For years and years, whenever anyone would ask me what my favorite holiday was, I’d reply, “Thanksgiving!”
It’s true. I’ve always loved gathering with family and friends, cooking all day and staying up late telling stories. In fact, for much of the first decade of our marriage, Shawn and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house every year. Usually we had at least 25 people, and sometimes many more. It was always one of my favorite days of the year. Even once we pared down our celebration and sometimes traveled to be with family and friends, it was still the holiday that I looked forward to more than any other.
But once I became a widow, everything got harder. Including Thanksgiving.
I was lucky that in my first year of widowhood, my friends Becky and Josh invited me to have Thanksgiving with them. Their house was filled with love, but it was still a hard Thanksgiving, in many ways.
Why? Nothing about Thanksgiving as a holiday had changed. But Thanksgiving for a widow is tricky. Why? Well, I thought, I’ll make a list.
So here it is, top 5 reasons Thanksgiving can really blow for widows:
- Everyone loves to say, “Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s not commercial, it’s just about family!” That’s true. It’s about a lot of family. So. Much. Family. And if you’re newly widowed, it’s also about being around many grieving family members, too. And yes it’s wonderful to have family around, but it can also make the holidays really heavy when everyone knows who is missing that year.
- It’s a holiday in which you are supposed to feel abundant gratitude. I mean, I’m not even sure I need to explain this one, but obviously, widows sometimes have a hard time with this one. Or at least I did. What, exactly, was I supposed to be thankful for in that first year after Shawn died? I mostly just felt sad and angry.
- The meal itself is really labor intensive. Yes, I love to cook, and I love Thanksgiving food. But it’s a ton of work, and while that can be nice for some people (I love it now) try doing it with three kids under 10 who seemingly need a parent at all moments. And you’re the only parent.
- Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a crazy stretch of time, one with irregular school schedules, flu season, and all those damn Hallmark movies about love. It’s just the beginning of the holidays, which can be nice for some, but tough for those who are grieving.
- Thanksgiving is a marker in time, one where you notice so obviously that a table that once held ten chairs now only has nine.
So, yes….Thanksgiving can be a really hard holiday for widows, especially that first year. For some, the difficulty continues as the years go by. For me, I’ve been lucky to be invited out to Josh and Becky’s family farm for years. They are dear friends.
This year, they’re also officially my family, now that I am married to Becky’s brother, Chris. But that’s not the only change this year. I realized it when I was talking to my kids the other day and I said, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!” I’m not sure exactly when that happened. Maybe it was after that first year of widowhood, or maybe it was later – I don’t know.
All I do know is this: now I can say again what I said for many years, phrases like, “Thanksgiving is the best because it’s all about family and food and gratitude!”
But if that makes the bile rise in your throat, know this: I’ve been there. It’s okay if you just can’t fake it this year.