Grief and Food: 10 reasons why your Thanksgiving spread might make you cry

Grief doesn’t always turn you into a ball of unpredictable emotion, but sometimes it does.  Sometimes things like a song, a word, a familiar face, a commercial, a cheesy quote, a shoe without a match, a wilted flower, or a nice looking stranger waiting at a bus stop can bring you to tears.  Just me??

I mean think about it, before your loved one died would you have ever thought it possible that green bean casserole could make you sad?  Of course not! It’s green bean casserole and it’s delicious!  The only time anyone should be sad about green bean casserole is when it’s gone.  Yet I’m willing to bet at least a handful of you will be sad about green bean casserole this Thanksgiving.

After someone dies, all of a sudden you see reminders of their memory and absence everywhere.  A random display at Target leaves you in tears, the season changes and it hits you like a ton of bricks, a song comes on the radio and you have to pull your car over because you can’t see through your tears.  The triggers are everywhere and your holiday meals are no exception.  If you’re having trouble imagining why, please allow me to elaborate with 10 reasons why grief and food might make you cry this Thanksgiving.

1) Your loved one’s staple dish (also your favorite) is missing for the first time in years.


2) You try to recreate your deceased loved one’s recipe and it’s a total fail.


3) In a horrible confluence of emotion, anxiety and stress you impulsively eat everything in sight.



4) You draw the short straw and reluctantly get stuck making the meal.

av2lbavmj4m127t0tiip [via]

5) Your Aunt Millie graciously offers to step in and make the meal, but sadly Aunt Millie is a terrible terrible cook.


6) You decide to skip the meal altogether, but feel a tinge of sadness about what you might be missing.


7) You had the meal catered because you couldn’t face cooking and everything just seems a little lackluster.


8) The food looks amazing but you have no appetite.



9) Your negative coping in full swing, you spend the day at the bar and entirely forget to eat.


10)  Everything looks amazing and the food is delicious. You made your loved one’s famous stuffing and it came out perfectly. Except, without them there, you are acutely aware that things will never be the same.


Although the fact that Thanksgiving will never be the same is as clear as the food on your table, this doesn’t mean the holiday will never be happy again.  Keep yourself open to every emotion this holiday season, including joy.

This post as a little silly, but we do have some serious advice to impart throughout the rest of the holiday season so don’t forget to subscribe.  

November 19, 2017

10 responses on "Grief and Food: 10 reasons why your Thanksgiving spread might make you cry"

  1. Six and a half years after and the holidays are still difficult. The food triggers are everywhere. Glad to here it’s not just me. I am sharing a meal that is not traditional. I still miss everything and everybody. I would like to hit the pause button and wake up in January.

  2. I was invited to my daughter in law. Mothers house I told my daughter Monday I don’t think I am going to make it is it wrong of me not to go I have been getting very sad about going I don’t want to be sad when everyone is happy I don’t want to ruin anyone’s Thanksgiven I feel bad but I have to go with my heart I lost my husband in the floods in Houston Texas April 18th 2016 still hurting thank you Debbie

  3. Thanks for sharing this . I felt a little crazy when I was asked “you didn’t make mashed potatoes?” I haves made mashed photos in 7 months ! Mashed photos were his favorite food ! I don’t think I will ever make them again ?

  4. I’m reading these posts and crying. For years I’ve hosted Thanksgiving. Last year was the first time I didn’t and this year I’m heading out of town to be with family. Like Carm, I have been numb and somewhat in denial. I am moving forward but know that the holidays are not the same for me or my children. Last year was #7; this year #10. Breathe deeply.

  5. Absolutely not silly at all. Every single scenario is valid and yet it comes down to #10!

    Last Thanksgiving was my first. And yet this year feels like the first. I have come to realize in the past few months how incredibly numb I was that first year. And this year I continue to move forward but have those periods of tears & pain so deep I pray breath by breath sometimes. Okay I’m done.

  6. You’re right, it is a bit silly, but I love it! Holidays are tremendously hard to deal with when your grieving (even years later) and the way you dealt with it here is refreshing and comforting. Thanks for making me feel better.

  7. I am writing about my Thanksgiving experience this year to, hopefully, shine a ray of hope for those at an earlier stage of grieving. I did a lot of grief work over the last two years and I am now enjoying the reward. The traditional foodstuffs in the grocery store no longer trigger sadness or guilt. I am going to a restaurant, alone, and enjoying a night in a posh hotel. I am fascinated by how the brain heals itself! I have passed through feelings of loss so strong I thought they’d kill me. Now the families gathered together, at rest stops & on Facebook, elicit no emotion other than a mild happiness for them. I wish a had a secret formula to share. I know talking with others and finally getting support (not criticism) mattered. And forcing myself to face my cold, harsh reality over and over and over desensitized me. All I can say is “It gets better”!

    • Thanks D! Your comments are always appreciated. I am so glad to hear you are going into the holiday feeling positivity and a plan to do something to pamper yourself that you will enjoy!

  8. The “green been casserole” narrative really hit home. Our son is hosting Thanksgiving due to my soul mate of 42 years and his mom’s death last May. I offered to bring the green been casserole; our daughter, the traditional cherry coke jello salad. I was in the grocery store to pick up the casserole ingredients when I had to quickly leave with tears flowing. Honestly, I would rather be alone on Thanksgiving which would not be fair to our son, daughter and grandsons. So, I’m sure I will enjoy their company and our son’s hospitality while coping with a very broken heart.

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


WYG provides general educational information from mental health professionals, but you should not substitute information on the What’s Your Grief website for professional advice. Please check out terms and conditions here

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255


Share Your Snapshot

Grief In 6 Words

Submit a Story to Us

What's Your Grief Podcast

Listen to our podcast