I happen to love Thanksgiving. The thought behind it is so nice – giving thanks for what we have. The food is great. It is a time to be with family, dysfunctional or not. It is a holiday that is supposed to give you a warm feeling. Thanksgiving as a widow can give you an entirely different feeling.
I will go back in time for a little history on my Thanksgivings. I don’t remember anything in particular about the holiday as I was growing up but I remember my mom usually made it at our house. We have a small family but they would all come to us. It was all perfectly nice, but what I remember most was being happy that we had 2 1/2 days off from school!
My most memorable Thanksgiving was when I was 25.
I was working for Mattel and they had a “Barbie” float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. That year I got to ride on it (no I was not Barbie)! They needed some girls to wear pink and sit on the float – perfect thing for me! It was so much fun and very exciting. We sat there and waved as we drove through the whole route.
There were two things I remember most about that day. One was that it was freezing cold out! And two – that we were right behind the “Saved By the Bell” float and I got to meet Mario Lopez! That day is my claim to fame so I of course needed to write about it :).
Right after that Thanksgiving was when I met Howie – December 5th. After that, Thanksgiving became a little more challenging.
Both of our mothers liked to make this holiday and of course they both wanted us to come to them. There were reasons why doing it all together did not work, one of which was distance. So Howie and I decided to switch off each year so they would each have us every other Thanksgiving. The arrangement worked but was stressful for us. We both alaways felt bad about the family we weren’t with. This situation might not have been the best but it was not the worst thng in the world so we did it for years, and for the most part all went well.
After Howie died, Thanksgiving as a widow became a depressing day for me. I hated it those first couple of years. I knew there was a chair missing and it made me sad.
Holidays became a time when his absence almost screamed at me. I just missed him being there – I even missed him freaking out from the traffic! I remember one of those years sitting down to dinner hoping that no one would ask what we were thankful for. Thankful??? How could I ever be thankful again after what happened?? Luckily no one asked – I don’t know why I ever thought they would – family is smarter than that!
Three years ago I decided to try to make Thanksgiving as a widow a better day for myself and the girls.
They wanted it to be in our house and I thought it was a great idea. It was much less stressful not to have to drive somewhere, and I actually like to cook. Anyone who wanted to come was welcome. I love having so many people in my house (although my dog doesn’t!). Getting ready for the holiday and cooking actually keep my mind busy so I don’t focus so much on what is missing. Amanda is sort of a “foodie” and she gets so involved with finding me recipes and making lists of ingredients. It is definitely a lot of work but the three of us try to have a good time with it. I feel like we have made a new tradition which I love. Even though I’m not in the parade!
So over the last few years I went from hating Thansgiving as a widow to loving it.
I just had to change it and make it work better for myself. It will never be the same, as nothing will. But I figured out how to make it a good day and help the girls feel happy about it. This year I even have a new guest (and maybe a few more).
There are many things in my life that I have to be thankful for and I am starting to realize that. But for anyone struggling with Thanksgiving as a widow, I know this can be a very difficult time and it sucks. Just breathe and get through it as best you can – hopefully next year will be better.
Now I am hoping this will be the first year I can better handle all that comes with the month of December….
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.