Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks for what we have, for being grateful for the people we have in our lives. It is a time to count our blessings…. Not an easy thing to do when you are grieving.
Thanksgiving is the beginning of a season full of traditions with family and friends. Our inclination is to try and keep everything exactly as it has been in the past. Problem is, nothing is the same as it has been in the past. You are missing a piece of the reason you formed these traditions to begin with. We tend to put a lot of added pressure on ourselves trying to recreate the perfect holiday, hoping this will make everyone (including ourselves) miss our people a little less. I’m afraid to tell that if this is your goal for Thanksgiving, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
Perhaps instead of expending all that time and energy trying to make everything as it has always been you change things up a little. Maybe that means you let others help you in ways you have never allowed before. I know I have always been a bit of a control freak about my kitchen, letting others in to help me was not my thing. Afterall I can do it all myself better than anyone else can, right?! That was a waste of my time and energy for a lot of years, but I have learned since then to prioritize differently. So, if this is you, I feel you pain! Let others bring something to the celebration whether it’s a contribution to the food and drinks or allowing them to clean up after dinner, you don’t need to do it all. You have enough going on right now and people want to help, so let them.
Maybe your Thanksgiving traditions have nothing to do with getting together and cooking. Maybe your family time was spent serving others in your community? Whatever you usually do for the holiday, try adding a new tradition or event. Do something that you know your person would love, no matter how big or small it is. If you are one of those families that has everyone go around the table and say what they ae thankful for, do that but also have everyone add a memory of their person relating to Thanksgiving. Maybe someone remembers grandpa always carved the turkey but never did a very good job which made you all chuckle. Maybe your sister insisted on bringing that one dish every year that was just not very good but everyone pretended it was. Perhaps their memory was playing football with Dad after dinner or cards with Grandma. Whatever memory they share it will most likely cause some laughter and some tears but more importantly it will encourage conversation about your people on the other side.
Some families have a place setting at the table for whomever is missing to honor them always being with us. One person placed their grandfathers favorite hat at the place setting and people in attendance wrote messages to him and left them in the hat. Not everyone is comfortable sharing their emotions so this may be an option for you. If this all seems like too much, don’t worry about it. The most important thing is that you celebrate their memory in a way that is meaningful to you even if that means you run away from home and lay on a beach for Thanksgiving!!!
Bear in mind, no matter what you do, if this is your first holiday without your person it is going to be rough. It may be awkward because you are seeing family you haven’t seen since your person passed. It may be difficult if the people there feel awkward around you because they don’t understand your grief process. There may be some uncomfortable conversation, we all know that not everyone is willing or able to speak about your person as readily as you are. Don’t let that stop you from sharing memories and stories about your person. It’s important you do what brings you comfort.
Regardless of how you chose to spend this holiday, celebrate the joy and love your person brought into your life. Celebrate them and celebrate the people around you whether they are traditional family or chosen family. Be grateful for the time and memories you shared with your person, they will be standing beside you sending being grateful as well.