A Season of Gratitude

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By Vonnie Woodrick

It doesn’t matter how big or how small you give, know that giving to others can bring a great sense of joy and belonging to someone. 

As the holidays approach, and we are faced with the fear of missing our loved ones with an empty space at family events, especially the dinner table, what can we do that will help us get through this?

When I lost my husband in the month of November, the loss brought instant devastation, depths of grief, and thoughts of what does“happy” mean in regard to Thanksgiving and Christmas? Even the “good” days were filled with pain and sorrow.

How do we move forward with accepting that life moves on even when we are not ready? 

Although it took a while, acceptance was the key to our loss. If we don’t accept that our loved ones are not coming back, we get stuck and can quickly turn to self-medicating to ease the pain of our heartache. We can push down the grief and not deal with it, which could result in falling into a deep depression. 

My family made some changes that first year; rather than having a sit-down family-style meal, we had a buffet, and family and guests could sit wherever they wanted. This made it a bit easier as the empty chair wasn’t left for us to stare at and trigger thoughts of tremendous loss. We enjoyed cooking my husband’s favorite meal, baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies and cheering a toast with his favorite beverage. 

We also became very grateful — grateful that we had so many memories to share, and we relished in the memories others shared with us, as truly they are the best gift anyone could give us. 

We are grateful for those who let us continue to grieve all these years later; we have learned that love never dies. Expressing love and sharing stories of our missing loved one helps us heal. We are grateful for our friends that have become family. Surrounding yourself with people who allow you to do what you need to when you need to is healing. There is no timeline for grief, and being allowed to cry or miss your loved one is OK, no matter how long they have been gone. 

We are grateful we had them as long as we did. We don’t move on, but we move forward; and we do so by living life the way our loved one would want us to by laughing out loud, loving others for who they are and celebrating the journey of life, all with their love still in our hearts.

November also brings us to the wonderful time of year of giving. For those who haven’t had a devastating loss, remember those who have by thinking of a way you could honor someone else’s loss. It doesn’t matter how big or how small you give, know that giving to others can bring a great sense of joy and belonging to someone. 

The best gifts this time of year are those that cannot be seen but felt. What do you give the person who has everything or someone who may not have so much? 

Perhaps it’s a gift of time. A gift of time could be lunch or coffee, helping someone with shopping or gift-wrapping. How about making ornaments together for giving or making baked goods for a holiday bake sale?

A financial gift in memory of a loved one to their favorite charity is always welcome and thoughtful. A gift that keeps on giving to those who are in need or struggling can put you into the holiday spirit. 

The holidays are a time filled with love and family, which many don’t experience due to financial constraints. The homeless population is forever growing, and keeping items in your car such as socks, hats and gloves, would be much appreciated by those who are struggling to stay warm this season.

Another thoughtful idea is to turn your holiday into a food drive for local pantries and shelters. It’s easy to have guests bring a canned good or two. This small gesture could go a long way to support the areas of need during this busy and hectic time of year.

As you enjoy your holidays, be mindful of gratitude. Be grateful for all the beautiful times and people you will be enjoying this season. Keep in mind the little things you can do to help others who may be missing their loved ones or simply don’t have the means to celebrate and enjoy the holidays the way they are meant to.

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