My Thanksgiving Survival Plan

Today marks the beginning of Thanksgiving long weekend up in here in friendly old Canada (eh). A time to cuddle close with friends and family, stock up on pumpkin spice lattes, and, if you're in the midst of grieving, a tumultuous time remembering what life was like before your loss.

Why the Holidays can Suck

As you reflect on Thanksgivings past, maybe with a loved one who has passed or is no longer in your life, or prior to a big move, job change, mental or physical health issue or the like, it can be extremely challenging to feel the warm and fuzzies you used to feel from gatherings with friends and family. 

Regardless of what you're going through, the holidays can be tough. They're ripe with potential for any emotional crap and familial baggage to flare right up, and when you're already feeling down in the dumps, that extra kick in the butt can feel like its all too much.

In order to help make this Thanksgiving as great as it can be, I'm thinkin' up a masta plan. Below is how I plan on getting through the holiday while grieving the loss of my mom, managing chronic pain and helping my boyfriend through the loss of his dad (just a few things!). Hopefully you'll find something in here that's of assistance to you too. 

My Thanksgiving Survival Plan

I spent last Thanksgiving feeding my mom tiny bites of turkey and mashed potato in her hospice bed. Her throat muscles were starting to fail her and it was my first time witnessing her choke on her food. Needless to say, it was fucking awful and I cried the whole way home.

This Thanksgiving, my first without her, I'm feeling relieved that my mom is no longer in pain, happy that I'm still able to spend time with people I love and sad that I won't get to share this holiday with my mom...ever again. It will be bittersweet, but I'm gonna help myself through...

1) Shitloads of "Me" Time

First and foremost, I'm going to listen to my heart, heed to my intuition and ensure that whatever I do this holiday weekend, its in synch with what's best for me - not my friends, family or lover, not what I "think" I should do, what I did when I was more physically able or what my mom would have done - but what feels the most right for me now. Period. I can already sense that it will involve a lot of time solo dolo. Chilling on the couch, reading a book, or whatever it is, I'll need downtime to process the emotions that are here and that are coming (whether they're good, bad or ugly). Which leads me to action plan numero dos...

2) Feeling All the Feels

Giving myself permission to feel however the fuck I'm feeling is going to be a huge help in approaching this holiday weekend. In my experience, often times the holiday "day" itself isn't actually so bad. But the time period before or after can be chalked full of an array of emotions, commonly when I'm least expecting it.

I'm planning on treating myself with grace, ease and compassion and letting those feelings show up as when and they may. It might be me openly balling into my plate of hot turkey at the dinner table, or taking a moment to scream my head off in my bathroom before leaving the house, or it might be heading to bed at 8pm the week following cuz I'm emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually drained. Whatever it is - I'm gonna let it flow, even if that shit needs to come out in the middle of Whole Foods (#sorrynotsorry).

3) Honouring Their Memory

What brings me the most solace is feeling as though I can honour my mom and my boyfriend's dad despite their physical absence. My mom was the hostess with the mostess, a kick-ass cook and bomb designer, her dinner parties were the talk of the town. Her favourite dishes were scalloped potatoes and sweet potato casserole (aka, cream was her best friend), so that's what I'll be bringing to Thanksgiving dinner this year; and in doing so, I'm bringing a piece of her. 

My boyfriend's mom will be hosting us for Thanksgiving again and we always have a toast to her late husband, Gord, who died 2 years ago. Gord was a serious pie-man (as is my BF), and his all-time favourite pie was pecan. As an ode to him, every Thanksgiving we make sure to top off the night with some homemade pecan pie...you can literally taste the love in that pie and it feels so good to indulge in the things our loved ones enjoyed most.

Other Tips...

Some other suggestions for getting through Thanksgiving include:

  • Skip holiday events if you feel you need to;
  • Journal;
  • Create new holiday traditions with friends or family;
  • Light a candle to honour a departed loved one; 
  • Get into nature;
  • Schedule an appointment with a professional therapist (to find someone in your area, peep the loss&found resources page here);
  • Get lots of rest; and/or
  • Carve out dedicated time with friends or family you can talk about your loss with.

Hopefully some of these help get you through. Sending so much love and light to you this weekend and the coming holiday season! xo R

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