This will be my first Thanksgiving without my father and my husband. My dad died the day after Thanksgiving last year, and my husband died 5 weeks later. So I am struggling in some ways to find an attitude of Thanksgiving. I know I still have a lot to be grateful for. All my children and grandchildren are alive and thriving. My home is comfortable and there is food on the table. Something that is not true for many people around the world. Yet, still I struggle with the hole that they left in my world.
Nighttime is the worst. The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is quoted as writing, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.”
I gave up journaling at night because of this. I would open my journal and all I could write was, “I miss you. I miss you. How could you leave me like this? And, I would end up sobbing and crying myself to sleep. Even, though I know how beneficial journaling can be, for me it just created more pain. Maybe as time passes I will be able to journal again, but not for now.
It sounds so trite and so trivial to tell a grieving person to be thankful for all they still have. Honestly, it doesn’t work, not at first and it is not helpful. It just makes the grieving person feel guilty for grieving. I can tell you what works: hugs, telling the person stories about their lost ones – stories that they might not know, and just being there for them so they are not alone in their grief. At one point during the first weeks, I could not even tell you what month it was let alone the date or the day of the week. Having someone to handle the details of everyday life is immensely helpful. If that is not possible, then pray because prayer works. Don’t call!
Phone calls are an intrusion into the person’s world of grief. They cannot make banal conversation. Don’t ask them how they are doing, they are suffering and the question makes them face the suffering head on. For months, after the deaths of my dad and my husband I turned off all phones in my house for hours and sometimes days at a time.
Instead, show up with a mop and broom, or a willing pair of hands, or throwing clothes at the grieving person and telling them you are getting them out of the house. I know I lived in my house robe for months except for visits to doctors or when someone “forced” me out of the house. This looks a lot like me when I’d be told we’re going out. However, afterward I would be so grateful because it gave me a break from my grief. The grief would come back, but for an hour or so I didn’t have to deal with it.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all my family I have left and for their patient and all-encompassing and unconditional love for me. Without them, I honestly don’t know if I would be here today.
So as you are cooking, eating, drinking and celebrating this Thanksgiving remember to be grateful to your family, and if you are one of the lost or lonely without family go to a church sponsored Thanksgiving meal. They are free and you will be with people who will not judge you or ask questions. They will just love you and feed you and give you support, comfort and a great meal.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. I hope it is blessed with love.
(Photos courtsey of Pixabay)