Yes, this is the time of year where “thankfulness” abounds. It is everywhere we turn, from store decorations to commercials to Facebook posts.
But what do we do, when thankfulness is the furthest thing from our minds, and definitely not in our hearts? Do we stay in our house and pull the curtains tight? Do we yell at the TV, telling people who can’t hear us to stop it? Do we stay off social media, so we don’t have to feel like we are gagging at how happy and thankful everyone else is?
Yes, we might do all of those things and much more.
I KNOW how hard it is to be thankful or grateful this time of year, especially when those around us who have never lost a child tells us that is what we should do, because it will make us feel better!!!
Unless you can bring my child back, don’t tell me what to do to make me feel better! Right?
It has been seven years since Becca died, and this is a holiday I still struggle with, but for a different reason than you might think. You see, my last memory of all of us together for this holiday was at Becca’s house.
My Last Thanksgiving with My Daughter
She was very ill, and wheelchair bound. But in her LOVE for hosting and entertaining (it was a God-given gift she was quite good at) she begged to have Thanksgiving at her house instead of the tradition of everyone coming to ours. There were several people who said it would just be too hard; that she couldn’t do it. I knew I would still be the one making most of the food, and preferred using my own kitchen, but something in me knew she really needed to do this. So, I rallied around her, and convinced everyone (including her husband who would also need to shoulder much of the load) to let Becca host the family.
If you know anything about Becca, she always went (what some would consider) way overboard in decorating and preparing when she hosted, which is what made her so good at it. She was also OCD, and everything had to be done to her idea of perfection. (Not always a good combination, I must say…) And what made it worse that particular Thanksgiving Day, was that the only place to fit all fourteen of us was in their basement. This meant that she had to be carried up and down the stairs, with her wheelchair following, to be put back in it. It was a lot of extra work for several of us, causing some frazzled nerves for sure.
But she did it and was SO happy that day as we sat down to eat! My tears are running down my face right now, thinking about it.
This is one of those very bittersweet memories for sure.
And it is my choice to either dwell on the bitter, or on the sweet. As you well know, thinking about the pain of the deep loss, keeps us sucked under the suffocating darkness of grief. BUT, if we force ourselves to dwell on the sweet, such as how super glad I am that I convinced the rest of the family to let Becca host us, on what became her last Thanksgiving here on earth with us, and the wonderful memories I have because of it, I find myself so very thankful. (Oops, there is that word…)
And there you have it. You get to make the choice. Not because others tell you that you should, but because you want your memories to not only give you pain, but to also bring a smile to your heart within that pain.
If this is your first or second year without your child during the holiday season, it might not be possible yet. And that’s okay. But just know that you can eventually become thankful for the memories and the times you had, instead of swallowed up in indescribable pain at not having your child with you. It is possible.
From my personal experience, and many others who are on the same road, we have learned that finding even the tiniest things to be thankful for can start to make a huge difference on this journey. But it isn’t because someone told you that is what you should do. It is because you are ready to make a shift out of the darkness, and realize that this is one of those steps toward the light.
Are you already dreading the Christmas season? I invite you to join me each Sunday live during the advent season, to walk through this difficult time of year together, acknowledging Emmanuel, God with us, within the painful earthly loss of our children. To find out more about it, click here.
GPS Hope exists to walk with grieving parents through the suffocating darkness of child-loss to a place of hope, light and purpose.
We also support families, friends and coworkers who want to know how to support these parents both short and long-term.
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Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl. Laura is a national keynote speaker and also a workshop speaker for both The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA national conferences. Laura has also been a guest on Open to Hope several times, and has hosted her own conferences, a virtual conference and many webinars. If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event, click here.