Yes, it is that time of the year again. It’s when family and friends gather to celebrate the special days: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, punctuated by office parties, friends gathering to share a meal, some drinks, and a bunch of laughs and lots of good times. They are described in word and song as the most wonderful time of the year. Yet, for those of us who have suffered the loss of our spouses, it’s just not the same. The one who organized the gatherings, planned the parties, and made all the calls to ensure everyone could attend. Probably the one who cooked most of the food and would sit back with a big smile and enjoy the fact that her family and friends were having a true holiday festival is no longer physically present at these events.
I state all this not to bring doom and gloom but to accept that Grief is a part of the holidays we celebrate. Someone said to me that the first holidays are the toughest but then the 2nd, and now the third seems just as hard sometimes. After my wife passed away, I had to push myself to keep going forward in the early weeks and months. I did not want to do much of anything except work and avoid the pain and sorrow. I felt if I worked myself to exhaustion, I would not have to face Grief. WRONG, WRONG, and WRONG. As the announcer in the old White Owl Cigar commercial used to say,” One day, we are gonna get you.” Yes, you can try to avoid it, but Grief will always get you.
So how, during the time of year when most people seem so happy with endless smiles and appear to be filled with joy, how do we, the bereaved, keep going forward? I offer a couple of suggestions that helped me during this season. First, I commit to seeing my children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving for a festive meal, good company, and lots of fun. We gather around the table and take a little time to remember my late wife, their mother, and their grandmother. We share funny stories. It keeps her love alive in each of us.
My wife loved to cook, and Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday. So, we share stories of the meals she made and the fun things we did, and we enjoy what she would want us to continue doing: celebrating this special day. It’s a day to give thanks for all our blessings, especially the love we shared with our spouse for however many years. It’s about gratitude for what we had and continue to have as we share our love with others.
At my son’s home, he invites friends and neighbors to pop in for a drink or some dessert. It’s always fun to meet new people and hear their stories of Thanksgiving. We also end up playing games of cornhole and argue about who the best players are, and if we need to cheat, we do so. It’s all about celebrating with family and friends.
Holidays I think, offer growth opportunities. I urge you, brothers, to find those things that help you through the season. Find peace and comfort and joy even though Grief is in our lives. Grief is just a part of our life, not the sum of who we are. I wish you a joyful and peaceful holiday season and know I stand with you.