Thanksgiving Reflections

Beginning the Holiday Season Without My Husband

                During my therapy session we discussed how I planned to handle this first Thanksgiving without my husband.  I was given the assignment to create a blog post the day after.  As I am writing this my son is in the next room playing music.  I make a note that I need to purchase a pair of noise canceling headphones.  This is not my usual writing time and usually my son is at work and I have the entire house to myself.  However, since it is a holiday, everyone is home and there is noise in the house to which I am not accustomed.  One more thing through which to persevere.

                After leaving my therapy session I began to think about Thanksgiving and what it would entail.  For about three days I felt a considerable bout of sadness.  I subscribe to “One Fit Widow’s” page on Facebook.  It always has timely advise for those of us dealing with grief and how it has irreversibly changed our lives.  A resent post dealt with the effects of being overwhelmed and how overwhelm sometimes comes over us and we find it difficult to interact with the world.  This sometimes causes us to feel as though we are not accomplishing anything and that in fact, we are throwing away time and opportunity.  Yet, it cannot be pushed to the side and is simply something we must go through and allow to pass at its own pace.  That post and a post by Candice Benbow explaining that she was withdrawing from social media and other activities during the week that marked her mother’s death,  helped me to realize that I was in the process of being overwhelmed and that my best bet was to just allow it to happen and if I have to spend a day or days on the couch covered with a blanket, it’s okay.  That’s what I did.  I decided that to deal with what might be a challenging day, I needed a day of complete rest.  So, I spent the day before Thanksgiving on the couch in front of the television under a blanket.  That evening I planned what I would wear to dinner the next day, what time I would leave to go to my sister’s house, and prepared to gather the items I was to bring to dinner.  I had a few opportunities to fall completely apart but the rest and prayer made it possible for me to successful maneuver those situations.  

                I started Thanksgiving just as I start every day, in prayer.  A few days earlier I returned to the practice of keeping a prayer journal.  I have been beset with anxiety which manifests as discomfort in my core with bouts of gas and lower to mid-back pain.  There is a scripture that advises us that instead of being anxious we should tell God what it is we need and want to happen.  I started a list.  Now, each time I experience anxiety I think about what it is I need or want to happen, and I add it to the list. 

                I got dressed early and went to the store to acquire the items I needed to take to dinner.  I was fortunate that there was a store near me that had everything I needed.  I felt accomplished.  I was ready to go to my sister’s house but was having difficulty locating my adult children concerning our time of departure.  My sister suggested that our brother come to get me and that my sons could come when they were ready.  A marvelous idea!  I always enjoy time with my brother and the conversation during the ride was great.  Good conversation always works wonders for me. 

                My sister and her daughter had been cooking all day preparing for dinner.  She and her adult children live in the house we grew up in.  That house always provides comfort for me.  We greeted each other with hugs and laughter, and I was able to watch football on television with my brother and simply relax.  My sons, grandson and future daughter-in-law arrived soon after and the house was filled with even more laughter and conversation.  There was so much food!  All the traditional fare and a few things that I had never seen on the Thanksgiving table.  I ate a little of all of it and mindfully enjoyed every smell, taste, and texture. 

                Conversation is always on point when my family gathers.  There is little or no talking during the actual eating of dinner.  But, afterwards, we delve into all types of topics.  We talked about the pandemic and how it was affecting our lives.  We talked about the elections and how we felt that present leadership was adversely affecting our ability to move forward as a country.  We talked about local politics.  We talked about racism, white supremacy, and our own effort to attempt to fathom what is really going on with people in this country.  At one point there were several conversations going on at once.  We know how to do that.  There was however no religious conversation and no coffee drinking.  That was probably since my other brother was not there.  He generally requests coffee.

                As the evening concluded I found that I was full of food, ideas, new thoughts, and joy.  That’s and unbeatable combination in my book.  My oldest on drove the car so I didn’t even have to do that.  After calling my sister to inform her that we had all made it home safely, I put on my night clothes and went to bed.  I ended the day just like I started it, in prayer.  I was thankful to God for the love and comfort of my family.

                When I arose this morning, there was a tinge of sadness and a few tears.  I miss Oscar and Daddy and Mama.  There was music though coming from my grandson’s room, then from my son’s room.  I drank my morning coffee and Red Velvet cake was my breakfast.  After my morning devotional I sat down to write this blog.  My son was playing hip-hop on his phone, M&M, I think.  Later I recognize the lyrics from a familiar song, “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.  It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”  I begin dancing in my chair as I wrote.  Cancel the order for the noise cancelling headphones.  The sounds of my family are the perfect solace for my soul.

Sorrowful Souls

Don’t Fall Asleep on the Sad and Depressed

                I am prompted to write this blog piece because these are extremely difficult times.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is fast approaching, and the New Year promises more of what we have experienced in this present year.  People are sad, depressed, and anxious.  We are being urged to limit our contact with the people we love during a time when we most need the people we love.  Our traditions are being forced to changed along with our understanding of how to navigate in the world. 

                This year has been hard for all of us.  There are some who were experiencing depression and anxiety long before the upheaval that COVID-19 has caused.  For me it started on January 5, 2019, when my mother died quietly in her home.  I was already providing primary care for my husband who had suffered multiple strokes in previous years.  On December 26, 2019, my husband died.  Since then, like so many others, I have struggled to make ends meet.  Family members and friends have become ill and some have died.  The ongoing racial tension, inability to gather with loved ones, and the seeming lack of compassion for fellow human beings weighs heavy on the mind.  

                Recently on Facebook, I saw several posts meant to encourage people during this holiday season by admonishing them to choose to be happy. “Happiness is a choice,” I have heard many times.  I understand exactly what this is meant to convey, and I believe there is no malice intended in the statement.  Yet, there are people among us who are not just a little “blue,” but actually clinically depressed and no one knows about it because they have internalized the statement, “choose to be happy,” and pretend to be so.  They want to be happy.  After all who wants to be depressed.  They just cannot bring that feeling to the surface, and in an effort to not “ruin the holiday for everyone else,” they suffer in heart wrenching silence.

                “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (NLT). These are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before the soldiers came to take him away to be executed.  Despite all the good he had done; he was betrayed by one closest to him.  Knowing his impending predicament, Jesus asked his friends to simply stay awake and be present with him while he pray and wait.  Their response was to fall asleep. 

                They like many people did not know what to do with Jesus’s sadness and grief.  It appears that the Church today has a difficult time dealing with people who are experiencing sadness or depression.  For some reason we have come to believe that faith in God requires us to either always “be happy,” or at least always “look happy.”  People are being forced to face the difficulties of life and the emotions that accompany those difficulties alone.  Many are distressed and choose suicide as a vehicle for relief.  The Church must become more comfortable dealing with the sadness of people and provide comfort for those who are sad or depressed.

                This holiday season I urge you to beware of the sadness and depression of others.  Stop trying to make people be happy so that you can feel comfortable and escape your responsibility to show compassion and comfort.  “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  Jesus said this but we do not seem to grasp the insight that “be of good cheer,” is sometimes a process that may require having someone to talk to, long hours of therapy, or just someone dedicated to being present.  Do as Jesus request and as the Holy Spirit urges.  Be present for someone and be a comfort to them.

Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to please utilize the resource below.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255              Emergency 911