Angel Hair pasta. Your sandwich would have been a much better option. With gratitude for all that you do!

  2. Linda on November 14, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Thank you Molly. My husband has COVID and the stress levels are high. Food is not appealing right now but we have been eating toast and potatoes and lentil soup.

  3. Ashley Pepper on November 14, 2020 at 10:03 am

    I came to the comments to talk about how I’ve been grieving, and it’s weird that all I want is toast, too, and the occasional smoothie.

    Lastly Molly, I am so sorry about Panther 🙁 I was rooting for him and it broke my heart to hear the news. Still sending light and love your way.

  4. Elyse S on November 14, 2020 at 11:40 am

    5 stars
    Avocado toast with sauerkraut is our family’s comfort food so making that a sandwich sounds amazing. I, too, was so sad to hear about Panther. Much love and kindness to you guys right now.

  5. Shana on November 14, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you Molly. I lost all three of my beloved dogs in the last 10 months. They were my kids, at 16, 18, and 19 years old. I have been beating myself up for not being able to move forward out of my grief. I have been eating too much vegan restaurant junk food, and my waistline and energy levels show it. I know how to take better care of myself, but lack the will to do it. I will try out some of your simple suggestions and see if they help. The process of grief simply sucks! Know that I am with you in your grief, and we will get through this.

  6. Kirstie on November 14, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Sweet, sweet, sweet. 100 cookies. I love you, Moll.

  7. Jenifer De La Torre on November 14, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    Thank you for this! Thank you for sharing your grief. Sending you love and light during this super difficult time.

  8. L B on November 15, 2020 at 7:40 am

    This blog hit me in the feels today. I’ve been moving through survival and grief for months while working through some really hard family and personal stuff. Even now, sitting in my living room I’m watching an ambulance across the street take an elderly neighbor whose hurt and ill out of his home. 2020 has taught me a lot of grief/slowing down and a lot of your tips for eating are very similar to mine. Cooking/eating is WORK when you’re in this mode.

  9. PM on November 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

    5 stars
    Thank you for this. I feel sad, but glad in a weird way, that feelings such as you describe are not mine alone. I lost my beautiful, mini me, best friend, daughter June 29th at the age of 44 because of a doctor’s incompetence and unwillingness to believe he could have made a mistake so he could investigate and save her. I have overwhelming bitterness. Some days just getting out of bed is the biggest accomplishment I can make. I just, this past Wednesday, batch a whole meal plan for the first time since we lost her. Cooking was always rather cathartic to me, but I just couldn’t even care. We ate junk vegan (husband and 10 yo). Sometimes meat (that made me violently ill). Sometimes it was just a PB&J for the kid with veggies and hummus. This recipe will be perfect for him. All his fav things, plus veggies and garlic hummus, of course.
    We are surviving. We are missing our grandkids (their bio dad is an ass); not a day went by before that we didn’t see, hug or talk to them. So insult to injury to make it all the more difficult.
    Be Blessed, Molly. Thank you.

    • Molly Patrick on November 30, 2020 at 10:51 am

      My heart goes out to you, my dear.
      I am sending your heart so much love.
      Thank you for sharing this with me.
      xo
      Molly

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