Anticipating Thanksgiving While Grieving
Anticipating Thanksgiving While Grieving Can Be Tough

For many of us, Thanksgiving is the gateway to our holiday season. Yet with the loss of a loved one you may wonder what you have to be grateful for.
This is normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

by Vern Miranda, co-founder of

The passing of a loved one can leave the average person feeling dark, empty and alone. Seasonal gatherings can deliver shattering emotional blows, hammering you again and again whenever you find yourself looking for the person you loved so deeply to come walking through the door—but they don’t.

Here are a few suggestions on how to cope with your grief at Thanksgiving that will hopefully brighten your spirits, if only for a bit…

Anticipating Thanksgiving While Grieving can be Tough

In fact, it may be harder than the actual day itself. In addition to the decorations, the aromas and the sounds, there will be plans to be made, questions to be answered.

Do you do things the way they’ve always been done? Or do you begin new traditions? How will you handle the “empty chair” at the table? Leave the place setting vacant, have another family member sit there, or set a place of honor? The answers: do what you feel is best—for you and your family. By leaving yourself a great deal of flexibility in keeping things the same or beginning anew, the emotion of dread can be diminished.

Set Yourself a Realistic Schedule, Leave Time for Sorrow

Family and friends who are trying to lift your spirits will offer invitations to Thanksgiving dinner to let you know that you are loved and not forgotten.
Their intentions are heartfelt and honest, but don’t feel obligated to participate if you just don’t feel up to it. And if you do accept, have backup plans in case
things become too difficult to bear. Your family and friends will understand that the first few holidays (perhaps even several) will be the hardest.

Acknowledge Your Loss, But Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Feelings—Happy or Sad

Every person who suffers profound loss such as yours deals with it in his or her own way. Whatever you’re feeling at this time of year, those feelings are yours. There will be ups, and there will be downs. You try to repress sadness by avoiding it. Or, your tears will be unstoppable. You might even surprise yourself by feeling joy. No matter. These are your feelings; they belong to you alone, so don’t feel guilt over them.

Take Comfort in Volunteering

You may find inner peace and strength by helping others who are in desperate need. It might be a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen…somewhere you can help serve a Thanksgiving meal to those who are without. See the gratitude on their faces and hear it in their voices; it can help ease your pain if only briefly.

Tell Stories About the One You Have Lost

If you feel that you can join your family and friends, telling stories about fun times your loved one brought you can lighten spirits all around. And hearing happy tales from them can bring much-needed emotional release.

You Have Suffered Loss, But There are Still Things to be Grateful For

Look around at what you still have. Take comfort in the blessings of family and friends who love you, and who are there for you. Give thanks for the time you had with your loved one and how that person filled your life with life. Hope will grow, slowly to be certain, but it will come. And for that you will feel gratitude.