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Cooking through grief: Cookbook helps people in the kitchen during a time of loss

By Eric Johnson

newsroom@austindailyherald.com

Losing a loved one is never easy and can have a profound affect on those left behind.

One of those affects can often come in the kitchen, whether it be the cook in the family dying or somebody who was the source of good memories around food.

Or maybe, it’s just someone who is struggling to eat correctly during such a stressful time.

Worlein Funeral Home recognized these issues arising from death and has taken steps to help people get back on track.

Working with Jen Haugen, a registered dietitian in Austin, the staff of the funeral home have put together “Stir Gently: Cooking For One in a Time of Transition.”

This cookbook has recipes that are easy to make, but goes further by offering ideas in creating the meals as well as general cooking tips.

The goal is to help anybody who might need help.

“I think it’s super important,” said Worlein Community Services Director and NFDA Certified Preplanning Consultant Mary Kittelson. “People need to know where to turn to. It’s important to know their needs don’t end. They are just starting out on a long process.”

The recipes within “Stir Gently,” are easy to make and easy to adapt. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Oftentimes, when a family member or friend passes away, the people left behind can get caught up in the grieving process and eating healthy may be pushed to the back burner.

Or perhaps it’s someone who hasn’t cooked or gone grocery shopping for themselves for years.

That’s the purpose of this book. To make things easier for those mourning so they can keep living their lives in a healthy manner.

At the same time some of our best memories involve food.

“It ties them to other people,” said Worlein Owner and Director Paul Worlein. “Sometimes it’s a little isolation. They are asking, ‘why is all this happening to me?’ And they find out it’s all happening to other people.”

The book has been in the works for a while. The staff at Worlein heard from grief support group participants as well as those in aftercare visits and often the topic of food and cooking as well as eating well after a loss comes up.

After doing some research, they reached out to Haugen and met with her in August of 2019. Haugen’s contribution to the book came in the form of advice on topics such as meal planning, how to purchase and store foods, how to adapt recipes and modify quantities.

Many of the recipes featured in the book came from past members of Worlein’s grief support group, who have experienced these same challenges.

These submitters could also dedicate the recipe to someone they had lost.

All these elements come together to offer a personal resource option for the grieving.

“It’s a resource book,” Kittelson said. “There is a ton of good information on why it’s important to take care of yourself and eat well while they grieve.”

The cookbook is part of the funeral home’s Worlein Continuing Care program and is given to each family served by the home.

However, since the cookbook has come out, anybody wishing to get a book should contact Worlein Funeral Home directly.

At the end of the day, Worlein hopes this book will bring a little bit of ease to those who have had to say goodbye to a loved one and maybe keep a memory alive.

“If somebody can say, ‘hey, this brings back a good memory,’ I think  there is some comfort in that,” Kittelson said.

Resources during COVID-19

One of the problems faced by Worlein, along with other businesses, is how to still continue providing a service in the time of COVID-19.

At Worlein, the funeral home has put together care packages filled with resources including  “Stir Gently,” along with a whole host of other things to help people get through a tough time,which also includes their video, “Embracing Grief.”

These care packages can either be picked up or delivered, whatever people feel more comfortable with.