Today is Thanksgiving and while many are sharing in traditions of family and friendly gatherings, there are so many others who don’t feel like being “thankful.” For many, today and this entire season brings feelings of uneasiness and sadness. For many, this season is extremely hard because they are experiencing the pain of having lost a loved one. For parents who have lost children, this can be especially true.
It’s important to remember bereaved families at this time of year to let them know that their grief isn’t unusual and that they are supported as they walk through what may be a difficult season for them.
Here are a few ways for bereaved parents to “make it” through Thanksgiving:
1.) Be honest with your family and friends about how you’re feeling. Explain that you may not feel like cooking or visiting with many family and friends on today.
2.) Be honest with yourself. It’s okay for you not to feel grateful or thankful. But at the same time–even as you grieve–you cannot deny the fact that you have a lot to be thankful for. Reflect on those things. By the shear fact that you can read this blog post, you’re doing good. Think about all of the people in the world who don’t have electronics to be connected with others and all of the people who can’t read. 17 percent of the world is illiterate!
3.) Make an actual list of things that you are grateful for. One of the practices that I started after our son passed away, was that of keeping a gratitude journal. The very first item I wrote in the journal was “I don’t feel like being grateful but here it goes.” I started out with writing three things down every day that I was grateful for. But then I realized that I couldn’t limit it to three items so my list grew to ten things that I was grateful for every day. And on some days I realized that I couldn’t limit it to ten. The more I focused on what I did have–even though our son had passed away, the more I realized that I was one blessed young lady. I had family and I had friends. I had an umbrella for when it rained outside. And I had shoes to protect my feet when I left my house. I had a coat to wear when it was cold and I had food to eat. I had a television to watch and I had a Bible to remind me of God’s promises. I was breathing on my own-without the help of any device. I had the activity of my limbs. I had tissue to wipe my tears and I had clothes to wear. Try doing this for one week and then review what you’ve written down. You won’t be disappointed.
4.) Relax and do something you enjoy today. Maybe watch one of your favorite movies or if you have a streaming service, see if you can find one of your favorite television shows to binge watch. And if you dare, I challenge you to find one of your favorite cartoons or shows that you watched when you were a child :-).
Here are a few ways for loved ones of bereaved parents to help those parents:
1.) Don’t put pressure on them to do a whole lot–especially not during the first or second year after their child has passed away. They have been through a very stressful life event. If they choose to play a huge role in your family or friendly gathering, then let them but offer to help them out along the way.
2.) Ask them how they are doing during the holidays and let them know they can be honest with you. BUT–if they choose to share their thoughts, don’t try to minimize their pain. What they are feeling is real. Offer them a listening ear and a hug. And, if they say they are doing okay, don’t try to make them feel sad about their situation. The truth is that they may actually be doing okay. Everyone grieves differently. For some bereaved parents, the holidays give them something to look forward to.
3.) Buy them a gratitude journal and in a loving way, challenge them to do what I mentioned in number 3 above. In fact, you can do this with them. You’ll find out that you have a lot to be grateful for too.
4.) If they don’t feel like being around a lot of people today, take them some food and let them know they’re still loved and are being thought about.
On today, one of the things I’m grateful for is the awesome community of families who I’ve been able to connect with over the last 16 months since our son passed away. We may be hurting inside but we are some of the strongest people I know. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
By: Danielle Jones