After Grief, There Is Cake

To ruin a beautiful cake with tears is the loveliest form of therapy.


After writing about grief and a fraction of the ways it has affected me, I puttered around for a while, wondering what I should do next. I’d eaten all the carbs, and slept all the sleeps, and cried all the salty waters — then bled out on the blog and still felt somehow incomplete. Grief doesn’t have a visible finish line, per se, but I secretly hoped someone – an adult with maybe a double Ph.D. in Human Grieving – would walk up to me on the street and just hand me a diploma.

“You did good — excellent work,” the Grief Doctor might say. “But it’s time to stop eating Cool Ranch Doritos and get back to living. Marika, your grieving will end in 3…2…1….” and then I’d be officially done. Not with all of it, no, but the bulk of my sadness would be lifted. Someone would throw me a graduation party, and then I would know to move on.

That isn’t how it works, of course, but I hoped for some personal grief marshals anyway — tiny beacons of light, waving me in from afar for safe landing.

Instead, I tried other positive ways of moving forward, like:

-Gaining 12 pounds

-Yelling at my husband about stuff like bread inventory

-Watching terrible television and loving it

-Raging at the weather, like sun and rain and all the stupid crap in-between

-Spending money I don’t have on things like decorative washi tape, which everyone can agree is just as important as paying bills

-Sleeping like a Disney princess under a spell like it’s my job

During this period, I was the envy of every cave troll and recluse in the region; I really Lived My Best Life that month. A life-sized portrait of me is probably hanging in Oprah’s foyer right now, so great is her pride, next to one of Gayle and Jesus sitting on Dr. Phil’s lap.

There’s no perfect grief formula that gets you to the invisible finish line (except whiskey, but that just prolongs the inevitable); I imagine for some, the finish line never appears. Everyone’s experiences are different, so I’ve been reluctant to give advice, even though I’ve been asked to on numerous occasions. I can only speak for myself, and The Queen Bey and all the island people and most white folks and half the internet and definitely Tom Hardy, but that’s it. Stay in your own lane, I always say.

A baker friend of mine lost her mom last week, and she sent me a message asking

  • Did I have any transformative recipes that would help her through the grieving process, and is that even a thing?
  • Could I please make her laugh about something, anything?

The answers are probably no and no, but I sent her this anyway.


Good for: Self-care during times of extreme emotional stress


Bake a just-for-you cake on a sadface day. Make it so outlandish you’re almost embarrassed to look it in the eye: A 14-layer, champagne-flavored rainbow cake, perhaps, or a self-portrait sheetcake filled with gold.

Decorate the cake within an inch of its life, adding flowers or confetti or a tiny, dancing Beyoncé.


Buy a cakestand so gorgeous, Martha Stewart would spit in your face. You deserve nice things, or rather, things that are nice enough to make billionaire ladyfelons jealous.

Put on sad, mopey music and a lot of mascara – think Nineties Courtney Love or The Eyes of Tammy Faye – then open a bottle of Champagne and down the whole thing. Drink from the good crystal if you have it, or a pickle jar if you don’t.

Make Beyoncé dance like you’re her dad and two Jay-Zees. Cry and wail; weep if you have to, as though you’re being graded. Then shovel cake, frosting, snot, mascara, tears, and pop star thigh sweat into that loud, sobbing mouthhole. Put down the fork and use both hands. Cake will transform you without utensils.



3 thoughts on “After Grief, There Is Cake

  1. […] reasons), on the eve of his 100th birthday, received a lovely layered dessert made of boozy pound cake, whipped cream, and sweet brandied plums. Baked by Mrs. Eleanor Peavey, longtime cook of the Earl […]


  2. […] is worth making for a special day or a cathartic cake occasion (but not as a space cake). Use the good chocolate – the one I call Sharffenblarfer […]


  3. David Dawes says:

    Grief is unpredictable and somewhat mysterious, in my experience. You have to read the signs as you process things. Being able to talk about your loss without breaking down too badly is a step. Being able to laugh about good memories through the tears is a step. Being able to help others process their grief, and being able to joke about tough subjects is a definite step.


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