This is Thanksgiving week here in the States. The second one here on the west coast for me, and the first one since Matt died that I haven’t dreaded. Holidays always felt, at best, forced for me. Since becoming widowed, that feeling is even more intense.
Matt and I were not big on the holiday season, but our respective families were, and, at least on my side – still are. This made the crucible of November through the New Year really stressful: the conflict between the expectations of others and our own actual desires at its peak.
The last few years with no one there at the family table with me to validate the general crazy, no one who shares my perspective and ways of being in the world, have made the holiday gauntlet exponentially more uncomfortable. With my family of choice gone, I ground through the season, waiting for the relief of January.
Last year, I spent the holiday with the family and friends of two different widows. This year, I’m spending the holiday in the company of new neighbors, most of whom I don’t know. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even considered doing this.
There is a lot in my new life that the old me wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t tolerate. I’ve had to rebuild a life for myself, over and over again.
I miss my love. I miss our mutual non-holiday ways. I miss skipping out for a walk in the woods, reflecting on the day and all the interesting interpersonal happenings. I miss him here, even in a place he’s never been. And I am thankful, grateful, for my friendships with people who understand exactly what that means.
I’m not yet in a place where I can claim gratitude for having to describe a man who is so much a part of my being to people who have never met him, and will never have the chance. I don’t think that will ever be anything but jarring.
While I am filled with gratitude for the life I have now, for new friends, for the ongoing experiment of this life, it would be a lie to say I am grateful for the death that preceded it. I am not grateful this happened, even for all I hold dear now.
Gratitude – so very tricky inside grief.
Wherever you are in the world, I hope your fourth Thursday in November is a good one. And if it can’t be good, I hope it has at least a few moments of peace inside of it. I wish you true reasons for gratitude, inside yourself: the company of real friends, the relief of solitude, and the shelter of love in all its forms.
How about you? How have your holidays changed, without the one you love here beside you? How do you walk that line between finding gratitude for what remains, while not being grateful for what came first? Let us know in the comments.