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This is my second Thanksgiving without my Mom. Here’s how I cope.

This will be my second Thanksgiving holiday without my mother, and although 2020 has made celebrating the holiday unique, I still feel her absence.  Thanksgiving Day can feel particularly sad to me. Not only is it difficult to feel appreciative during this annual time of giving thanks, but the traditions, rituals, and gatherings I often associate with the holiday tend to emphasize the fact that a she is not present.  I found a few helpful hints to try and ease my feeling of loss and allow me to focus on enjoying my time with my family, I hope it helps others do the same.

 

Allow Yourself to Step away

This year, the thought of doing all of the shopping, cooking a turkey and all of the trimmings, setting the table and decorating your home all by yourself may feel overwhelming. While the thought of altering your Thanksgiving holiday routine might feel difficult, you need to determine how much responsibility you feel comfortable taking on right now and then clearly communicate that to your family members. Ask yourself if you just want help with a particular task or if you’d prefer someone else take on the responsibilities entirely this year. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no” as you adjust to life after loss and that those who love you will understand.

 

Try to Let It Go

Most of us carry a mental picture of what the Thanksgiving Day holiday should look like. Books, magazines, movies, television commercials and even our childhood memories often fuel this idealization by creating an image of what a “perfect” Thanksgiving Day celebration is. This can create a lot of pressure, which is another source of stress you don’t need to deal with right now. Therefore, give yourself a pass this Thanksgiving by accepting things as they are, even if they fall short of the Norman Rockwell image in your head.

 

Acknowledge Your Fear

Instead of letting the fear that you’ll start remembering your loved one and feeling sad dictate your holiday, empower yourself by incorporating his or her memory into your Thanksgiving plans. For example, place a favorite photograph of your loved one and a lit candle in a quiet spot that signifies his or her presence in your hearts throughout the day. Did your beloved enjoy a special holiday food? Then make sure you serve it in his or her honor. If you feel up to it, ask your family to share their favorite memories of your loved one before or after the meal.

 

This is the Perfect Year to Start Fresh

The Thanksgiving traditions we form with our family members and friends through the years can often feel confining. Baking that special Thanksgiving Day pie from scratch, getting up early/staying out late to shop on Black Friday might be interwoven with your happiest Thanksgiving memories, but ask yourself if a particular tradition will really bring you joy this year or if you just feel pressure to do something because you’ve always done it this way and others expect it. Consider the unique situation 2020 brings as an opportunity to establishing a new tradition — just for this year — that fits with your energy and mood. Consider purchasing a tasty fresh or frozen pie this year, shopping for gifts online, or creating a “Zoom” portion of the dinner to embrace family and friends from a socially distant and safe place. Remember, you can always resume your original tradition, but you might discover that a new tradition is just as fulfilling.

 

Know Your Limits

Finally, and perhaps most important, however you proactively decide to celebrate Thanksgiving Day this year, you should determine and know your limits ahead of time. Once again, anyone who truly loves you and knows the pain you’re dealing with will understand.

 

Adam Novak is a 2nd Generation Jewish Funeral Director & Founding Partner of Jerusalem Memorial Chapels.   He can be reached any time (24/7) via phone/text at (516) 418-7000 or email adam@graveside.com

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