The Dead Kid Diet…Here’s one you don’t want to read…

…and I’m not sure I want to write.

For many years now, I’ve kept a list of book titles I either would or would not write over the years.  It was an exercise to keep my overactive mind entertained, but, also a list of actual possibilities, and more likely, improbalities.  But, certainly, it was an exercise to fill the time and space between picking up my kids from school and/or work, depending on the year. 

My journals accompanied me, so that if I had to wait for a late departure, I could fill the time with the incessant ramblings of an overworked mother, hoping and waiting for time to cure society’s ills, of which I felt such a part.  Was I a pessimist?  Or, just another optimist – with experience?

Also, there were the times when I cherished my “alone” moments, so rare for a mother with young children.  I used to think of taking a bath as a VACATION.  Yes, those were the days when money was tight, and vacations were infrequent…in truth, nonexistent. 

I remember a span of nine years, when we took no more than 3-day weekends, and even those were infrequent, because we could not afford the time off work.  Although this seemed unacceptable in the big picture, those 3-day weekends were absolutely heaven.  We camped, we drove the countryside, we went to San Francisco and visited monuments of architectural significance in a single day, and topped it off with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  What simple pleasures.  I don’t think our kids ever knew the difference.  Or, if they did, they chose not to share their disappointment, knowing our circumstances.

Since Owen died, I have lost weight.  I don’t much care for food.  Unlike the years before, when I enjoyed food as a great pleasure, a treat, I now look upon food as nothing more than a way to make it from one day to the next. 

Chocolate used to be a staple of my diet…a frequent choice.  Now, it is something that I have eaten so rarely in these 12+ weeks, that it makes me physically sick within minutes of ingestion.  I haven’t actually tried to eat chocolate much since Owen’s disappearance. 

Once Owen’s body was found, all thoughts of food became repugnant.  I have been told this is not uncommon for mothers of dead children.  I’ll share more about this in the coming months, as I feel it is early in this thing called grieving.  So much is likely to change, but there is one thing that will not.  Eating.  Never in my life, have I had to force myself to eat.  However, I cannot imagine a time when food will ever again feel like a treat.

In the years when I was a dancer, eating wasn’t a treat.  It was fuel, and nothing more.  I was the same height I am now, 5’7″ and weighed 109 pounds, and eating was actually a chore.  Not because I felt sad, or lonely, or lost, but because I had to “weigh in” every Friday at the dance studio where I studied.  The ballet world is an unhealthy one, but one I loved.  I think this world was an unhealthy one for Owen, but one he loved.

Owen ate as though each meal was his last.  He could go for hours without sustenance, then the mere smell of food cooking on the stove would prompt him to plant himself firmly in the kitchen, and wait for a plate of anything.  He cared so little about the menu.  He cared for the fuel.  He was much like the ballet dancer who uses food to get to the next day.  He ate in great, huge bites, like he hadn’t seen food in days.  While that was never the case, it was much the same as the way he smoked cigarettes…like each one was the last.  Some people call this “binging” – I call it engagement.  Owen thought so little of his physical requirements, that when they called him – out of need, he was compelled to engage in life.  You and I may not think of cigarettes as survival, but I’ve heard some people say that as long as they can see smoke being expelled from their lungs, it’s proof they’re alive. 

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this may not be one you want to read.  If you have stayed to this point, you are surely intrigued by the more basic functions of life and death.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s just one of those things we don’t like to admit.

So, what about the Dead Kid Diet?  It exists.  That’s all.  When my son died, I wanted a part of me to go with him.  Starving myself for weeks, was a tangible way I could feel what it was like to choose death.  Not consciously, at first, but once it was made known to me, I understood how much sense it made.  I didn’t feel suicidal, I just wanted to be near him.  I pay more attention to it now, but I don’t make much more of an effort.  I now acknowledge this lack of interest in eating, as a part of grief.  And, when I’m too sick to lift a glass of water, I ask my husband to bring me a piece of toast. 

This is not like any book I’ll ever write about food, or dieting, or health.  It is, however, one of the book titles that is a possibility.  The content, though, is likely to have more to do with survival, than with food.

I miss watching Owen eat.  It was like watching a tiger with his prey.  No need for forks, knives, or napkins.  Just a need to live.   That need is no longer a part of Owen.  It is only a need for me, and mostly just to stay here long enough to tell our stories.  We have so many, that my plan to live to be 104 may actually hold true.


~ by Linda on August 23, 2007.

3 Responses to “The Dead Kid Diet…Here’s one you don’t want to read…”

  1. Linda, from my own experience with close deaths of loved ones, that feeling of not being interested in food for a long time after is familiar. Not fun, but familiar. I think I came to understand it as a way of doing something active, in a situation that felt so incredibly, frustratingly passive to me. A sort of hunger strike, except what was I striking for?

    Or a kind of coded message of loyalty to the beloved people in my life who had died early and unexpectedly, by playing that edge a bit, after they died. I knew it wasn’t logical. But it felt like an expression of my connection to them, by refusing to accept in a normal way that most basic of life’s pleasures, food, when I was still grieving so deeply and constantly.

    Each time it just ended gradually for me. Over time. As I hope and trust it will for you, over whatever period of time is right for you.


  2. Linda, I have no comforting words to offer you for your loss but I will keep on reading your blog and follow your journey.


  3. Linda,
    I have been following your blog and your story is so compelling and heart wrenching. After I began to read your blog at the present posting, I knew that I could not fully understand your heart unless I began at the beginning. I undertand what you are saying about food and grief.

    My husband is in the last stages of his journey through cancer and we are “Walking in the Valley of the Shadow”…When he was in the hospital, 2005,( he was there for a month because of the conplications from the surgery) for his “de bulking” sugery (The surgeon removed or debulked the massive tumors), he was allowed nothing by mouth. For me,that is when eating became such a chore. I literally had to try and remember when I last ate because hunger never registered in me. One day when I went to the bathroom, I discovered that my jeans didn’t need for me to unzip them or the button didn’t need undoing. I had lost 30 pounds in 30 days. ( I had the pounds to loose). Everyone asked me what kind of diet I was on. I replied that it was a diet that I could never recommentd. I called it the “Cancer Diet”. I didn’t have cancer, but the love of my life did and I was just walking this road with him. It was the fear and the grief that daily consumed my excess pounds. I understand fully what you said about identifying with the loved one who isn’t eating, so how can you enjoy what they are not able to enjoy any longer? This isn’t being suicidal… it is walking the path with them…

    My heart goes out to you…your grief is in a category all of its own…

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