Real Stories

Cooking Through The Pain

The last couple of years have not been the best for me emotionally. At the beginning of 2021 I lost two very special people in my life which sadly flung me into a very dark place. I never expected to lose both my beloved uncle and younger brother in the same month.


I was understandably broken when my uncle passed away, but losing my younger brother knocked the life right out of me.


I’m still not able to tell the story of my brother’s death without tearing up. Believe it or not, it’s still very fresh for me even after two years, but writing this article serves a very therapeutic purpose.


On Jan 31, 2021, I found my brother in his car, hours after he left the house to go to the grocery store. He wasn’t moving, so I wasn’t sure if he was sleeping or listening to music. I was confused and watched him for a few seconds before I ran towards the car door. The door was locked, so I ran inside where my brother and I lived with our elderly mother, to get the spare set. I opened the door and tried to “wake” him up. Nothing worked. I ran into the house and asked my mom to call 911.


The operator told me to get him out of the car immediately and administer first aid. It took all my strength to drag my 6-foot brother out of the car (I am a measly 5’1”). I lay him on the driveway and started to apply pressure to his chest. He didn’t cough, or even flinch.


Within seconds two police cars, and an ambulance showed up at the house. The paramedics administered CPR for what seemed like an eternity, and then wheeled him into the ambulance. After the they drove off, a couple of police officers came into the house and told me and my mom that the paramedics will take my brother to the hospital as there were more resources on site.


Two hours later, my mother received a call from the hospital, and the attending doctor said that they couldn’t revive him and that he was gone. He suffered a blood clot in his leg that traveled to his lungs. It killed him instantly.


I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I was hysterical, but I had to compose myself as my eight-year-old nephew (my brother’s son) was staying with us. I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to put a smile on my face and act like nothing happened. I called my nephew’s mom moments later and told her what happened, and she said that she would like to be the one to tell my nephew about my brother’s passing. So I was careful about what I said. I simply told my nephew that his dad wasn’t feeling well and he went to the hospital.


My brother’s sudden death hurled me into a deep depressed state. I missed his presence in the house. I missed knowing that he was there. I missed his laugh. Our stupid conversations. And surprisingly, I really missed cooking for him.


Every Sunday I would meal prep for everyone – my mom, brother, nephew and myself. It was overwhelmingly exhausting, but everyone, especially my brother always appreciated my dishes. He would even call me from work and tell me much he liked what I made.


After my brother died, I had absolutely no desire to go near the kitchen. It became a place of grief. It felt weird only cooking for my mom and I. I was so accustomed to creating elaborate dishes for everyone, now I didn’t even want to eat.


I suffered with nausea for many months. I couldn’t stomach food, and lost a lot of weight. It took me months before I got my appetite back.


Once I was able to eat again, I went back into the kitchen after willfully avoiding it. The transition was pretty smooth as we were in lockdown at that time, and staying at home was highly enforced.


Not having normal access to the outside world made it easier for me to cook all my meals. I live in an area that doesn’t have many restaurants, so if I wanted to eat, I had to cook.


I started meal prepping on Sundays again. It took me a while to gauge how much to cook. I was making large portions of food, and I had to learn to pull back and cook less.


I suffered a minor setback when I made meatloaf for the first time after my brother died. He absolutely loved meatloaf, and I felt guilty for making it. I actually cried after it came out of the oven.


Once I got over the anguish of cooking again, I started to enjoy it. I liked finding recipes online and making delicious meals. I became adventurous and started making everything from Vietnamese food to dim sum. I made anything I wanted and craved. I have a sweet tooth, so I made plenty of baked goods like cookies, brownies and cakes. I enjoyed my food so much, that I insisted on cooking or baking whenever I had company over.


Now, whenever I want to relax and unwind, I think of baking.


I learned through this tragic ordeal that my love language is acts of service. I love preparing and sharing meals with my friends and family. My only wish is that my brother was here to try my dishes. My only consolation is knowing that at least he was able to enjoy my food when he was with us.


by Michelle Joseph

Michelle Joseph is a Toronto-based content creator who publishes the blog Words With Michelle, and Words With Michelle - the podcast. The blog features the achievements of people of color in her community, and the podcast is a series of conversations about topics that affect the community.

Her most notable accomplishment was being featured in #Herstoryinblack in 2017– a digital project that showcased 150 women of color across Canada, who have carved a place in Canadian history.


More From Real Stories

Safe Space

by Esther Collas


by Rosemarie Tsamas

If only someone told me…

by Thiviya. A

The Illusion of Choice

by Carla Marquez

little whore

by Glory Christian