Hi there. Skylar here from @nocryingincooking. I am so excited to partner with Sirenna for our Baking Through Grief and the Holidays collaboration. Baking has long been a staple in my grief toolkit. The simple act can bring us back to ourselves and our bodies. One taste of an heirloom recipe can revive a memory of a loved one long gone, and one fresh-out-of-the-oven batch of cookies can say “I love you” without uttering a single word. Baking is something that brings me comfort even in the thick of the holiday blues/chaos/joy. And speaking of the holiday blues…
Every year when December hits, I tell my boyfriend, Max, that sad Christmas music is “my aesthetic” because it just gets me.
“I know,” he says. Because he does.
The holiday season is also a grieving season for us. Max lost his mom six years ago, and I lost my dad… oh goodness… I’m not sure I have the energy to do the Death Math right now, so let’s say twenty years ago.
And now Sirena, the fabulous creator of Bake the Edge Off, is entering her second year of holidaygrief-mas. Holidaygrief-mas, as I’ve literally just coined it, can be a brutal time for the those grappling with loss—the constant reminders of who should be standing in the kitchen next you but isn’t, the idea that you must be happy, the do-lists that now feel pointless. It’s… complex.
And this year, it’s not just those who’ve attended funerals we never wanted to attend who are carrying grief. It’s all of us. Just this morning I broke down into tears at the sight of a man’s watch. A nurse shared the photo on social. She’d lost him to Covid the night before. Flights to see loved ones have been canceled. College semesters have been moved to Zoom. Jobs have been lost. Hope has been lost.
No matter your 2020 story, we are all grieving this year.
So, as a decades-long griever, here are some of my personal tips on how to honor your grief this holiday season. I hope they bring you some holiday
- Feel it
Oh! How profound, right?! Actually, is it! I spent years running from my grief, and it only made my pain worse. As my therapist says (shout out to Anne!), “Feelings just want to be felt.” And it’s the same with grief. Grief just wants to be felt. Even if it’s the holiday season. Even if the whole world is sparkling with Christmas lights. You don’t have to turn off your sadness for a season. Your pain deserves space. Remember: Grief is love. And we need as much love as we can get this year. Let’s not turn away from it.
- But if you’re feeling joy, feel that, too
If you follow me on Instagram, you know my favorite saying: “Two things can be true at once.” I often hear people who are grieving wrestle with the guilt of feeling joy. “How can I feel happiness if my dad’s dead? Does this mean I don’t love him?”
“How can I shriek with laughter as this delightfully cheesy Lifetime holiday movie when all the ICUs are full?”
Two things can be true at once. We can hold space for it all: the joy, the sadness, the anxiety, and the lightness. Feeling one thing does not diminish the other. Joy is a sacred experience that comes in small, mundane flashes. Seize it when you can. And if you’re not feeling any joy this year, that’s okay too.
- Talk about them (or it)
I’m not sure who made up the “Don’t Talk About Your Dead (insert noun here)” rule, but it’s rubbish. Keeping my father alive through the stories I tell is how I continue my relationship with him after his death. So whatever you are grieving, talk about it! And if the people around you aren’t receptive in a way that soothes you or lights you up, find your people! Instagram is a great way to find like-minded folx. And if you need more help, I highly encourage you to see a therapist or a free support group run by a professional. They are out there!
- Create a tradition or keep old ones alive
Just how talking about my father helps keep him alive, so does creating traditions, especially during the holidays. Did your grandma used to make the best pie crust? Make it! Do you always go driving to find the best holiday lights but won’t be able to make it home this year? Go do it! Or, create your own tradition that honors the person you’ve lost. Perhaps set his favorite side dish on the table at your holiday meal? Or donate to a dog rescue in honor of your departed dog? Something small can truly be oh-so big and meaningful.
- Make room for rest
Sadness is exhausting, if you ask me. So make room rest. Do that fancy bubble bath thing with those Instagram worthy bath bombs. Or watch every Gilmore Girls Christmas episode. Or buy a weighted blanket and wrap yourself up into a little cocoon while eating cheese straight from the block. And last but not least, make this INSANELY delicious one bowl m&m cookies created by Sirenna.
If you can, try not to chaos bake. Set aside your phone, a block of uninterrupted time, and your racing thoughts. You can think of this as a baking meditation. If anxious thoughts interrupt you, connect to your senses. What do you smell, taste, hear, and touch? It’s a wonderful way to calm your body and mind. And bonus, the results will be delicious too.
Alright. You ready? Let’s go bake the edge off with these one bowl m&m cookies! .
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup m&ms
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together melted butter and the sugars. Add egg and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add in flour and baking soda and mix with a wooden spoon. Once almost combined add chocolate and m&ms and fold with a spatula. Make about 1 1/2 tablespoon sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes before enjoying!
pro tip: add extra m&ms on top of your cookie dough balls for a really good looking cookie before baking