The Thanksgiving table can be such a source of joy. There’s great food to share and good company to share it with. When it comes to the conversation, that same table can also be a source of anxiety. Once we’re all done partaking in the feast, what do we talk about? There are so many topics of conversation that are best to avoid. The safe bet seems to be to go around the table and share what we are thankful for. However, this conversation can also be a source of anxiety for those who are grieving a loved one.
So many people will tuck their grief away so as not to be a damper on the festive occasion. Grief and death can make people so uncomfortable, it feels best to avoid any conversations about it. This creates a difficult situation for the one who is grieving. It can be an arduous task to only focus on what we have when all we can think about is those we have lost.
So this year, I’m proposing a tweak to the usual tradition. After we talk about all that we’re grateful for, let’s think about who’s missing. Let’s permit ourselves to grieve the ones who can’t join us around the table. Everyone who wants to could share about the person or people they wish could be there. They could be someone who passed away years ago or someone whose death is more recent. What would they love about this day? What would we say to them if they were here?
Everyone is grieving someone, but we often forget that because we have been conditioned to keep grief a private affair. Grief is seen as a burden that we are to shoulder alone. But, what if we let others lean in to help us? What if, by sharing, we allow others to help us in carrying our heartache? To celebrate with us? To remember with us? What an incredible opportunity for us to shift the culture around grief and mourning. We could model for younger generations that it is not only okay to grieve, but it is also encouraged.
Imagine a table where people were permitted to pass their grief around. Where they could share about the ones they miss with the people they are thankful for. Because grief is not the act of missing someone. Grief is the act of loving someone who is no longer here in mind and body. It’s about being grateful for the moments you had together and the desire to share them with the ones who are still here. Thanksgiving could be the perfect opportunity to invite those you grieve and your memories of them to your table.