Dinner Parties for Widows and Millennials – An All Soul’s Day Reflection

When you hear the word widow, what do you think of? Old ladies, spiders, the city of Nain, two copper pennies? Well, Amelia Nierenberg, a food writer for the New York Times, thinks of dinner! It is not as big a leap as it may seem. The idea that food soothes grief runs deep. It is the reason why once a death becomes public friends and neighbors start showing up with trays of lasagna.

Yet, in her article, For Many Widows, the Hardest Part Is Mealtime, Niereberg learns that grief is often heightened around mealtimes. “It’s simple things like, ‘What do you want for dinner?’” said Pat Smith, 60. “And it’s like, ‘I don’t know. What do I want for dinner?’” Ms. Zawadzki agreed: “You don’t have somebody to bounce your ideas off anymore.” “And then you think to yourself,” Ms. Kantak said, “‘How do you not know what you want for dinner?’” She paused. “But that’s something the two of you would have decided together.”

The article goes on to explain how non-profits like, “Culinary Grief Therapy, which uses demonstrations and group discussions over meals to teach participants how to cook, eat and shop for one, alongside other widows” have responded to this issue.

But widows and widowers aren’t the only ones whose grief is softened by group meals. The Dinner Party, an organization that has expanded in more than 100 cities is building a worldwide community of 20- and 30-somethings who have each experienced the loss of a parent, partner, child, sibling, other close family member, or close friend. Their motto is: We know what it’s like to lose someone and we aren’t afraid to talk about it.

The grieving don’t always come to mind when I think of our Franciscan commitment to serve the poor and disenfranchised, but reading this article on All Soul’s Day, a day we especially remember the dead, reminds me also of those left behind, and of this bible passage “…the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled…” Deuteronomy 14:29

Individual Reflection Questions:

  1. How do I respond to other’s losses?
  2. Is it helpful to talk about those I’ve lost, or do I prefer not to?

Ministry Reflection Questions:

  1. How does our ministry respond to the losses of those we work with?
  2. How does our ministry respond to the grieving among those we serve?
  3. What have we observed about the relationship between meals and mourning?