Grieving a Loved One at Thanksgiving

Posted on November 15, 2021 by Bevis Funeral Home under Dealing with Loss, Grief Support
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It can be difficult to enjoy the holidays when there is an empty seat at the table. Whether you lost a someone last year or last month, it’s perfectly normal to feel mixed emotions when grieving a loved one at Thanksgiving. During a time that’s normally filled with family dinners, parties and other joyful gatherings, many people face the choice of either putting on a brave face or opting out completely. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one this Thanksgiving, here is some guidance on how to navigate the busy holiday season while giving yourself space to mourn.

Let Yourself Feel Everything.

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to feel joy after the recent loss of a loved one. When grieving a loved one at Thanksgiving, give yourself permission to feel everything – good and bad. You do not need to suppress feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, regret and confusion. It’s healthier to acknowledge, and begin to work through, the full spectrum of emotions you are experiencing.

While it may seem easier to simply put on a mask and hide your feelings from others, that strategy is not sustainable. Eventually, putting on a brave face will become too much. Be open with your friends and family about how you are feeling. Chances are, they are worried about you and will be thankful for an honest update.

Share Good Memories.

After losing a loved one, whether a family member or close friend, you don’t need to pretend like he or she never existed. In fact, sharing some of your favorite memories is a beautiful way to include them in the festivities. For instance, if it feels appropriate, invite family members to share a favorite memory of your deceased loved one around the Thanksgiving table. Focus on the sweet memories, not the loss.

If your loved one passed away recently, it might be upsetting to those present at the gathering to bring up the loss too frequently. If this is the first holiday you are spending without him or her, however, sharing the good memories can be a healthy way to adjust to the holiday seasons without their presence at your Thanksgiving table.

Set Boundaries.

The holiday season can feel overwhelming even when you are not experiencing grief. When grieving a loved one at Thanksgiving (or any holiday), remember that it’s OK to set boundaries. If attending a holiday party or other event feels like too much, you can say no. Your family and friends will understand and want you to do whatever you are comfortable with.

It’s a good idea to consider in advance what you might be able to do during the holiday season. For example, you might feel up to attending an intimate Thanksgiving dinner with your immediate family, but not running the annual turkey trot with your friends. Grief can take a lot out of you. It’s important to take time for yourself to rest and recover. Even if you commit to attend something, and later find it’s too much to handle, it’s OK to kindly withdraw your RSVP.

Look for Balance.

Losing a loved one is difficult at any time, but can be even harder to cope with during the holidays. If you are grieving a loved during Thanksgiving, try to be patient with yourself. Things will eventually get easier, but today does not have to be that day. Spending time with loved ones can be a wonderful help in times of grief, but participating in holiday traditions can also trigger memories of the loved one you lost. Try to find a healthy balance of participating as much as you are comfortable without pushing yourself too far.

No one should be alone during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party this year. Give yourself the space – and the permission – to feel every emotion, good and bad, you are feeling this holiday season. Things will get better.

Bevis Funeral Home is here for you during this difficult time. Click here for more grief and healing resources.

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