Growing up, when my mother would start baking my siblings and I would get so excited. The sweetness of fresh baked cookies swirling throughout the halls of the house, and dancing into our nostrils and pulling us to the kitchen. We loved when she was in a baking frenzy. But what we didn’t know at such a young age was when she would get mixed up in cake batter or cookie dough, it was signs of distress. Something wasn’t right.

As an adult, when I see my mom beginning to bake like she’s getting ready for America’s Next Great Baker try-outs, I know to ask her what’s going on. Sometimes it’s work stress related, finance, political annoyance, and then sometimes she just wants to bake some muffins because there are extra blueberries that need to be used up before they go bad. But there are behaviors I see in her I see in myself too.

As the saying goes, the apple never falls too far from the tree.

I have a soup that I make that offers me a peace of mind. When kale soup is on the menu, it means something inside of me is unsettling. Sometimes I know what it is, and other times the urge to make it is an enigma. But when I’m in front of the TV with a steaming bowl of kale soup, my soul begins to crack from the weight of built-up grief.

When my husband was dying, my friend’s husband came over to visit and brought me homemade vegan kale soup. It was amazing and the flavors bounced around my tongue. However, my husband had just slipped into his death coma when he brought the soup over. But to me, the timing was just right because that kale soup represents the last meal I had with George.

After he died, my parents whisked me away from the apartment I shared with him and brought me back to Connecticut for a week. I requested a copy of the recipe and my mom bought me the ingredients to make the kale soup.

It was the first home cooked meal I made as a widow. And now this soup has become my “pick me up” soup too. I love how it tastes, I love how easy it is to make, and I love how nutritious it is also.

I also love when my friend’s husband texts me for the recipe because he was the one who made it for me in the first place. It brings a smile to my face because of the kindness the soup represents. And though when I make it, I remember sitting in the kitchen eating it and looking at my husband lose his battle against cancer, I also think of the generosity of those who visited us during that time.

When I feel the invisible malevolence of grief making a touchdown, I know it’s time to pull out the garlic, onions, potatoes, and kale and begin to make a meal that will help me conquer a battle I know I can win.

This is the power of understanding my individual grief and how to cope with it.



Kale soup is low cal

The entire pot is 904 calories!

But we all know that isn’t what’s going to be consumed in one sitting.

1 tbs olive oil
1 red onion diced
5 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
1 bundle of kale chopped and de-stemmed
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 or 2 cans of drained cannellini beans. I used 1
10 small potatoes quartered
5 vegetable bouillon cubes (or to taste)
1tbs Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf optional
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onions and garlic until translucent. Add kale until soft. Add 8 cups of water and 5 bouillon cubes. Add crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and bay leaf. Turn to low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in beans and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender.


Julia lost her husband in 2013 to a rare liver cancer when she was 28 years old. In the months and years afterwards, Julia continues to use her grief into a positive lifestyle change. She has been involved in NCAA Athletics for 14 years, and has continued to document her fitness, athletic and grief journey in her heartbreaking and honest blog The Unwanted W. Julia's journey has been featured in US Lacrosse Magazine, SoulCycle, and The Guardian. She currently writes for an online fitness and nutrition journal and works as a professional fitness instructor in Navarre, FL.

To contact Julia, please visit her website or visit her Instagram for health tips at @juliasteiercoaching