The second installment of the Holidays After Loss Series focuses on Thanksgiving, a holiday that many find particularly challenging after experiencing loss. Thanksgiving, with its emphasis on family and togetherness, accentuates the absence of a departed loved one, making it difficult for those grieving to feel thankful. While others share their "30 Days of Thankful" social media posts and family celebration pictures, those mourning have only past Thanksgivings and memories to find solace in.
Thanksgiving has never held a special place in my heart. Turkey isn't my thing (ham is more my jam), and even though I've always spent the day with family, it never felt like a significant event. Even after Liam's death, it took us several years to create any sort of set tradition, but now we celebrate with close family and friends on Wednesday evening and spend Thanksgiving Thursday quietly at home.
Thanksgiving After Loss Survival Guide
Recreate the Thanksgiving meal. If the family's holiday cook has passed away, use this time to continue their legacy by following their special recipes and donning their apron. Alternatively, if your loved one simply enjoyed the feast and football, make their favorite foods and cheer for their preferred team. The first Thanksgiving after Liam's death, I went all out, cooking a huge turkey, homemade stuffing, and about 10 different desserts from scratch. The planning and cooking kept my mind occupied, making the holiday more bearable. Sweet potatoes were one of Liam’s favorite foods, so I made sure to include them in our meal.
Leave an empty chair or place a picture at the table. Keep space at your table for your loved one. Have everyone share why they're thankful for them or recall a special memory.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Honor your lost loved one by performing an act of service. Share stories and listen to others' tales. Helping can be profoundly healing.
Create a memory tablecloth. Transform a plain tablecloth into a holiday keepsake by having family and friends write down special memories of your loved one with a fabric marker or sharpie. This can be a wonderful heirloom to pass down to future generations.
Take a break when overwhelmed. The holiday hustle, coupled with grief, can be draining. It's okay to leave early or skip a party if it's too much. Those who love you will understand.
Thanksgiving is meant for reflecting on blessings, but when someone dear is missing, it's hard to feel anything but misery. Including your loved one through these methods may bring a small amount of comfort during this difficult time.