Self help or counseling? Butter or olive oil? Grief and little blackberry almond cakes are lessons in making a choice.
Do I need help? That is a question one in mourning may ask over and over again. While there is no universal answer to that one question the chances are if you are asking yourself, “Do I need help?” then you probably do. As a medical professional and prior to my own son’s death I often referred patients to mental health counselors and supportive groups. While in uncomplicated cases one may only need a supportive, nonjudgmental listener to facilitate the normal grief process there are others that need much more. Here are a few questions one should be asking themselves as they travel the grief road.
- Am I stuck or making progress towards a more joyful life?
- Am I using addictive substances like alcohol or smoking more than I ever did?
- Do I over-eat or not eating at all?
- Do I talk of my loved one as if he/she is still alive?
- Can I manage my anger or am I self-destructive?
- Have I thought about harming myself?
- Have others told me that they think I need help
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions don’t hesitate to seek out grief self-help groups like Compassionate Friends or deeper therapeutic intervention with a professional mental health care provider. There is no shame in seeking help. Remember that losing your loved one is a complete assault on your body, mind and heart. There is no pain like it. If you felt this kind of pain for any other reason you would be running to the doctor. There would be no hesitating. Get what you need to facilitate healing and support your experience. You have a choice.
Butter or olive oil. There is a choice when it comes to baking. I love them both, but clearly there is a big difference in taste and texture of the finished product. This recipe was inspired by a lovely bottle of blood orange olive oil. Have you ever gone into one of those shops where you can sample all kinds of olive oils and vinegars? So fun and so filling because I taste many before settling on 1 or 2 to take home.
Not quite sure of the science behind it, but the cake made with the olive oil was more moist in a way I can only describe as “juicy”. It was a bit surprising to get that burst of bittersweet blood orange. The butter cake, however, just melted in the mouth with the slightest hint of citrus. It was the hands-down favorite. Speaking of “hands-down” do you remember that board game? I used to love playing that with my kids, but I digress. SIGH.
Here is the recipe for little blackberry almond cakes. Take whichever direction suits you best…..and with those leftover egg yolks make a pudding or custard pie or ice cream…..sounds like a future blog post.
Little Blackberry Almond Cakes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 12 mini cakes 1x
Lovely little almond cakes with blackberry jam.
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
1 cup almond flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup blood orange olive oil or flavored olive oil of your choice
12 teaspoons blackberry preserves
1/4 cup sliced almonds
garnish: powdered sugar, fresh berries
- Heat oven 350F. Line a cupcake tin with foil liners or use little mini loaf size baking containers.
- Beat egg whites and salt to just stiff peaks. With mixer running, gradually add sugar and vanilla bean powder; blending well.
- Add almond flour, all-purpose flour; blend just until mixed.
- Add oil and blend until incorporated.
- Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Spoon 1 teaspoon preserves into center batter. Sprinkle with almonds.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until puffed and golden and wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust cakes with powdered sugar and garnish with fresh berries.
For butter version: Replace oil with ½ cup melted unsalted butter and add grated zest of 1 orange
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: blackberry, mini desserts, baby cakes, almond flour
We originally ended up in counseling just three weeks after Aidan died to help my children. The excellent support team at Boston Children’s Hospital encouraged us to get them and us help right away. I never thought about it for myself. In the end, I think I am the one that has benefitted the most. My grief counselor has helped me prepare for and navigate through both big and small moments. Maybe we were just lucky to find the right fit from the start.
As a culture we don’t grieve well. I watched many of my students suffer through tremendous loss without much support. In many families death is whispered about and children are excluded. Children often get lost in the grief process.
This isn’t to say that I don’t think self help can work. I have met a new friend that has done well with yoga and meditation. Another has been able to depend solely on his faith. I know that wouldn’t work for me right now.
I think the most important thing that people should know there is no shame in reaching out if they need to. We are a society that says push through and move on and if you can’t do it alone you’ve failed. Often we are surrounded by loving supportive people who want to help, but don’t know what to do. Turns out I’m one of those people.
And then there is cooking…bittersweet therapy for me… These cakes look delicious!.
Thank you so very much for sharing your journey and perspective here. Your comments are so very valuable to all of us trying to navigate our own grief or someone else’s. I am so very thankful that you and your family found a good fit with a counselor through Boston’s Children Hospital. A referral from a doctor or someone one already trusts is a great way to connect.
and thank you for the cake compliment-you are as sweet as they are.
Good advice overall, Lisa …but I would offer two small caveats from my own experience. The point about talking about your loved one as if he or she were still alive might need clarification. For example, referring to your loved one (or expressing your feelings about them) in the present tense is not necessarily a sign that you are “stuck” in your grief or, worse, in denial. It may be simply the way you are remaining connected to the loved one you have lost … it can, in fact, be a healthful response on your part, because you are acknowledging that your feelings for them remain present, even while you are acknowledging that the loved one is no longer alive. Of course, a lot depends on the context and the frequency of such “present tense” references … but I would not assume that the occasional or specific reference to the loved one who is dead in the present tense is a sign that the person grieving needs help.
I would offer an even more cautionary note to your last point about friends expressing concern that you need help. In most instances, I suspect, those expressions of concern may be accurate, but in some cases it may reflect more on the friend’s own limitations in understanding the grief process than on how well the person grieving is doing. Our society as a whole (I have come to believe) approaches coming to terms with death – especially unexpected death – all too often with the expectation that silence is the best way to move forward (on the part of friends and family, to stop referencing the person who has died … and to view any reference to the person who has died by the one grieving as “being stuck”). In other words, it is possible for the person who is grieving to actually be moving forward in a healthful fashion, and the concerned friend or family member who is expressing concern who is misreading the process and to be showing their own limitations or inability to respond to someone who is grieving in a healthful fashion.
Okay … sorry for the long, disjointed “soapbox” moment.
Agree with all you have so eloquently written here. I absolutely could have provided more detail in those questions. For instance, if it were a doctor or a clergyman that one trusted vs a friend advising one to seek help then that would have more strength behind the suggestion……and as for the other what I meant was talking about your loved one inappropriately as if they were still alive, for too long a time, not accepting that they are gone…I hope that makes more sense