Monday, November 22, 2010

How to be Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just returned home from dinner out with the kids. It's a nice rainy night, and we were all so warm and cozy inside the restaurant. It was the usual mix of merriment, and frustration, with us trying to have a good time, yet my daughter and I having to sit through the boys' ongoing bickering. I shouldn't be too surprised, as I don't think I liked my older brother much until we both became adults. Yet my lackluster mood must have been quite transparent, as my daughter asked if I was feeling okay. I asked why she was asking, to which she responded that I looked either very tired, or perhaps life was just getting to me. Without giving much thought to what I was going to say, I unfortunately responded that I was tired of life. Not one of my best moments.

I'm really struggling to maintain a sense of gratitude for life these days. Of course it is only highlighted by the fact that Thanksgiving arrives this week. I'm so tired of all the commercials with all the happy families preparing for their gatherings. I know that there is plenty for me to be thankful for, that's not the issue. I'm just tired of having to be optimistic about a life that has really disappointed me.

I think people would be very surprised to hear this from me, as I'm usually a good spirited person. I'm the one who others feel good about, knowing that I am "doing so well" in spite of my loss. Family members keep telling me that things are beginning to go my way, and that there must be good things ahead for me and my kids. I wouldn't necessarily argue their point, I am fortunate, and some positive things have been coming my way, yet again, why must I be thankful?

Is it because being bitter is so unbecoming? Is bitter so last year? Well, I suppose it is. I know that I need to be thankful, yet I struggle to know how. For the sake of those gathered around the table I will put on my thankful attire. I will speak in platitudes if I must. Yet here, and now, I want to express how difficult it is to do so. I want to say that I am thankful for many things, yet I am not yet at a place where I can genuinely say that I am a thankful person. I am not yet ready to celebrate this feast of thanksgiving. I am still hurting, and I know that I am not alone. At the same time I know, and trust, that I will be in a better frame of mind in the future, and for that, I suppose I am thankful.


  1. I SO get it, Dan. It took me a couple of Thanksgivings to feel grateful about much. But I am .... now.
    I'm thankful that I had Jim in my life, for however long I had him.
    It helps me to focus on that part of having Jim, rather than not having him now (which still totally sucks!).
    That first year I also had a really hard time saying "Happy __________ " (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.) I felt so much sadness and grief that I just couldn't even utter the words "happy" or "merry" .... for a while.
    Hang in there, my friend.
    It does get a bit easier.

  2. "I know that there is plenty for me to be thankful for, that's not the issue. I'm just tired of having to be optimistic about a life that has really disappointed me." this quote said it all for me. I hear ya..

  3. Dan, thank you for your wonderful post. You have said what we all feel. I am tired of everyone telling me that I have much to be thankful for. Truly, I DO but struggling through the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my wonderful husband and the father of my two terrific children is almost more than I can bear. I'm also tired of trying so hard to pretend this is all okay, because honestly it sucks.

  4. enforced, expected gratitude. Just because we have a roof over our heads, and not everyone in our family died, and the sun still comes up does not mean we are thankful-in-general. I AM thankful I don't have to struggle for basic survival things like food, clothing, and shelter. I am thankful that our animals are healthy and sweet. But thankful that I am still alive, thankful that I could potentially have another 30 years on this planet - no.

    It just feels like a smack, these expected gratitudes - oh, your husband died? Well, cheer up, you can have candy later; candy is really good.

  5. I do feel gratitude every day..its just not the spontaneous feeling I am used too. Now I must
    focus and put effort there. I know it will get better but sometimes the wait is such a heavy place. thanks for your honesty Dan.

  6. Today is the 4 month anniversary of my husband's death and while I'm trying to be appreciative and grateful for the gifts, the weight of sadness obscures the light. Your line of "a life that has really disappointed me" stopped me in my tracks too.

  7. I agree with everything you wrote. And I agree with Megan, thankful for the basics, but the rest, no!!!! I am not there yet. I am not looking forward to seeing what good things are in store for me...and I am mad that he was taken so young. 62 is not old. It has been almost 19 months and I still miss him so much every day. Nobody wants to hear this, though. When they ask how are you doing, they want to hear, oh, okay I guess. I am still here...Ugh...Most people don't die that young, I check the obits and I see very few people die that young. I don't want to hear God needed him...I just hope I don't have to live 30 more years without him.

