This grief recipe story is brought to you by Mandy Berrell of Atlanta, GA. Mandy shares with us that she is a "wife and mama, educator, non-professional grief girl, and faith-filled sunshine finder." You can find Mandy on Instagram at @sunshineandbee.
In this story, Mandy shares how her family's All Saints' Day celebration has taken shape over the years, as well as an All Saints' Day recipe. For those who aren't familiar, All Saints' Day takes place on November 1st and is a Christian celebration that honors the saints from Christian history. On this day—as well as November 2nd which is All Souls' Day—many also honor and remember deceased loved ones.
As a teacher in a Catholic school for many years, I loved celebrating All Saints' Day with my students at school... So, once my own children came along, we wanted to observe it in our home too. We talked about it when my first-born was small, but it wasn’t until he turned four that we really began to observe this holy day.
My family’s first All Saints' Day dinner was November 2012, the year my sister passed away. Still, in the absolute throes of grief, I felt that nothing I did to acknowledge her absence was enough. I felt I must do ALL THE THINGS to acknowledge her. It felt disloyal to her to miss even one opportunity to do something around her absence. She died so young—just thirty-one–and I physically ached with missing her.
So, I planned a dinner a for All Saints' Day that included foods Sissy loved—especially our Daddy’s biscuits, her favorite Brussels sprouts, and the carrot cake from The Grit that she always made for special occasions. We decorated with her many saint books (as she had a special affinity for saints) and her beloved owl décor everywhere!
Within the 18 months that followed my sister’s death, both of my precious grandmothers passed away and even my sweet little dog did too! It was a hard, HARD season of life.
As our All Saints' feast dinner developed, we included Mimi’s famous mac-and-cheese casserole, Memaw’s delish pork tenderloin, and beer for my husband’s late father, Pat. Our children were now school age, which means they began to have an activity schedule that we had to workaround.
From this new season of life came our latest addition to All Saints' Day: the snack feast! We have added St. Isidore’s (candy) pumpkins, St. Francis’ animals (crackers), St. Bernadette’s firewood (pretzels), St. James’ fish (both gold and Swedish), St. Juan Diego’s salsa, St. Gabriel’s trumpets (bugles)—and I think we’ll add St. Cecelia’s piano keys (wafer cookies and Hershey sections) next. This way, we can observe All Saints' Day on the actual day and then, if we need to move our special family-recipes Saints celebration to another night, it’s easy to do.
Some people leave an empty chair for family members who are missed. At this point, we would have nearly a full table of empty chairs... so, for us, lighting a candle is more logical. We decorate our table still with Sissy’s saint books, saint medals from Mimi, pictures of favorite saints, and a candle for each family member who would be present with us if they were still of this earth.
My daddy, Steve, passed away in 2018 and, unsurprisingly, his biscuits are the first thing the kids want to have in our Saints dinner. Of course, the trouble is, nobody makes biscuits as Stevie did. I make them well enough, but only he could make them with the nuances of perfection as someone who had made them for years and years.
We have grown to love our family’s way of liturgical living at home–with food, just the way these loved ones would have enjoyed too!
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