As my husband prepared his Thanksgiving assignments last week, I looked down at our list of family members and their delicious sounding contributions. My heart was full. And yet I was also struck by a deep pang, knowing our Thanksgiving Coordinator in Chief was not listed.
Ever since my Aunt Marilyn's stroke in February and passing in April, there have been the day-to-day losses and grief, but we all knew this day would come, and felt lucky every moment that it wasn't yet here. On the ride to the cemetery back in the spring, my cousin read our minds by saying one word aloud. Thanksgiving. We all breathed out, spending the rest of the ride thinking—is it even possible to do this without her?
My family has been in this place before. The first Thanksgiving after my parents passed, I was 12, and we decided that it would make us feel better to do something completely different—go out to dinner. We were wrong. The quaint George Washington Manor didn't quite know what hit them, when we sent nearly every dish back to the kitchen and fought tears because the stuffing had thyme. They hated thyme.
This year, as an adult who has been through many losses, I know that no matter where we hold this family event and what we eat, there will be someone missing. Everything will taste different. Everything will feel different. And yet in order to move through, we simply need to do it and acknowledge that we are different.
We will recreate the stuffing, the best we can. No thyme.
We will retell the stories in the warmth of the people who loved her the most.
We will let ourselves fall apart.
We will be thankful for all we have and the many years we had together.
We will be open to creating something new.
We won't judge ourselves if we're not ready.
Knowing my experience of loss inside and out, the first of any moment without my person is the worst for me. However, I have also found it to be a time and space for true healing. This is hard, and it hurts, and I wish it wasn't happening, but it is possible to live through it. I've lived through it before, and I will again.
Luckily, the clichés are true. Working through deep losses has made me stronger, and this holiday will be no exception. Learning to live one more—very important—day without her will make me a little bit more of who I am, a little bit new and a lot of what she loved about me.