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How the Pandemic Has Made Mourning So Hard


My mother died in a nursing home 3,000 miles from me with a nurse but no family by her side. She was declining by the time the Covid-19 pandemic halted us in our tracks and made it impossible for me to fly from California to New Jersey to be with her in her final days.

 

Grieving is hard. Grieving the death of a parent even harder. Grieving without the usual end-of-life rites and rituals has been impossible. 

 

In my past experiences with death, I learned that aspects of the dying process made the mourning process a little easier — less disorienting, less chaotic. Keeping vigil, sharing memories, watching, waiting, and witnessing all provided an anchor for the grief that was to come. I knew where to go next because I knew where I had been, but not so with the death of my mother. 

 

Getting a phone call in the dead of night is not the same as being able to see her, touch her, say goodbye, watch her go. Calling her friends and family to share the sad news is no substitute for gathering to reminisce and memorialize her life. Walking out my front door and stumbling upon the box that contained her ashes was a blow — not a consolation. 

 

The lack of closure has left a fissure that I’ve come to realize can only be filled with some familiar rites of passage — delayed and altered though they may be. I told a friend that — jarring though it can be to see the notice pop up on my phone — I still haven’t been able to delete the calendar reminder for the weekly video calls I once had with my mother and her nurse’s aide. My friend suggested I keep it for now and create a new weekly ritual of memory and meaning. 

 

And so I have. And so it helps — as did writing her obituary and creating a memorial photo album. But there is more to do. 

 

Before she fell ill, my mother and I talked about what she wanted me to do with her ashes once she was cremated. Ever practical, she argued that she’d be gone and wouldn’t know the difference, so whatever was meaningful for me — the living — should take precedence. 

 

Prior to my mother’s death, my husband and I had already begun making our own final plans, and after much thought and many conversations, we decided on a grave in Oakland’s historic Mountain View Cemetery — a special place we frequented before the pandemic closed it to the public. My mother’s death accelerated our contemplation and finalized our decision. The process has been a long one, but it’s already bringing some much-needed closure.

While my mother didn’t have much to say about where her ashes would eternally reside, she did have some very specific thoughts about her memorial service: she wanted there to be photos and stories, laughter and music, and she wanted a bagpiper to play — among other songs — Danny Boy. Some friends have vowed to join us for the interment — safely distanced and responsibly masked — and never before have I been so eager to fulfill a wish. 

 

With her subsequent service and burial, I’m not looking to “get over” my mother’s death as I am looking to “get over” on the other side of the chasm that has been looming for months. It turns out that we humans — and even some non-humans — create death rites and rituals for a reason — to comfort the living and usher us through the grief process. Without that bridge, mourning just feels like an unhealed wound or an unfallen shoe.

