So many people have it worse.
Do these above statements sound helpful to you? Do they sound like compassionate or empathetic things to say to a person who has been recently widowed? Does this sound like a good way to show you care? I don’t think so. And yet, when I was first widowed , back in the summer of 2011, these are the types of things I would often hear from people. I heard these things often, but even more so around Thanksgiving time. This is, of course, the time of year when we are all supposed to run around being grateful and thankful for every little thing in our lives, and we are supposed to show gratitude and focus on all the things you do have instead of that silly dead husband thing. Right?
Except … telling someone who has just lost their entire world to be grateful , does nothing but piss them off. It alienates them and makes them feel even worse for being in tremendous pain, because now you have made them feel guilty about their pain and their sadness and their state of pissed-off-ness. And that sucks because someone who has just lost everything has EVERY RIGHT to be angry as all hell, or to feel like nothing will ever be good again, or to feel mad at the entire world and universe and God and every living thing in existence. Who are you to tell anyone else how they should feel? Even if it is Thanksgiving.
Here’s the thing: I have no problem with thankfulness. It has it’s place, and often times it CAN be very helpful to try and focus on the good in your life and the things you do have. I have never been a big fan of “forced gratitude”, however. The kind where it’s an assignment of some kind and you have to make lists daily, or the kind where people who are usually the most miserable people on earth suddenly get all uppity with gratitude during the month of November on social media, to “one-up” each other in thankfulness. Or the kind where I say: “My husband just died and I feel like I might want to die too,” and the person’s response is: “Be thankful. Some people have never had love at all. Be grateful that you had it. ” How about if YOU be grateful that I dont punch you in your eyeball?
The first Thanksgiving without my husband here on earth was absolutely brutal. It was SO brutal, that eight years later, I STILL cant recall all the details. You know what I DO recall? That we were at my cousins house, and my Nana’s (grandmothers) death was mentioned by family, but my husbands wasnt. I recall telling someone there that I missed him so much that it hurt in a physical way, and her response was :”at least it’s just you. Be thankful you didnt have children because losing a parent is worse than anything.” Yes, it’s ‘just me’, and apparently, I didnt matter all that much in this person’s eyes. I recall being in a room filled with people, and feeling utterly and tragically alone.
In the years that followed, Thanksgiving got better. It got different. I began spending it with very good friends and their family, which was really nice and somehow much easier than spending it with my own. The huge spotlight of my husband’s absence was a little bit less bright and focused, when I was with someone else’s family. One year I went out to dinner with 3 widowed friends. It was nice. It was sad. It was hertbreaking, actually. You could feel the combined pain in the room, and it was evident. That year, we managed to say that we were thankful for each other, but not much else.
The last few years, gratitude has come easier and more naturally to me. As time goes on, and the pain of death isnt so raw, I am now able to feel thankful that I was so greatly loved by Don Shepherd, and that I was able to experience that, and then take it and use it to fuel the rest of my life path. I am able to feel gratitude for my family, and for the love I have in my life right now. My boyfriend, who has brought joy and laughter and crazy-good memories to my days, and who I so look forward to creating a future with. We have taken the traditions from his family and his losses, and carried them forward into sharing them together and with my family. I look forward to dressing the turkey with him, and using his late mom’s delicious recipe, and feeling every ounce of love growing more love.
I am thankful. But it still sucks that my husband is dead forever. It always will. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. It sucks that he will never celebrate it with me anymore. I am saddened by all the loss in life that so many of us go through. All we can do is find our favorite people, huddle together, and feel whatever it is that we need to feel . During the holidays, and always.
So please – be grateful.
Or don’t be.
Just be whatever it is you need to be right now,
with absolutely no apologies about it.
Most importantly, know that you are loved,
and you have been loved.
That love has the power and potential
to change everything.
Maybe not today.
But one day –
when you have the desire to sit down
and examine it,
you will be amazed at how that love lingers,
Love is selfless like that.
Love is thankful.
Let love be thankful.
The rest of us can just
keep being humans.