Why Dreading Thanksgiving is Normal for Widows and 3 Tips to Help

Nov 20, 2020

Summer has officially faded into fall. The days get shorter, the leaves get brighter and the air cooler. Happy couples  sip their pumpkin spice lattes at the local pumpkin patch. Ugh.

Autumn is in the air, and this season that you perhaps once enjoyed now packs a punch.

While all holidays carry memories and traditions, one of the most challenging for many living in life-after-loss is Thanksgiving. A day that we’re supposed to be thankful for our blessings  in the absence of the one who is our everything? That’s painfully ironic.  

Is it not enough to be faced with wedding and death anniversaries, birthdays, religious and other holidays, not to mention other life events, each with their own level of difficulty? And yet we’re also supposed to smile and give thanks on Thanksgiving too? If others are in full Thanksgiving prep mode while you’re in full Thanksgiving dread mode, know that it’s perfectly normal for this (and any) holiday to sting.

I hope these three tips will ease the dread and help you authentically navigate the “festival of plenty.”

First, resisting pain is like tensing up before getting a shot: it makes it hurt even worse. Be courageous enough to feel the feelings as they come. Be present with each wave and breathe it in until it loosens its grip. Resisting moments of happiness also doesn’t serve us. Smiling or laughing out loud is perfectly acceptable, even when your world is shattered. Don’t make it mean anything – allow it to be there, too, right alongside the difficult feelings. The most authentic human experience is to feel the range of emotions, sometimes all at once.  

Second, remember that thoughts cause feelings, and that thoughts are always 100% optional. (Read: don’t believe everything you think.) Eavesdrop on your thoughts and notice which ones make you feel horrible. “He should be here,” may seem true, but it argues with reality and probably makes you feel terrible. I often choose the thought, “He is here, just differently.” Try on different thoughts that are true for you and notice how each make you feel. Come Turkey Day, choose your thoughts intentionally.  

Third, give equal “airtime” to who and what is present in your life. Yes, you are standing in a pile of wreckage that was once a beautiful life, trying to piece things back together again – something you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Even so, probably you can identify some things that are going well. Some people you love are still in your life. Some people you care about are healthy. Some friends showed up when you needed help. Ask your brain to consider what things are actually good in your world. In the words of Sophocles, “Look and you will find it - what is unsought will go undetected.”

If anyone knows how precious the moments are, it is people who have endured great loss. Being present in the moments of Thanksgiving means fully experiencing the range of emotion, being intentional about our thinking and finding the good in the now.

If the approaching holidays have you sick with anticipation and dread, my private coaching program called Life Reconstructed can help. Simply click here and we’ll see if it’s a fit. If not, I’ll share other supportive resources.

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

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