FAQ

Each cooking class is fully interactive. While I am demonstrating, you can chime in with comments, questions, and ooohs and ahhhs the entire time. Not only does this increase connection among the students, both my assistant and I see your questions and make sure we answer all of them.
You can participate in the class using Zoom on your computer, tablet or mobile device.
Upon completing your registration, you receive your confirmation email, which includes the link to our Zoom class, along with information and recipes. Each class is officially a go once a minimum number of slots are filled — at which time the recipes appear on the document. My goal is to have the recipes available to you at least 5 days before the class to give you enough time to order / shop for ingredients, should you choose to cook along.
While I love to see the faces of my students, the use of video during the live class is optional. NOTE: Even if you opt to show your video, for the class recordings, which go out to the general public as on-demand classes, NO ONE'S video is shown except for mine.
We do our best to prepare you in advance so you are ready for when the class begins. If you have issues during the class, my assistant is there to help you. Sometimes it's an issue on the user side, and when there's an issue on my side, we do our best to mitigate it right away. One of the benefits of live classes is that they're in real time, which means it's a live feed. Sometimes technical issues are out of our control, but so far, we've never had any real issues that took away from the purpose of the class.
Absolutely! Unless something goes horribly wrong (and it rarely does), each class is recorded, and students receive the class recording within 2 days of the live class.
While I do send a reminder email out a couple days before our class, I encourage you to add the class to your calendar as soon as you register.
Some students love being able to cook along; some students love to just watch. It is entirely up to you how you want to enjoy the class.
You can decide in advance which dishes you want to cook along with. You might choose to cook along for just one of the dishes or all of them. Whatever you decide, I suggest you have your mise en place all ready. That is to say, have all the ingredients measured and prepped as much as possible. (Mise en place is a French culinary phrase meaning "everything in its place.”)
Ultimately, what we take away is based on what we give, so I encourage you to be present and engaged in the class. But, for my part, if you know me, you know I'm pretty passionate about many things, and I can’t help bringing my love of food, history, language, animals, film, literature, and food lore to each class. My aim is that you walk away with a richer understanding of food, cooking, and eating than before you arrived. More than that, you will get helpful step-by-step instructions about each dish I'm demonstrating and a clear up-close view of all the ingredients and procedures. The best part is that I, too, make mistakes, and you see me make them live in real time. That's how we learn the most.
I'm thrilled to say that many students are regulars and repeats, and you will no doubt get to know some fabulous people when you attend these classes. I encourage engagement and follow-up, including posting photos, questions, and comments on our private Facebook page. Many friends and family members join from different cities, then share a virtual meal with each other once the class is over. (That makes my heart sing.) So, yes, despite being online the classes foster connection.
I have found that 60 minutes is the ideal amount of time to spend in a virtual class. Sometimes we stick around a little longer to finish something up or to enjoy a bonus cocktail by our resident mixologist (my adorable husband), but we like to honor your time and keep the classes to 60 minutes. (Some special / holiday classes are scheduled for 90 minutes, but they’re the exception.) If we go over and you need to drop off, you can always view the video later.
Absolutely! Once you are registered and the class is a go, you are officially enrolled. That means the recipes, resources, video recording, and even the chat transcript are yours to enjoy. You will receive a follow-up email whether you are in the live class or not.
Because the value of the classes includes exclusive recipes and resources as well as the live class / video recording, once a class is officially a go and you get access to the recipes, you cannot be refunded. However, if the class does not meet the minimum sign-up threshold and I cancel the class, you have the option of getting a full refund or switching to a different class. (This is one of the reasons I don't share the recipes until I know we've reached the minimum threshold.)
After the live class is over and enjoyed by students in real time, each class gets converted into an on-demand class so that others may enjoy the recipes, resources, and video recording. Most live classes become on-demand classes within 2 days.
No animal products are ever used in my recipes, so yes, all the classes are vegan / plant-based, which means nothing that comes out of or off of an animal. I've written three cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan), and two lifestyle books (Vegan’s Daily Companion and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge), which also include recipes. I'm also always testing and developing new recipes (as well as modifying and perfecting old ones) to make sure students get the best, clearest, easiest-to-follow recipes — qualities that have become trademark in my work.
While living compassionately and consciously is not about being perfect, and while some students may not have access to the same bulk stores and package-free ingredients as me, I make an effort in my classes to use (and promote) as little packaging and plastic as possible, which is why so many of my recipes and menus are for how to cook and bake homemade and from-scratch!
My classes span a huge range, and your suggestions are always welcome: *Different types of cuisines (Italian, Thai, Asian, Mexican, etc.) *Particular ways of cooking and eating (Quick & Easy, Oil-free, By Color/Phytochemicals, ) *Cooking with specific appliances (Air-Fryer, Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker / Crockpot, etc.) *Homemade from scratch (Seitan, Tempeh, Tofu, Miso, Nut Cheeses, Nut Butters, etc.) *Various holidays and seasons (Mother’s Day, Easter, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Summer, Fall, etc.) *Focused on meals (Packed Lunches, Breakfast, Brunch, Fancy Dinner, Quick Dinner, etc.) *Cooking with specific foods/ ingredients (Aquafaba, Beans, Spices & Herbs, Greens, Lentils, Grains, etc. *Baking from scratch (Pizza Dough, Breads, Pretzels, Bagels, and Biscuits, Cakes, Pies, Cobblers, etc.) *And everything in between.
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