By: Karen Green (Illustrated by: Laura Green)
In the morning it felt like maybe, just maybe, my first Thanksgiving without him would turn out alright.
Cooking, a walk with my husband, the dogs begging to be part of the tasting process; at the start of the day grief was quiet, maybe a little sleepy.
Then, as the day passed and we spoke to relatives, friends, attended Zoom calls and Facetime gatherings, grief started to wake up, to worm its way into my view. Sometimes grief shows up as a veil between my eyes and what’s going on outside. It’s simply what I see through as the day unfolds. But today, that’s not how it showed itself. Today it showed up in what was not said, not seen, what was missing all together.
After each call, it showed up as a hunger that, at first, was left unrecognized. At first, it wasn’t a conscious longing, not even formed in words in my brain; but as the conversations continued, I could not help but see what was painfully missing. This is my first Thanksgiving without him. Not one loved one mentioned this aloud.
Not one curious, How is it going today without him? The more this was avoided and overlooked the more and more invisible my grief felt. I have an elephant on my chest. How could no one think to mention it?
With every ended conversation the elephant grew and soon morphed into a swirling rage. Why weren’t people bringing it up? Just in case I wasn’t thinking about his death at that moment? They didn’t want to remind me? If they brought up my pain, we might have to look at their pain? If they asked me, I might ask them and they didn’t want to go there?
“How could they not know to ask, to at least mention that this is the first Thanksgiving without him?” I asked my husband.
“It’s not customary; it’s taboo to mention it” was his answer.
I went to bed with my elephant, my disappointment and my rage.
I woke up with this remembering - some of the time, people are not who we need them to be, they are simply who they are, who they need themselves to be in order to survive their own pain. Sometimes this fact is more disappointing than other times.
I realize now that it’s not for lack of love. We’re all so consumed with holding our forts together that sometimes we’re not able to ask. It takes strength and balance to extend your arms. And we’re individuals, we move through grief differently. Some people might be offering exactly what they need in their loss, but it isn’t at all what I need. Which is why it feels so important to me to ask, to be asked.
If you’re in that place of balance, ask me - do you want to talk about him? How are you feeling about this holiday? Ask, how are you feeling about not having her on this day? If you are feeling brave enough, ask - how is your sadness today? If you’re lucky to be in a place where you’re strong enough to leave your post of safety, if you find yourself in the fortunate place of stability, ask me.
When people accidentally fail me, I’m asked to show up for myself, turn inward and listen, tend and be. So, I sit and put my hand on my own heavy heart and say to myself all of the things that I subconsciously and then consciously wished others would have said yesterday.
I see my pain today. Today is a hard day. It is okay to miss him more than usual today. Grief is hard and sometimes it feels lonely, but I am here. I am here to hold my grief for myself; I am here to hold my grief for myself; I am here to hold my rage patiently until it boils back down to what it always was, sadness. I can hug myself as I cry that familiar cry and silently say, “I miss you. I miss you more than normal today.”