I recommend Laderach from Switzerland.
It comes in industrial-sized serving slabs. Enough to really help, rather than dainty bite-sized morsels that are good mainly for the antioxidants.
This isn’t a time for the soft, chewy stuff. You need something with some heft and crunch.
Thanks to a visiting friend, I had a large bag of Laderach’s chocolate on hand when my father died. I hope I can someday eat that brand again without the painful association.
I’ve tried other ways of dealing with my grief, both healthy (walking, journaling, talking, crying, praying) and not (wine, and more wine). But hands down, chocolate helps the most in my darkest times.
Don’t judge. Most days, it doesn’t take a lot.
Although I must admit, today was the first time I’ve indulged in a double dose, which included a “good morning” portion to get myself going. Today, my thoughts feel like a jar of broken glass. Nothing seems to fit together, and chocolate soothes the jagged edges.
It’s Hard to Imagine
People have described it to me, but it’s hard to imagine grief when you aren’t in it. One minute you’re fine. The next minute, slayed.
Grief turns everything upside down and inside out. Normal things feel frightening, and small chores feel overwhelming.
My grief is anything but compartmentalized. Memories of long-ago events intrude. Sadness, anger, anxiety, regret, and loneliness erupt out of nowhere.
I am grieving for my father but also for myself. For my family and his lonely dog. For what I’ve had and lost, and for what I never had. For what was said and unsaid. For the whole messed-up world and all of us that are in it.
Today, every part of me hurts, from my heart to my bones. But I’m not pushing the pain away. I’m allowing it to wash over me in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to in the past.
I am actually grateful to be able to feel these emotions after years of repression. Still, I need some comfort.
I trust that there will be better times, because the grief comes in waves. I know that tomorrow, or possibly the next hour, will be better. Some days I don’t even eat the chocolate. It’s enough to know it’s there.
After years of working to heal my relationship with food, I know to let my feelings surface. And I know how to comfort myself in other ways. But despite my progress, when I am in the depths of my grief, I reach for the soothing of chocolate.
I’m finding that wine gets in the way and makes me tired the next day, even when it’s only one glass. Maybe it’s too blunt of a painkiller.
Chocolate always makes me feel better with no cranky aftereffects because, let’s face it, chocolate understands. Chocolate makes no demands. It’s there when my husband is at work and my friends are asleep. It’s there when life is hard.
Nourishment Has Many Forms
Is chocolate the healthiest thing I could eat right now? I don’t really care.
But my eating psychology-coach mind thinks that right now it actually is.
I’m striving to still eat my greens and keep normal nutrition coming in. This is quite a change from the past, when an emotional crisis would have triggered an all chocolate and wine diet, supplemented by some pimento cheese—for protein, you know.
If you’ve read this far, you can probably understand.
I’m happy that I no longer need to binge and that my overeating is now occasional vs. regular. I’m happy that I’m healing the root of my emotional hunger. But I’m also happy that chocolate is here for me when I need it. And that’s OK.
When you’re grieving, you need nourishment in many ways: with healthy food and self-compassion, by reaching out for support, and with time to step back and replenish. And with the occasional comfort eating when you’re down in the weeds.
In Lieu Of Flowers, Send Chocolate
In a more perfect world, obituaries would list where you could send chocolate: “In lieu of flowers, please pelt us with your best chocolate.” After all, our loved ones are gone, and we are left trying to manage—we need it; we deserve it.
Thankfully, the ladies at my parents’ church seemed to know this already. It was almost as if they had read my mind.
After we shook hundreds of mourners’ hands, they had chocolate cookies and pimento cheese sandwiches for us in the break room.
And after we said goodbye, and I had endured speaking in front of a packed church, they had fried chicken and those comforting casseroles that Southern churches have elevated to high cuisine.
There was even banana pudding that brought me back to my childhood. And peanut butter cookies after I expressed disappointment when biting into an oatmeal lookalike. Peanut butter being one of the few ingredients that can elevate chocolate.
I took those cookies home and ate them with the chocolate ones a friend made. They saved me a few times from total breakdown.
Peanut butter, plus chocolate, is an SOS in my language of emotional eating. When I’m asking for that combination, it means I’m drowning. I may look fine, but inside I’m about to go under.
And is it a coincidence that while writing this, I typed “friend” chicken? Yes, fried chicken is my friend in hard times. But it’s difficult to get the good stuff when you live thousands of miles from the South. Good chocolate is so much easier to source.
I feel so grateful for all of it—the chocolate, the cookies, the “friend” chicken, the pimento cheese, and casseroles. And especially the fellowship and support of those who found a way to comfort me a long way from home.
The Aftermath of Loss
What’s my upward spiral from here?
I don’t know. I’m still in the early days of this grief. I’m trying to go easy on myself and give it time while keeping up my self-care.
I’m told that one day I will feel joy again and my creative spark will return. In the thick of it, that seems impossible. It’s hard to imagine moving forward in a world without my father in it. All I can do is put one foot in front of the other and let time and chocolate do its work.
I’m grateful for healing my relationship with food, but I’m also grateful that I can lean on emotional eating in times like this. Secretly, I sometimes feel sorry for those who can’t find temporary solace in a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough.
Will I one day have healed to the point where I no longer reach for food to soothe me in my darkest hours? I don’t know.
Until then there’s grief chocolate.
If you need it, use it. And don’t let guilt get in the way. We all have loss in this life, and recovery takes many forms.
After all, God put chocolate in the world. And for what better purpose than to soothe a broken heart?