27 Nov Day 11 Grateful for This? (Giving Thanks in an Off Year)
I love Thanksgiving and this year I am especially thankful for time with my family, but I have also had some horrible Thanksgivings. My parents separated over Thanksgiving my freshman year of college, I have had more than one serious relationship break up and one year my childhood pet, a black cat named Nicky who I’d had since I was eight years old died, on Thanksgiving weekend. These are all situations that are just a part of life but when they happen around a major holiday, especially one that glorifies family, love and giving thanks it makes it more painful. Just this morning I was looking on Facebook and it reminded me of some of the terrible things people I love are going through this year.
It inspired me to write this post because it was very hard for me to feel thankful when I was going through a loss . It made it worse to feel like the rest of the world was hugging and drinking bloody mary’s in their “perfect” or unspoiled lives while I was suffering. How do you get to a place of gratitude about cancer, divorce, losses of loved ones and/or pets? It’s not easy. For me the way I made it through those rough Thanksgivings is now the way i deal with anything painful that happens in my life:
Remember this is temporary. Everything is temporary. Everything changes – both the good and the bad. So if you are knee deep in bad right now just know it will pass. Acknowledge and really dig in to the pain. Let yourself feel it. Don’t try to escape it or avoid it – that just prolongs the process.
Do what you need to do. During some of those years when I was deeply hurting I tried to put on a brave face and be social. I tried to do everything I would normally do over the holiday weekend (go out with friends, decorate for Christmas) but that made me feel worse because my heart wasn’t in it. I really wanted to be home in my pj’s crying and watching Lifetime movies. So finally I stopped trying to keep up my brave face for everyone else and I did what I needed to do. I stayed home and cried in my pj’s and I thanked my friends and family for the invitations and told them I’d see them next year. There is no shame in grieving. There is no shame in skipping your annual Black Friday shopping trip or your cousin’s cocktail party when you are not feeling up to it. There is always next year.
Do something for people who have it worse than you do. No matter what you are going through, someone out there has it worse. This is key for finding gratitude in that broken heart of yours. The fastest way to take your mind off of your own problems (after you have grieved of course) is to help someone else with theirs. For example if you are going through a break up, volunteer to help feed the homeless this year. It will give you something to do and more importantly it will give you contrast. It will put your problems in perspective. You may be bitter and hurting but even in that state you can be grateful that you have a roof over your head. Sometimes we have to dig deep for gratitude. There have been days when the best I could do was be grateful that my heart was beating.
I hope you are having a fantastic Thanksgiving. I hope you are surrounded by your loved ones having fun. But if you are not one of those people. If this is your “off” year, just know it’s okay. It’s just one year. There will be many more full of love and joy. Focus on how in those coming years, you will be able to appreciate the good so much more because of the pain you have been through this year. Give thanks for nothing more than that if it’s the best you can do (and maybe that your heart is beating.)