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

Grief doesn’t always turn you into an unpredictable ball of 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.  

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 feel 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.

Grief and Food: 10 Ways Your Thanksgiving Spread Will Make You Cry

1) Your loved one’s staple dish (also your favorite) is missing for the first time in years.i-was-told-there-would-be-green-bean-casserole-d78e0

2) You try to recreate your 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.

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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.

thanksgiving57) You had the meal catered because you couldn’t face cooking and everything just seems a little lackluster.a255e5a8

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



9) Your negative coping in full swing, you spend the day numbing the pain.


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, 2019

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

  1. Thank You for the supportive and factual articles ‘ A widow of a year these grief posts have been the only remedy that keep me sane and grounded’ and that one sentence sums it up so well – ‘ … all of a sudden ‘ you see reminders of their memory and absence everywhere …” – My most recent emotional meltdown and the consequent uncontrollable crying happened in the disposable diapers isle of the pharmacy’ as I was passing casually to get to the prescriptions counter’ seeing the brand that I used to buy for my husband did it’ as he was advanced stage Parkinson’s for the past few years … ahhh’ and anything to do with food and cooking has always a trigger in it’ though being a gourmet person ‘ the last few years he had a limited choice of food and everything had to be pureed’ … and the ten reasons you point out’ that result in being sad and emotional around family gahtering tables and food are so true ‘specially number eight and ten for me’ … As the other fellow grievers have expressed ‘ simply participating in family get togethers out of duty with a heavy ‘ gloomy and shattered heart’ ……… Laura’

  2. Thank you D johnson !!!!!!!
    I’m encouraged by your comments
    I think I’m doing great and I am, but hearing my husbands favorite obscure jazz tune in a restaurant the other night had me in tears, until my friend said, Lowell ( my late Husband ) is letting us know he’s right here with us
    I see so much evidence that he is indeed, here with me, I love feeling that
    I hate thinking this is my new normal, I feel hopeful hearing, it does get better. I believe that 🙏

  3. This Thanksgiving is my son’s birthday and ten days after that is the day he was killed by a hit and run driver two years ago. I am baking his birthday cake even though probably nobody will eat it after the big dinner. I feel as though I am going through the motions and pasting on the smile and just sobbing on the inside. Yes, the jagged edges are a little less jagged, but in many ways, my grief today is worse than it was before. At least before I had the blessing of shock. That’s gone now. I miss my funny, green eyed boy who brought so many people joy with his laughter and his humor. The holiday season is now just something to get through, even though I have family around me. My daughter feels the same as me.

  4. My son passed the day before Thanksgiving. He passed in NYC-we flew home on Thanksgiving morning to make sure we had the holiday for my other two sons. I preordered a complete dinner from a local restaurant I have hosted it since then for my elderly Father who passed on June 29. I have no desire to host ever again, and nobody really understand nor invites us. But we still have 2 adult children that want to celebrate it-what do I do? I have been doing what’s expected of me for the past few years-but it is emotionally exhausting…do I just keep doing what people want?

  5. It’s been 10 years since I lost my 23 year old son to cancer and it’s just like it was yesterday. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. The first Thanksgiving after his passing, we went to a restaurant and had a Thanksgiving breakfast and it did help. We now stay home for Thanksgiving and cook our own meal and my daughter comes over. Still hurts a lot.

  6. Thanksgiving had always been my favorite holiday. Earlier years we were 22 but now more like 10-15. My son died 10/13/16 and that Thanksgiving I went to my boyfriends family. Although I love them it was so completely different from mine that it made me even sadder than I was. Since it was just a month maybe I shouldn’t have gone. I was numb then, im numb now but will go for my boyfriend who ID a wonderful man 💔

  7. It’s been 4 years. where is the peace …where is the normalcy of life, It’s hard living alone and at this time of year it would be so nice to just hibernate till the holidays are over. I have come a long way but I’m afraid that this journey I am on is now my life. I do my best and try to leave God with the rest.

  8. Oh my. A very special friend sent me this site and I have read the above stories. This will be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my husband. Veterans Day was painful as my husband was a Vietnam Veteran. Now Thanksgiving and Christmas are here. Last Christmas I spent in the hospital with him, but we were together. This year I am so sad. Tears are streaming down my face as I type. Yesterday I went to a Veteran appreciation program at the school my friend’s grand children attend. It was a wonderful tribute to our Veterans, but left me emotionally drained and this feelings have carried over to today. I am sure my friend Sandy had an idea on how hard this will be and send me to this site. Thank you Sandy. I have already had a crisis when the stores brought out eggnog and cider. I cried right in the store and had to leave. It seems to be getting worse. I am planning to leave for New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I will be with friends, who are like family. I just pray I do not make others sad and that I hold it together. Every one here thinks it’s a wonderful idea. In my mess up mind I think they probably don’t want to saddened by my. My other mind knows they are thinking this will be good for me. Christmas, I just don’t know. Feel I should have planned a cruise. Just don’t know. I am attending a grief support group through Hospice and I will stay connected to the wonderful people I have met. Neither of us were too fond of green bean casserole, but mince meat pie will take me over the edge. No one, including myself, eats mince meat pie, but my husband loved it and I would make him one. Thank you allowing me to share. I will end for now and pray for all of us.

  9. My adult son passed 1/18. This thing with the food reminders is so true. I think, Johnny really likes this or that. He and I love(d) fruitcake. I’d get one for each of us. I don’t know if I can even get one for myself this year. I was doing well up until this holiday thing. My daughter invited us to her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I said no. I just can’t make myself go.

  10. My adult son passed 1/18. This thing with the food reminders is so true. I think, Johnny really likes this or that. He and I love(d) fruitcake. I’d get one for each of us. I don’t know if I can even get one for myself this year. I was doing well up until this holiday thing and I’m having trouble moving past it. My daughter invited us to her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I said no. I just can’t make myself go.

  11. My wife passed in August and we are totally dreading Thanksgiving which was her and our favorite holiday where she would slave over the food in the kitchen for 4 hours of preparation and love and it would all come out PERFECTLY. The kids always craved her stuffing and oh that deep dark GRAVY! She would toss in a perfect green bean casserole with the fried onions on top and mountains of mashed potatoes- that would be “volcano-ed ” with that GRAVY We always had way too much but she LOVED the day starting right after Halloween. It was all about Thanksgiving. We never had the chance to get recipes or “how to”..after all we had just retired and had 20-25 years left- she was only 62!….So what was the rush on that? This was to be her first Thanksgiving dinner in our beautiful retirement home we had only purchased a year ago and finally got here in March… We were all so excited with the thought of it……This year my oldest daughter is doing it and God help us with trying NOT to get emotional. Its going to be a tough holiday season- I cant get to January soon
    enough! Sadly I am not feeling her spirit and the once and soon to be fully furnished home we moved into in March-is sadly just a “house” 3/4 remaining empty…why should I bother now. Besides that Thanksgiving that was to have been here -was moved to my daughters. Its ALL gone now except for the painful memories. I am going to need plenty of wine and football to get through this holiday.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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 ?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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”!

  19. 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.

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