Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the holiday season. Although usually less fraught with anxiety than Christmas, if it is the first “big holiday” since a loss or estrangement of a loved one, you may be dreading the day.
If you are going through a divorce, this Thanksgiving may be your first holiday without having your children with you. Spending the holiday home by yourself watching videos and eating Chinese take-out (yes, they are open on Thanksgiving) may be just what you need to do! Or consider Evelyn’s holiday plan-she prepared a complete Thanksgiving dinner of her favorite foods (After years of making a turkey for her family, Evelyn who hated turkey, happily left it off her menu!). She set the table with linen and candles and put on music she liked. Then she enjoyed the day celebrating by herself eating her mother’s reowned recipe for Macaroni and Cheese and listening to Fleetwood Mac.
While loss is painful, it gives you the opportunity to listen to what you want and what works for you. It can be a time of loss of traditions, but it also can signal liberation from those traditions, rituals, and obligations that no longer have meaning for you.
If you decide to spend the holiday alone, some people may feel uncomfortable with your decision. Well meaning friends and family will try to convince you that you “should not be alone.” Listen to what is in your heart then remain steadfast. (See this month’s quote- “Every great oak was once just a nut that stood its ground.”) You know what is right for you. If you need to spend the day cleaning out the basement or making cookies, then do it! Pay attention to your own needs.
If you do have your children for the holiday, you may want to discuss alternate plans with them. Some families go to the movies on Thanksgiving Day, eschewing the big bird for a big bag of popcorn. You can make new choices to fit your life and your children will often see the change as an adventure!
Above all, remember that every holiday is only twenty four hours. You can get through twenty four hours. Next year won’t carry the same weight as this year. You will be empowered when you look back on how far you have really come. You will be able to affirm that the journey was tough and that you got through it. Your own strength may surprise you!
There may be some of you who find yourself in situations that are no longer acceptable. You may be struggling to keep “a Happy Face” when inside you wish you were anywhere else. You may be facing a journey you have yet not begun. The above paragraph applies to you, too! Next year can be different. Hold that thought in your heart and it will make your situation easier.
One final word on Thanksgiving—whatever you decide to do, set aside a few minutes to express and feel your gratitude. You can do this in prayer, with your children, in a letter to yourself, or by simply taking a walk. Reflect on the good things in your life. Don’t forget to honor them, they will empower and strengthen you. Loss is a part of your life, but don’t give it the power to define your life!