how to survive thanksgiving day grief

Thanksgiving Day can feel particularly cruel to those mourning the death of a loved one. Not only can the bereaved find it difficult to feel appreciative during this annual time of giving thanks, but the traditions, rituals, and gatherings we often associate with the holiday also tend to emphasize the fact that a beloved family member or friend is not present and compound our feelings of loss. This article offers five tips to help you cope with the Thanksgiving Day holiday if you’re grieving the death of a loved one.

For many years, you and your family have looked forward to gathering at your house on Thanksgiving Day. But this year, the thought of doing all of the shopping, cooking a turkey and all of the trimmings, setting the table and decorating your home all by yourself feels overwhelming. Or perhaps you’ve traditionally contributed a dish to the meal hosted by another family member or friend, but this year your heart just isn’t in it. While the thought of altering your Thanksgiving holiday routine might feel difficult, you need to determine how much responsibility you feel comfortable taking on right now and then clearly communicate that to your family members and friends. Ask yourself if you just want help with a particular task or if you’d prefer someone else take on the responsibilities entirely this year. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no” as you adjust to life after loss and that those who love you will understand.

Most of us carry a mental picture of what the Thanksgiving Day holiday should look like. Books, magazines, movies, television commercials and even our childhood memories often fuel this idealization by creating an image of what a “perfect” Thanksgiving Day celebration entails. This can create a lot of pressure, which is another source of stress you don’t need to deal with right now.

Therefore, give yourself a pass this Thanksgiving by accepting things as they are, even if they fall short of the Norman Rockwell image in your head. Is the turkey a little dry this year? Add some more gravy. Can’t muster the energy to host a full sit-down dinner at the table? Set up a buffet and let people serve themselves. Whatever comes up, repeat to yourself: “Just let it go.” Again, those who love you will understand.