Matt, Thanksgiving is in three days. I’m feeling my grief’s grip around my throat. That familiar tightening in my chest has returned. This Thanksgiving feels impossible to survive. My loss and disbelief of living through unfulfilled hopes and dreams feels heavier as the holiday season approaches. I’ve heard the saying about learning to dance in the rain. I feel like I’m navigating life dancing through pieces of shattered glass. Life as I planned for us shattered at my feet the day you died. My life was broken with no chance of ever being repaired.
This season my grief feels heavier. I not only grieve the loss of you, I’m also grieving the loss of me. Of how I hoped Thanksgiving would always be. It’s so hard to feel thankful this year. Your empty seat continues to break my heart. My cancer battle has left me with little reserve and feelings of just giving up. It feels like I’m layered in grief. Of wondering how to survive the triggers the holiday season brings.
I have days where I’m so thankful for your life. Days I feel like I will survive your loss. Days when even my cancer is put on the back burner and I feel joy in the blessings of everyday life. Then I see those painful commercials. The one’s of beautiful, happy families celebrating Thanksgiving together. Everyone around the table is smiling. There are no tears of loss. No empty chair where a loved family member will no longer be seated. It’s those moments when our reality hits like a cold slap and I want to scream letting the world know that life is not as it appears in these fantasy advertisements for how the holidays should be.
It seems the holiday season highlights my grief. Memories of how life used to be unbury themselves from my safe place and resurface bringing a heightened awareness of my loss. I’m ashamed that my feelings leave me unthankful for the blessings I do have in my life.
The blessings of memories. Remembering our last Thanksgiving together. You and Mike out back bundled up against the cold. Your breath floating above your heads as you shared a memory that brought a smile to both your faces. The blessing of that moment captured in time as I snuck a photo of my two boys together. I look at that photo and feel a mixture of pain and love. How I wish I could blink my eyes and return to that holiday.
The blessing of a loving husband. Ray has been amazing. My broken body is no longer capable of physical activity. Everything I used to do has now fallen on his shoulders. I watch as he walks the dogs down the street. My heart fills with gratitude for this man. He has taken over everything with a smile and a positive attitude of for better or worse. He sits by my side on those chemo days. He continues to tell me we will get through this. He is such a gift from God as he has held me on those days I sobbed over your loss or cried over losing who I used to be. He reminds me that I am still beautiful with or without my crazy, curly hair.
In my brokenness true friends have shined through my darkness. Rallying around me as I struggle to find my new normal. These women stood by me as I grieved your death and continue to stand by as I battle this cancer. Letting me know they have my back. Being sounding boards when my reality becomes too hard to carry and I need to rant and repeat the things they’ve all heard before. True friends. Another gift from God.
The blessing of your brother. He understands my grief. He is the only one who really gets what your death has done to our family. We cry together on those days when the grief finds us both. The holidays hold painful memories that only we share. Memories of brothers fighting over the last piece of pumpkin pie. Brothers who would share stories of childhood antics as I cringed at the holiday table. I’m thankful for his presence in my life. His mannerisms are yours. He is the part of you that remains with me.
This holiday season when I’m not feeling so thankful, I will remember these blessing God has placed in my life. I will remember that the holidays although painful also hold joy. I will remember our life together. I will shed tears as memories hit but will focus on the light that shines through my darkest days. I will continue to pray for acceptance and peace, knowing I am in control of nothing.
This Thanksgiving I will give thanks for your life. I will give thanks for those who remain in my life. I will give thanks for the days I feel like I’m human again. I will give thanks for another day of life. I will search for the beauty that finds it way through my brokenness…………