  8. i was/am always just thankful to make it to the end of the day. it is so hard to have a grateful, broken heart. hang in there.

  9. When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving, it was celebration of survival even though some of them didn't survive that first year.

    I would imagine it was with mixed feelings of gratitude that they sat down to give thanks, so your feelings are rather more in keeping with the holiday than most folks.

  10. My husband died 2 yrs ago at age 63, just before retirement. This will be my 3rd Thanksgiving without him. And I miss him everyday. All of a sudden I have to find a way to live in retirement alone. It is so unfair after 40 yrs together. But I find that the more I am honest and feel and talk about my pain, the more I am able to let go and move on and feel thankful for what I do have. So keep talking about how much it hurts. There are no "shouds" in grief.

  11. This is the 1st Thanksgiving without Jeffrey. I too am having a very hard time being Thankful for anything but the basics.Food,shelter,the support from loved ones. I am Thankful though for people like you Dan! That are able to share how they are feeling and that it's okay to feel this way,that we're not crazy,we're grieving. Like Megan said,enforced expected gratitude,yea right. Let them lose what I have in the last 10 1/2 mo's and see how grateful they feel.

  12. wow - just walked in the door, sobbing, after shopping for the Thanksgiving feast....plopped everything down and came to this site first - I NEEDED THIS TODAY. Thanks, Dan, for giving words to my feelings today. Happy couples, holding hands and grinning at each other seemed to be everywhere - UGH. (I can't stand myself for finding someone else's happiness to be offensive.) THANKS - so hard to say, and so hard to feel - even though I know have MUCH to be thankful for. This is my second holiday season without my sweet husband of 36 years - I DON'T want to do this again but I know I have to. BUT today I can genuinely say I AM thankful for something - I'm so very thankful for this site and specifically for you,Dan. Blessings to all of our aching hearts.

  13. Thank you for a post that says it all! Your post has expressed exactly how I am feeling plus the other comments too. This is such a painful season, for so many reasons, plus Thanksgiving Day would have also been our 21st Anniversary, a day full of double memories and now heartache of what I miss so much! My sweet husband, my lover, my best friend, and soulmate - I am thankful for being able to say I was his "bride" and having had the love of my life, some never get that experience, for that I am thankful. But that doesn't help deal with the pain, sorrow , grief and terrible loss I feel now.

  14. Thanksgiving was REALLY tough for me for probably 3-4 years after Charley died. I was so miserable and depressed by the third one (only, like a nincompoop, I didn't realize that it was because I was still grieving) that I completely boycotted a traditional Thanksgiving. Instead of the expected family dinner with a smaller subset of my family, I went to a restaurant with a widowed friend of mine and one of her teenage sons, where we could be as bitter and honest as we wanted. And we had a wonderful time...and didn't need to be as bitter, it turns out.

    Sometimes boycotting the holiday, changing our tradition (even if just temporarily), and giving air to our true feelings can really help.

    Thanksgivings haven't been as hard since then, and now they're generally nonevents, grief-wise. But this is my 6th go-round of them.

    I've written about my hatred and difficulties of Thanksgiving a few times:
    - When there are no thanks to be given
    - The trouble with being thankful
    - The first (widowed) Thanksgiving

  15. I read each and every one of your comments. You each give me back so much, and I too feel comforted by like minded, and like hearted, people. However each of you choose to spend this, and future holidays, remember that all of us are truly in this together.


  16. I too am that person that people say how well I am doing. Sometimes, I want to say- you wouldn't say that if you really knew how I felt on the inside. I want them to notice that I need to be taken care of too! But of course I don't. Yes, I can handle it and it has gotten better, but this still is not the life I want! I did not plan on being a single parent that is why I waited to hve children when I was married. I need to give my self my own identity- seperate from being a widow or my child's parent. I realize that if I want this I must do things for myself- make new friends- not associated with my old status. Do things that use to energize me- I need to be able to take from someone rather give without being selfish. I need a new identity. I just hope it helps.