Be Thankful. Or Don't. Be Wherever You Are.

Be Thankful. 

Be grateful. 

So many people have it worse. 

 

Do these above statements sound helpful to you? Do they sound like compassionate or empathetic things to say to a person who has been recently widowed? Does this sound like a good way to show you care? I don't think so. And yet, when I was first widowed , back in the summer of 2011, these are the types of things I would often hear from people. I heard these things often, but even more so around Thanksgiving time. This is, of course, the time of year when we are all supposed to run around being grateful and thankful for every little thing in our lives, and we are supposed to show gratitude and focus on all the things you do have instead of that silly dead husband thing. Right? 

Except ... telling someone who has just lost their entire world to be grateful , does nothing but piss them off. It alienates them and makes them feel even worse for being in tremendous pain, because now you have made them feel guilty about their pain and their sadness and their state of pissed-off-ness. And that sucks because someone who has just lost everything has EVERY RIGHT to be angry as all hell, or to feel like nothing will ever be good again, or to feel mad at the entire world and universe and God and every living thing in existence. Who are you to tell anyone else how they should feel? Even if it is Thanksgiving. 

Here's the thing: I have no problem with thankfulness. It has it's place, and often times it CAN be very helpful to try and focus on the good in your life and the things you do have. I have never been a big fan of "forced gratitude", however. The kind where it's an assignment of some kind and you have to make lists daily, or the kind where people who are usually the most miserable people on earth suddenly get all uppity with gratitude during the month of November on social media, to "one-up" each other in thankfulness. Or the kind where I say: "My husband just died and I feel like I might want to die too," and the person's response is: "Be thankful. Some people have never had love at all. Be grateful that you had it. " How about if YOU be grateful that I dont punch you in your eyeball? 

The first Thanksgiving without my husband here on earth was absolutely brutal. It was SO brutal, that eight years later, I STILL cant recall all the details. You know what I DO recall? That we were at my cousins house, and my Nana's (grandmothers) death was mentioned by family, but my husbands wasnt. I recall telling someone there that I missed him so much that it hurt in a physical way, and her response was :"at least it's just you. Be thankful you didnt have children because losing a parent is worse than anything." Yes, it's 'just me', and apparently, I didnt matter all that much in this person's eyes. I recall being in a room filled with people, and feeling utterly and tragically alone. 

In the years that followed, Thanksgiving got better. It got different. I began spending it with very good friends and their family, which was really nice and somehow much easier than spending it with my own. The huge spotlight of my husband's absence was a little bit less bright and focused, when I was with someone else's family. One year I went out to dinner with 3 widowed friends. It was nice. It was sad. It was hertbreaking, actually. You could feel the combined pain in the room, and it was evident. That year, we managed to say that we were thankful for each other, but not much else. 

The last few years, gratitude has come easier and more naturally to me. As time goes on, and the pain of death isnt so raw, I am now able to feel thankful that I was so greatly loved by Don Shepherd, and that I was able to experience that, and then take it and use it to fuel the rest of my life path. I am able to feel gratitude for my family, and for the love I have in my life right now. My boyfriend, who has brought joy and laughter and crazy-good memories to my days, and who I so look forward to creating a future with. We have taken the traditions from his family and his losses, and carried them forward into sharing them together and with my family. I look forward to dressing the turkey with him, and using his late mom's delicious recipe, and feeling every ounce of love growing more love. 

I am thankful. But it still sucks that my husband is dead forever. It always will. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. It sucks that he will never celebrate it with me anymore. I am saddened by all the loss in life that so many of us go through. All we can do is find our favorite people, huddle together, and feel whatever it is that we need to feel . During the holidays, and always. 

So please - be grateful.

Or don't be.

Just be whatever it is you need to be right now,

with absolutely no apologies about it. 

 

Most importantly, know that you are loved,

and you have been loved. 

That love has the power and potential

to change everything. 

 

Maybe not today.

But one day - 

when you have the desire to sit down

and examine it,

you will be amazed at how that love lingers,

and

attaches itself

to

everything good,

forever. 

 

Love is selfless like that. 

Love is thankful. 

Let love be thankful. 

 

The rest of us can just 

keep being humans. 

