The winters in Tennessee where I grew up were cold, so I was always eager for spring to arrive. I longed to kick off my shoes and go barefoot again. I still remember the feel of the cool grass under my bare feet the first time I went shoeless outside in the spring.
The persimmon tree close to our well showed off tiny, delicate white blossoms, and irises bloomed alongside the driveway. There were trees to climb, and soon the weather would be warm enough for swimming in the creek.
In the spring, we opened the windows in our house to allow the air to blow through, refreshing our house. We cleaned and waxed floors and washed windows. Washing the windows of the French doors between the dining room and hallway were part of our spring cleaning ritual, and it was hard to get all the smears out of the corners of the many panes.
We also did a different kind of spring cleaning at our house. My daddy gathered the family around our big table in the kitchen where we each ate a spoonful of molasses with a light yellow, gritty substance in it—“something to help cleanse our blood,” Daddy said. (I think the gritty stuff was flour of sulfur, and it was a difficult to swallow it down!) We spring cleaned our bodies as well as our house!
Another spring ritual was drinking sassafras tea. Daddy would dig the roots, and my mother would wash them, getting them ready for our sassafras tea ritual. Mother would brew the tea, and we drank it hot with cream and sugar. I still remember the flavor!
My late brother-in-law Richard, whose family also drank sassafras tea in the spring, wrote: “Now there’s red sassafras and white sassafras. One makes the best tea, but I forget which it is. . . . But I remember there was the patch of the ‘best kind’ at the top of the hill in the cow pasture at my grandmother’s. So she would dig and wash the roots and make us tea.
“You always want to drink it, sweetened, as hot tea. Of course, she would give us some roots to take home—after all, everybody in the familyneeded this tonic for spring. Come to think of it: Do you suppose it was because we had it at my grandparents’ that made it so good?”
Some “old-timers” also drank burdock and dandelion tea as spring tonics, and our family looked forward to picking wild greens, such as poke greens, in the spring.
I am not advocating that you eat or drink any of the things we did as children. It is important to make sure that anything (liquids or foods) that you put in your body is safe for you. For instance, poke greens should be boiled 2-3 times and the water poured off before it is eaten, and it should never be eaten raw. Also, even though rhubarb stems are edible, the leaves are poison.
So words of advice: First of all, make sure that anything you put into your body is safe—check the research. Then consider if the foods you are eating are good for you or harmful.
After a loss, your immune system may be a bit compromised, so it is important to choose foods that will help you stay well. Taking care of your body is very important—that includes eating well and gently exercising to keep your body toned and to help combat depression.
Is what you are doing with your time helping you feel better or worse? Are you sleeping too little or too much? Do the people you keep company with build you up or tear you down emotionally?
As we move into the spring season, think about what you are doing to take care of yourself. Are you doing things that promote good emotional health? Are the things you are doing helping you heal from your loss or hindering your healing?
You might want to do a little spring cleaning—not necessarily sassafras tea or sulfur and molasses, but whatever it takes to keep your body well and help your heart heal. Please take care of yourself.
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator