No, I’m not referring to the 1621 harvest gathering between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Instead, I’m going to be discussing the first Thanksgiving after significant loss.
Despite having already gotten through a few holidays in The First Year after my loss, Thanksgiving felt like the first “big” holiday I would have to navigate as a twinless twin.
Most days felt immensely heavy during that first year, but with Thanksgiving approaching, I felt a different type of heaviness. It was gloomy and intimidating and made me physically ill.
Why is this? Why would this first “big” holiday make me feel like this when every single morning I woke up to the same reality of being a twinless twin? Every single day I faced uphill challenges and every single night I felt like I had run three marathons, but there I was, dreading a holiday focused on eating too much turkey and pie.
During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I was putting in a lot of hours as a cashier at a local grocery store, Publix, Where Working is a Pleasure. Between that and being a full-time student, I kept busy and as much as it helped me not “think,” it was really, really hard.
Of course, everything is difficult in “initial grief,” but the hours spent working at the grocery store leading up to Thanksgiving really stick out to me. Why? Because there was non-stop complaining.
Every turkey I scanned came with a load of complaints. The complaints would start from the time the customers loaded up the conveyer belt with their items to the moment the customers exited the store with their receipt in hand. I mean, I heard it all. From the grandma that talks about her health throughout the entire meal to the uncle that falls asleep during the football game.
And after every scan, I got more and more irritated. There I was, broken and hurting, wishing so badly I had my entire family to celebrate with on Thanksgiving (or any day, any hour, any minute, any second) and these people were complaining to a complete stranger about how they can’t stand to be around their family.
With all of this said, it should be noted that I am aware that triggers are extremely heightened during the first year. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
It’s okay to complain, just be aware of who you are complaining to.
You might be thinking, “But how can a stranger know what I was going through?” They can’t! Which is exactly my point, we need to remember and continue to create more awareness that everyone is fighting a battle of some kind. And no, I’m not suggesting to filter everything you say. I’m simply suggesting that it might help those suffering to go a little easy on the complaints when you are speaking to someone you don’t know.
So, back to the question, “Why was this holiday causing me so much agony?” Because it was the first time I would be face-to-face with family members for a “celebration” without my twin.
It was scary, intimidating, and nauseating to think about.
Now are you wondering what I did that day? Did I dress up? Did I sit down with family? How did I feel? In short, I got dressed. I ate food. I went to sleep.
As much as I want to answer these questions in full for you, I won’t. Whatever I did is not what you necessarily should do. My answer might not be your answer (not that there ever is an actual answer, but you get the point).
If you take away anything from this post please have it be this:
However you choose to spend a holiday does not reflect the love you have for the one you’ve lost.
Sit inside all day, eat all day with friends and family, stay in bed, go on a bike ride, shower then eat alone, scream your loved one’s name from a mountain top or don’t say that person’s name once. It is all acceptable and doesn’t make one griever better than the other.
The first Thanksgiving is hard enough, so please don’t add “what you think you should do” on top of it. Instead, my best suggestion for you is: do what you feel like doing.