I live in Minnesota, the land of more than 10,000 lakes, spectacular fall colors, and breathtaking spring times. As soon as the fall leaves start to turn yellow and orange and red, I start to prepare myself for Thanksgiving. It is a difficult holiday for me, and just thinking about Thanksgiving can make my body tense. This is a holiday filled with happy and sad memories.
My deceased parents were married on Thanksgiving, so I think of them. Our elder daughter was born on Thanksgiving. The year she was born Thanksgiving was on the 23rd of the month. Ironically, she died on the 23rd of February in 2007 from the injuries she received in a car crash. You can understand why Thanksgiving is hard for me.
Thanksgiving is a day of remembering. I think of my parents, but most of all I think of my daughter and grieve for her. In a Legacy Connect website article, “Death of a Loved One: Coping with the Anniversary,” life coach Ellen Guest says the word anniversary takes on a new meaning after a loved one has died. She thinks the weeks leading up to the anniversary day are almost harder than the day itself. “It is about reliving those last moments, or, if the death was unexpected, thinking about you might have lived those last couple of weeks/months differently,” she writes.
Thanksgiving is a day of painful images. On Thanksgiving, more than any other day, I think of the car crashes that killed my daughter and our former son-in-law. Their deaths left holes in my soul and I think these holes will always be there. I think about becoming my grandchildren’s guardian and caregiver. Thankfully, I think of the marvelous adults they have become, and how happiness can counter sadness.
Thanksgiving is a day of returning grief. My grief isn’t as intense as my initial grief, but it is there, a swirling sub-current of Thanksgiving Day. Because I am with family, I am happy, but inside, I keep thinking of my daughter’s birth and death. According to Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve, anniversary reactions are common and can happen even 50 years after a loved one has died. “We may be caught by surprise at a time that may feel inappropriate, or when there is no support from others,” she explains.
I am thankful for the support I have from my husband, family members, extended family members, and friends. Seven years have passed since my daughter died and during this time I have written about grief, done my grief work, continue to do this work, and tried to make good things from grief. This thanksgiving, in honor of my daughter, I am donating seven copies of my latest grief book to the library. I am donating money to the local food bank. Most important, I will treasure the time I have with family, and experience each moment twice, once for me, and once for my daughter.
Yes, I will always miss my loved ones, but refuse to let grief get the upper hand. Life is a miracle and I am glad to be here, amidst the people I love.