Thanksgiving is one of the hardest days of the year for me. It used to be one of my favorites. I mean, who doesn’t love a holiday that includes sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top? I sure did. But that changed in 2010. Since then, Thanksgiving has been the day my father died.
The first Thanksgiving after his passing, I remember feeling like someone had fiercely ripped off the Band Aid protecting my wounded heart. The pain I had spent the past 12 months healing came rushing back.
Each year since has been a little easier, a little lighter. Still, I’m surprised in the days leading up to Thanksgiving by the sadness that washes over me. I think about how my children, who were only 1 and 2 when he died, will never know him. I think about how much he suffered. I find myself anxious and frankly, unfairly irritated by the people around me – the people I love most in this world – who are able to be happy and jovial through dinner.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to say to you this week. About how I could tell you to be thankful at this time of year despite all you have endured. Was it unfair to ask you to give thanks during a time that you might not want to?
For some of you, this is your first Thanksgiving living through divorce. For others, maybe it’s been 10 years, but like me, this day still brings up painful memories.
Then I realized this. You can give thanks through pain. You can give thanks in spite of pain. And you can even give thanks for the thing that has caused you pain.
I would never suggest I’m thankful for my father’s passing, but I will tell you the things I appreciate now because of it. I give thanks for him loving me. I give thanks that I followed in his footsteps and became a lawyer, which has led me to you. I give thanks that although he left me too early, I had him in my life. I also give thanks that my mom met a wonderful man who would never try to replace my father but loves me like I’m his own.
Find a reason to be thankful. It might be a tiny one, like being happy to have a table to eat at. Or profound, like being thankful that your children are at that table with you. It might be that despite the fact that your relationship ended, there was good in it, too.
Being thankful doesn’t mean you don’t have hurt. It doesn’t mean you don’t wish things turned out differently. And it doesn’t mean you have to pretend everything is ok when it’s not. It does mean looking beyond those feelings and finding gratitude for the good in your life. There’s something there if we look for it. If nothing else, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is a good start.