Grief: Don't forget to eat your veggies

  • Woodfire in West Dundee offers a roasted vegetable appetizer -- a delicious way to take care of yourself and get your veggies in.

    Woodfire in West Dundee offers a roasted vegetable appetizer -- a delicious way to take care of yourself and get your veggies in. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted11/3/2019 9:46 AM

In grief, we often forget to take care of ourselves -- emotionally and physically. We forget to eat healthy meals, and even to take care of our clothes and appearance.

So we must be on guard, especially as the years move along and we may be alone with a very different lifestyle than before we lost our spouse, partner, parents or best friend.


It took me a couple years after the death of my dear husband, Baheej, to get up the gumption to join an exercise class, the first exercise class I've ever taken. It meets three times a week at Dundee fitness center with fantastic instructor, Reada. We do low-impact aerobics, hand weights and stretching. So fun. And the class members are very friendly and positive. We even go out to lunch together once a month and I've made nice friends there. It's fun and uplifting.

Now, on our clothes and appearance: This could be a touchy subject. Sometimes a person may feel, "who cares." Well, we need to care about ourselves.

Grief can drain motivation but we must make an effort. I'm not saying we need to be fanshionistas, but keeping oneself up is important to our emotional and psychological state of mind.

So it's vital to maintain good habits, get to doctor and dentist's appointments, be nice to yourself. This August I spent $500 just on me! A new blouse, a new skirt, a rice cooker, a spiralizer, a new blender/chopper, a few other items. It felt good. After all we spend on everything else, we must not forget ourselves.

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Healthy meals may actually be the first to go. You might be unmotivated, or find it simply too hard and a great bother to cook for yourself.

One of the pitfalls of unhealthy meals is weight gain. Snacking, irregular meals, "grazing," and snack food can lead to either malnourishment or to weight gain, the bane of our modern society. It makes us less healthy, less energetic, even feeling bad. When first bereaved, there are lots of people around bringing food, taking you out, inviting you over. But eventually you are more much alone than you used to be. This is when healthy eating becomes a challenge. Best to take this in hand as soon as possible.

One big issue is it seems too much effort to go get all those fresh vegetables, then unload, wash, chop, cook.

I like to cook and entertain, but even I enjoy having someone else shop, carry and prepare all those colorful veggies we need for good health. My favorite choice for eating lovely vegetables is a new restaurant in downtown West Dundee -- Woodfire, on First Street across from the village hall. There is a dish there -- a big plate of fire roasted veggies with green beans, cauliflower, red peppers, yellow peppers, carrots, zucchini, red onions, mushrooms -- just roasted in a little olive oil, in a very hot oven, and served with a delicious melted cheese dipping sauce.

Many restaurants now feature fresh vegetables and healthy in-house preparations. And it's fun to go out to a local place where they get to know you.

Fresh fruit is easier, all you have to do is buy it and take it home.

Another way to look after yourself is to join some interest group with goals that are important or fun to you. This could be a local civic club, a church group, coin collectors club, or any other interest group. In my case I joined P.E.O. a women's group dedicated to helping other women pay for professional training and post-high school education with grants, scholarships, and loans. It's been very gratifying and I've met many new friends there.

So the point is: It is important to take care of yourself in all these dimensions -- health, exercise, food, spirit. You will feel better and be more able to manage grief and long term grief. I'm still working at it over seven years later.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a Ph.D. in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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