Holidays and Grieving for a Loved One: the First Thanksgiving

Larry Lynn GVOH Mayor

[Editor’s note; this is a reprint of a column I wrote last year anticipating Thanksgiving about Holidays and Grieving. I thought it was worth sharing again-LL]

want to share my own experience of this with you. My young wife of 22 years died at age 42–this was some years ago–the week before Thanksgiving. She passed on Thursday. We buried her on Sunday. Thanksgiving was only four days off. We decided to do nothing more than have a simple dinner with just my parents, my brother and me. I hadn’t left the house after the funeral nor was I watching television, so I was not caught up in the ‘holiday spirit.’ She had been in the hospital for nine weeks leading up  to her passing, the endgame of a five-year struggle with cancer. To be fair, we had four very good years between her first surgery and chemo until the cancer came back a year before she died.During that time our relationship deepened, and we took every opportunity in life to ‘smell the roses.” Even during that last year we lived as fully as possible between rounds of chemo until our luck ran out on another holiday weekend, Labor Day.

Columbus Day was the last holiday we really experienced together. Her hospital room was high above the East River in Manhattan, and we enjoyed a wonderful Holidays and Grievingview of the Tall Ships sailing up the river on a clear day. After that she was in and out of consciousness, sometimes comatose, until her death. In those last weeks I was tuned out to almost everything going on outside that hospital room, so the buildup to Thanksgiving was lost on me. Also, our culture hadn’t yet become so craven about “Black Friday’ sales and obsessive consumerism trumping family values.

Here’s what I learned and want to share with you: first, the hardest time is that first year as you cycle through not only holidays but also birthdays and anniversaries. Holidays and Grieving are not a good mix. Each one is a knife in your heart. the good news is that it gets better after that. The second year is significantly less painful, and each subsequent year is better.  No matter how things work out for you, there will always be moments of pain. you’ll remember some moment with your deceased love done sitting across a table, holding your hand at a parade, toasting the New Year, but this is not a bad thing, it is just life happening.

For all of you, grieving or not, here is what you should do for those who are new to loss. Reach out to them and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COVERED for the major holidays. Push them to come to your Thanksgiving Dinner even if you have to drag them.  Note in your smartphone or calendar their birthday and anniversary, and the birthday of their departed loved one. Call them. You don’t need a pretext. Tell them the reason you are calling is to share their pain.

Don’t hesitate to invite the newly bereft to a festive event. My wife was dead only 42 days when my cousin, Steven, dragged me to a couple of New Year’s Eve parties. I resisted and he insisted. He was right. Yes, I cried my eyes out walking home after the last one, but being among people who were all looking forward and not backward uplifted my spirits.

For friends and family of the bereft, force them to come out; for the grieving, accept these invitations graciously although the thought of partying so soon after your loss is killing you inside. It will accelerate your healing, and you will discover who your true friends and family are.

Originally published November 27, 2013/updated October 24, 2014

8 comments on “Holidays and Grieving for a Loved One: the First Thanksgiving

  1. Have the Holidays ahead of me and lost my husband the 29 of April , 2014. Have my children and their families, a friend or two, who will be around me for a period of time, But after they leave, will be time for my memories. His birthday was Dec 25 and Christmas will never be the same for me. Cancer is a terrible disease, but GOD is still in control and I do not question HIS PLANS. I will ask GOD to help me through the Holidays and starting the New Year coming up. Sending Prayers and Blessing for all who are grieving this time of year. GOD will be with all of us through all the days. Amen !

  2. He will see you through. You will find that God molding you into a different person in his image to help others going through the same journey. He will bless you! My husband passed away with a brain tumor 22 months ago, December 22, 2012, a day before his 56th birthday. I have learned by reaching out to others going through the same thing, he will bless you. I am not the same person I was 2 years ago. God bless you and your family, especially through the holidays.

  3. This will be my first Thanksgiving in 18 yrs with out my husband. We would have been together 19 years December 23rd. He lost his two year long battle with cancer on July 17, 2014. Thanksgiving will be tough without him, but Christmas will be hard as we met at a Christmas party in 1995 and he proposed to me Dec 23rd in 2000. I would be so lost if I were by myself but I have our 12 year old daughter to keep me going. Love and miss him more then anything.

  4. Do you know the Katrina Parable. A man in New Orleans sees the waters rise up to his windows. A bo man in a SUV comes along and offers him a ride to safety. He says, "God will look after me." Later he is on the second floor of his flooded house, and a man in a boat offers to take him to safety. "God will look after me," he tells his rescuers. LAter he's on top of his roof, and the waters are still rising. A helicopter comes and lowers a basket. "God will protect me," he says waving help away. He drowns and goes to heaven, and asks God why he didn't save him. God answers, "I sent a truck, a boat, and a helicopter." So the message is, God wants you to put your trust in others to do His work. Join a support group. Tell your friends you need their help. Reach out to your family. They are your truck, boat, and helicopter. Hop in.

    • With the Thanksgiving Holiday just around the corner, wanted to wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Have thought about myself under this situation , and have decided to make reservations at a nice restaurant for a couple friends and myself and do the best I can to enjoy the dinner and keep past memories of the days we had together, compiled. Have accepted he is on a different level than I , and he is out of pain and confusion.Do not think he would want me to crawl under the bedspread and sob all day. We will re-unite one day and the thought of never having to say good-bye again,….. is comforting.

      Hope everyone, who reads and posts here, will have a Joyous Thanksgiving and keep moving forward a bit at at time. Blessings to each of you !!

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