People deal with grief in different ways, and Lady Gaga is choosing kitchen therapy as a way to process devastating loss. The singer’s best friend and assistant Sonja Durham lost her battle to stage 4 breast cancer on May 19.
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Durham is the subject of Gaga’s song “Grigio Girls” and worked alongside the singer for many years. Gaga brought attention to her friend’s health struggles, dedicating a song to her during her Coachella performance and sharing several photos of her on social media. But it was two days after her death that she really went into detail about how strong their bond was, explaining how the loss profoundly impacted her.
I don't know how to put a price on a friendship. I'm not even sure how you can assess the size of its meaning, only really your heart truly knows and it's too special for words. I feel two competing feelings. Firstly, that I will live everyday with more passion, more determination, more compassion and more giving than ever before. Because that's who she was, and it's what drew us to each other, and I know it's what she always wanted for me. She had this incredible way of releasing me from the anchor of my own sadness that held me back, she loved me fearlessly while I learned how to cope with fame and stay inspired no matter how scared I was. She knew all I cared about was the music. She made that ok. The other feeling I have is that of being robbed of the last 10 years of my life, friendship and career with her. Like someone took her from us, and with that taking took all the good times. I know that's not true, and I know that I have those memories forever, I'm just in shock that I will never have new ones with her. I'm in shock that I won't see her again until I pass too. I vow to be a little stronger everyday for her because that's what she would have wanted, I vow to be stronger for anyone who's lost somebody to cancer. I'm a part of that family now. I vow to be a warrior for her and be a voice for cancer patients so the world can continue to improve the dialogue and the fight. I loved her. I still love her. And I love so much her husband Andre, stepson Sante, and friends. I made them some food yesterday. I will keep cooking. Cooking my soul until it understands this. Last thing I told her, "Go find Joanne, Sonj." Somehow I think she did. @sonjad7777 #sonjadurham #grigiogirls
“I’m in shock that I won’t see her again until I pass too,” she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the two. “I vow to be a little stronger every day for her because that’s what she would have wanted. I vow to be stronger for anyone who’s lost somebody to cancer. I’m a part of that family now. I vow to be a warrior for her and be a voice for cancer patients so the world can continue to improve the dialogue and the fight. I loved her. I still love her. And I love so much her husband Andre, stepson Sante, and friends.”
She then revealed that she was working through the pain and confusion of grief in the kitchen. “I made them some food yesterday. I will keep cooking. Cooking my soul until it understands this.”
She didn’t make them just some ol’ food, she made Sonja’s family several tin containers full of home-cooked love. “For Sonja’s husband Andre,” she wrote alongside another image. “Take care of those who you love who are suffering. I think it helps us all to survive.” Later on she shared an image of herself at the meat counter of a grocery store (“Where every Italian girl goes to gather herself”) and another snap cooking topless while wishing supermodel Naomi Campbell a “Happy Birthday.”
Gaga, who comes from a die-hard Italian foodie family (her parents run a restaurant in Manhattan), likely learned at a young age that cooking has therapeutic power.
In a 2015 Psychology Today feature titled “Kitchen Therapy: Cooking Up Mental Well-Being,” Linda Wasmer Andrews, who holds a master’s degree in health psychology, profiles the mental health benefits that can be attained by slicing, stirring, sauteing, baking and grilling the hours away.
In addition to the mental health — not to mention nutritional — benefits achieved by cooking vitamin and nutrient-filled grub, she notes several other reason why cooking can be considered therapy. These include mindfulness (focusing on the moment and all the senses activated by the act of cooking), appreciating the process of how food transformed into your final product, the creative expression cooking exhibits, the joy and rewards you reap from it (versus monotonous household chores) and the connection that can be achieved by cooking with a partner.
In fact, culinary arts therapy, also called CAT, is an actual thing. “I do believe it can help with depression, anxiety and grief. The ability to step outside of certain thoughts or actions, even if it is just for an hour or so, can provide tremendous relief,” culinary arts therapist Julie Ohana recently told the Huffington Post.
Expanding on the topic, she explained that culinary therapy is the perfect way to deal with a loss like Gaga’s. “Grief, in particular, can be something CAT can help with because of that sensory experience that is tied to memory,” she said. “Cooking can help someone process those memories in a positive way and be able to allow the ability to cope with the loss, process it and move forward in a positive way.”
While kitchen therapy hasn’t achieved the same type of recognition as the more mainstream like music and art therapy, Ohana is confident that it’s well on its way. And getting an endorsement from Lady Gaga probably isn’t going to hurt.
What Do YOU Think?
Is cooking therapeutic for you? What other healthy outlets do you have to deal with issues like grief? Do you think culinary arts therapy will eventually be as mainstream as art and music therapy?