Thanksgiving grief and that empty chair

Thanksgiving grief and that empty chair

You want to know something about me?  My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving; always has been and always will be.  Even after the deaths in my life, I held onto Thanksgiving as being my favorite holiday, even when we had empty chairs and broken hearts.  I feel SO much gratitude around this time, I can't exactly explain it and I don't have a magical solution on how I get to this.  Just know, if you are not feeling it or feeling any gratitude this holiday season, IT'S OKAY!!!  Not everyone can be there or get there. 

Why is this my favorite holiday you ask?  Thanksgiving is easy; we don't have to buy gifts for anyone (well unless I'm hosting which I always do, you should buy gifts for your hostess...LOL JK), there is really no "ahead" planning like drawing names for gifts everyone says they don't need (it's a week before and I just sent out our family text saying what we are having and I let everyone else fill in the gaps).  Thanksgiving truly is inexpensive (well in today's world everything is getting expensive, but you know what I mean, you can do a meal for 20 people under $120).  Thanksgiving isn't about the pretty holiday outfits, it calls for stretchy pants and comfy clothes all around (sign me up ASAP). Some of the best things about thanksgiving are, we stick to the plan; visit, eat, have drinks, dishes, dessert, football, visit, nap, play games...FAMILY! I read recently about how thanksgiving is nice because there are no fictional stories or characters we have to incorporate; I loved this one so much!  Christmas truly has gotten out of hand and our society is completely turning Christmas into something it should never be; but that's why I love's SO SIMPLE!  

Thanksgiving is this; it's family, it's friends, it's about the food (man that food is good), it's about the family games and conversations and it's all about taking the time to remember.  We get to remember those who are not with us any longer, we get to share stories of their lives, we get to count our blessings, we get to savor everyone we are surrounded with at that table.  Thanksgiving is just simple to where there are zero expectations from anyone (well except the chef which is in our house is me & my husband and we do a great job if I do say so myself).  One of the biggest thing I can make sure is that I plan, I prepare, I relax, I don't worry because why?  

The first year after my son Garret died, we still had Thanksgiving at our house.  It was sad, it was different, but I still felt blessed to have such a support system within my family unit with us.  My husband then, Jack and my brother Seth, they ended up putting our Christmas tree up that morning and then when the rest of the family arrived and after we ate, went to the cemetery, we came back to our house and we decorated the tree.  That was so helpful for me as we were able to have smiles, we were able to remember and honor our sweet son.  I don't think I would have ever been able to put that tree up if it wasn't for my husband and brother and the entire family that thanksgiving day.  

So what can you do if you are missing someone this thanksgiving?  An empty chair is intended as a reminder of loss, absence and a memory of someone dear who has now gone. This can be a great symbolism to honor that person.  You can light some candles in honor and memory of that person who is gone.  Say a prayer in remembrance of the person who has died.  Cook their favorite dish. You can go around the table and talk about a great memory of that person who is gone.  It's completely okay to start new traditions and change up what used to be; if children are involved ask what do they want to do differently. Take time for yourself if need be. My biggest suggestion is don't create expectations for yourself, let the day flow, and if all you do is put on those sweats and sit on the couch, you are doing good.  

Grief is not something to hide or run from, but rather something to embrace and honor. Do this in the most direct and meaningful way possible, and then turn your attention back to the present, and try to create new joyful memories. This year as you honor your loved one, remember that Thanksgiving is all about finding what we are thankful for in life. Be thankful for the time, love, and memories you shared with your loved one. Take the love, strength, and gratitude surrounding you this Thanksgiving into the rest of your days as you adjust to a new normal. It will get easier.

So, I'm sending out all the blessings to you all for a heart of gratitude for this Thanksgiving season.  Lean into those memories and focus on the lives lost and the memories you shared.  As I always say TOGETHER WE ARE BETTER and this Thanksgiving season is NO different; plan to be together with a loving family or friends and I will send out my prayers to you all who are sitting alone in your grief thoughts.  

Love & Blessings,


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1 comment

I’m so excited for Thanksgiving this year, it’s going to be so fun with all your rules! You are so right, being all together is so much better! See you Thursday!

Judy Kay Hanson

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