Thankful for What?

 In Grief


November Whisper: Thankful for What?

Thanksgiving is a good start to the holiday season.

It is not a gift giving event so we don’t have to stress about the shopping count-down. All faiths are included in this national holiday. No extra effort is needed to deck the halls and set up inflated snow men and reindeer on front lawns. Frustrations are limited to food preparation issues. Thankfully, the Butterball hotline is on alert for last minute advice.  There is no need to wrestle with tangled colored lights and burnt out bulbs.

Instead we gather with family and friends to share a meal and to celebrate the blessings of the year. The common table unites us.

But the empty seat of a loved one at that table is disturbing. That vivid reminder of loss can squelch any appetite.

Here are some tips to help you through the pitfalls of the day.

If you… are facing Thanksgiving alone, it is hard to focus on the word thanks. You may be thinking  “What is there to be thankful for? I am by myself.”  So instead, maybe you can concentrate on the other part of the word giving. Perhaps there is a local church, shelter, or community site where you can participate in serving their Thanksgiving meal. Your kind gift of service acts as an opportunity to shift the focus from the pain of your broken heart, to the needs of others. It feels good to give. Giving strengthens our spirit.

If you… have been invited to someone else’s home, make sure that you leave yourself an exit strategy in case the memories become too strong. If you have someone pick you up, let them know in advance that you may have to leave early and set up a signal.If you drive yourself, make sure you have the correct glasses to safely drive home. (I had to drive home in the dark once with my prescription sunglasses because I forgot my glasses.) Try and sit next to a sympathetic soul. Remember, not all people get it, even family members. This is no time for a lesson on sensitivity.gty_thanksgiving_meal_jp_111110_wmain

If you… are hosting the meal at your house, try something different. Maybe it can be a pot luck affair rather than you doing all of the work. You can even have a fun rating system for each of the dishes and give a prize for the best entry. There will undoubtedly be some trigger events that will bring the emotions to the surface for everyone. The turkey carving. The blessing. A toast . So keep some soft, cheerful background music playing to soothe the uncomfortable silences that may follow these moments. Acknowledge your loved one by sharing a memory that you are thankful for and encourage others to join in with their recollections. It can be an opportunity for your hearts to connect.

Thanksgiving provides a time to stop and reflect. But we can not live in the past and the clock does not pause for long.

Be good to yourself and allow the fond memories of your loved one to surface and use their power to propel you to your new normal.

Family Thanksgiving program Killington, VT 1989

Burgess family Thanksgiving program
Killington, VT 1989

I hope that your Thanksgiving is memorable in a special way.


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