Thanksgiving is a hard day for me.  My parents were married on this day and my elder daughter, now deceased, was born on Thanksgiving.  I can still smell the tantalizing smell of roasting turkey wafting down the hall from the hospital kitchen and the thyme that was added to the stuffing.  But there was no dinner for me because I was in labor.

When I think of this family holiday, I think of my daughter.  We gave her birthday presents at many Thanksgiving dinners and sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  Now there are no birthday gifts and no songs.  Memories of my daughter are all that remain.

How do I survive my thoughts of past Thanksgivings and future ones?

First, I’m selective about my memories.  Instead of dwelling on sad experiences, I focus on happy ones and my daughter’s marvelous sense of humor.  I think of the delicious pies she made and her love of watermelon pickles, which she always served at Thanksgiving time. 

Second, members of my extended family celebrate the holiday differently today.  This year we are gathering at my brother and sister-in-law’s home in rural Wisconsin.  About 20 people will be there and our celebration will be like a mini family reunion.  Holidays are a chance to catch up on news and the chatter can be boisterous.

Third, as I have done in years past, I will make giving part of Thanksgiving.  This year my husband and I have decided to give money to the local food bank.  I’ve also donated children’s books I’ve written about nutrition and physical activity to the bank and that makes me feel good inside.

Fourth, I will cherish my twin grandchildren.  Though they will be at the family gathering, we have to leave early the next morning because the twins have to work.  Both are slated for the closing shift on  “Black Friday.”  Hectic as it is, this day is a green day for the twins because they are making money.  Having the twins home from college, even for a few days, renews my spirit.

Fifth, and most important, I will give thanks for family, a devoted husband, my daughters, my grandchildren, and parents who cared about me so much they supported all of my decisions.  Despite the challenges, despite the sorrow, life has been good to me and I am grateful.  On this Thanksgiving I will give thanks for life itself.

Harriet Hodgson 2011


Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit

More Articles Written by Harriet