Readers of Red Shutters know that I am not enthusiastic about the holidays this year. But here I am on Thanksgiving Day, sitting in my mother-in-law’s living room, surrounded by part of my extended family. The holiday arrived, despite my fervent wish we could skip ahead to January.
How am I doing?
That’s all I’m really expecting for the next six weeks: to be okay. When I pull out my mom’s Christmas decorations to make my house festive for the holidays next week, I may not be okay, of course, and that’s part of grief, letting it come and go as needed.
And it does come and go. The other day, I saw my neighbor, who had become friends with my mom in the last few years of her life, at a potluck at my kids’ afterschool program. Her granddaughter attends the same program. “I miss your mom,” she said to me, quietly. “I’ve been thinking of her a lot.”
“I miss her, too,” I said.
“I know the holidays will be hard,” she started.
“Oh, they’ll suck,” I replied, cheerfully. Or sarcastically.
She was a bit startled until she saw I was smiling. She laughed, touching my arm. “Yes,” she said. “They probably will.”
One of my mom’s dear friends called me yesterday, checking in. “How are you?” she said, the pain of my mom’s death so clear in her voice.
“Well, I am planning to drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of pie tomorrow,” I said. “That’s how I am going to get through it. Maybe eat some stuffing, too.”
“Me, too,” she replied. “I’ll think of you each time I sip my wine.”
I’ll think of her, too. And, my mom, and everyone I know who misses her today like I do. Which means the day will get harder and I won’t be okay for long.
This got me thinking about the ways to survive the holidays when immersed in grief. There are healthy ways, I imagine, and ways that aren’t so good for you in the long run. I fall kind of in the middle of that. I have five ways to deal with grief this Thanksgiving:
- Screw It – Watch a movie on Netflix and eat frozen pizza. Or a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” marathon and pancakes. Or all the “Star Wars” movies and spaghetti. Whatever you need.
- Sugar It Up – This is where I’ll be: over by the pie table, eating ALL.THE.PIE. A sugar-induced coma will have me asleep by 7 PM—excellent.
- Drink Through It – Now, I don’t want belittle addiction—that’s a real challenge for many and they deserve support—but a bottle of wine (or two) on Thanksgiving can help dull the pain of grief—and any family dysfunction around your table.
- Walk it Off and Talk it Out – Go for a long walk, a really, really long walk. Take along a good listener and talk about what you’re feeling. Cry, if you need to.
- Honor Your Loss – While the person or people you love may not be with you this holiday, it doesn’t mean they are forgotten. Cherish their memories by sharing stories about them, and looking at old photos or family movies. Put their photo near the table, so when everyone gathers to eat, you see that they are there. Make a toast to them. Make their favorite dish. Make a new tradition that brings them close today.
And, no matter where you are, how you celebrate this holiday, or the amount of pie on your plate, I wish you strength and peace. Happy Thanksgiving.