On grief and some tomato soup

I was supposed to talk about tomato soup. A classic tomato soup I’ve been making a lot of these past few weeks. I got the recipe from Cup of Jo. It’s so easy and so creamy and so comforting, it’ll make you forget how wretched this year is. Lol. Of course not. Nothing will make you forget, but at least this soup will keep you warm. You only need very little ingredients: canned tomatoes, onions, parmesan, butter, tomato paste, and heavy cream. If you have leftover bread, you can toast some and voila! You can sit cross-legged on your couch and devour this tomato soup to soothe your worries away. I know we all need it these days.

The reason I’ve been missing since May is because I’ve been, how do I put it, healing somewhere else. And now it’s October. The last time I updated this blog, it was summer and there was a pandemic. It was summer and there was a pandemic and my father passed away. The pandemic is still here, it’s rainy, and I still can’t stop talking about my father. I miss him. I miss him every single day. I miss him in a way that is excruciating, like an itch I could never ever scratch, permanently. I writhe, I cry, I overthink, I give in to the pain. As Michelle Obama puts it:

It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open a fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful — a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

I’m not sure what grief is anymore. It’s hard to define something when you’re going through it. The words “life changing” keep popping in my head. It sounds so over the top. Life changing? Pffftt. I didn’t fully get it then. Not until my father died, anyway. This change that comes when you lose someone you love so dearly. No one tells you what to expect, how to process. No one tells you the jungle of emotions that grief puts you through. No one tells you that people process grief differently, that even your own family could react differently than you and that’s okay.

No one tells you that grief is more than just sadness. It’s joining random grief groups on Facebook and commenting on posts by complete strangers who are experiencing a similar loss. It’s anger that erupts from the littlest things, targeting anyone within close circle. It’s a sudden lack of empathy for seemingly petty problems, particularly other people’s petty problems. It’s loneliness that manifests as a selfish depressive state. It’s talking about the deceased at 2am because you can’t breathe just thinking of their last days. It’s clinging on to incredibly random hobbies that keep you distracted for hours on end. It’s reading books about death 24/7 and feeling so seen it’s therapeutic. It’s learning how to bake a delicious chocolate cake that you knew for sure the dead person would have appreciated if he were still alive. It’s buying pretty plates you don’t need and have no more room for in your tiny apartment. It’s being addicted to the perfect, white, rich, beautiful world that is Instagram. It’s escaping the drudges of everyday life in ways that’s not destructive but somehow equally above ground, vain, totally out of touch and yet blissfully in the moment.

You do all these things because no one tells you that when the night comes and all is quiet, the memories are too much to bear. When finally you’re alone and unoccupied, no one tells you just how painful and raw it feels when you let reality sink in — the reality that you would never see or hear or talk to this person ever again in this lifetime.

So I go and make some more tomato soup. And also cake. I bake beautiful, diabetes-inducing cake. I make it for myself and I make it for friends and loved ones. Then I take lots of pictures of it. Lots. These seemingly mundane things keep me afloat— a good soup, a good photo, a good conversation, a good cake. These little things keep my spirit and my foot moving one step in front of the other. There never was a one-time cure for the big shitty things like loss and grief. Sometimes a small good thing a day is more than enough. Sometimes that’s all you and I need.

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