Holidays and Grief: Thanksgiving Plan

Thanksgiving is hard on my heart.

My birthday is usually close to, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving.  So we often celebrate them together.  What makes that especially painful for me since Dominic ran ahead to heaven is that the last birthday before he left was a surprise party at his apartment.

It was wonderful and loud and fun and filled with laughter and love. 

So all those good but achingly hard memories are wrapped up with the turkey and dressing.  

Thanksgiving has also been our family’s favorite holiday for opening our home to people.  No gift-giving expectations and abundant food made adding another chair to the table easy and fun.  Internationals, singles, widowers, and other families often joined us cramming the house as full as our stomachs.

So now when the gathering is intimate and one chair left unfilled, it echoes loudly to my heart that things are oh, so different!  

empty chair

The first year after Dominic ran ahead, we went out of town.  Our eldest son had married that summer and we visited him and his wife in West Virginia.  A power outage that lasted through Thanksgiving Day evening was a welcome, if slightly annoying, diversion from the heaviness of the first real holiday without Dominic.  Traveling used up some of what would have been long, empty days.  So, for us, it was the best thing to do that year.

The second year we kind of muddled through with a facsimile of years past.  it was a struggle and not at all comfortable for my heart.  I don’t really know what I was thinking or not thinking that year-the second year found me more anxious, less able to deal with my sadness and overwhelmed by unexpected grief waves that swept me under before I knew it.

The third year some very special friends invited us to join them for Thanksgiving.  They fixed all the food and we crowded together in their daughter’s apartment, packed in but jolly and very well loved.  Getting there involved an unpleasant and emotional discussion with extended family.  But the day was redeemed and it was exactly what I needed last year.

This year-well-I’m not entirely sure just yet. 

There are a number of factors keeping us from making definitive plans. My mother is still unwell and not able to travel.  One son will most likely be absent.  Some friends may need a place to land and a table around which to gather.

So my plan is to have a plan by early next week.  

I’ve done a few things so far:  purchased pretty paper plates, baked some goodies and put them in the freezer, got my Thanksgiving cards out (remember-I’m sending them instead of Christmas cards this year!), washed the big windows in the kitchen and living room, and begun putting out feelers to the lonely and abandoned in our circle to see if they are interested in coming for a meal.

The meal is the easy part.  Because in the end, as long as it ends with pie and chocolate, who really cares what you eat beforehand? 🙂

The hard part is the conversations. 

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

The way I have to remind even those closest to me that this year will be just. as. hard. as every other year since Dominic left us.  The way I have to breathe deep and swallow words so I don’t burst out crying at the mention of who’s coming and who’s not-because Dominic will never come again.  The way I have to be very, very careful to balance all the emotional needs of family members and try to respect various requests for what’s important to their hearts.

I remind myself that I am not the focus of every event or holiday.  I am not the only one carrying emotional or physical burdens that require accommodation.  I am not given a pass to act ugly or pitch a fit or crawl in a hole and hide just because I buried a child.  

So I try to think ahead, ask ahead, make my needs known ahead and then I participate as fully as I can-with a smile and an open heart to the ones that still gather.

I refuse to turn every holiday into a battle and every meal into uncomfortable silence where people are afraid to say anything for fear of hurting my feelings.  

I honor Dominic by honoring those I have left. 

My heart may be broken, but it is also blessed.

I won’t let one overshadow the other.  

thanksgiving psalm 30_4

 

 

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

17 thoughts on “Holidays and Grief: Thanksgiving Plan”

  1. This will be our 3rd Thanksgiving without Joshua. When he died in July, his dad and I decided that we would take his ashes to the beach (our favorite place to take the kids, when we were still married). We decided that Thanksgiving would be a good time. We rented a beach house, complete with all of the living children, step-parents, and biological parents. It was a peaceful holiday, all things considered. (Looking back, I think I was still in shock over his loss.) Last year, the kids went to their dad’s, my husband had to work out of town, and I found myself alone. Well, long story short, that triggered the beginning of my break. Through that, I have decided that the beach is where we need to be over the Thanksgiving holiday. The beach was always a peaceful place with him. So, I will remember and honor that, and him.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Grieving is hard. This is the 2nd thanksgiving without my 15 year old son. He was the baby of the family. I try to make it as normal as possible for my other 3 children and their families. They know how hard it is for me to celebrate without him. They each give me a special, extra long hug on those days. They don’t have to say anything, I know how they feel. Then I think about him enjoying the feast with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 💜💜💜

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    1. Having grandsons has helped fill the void. It’s hard to be sad when they’re with us on holidays. They’re so innocent and out of no where they tell me they miss Uncle Mike. They help bring joy back during the holidays. 💜💜💜

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  3. Here we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Like you my birthday often falls on or near Thanksgiving. My son also passed away 3 days after my birthday 2 years ago on Thanksgiving Sunday so this holiday is especially difficult. Last year we went out to dinner for the sake of my other two sons to celebrate my birthday and Thanksgiving even though it was unbearably painful. This year I could not make the decision until 2 days before to get together for Thanksgiving and my birthday and do it at our home on Thanksgiving Sunday. There were moments I didn’t think I would make it through the day, my husband either. This day was even more painful than the 2 year anniversary 3 days later. But we did it. And that’s all we can do. Take each second as it comes and breathe through it the best way we can.

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  4. Thank you for your honesty…….I am one year behind you in my journey……This 3rd holiday season without Scott is proving already to be so overwhelming….. I find myself swallowing the ‘lie’ that I should be better by now……. I am not. We had our first real frost last night in Nebraska — it reflects how my heart feels ….slowly wrapping myself with the ‘frozen smile’ and happy persona that the holidays demands….. God is with me ….I just wish I could feel Him with me….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sweet, sweet mama! It IS a lie that you should be “better”. I don’t even really know what that means. I am certainly more capable of shoving the feelings down, stronger to carry the ongoing pain and do find some joy in many days. BUT-how do you get “better” when there is no true healing this side of Heaven? The Lord HImself acknowledges that this word will be full of sorrow until it is renewed. I pray that the Father makes Himself very present to you this holiday season in ways you could never anticipate and that He floods your broken heart with love, grace and mercy.

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