 


Showing 7 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Vartan Agnerian
    commented 2019-11-27 20:24:05 -0800
    A widow of a year’ reading fellow widow’s unique touching stories has been my long distance therapy’ as no one in my circle can relate to widowhood’ or understand the depth of my grief and wounded soul’ nor has the time to listen to my sad story’ each busy in their daily responsibilities’ So’ day and night I reminisce our years together ’ rewinding the video my mind’ and fondly seeing my husband there’
  • Annie McDonnell
    commented 2019-11-26 03:09:25 -0800
    Oh Kelley the “eyeball” comment in your blog made me smile and nodd with agreement, especially on a day like this in the uk. Its dark, raining, miserable and its another bloody sunday. I hate them. Gary and I didn’t have children, and I don’t have much family, and over here everyone reverts to family on sundays. Its the same on christmas day and although I have been to friends at christmas I am always the odd one out, and despite their welcome, i always feel like i don’t belong there. We don’t have a thanksgiving day over here and I am glad of it, for today I cannot find anything to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head, i suppose, but that roof is paid for with OUR retirement fund, and i am here… alone.
  • Don Yacona
    commented 2019-11-25 13:24:30 -0800
    “Be thankful” makes me want to smack them and say “Be thankful I didn’t hit you harder and give you an extra one with the other hand”
  • julie roadknight
    commented 2019-11-24 16:10:29 -0800
    kelley since my husband died on 10/10/19 i have found so much support and comfort from reading the ‘blogs’ and realizing that the thoughts and feelings that i am having as a ‘newly widowed’ person are normal eg the thought that i might want to die to and be with him, asking the question ‘where is he’ and that losing a partner is different and for me much worse than losing my parents 20 years ago (who i loved dearly by the way) . I think it has to do with having such a intimate relationship with your partner. Roger was the love of my life it was ‘3rd time lucky’ for both of us we had been together 10 years and were married in march this year – i miss him dreadfully but i am encouraged that this raw pain will get ‘better’ with time. we do not have thanksgiving here in australia but i will not be looking forward to my first christmas without roger and all of the other ‘firsts’ next year.
    again thank you i am so glad i found soaring spirits

    julie
  • Annie McDonnell
    commented 2019-11-24 07:29:05 -0800
    Oh Kelley the “eyeball” comment in your blog made me smile and nodd with agreement, especially on a day like this in the uk. Its dark, raining, miserable and its another bloody sunday. I hate them. Gary and I didn’t have children, and I don’t have much family, and over here everyone reverts to family on sundays. Its the same on christmas day and although I have been to friends at christmas I am always the odd one out, and despite their welcome, i always feel like i don’t belong there. We don’t have a thanksgiving day over here and I am glad of it, for today I cannot find anything to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head, i suppose, but that roof is paid for with OUR retirement fund, and i am here… alone.
  • Jennifer Hensley
    commented 2019-11-23 09:31:49 -0800
    “How about if YOU be grateful that I don’t punch you in your eyeball?” HaHa! Yes! I agree with the whole idea of forced gratitude thing. Yes, I’m sure there are things we can all find to be grateful for if we think about it even when we are struggling and life seems to throw us one curve ball after another. Right now, I’m struggling with being on the verge of bankruptcy and struggling financially just to makes ends meet and usually can’t even make it from paycheck-to-paycheck. I’m struggling with worrying about my 24-y/o autistic son who started having seizures a couple years ago and just when we think they’re under control he has another one. I’m struggling with worrying about my 11-y/o furbaby who has helped me so much since my BF died unexpectedly (yes, I said died, not passed, so that’s progress) 5-1/2 years ago. One might think I don’t have much there to be grateful for. However, I am grateful that I have a decent job that I can afford to at least pay my rent so we are not homeless, living in my Hyundai Elantra with me, my son and three furbabies. I am grateful that, right now, my son is doing well, his stutter is resolving and he is almost fully verbal (after 5 years of being non-verbal) and for the most part his seizures ARE fairly well-controlled. I’m grateful that, for the time being my 11-y/o Cavi KC spaniel (Niko) is doing well on his meds and still eats well and likes to play sometimes. I’m grateful my mom is still with me for when I need comfort or someone to talk to (though not quite the same as the conversations I had with my BF). It’s all about perspective, I guess. Dwell on your problems and heartache, or feel blessed with what is good in your life.
  • Mari Posa
    commented 2019-11-22 20:14:37 -0800
    I really enjoyed your post Kelley. I hear the comment a lot of “you need to be grateful for what you have and had.” Which is true to an extent, but that doesn’t take away the pain of not having my husband here. So I am grateful and sad at the same time.