This article was first published on Open to Hope in 2010.
Thursday will be the 21st Thanksgiving I’ve lived through following the death of my 18-month-old daughter Erin in 1990. The 12th since my wife Trici died in 1999 and the 6th since my 13-year-old son Rory died in 2005.
One thing I know for sure is that I can’t expect anyone to mention the name(s) of the people I love who have died. Expecting someone to say their names only brings me disappointment and pain because there is a good chance that the day will pass with no one saying their name. At least that has been my experience. More than once.
Believe it or not, it’s my job to bring the people I love that have died into the family gathering, and sometimes that can be tough to do. At a time when many of us are feeling incredibly vulnerable and fragile, the last thing we want is rejection or indifference. So – I’ve come up with a few concrete ways we can try and let family and friends gathered for the holidays know that it’s okay (in fact, comforting) to talk about our deceased loved ones.
1. You can serve/bring the favorite dish of the person you love that has died to the holiday get-together. Talk about it before you pass it around!
2. Bring a favorite picture or two. Pass them around. Work the picture(s) into the dining table centerpiece. Perhaps you even have a picture of your loved one with each person that will be sitting around the holiday table. Use these pictures as place cards, propping it up against a glass or setting it in the middle of the plate. What a great way to get people talking!
3. Bring a favorite memento – a book, a poem, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a toy – share it after dinner before dessert is served.
4. Have your loved one’s favorite music playing in the background – tell everyone the story!
One of our biggest fears is that the people we love will be forgotten. When no one mentions their name, especially at family-centered events, the loneliness we already feel can be magnified. Try not to be caught off guard. Think ahead. Be proactive. What can you do to being the person you love smack in the center of your Thanksgiving gathering?
For a complete list of “Living With the Holidays” tips and suggestions please visit www.tomzuba.com.
Tom Zuba 2010