An Emotionally Charged Holiday
I left my grandmother’s house last year knowing that it would be my final Thanksgiving with her. My grandmother passed on Labor Day. We often ask if it’s easier to lose someone suddenly or know that the end is near. I’ve experienced both and hate them both equally. For months, my mom and I talked about when and how grief hits. It's unpredictable, and you can't plan for it.
I signed up to host 22 people at my home for Thanksgiving because, in Team Neely tradition, it was our year to spend Thanksgiving with my husband's family. Once the flights were booked, lodging arrangements were made, and the menu was finalized, it suddenly hit me that the day before Thanksgiving would have been my grandmother’s 84th birthday. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother’s birthday was a celebration for my family. We traveled hours to spend the day with her, hosted parties, sat around the dinner table to see her face as she read our cards (a semi-competition of whose card would be displayed for the next 365 days). But this year it was nothing. On her birthday I woke up filled with sadness, no birthday calls to make, no happy birthdays to be sung, no cards to buy. Instead, I allowed my busyness to overcome my grief for a good portion of the day.
As much as I wanted to cancel my Thanksgiving plans, I made a commitment and, in a way, tried to remove myself from any potential scenarios of sadness. As I mentioned earlier, grief is unpredictable, so when I started to feel sad leading up the holidays, here is how I handled it.
I had to laugh through my pain
I woke on Thanksgiving morning in a panic. I made pies the night before in the wrong pie shells. Not sure why I didn’t notice the pie shells were wrong when I purchased them, or even when I went to bake the pies. The pies were just wrong. I had two choices, let my hard work go to waste or chalk it up to experimentation. While mixing the mashed potatoes for the Thanksgiving feast, my mixer caught on fire! Literally stopped mixing, I saw an electric spark, and fire shot out. Super frustrated, I picked up the phone to call my mom and aunt. They gasped at my pie crust mix-up and laughed at my non-life-threatening fire fiasco. The gasps and the laughs made me laugh. They later called me and told me how they shared my story with their Thanksgiving guests, and it helped their sadness subside for the day.
Because I invested the time making the pies, don’t like wasting money, and have a sometimes misguided amount of self-confidence, I served the pies…..and they honestly were delicious. Not one person questioned my choice of pie crust.
I had to have a mini-breakdown
Up until this point I hadn’t had my moment. Since the time of my grandmother’s passing, I have found ways to stay busy. Birthday celebrations, weddings, work, soccer practice, soccer games, and family kept me busy. If you invited me to an event, I would attend unless I was already pre-committed to another event. Honestly, if I had a travel window, I would do my best to attend your event too (Who needs downtime?). Living busy left little time for grieving. In a rare moment of late-night television watching, I saw the latest Amazon Alexa commercial. In the ad, you see a girl and her dad. The dad introduces his daughter to his favorite song, and throughout the commercial, the song serves as the backdrop to the story of their lives. When the dad passes away, the song remains a fixture in the girl’s (now woman’s) life. This commercial made me cry REAL TEARS. I’m talking about the type of cry that makes you feel that you are not able to breathe. The proverbial floodgates opened to reveal how deep a loss I had experienced. The more I cried, the better I felt. I didn’t realize I had been holding onto the pain until I slowed down for a moment. I hadn’t realized that I had not taken the time that I needed to mourn the loss of my grandmother.
I had to remember to recognize the impact made in my life
I challenged myself to do the 30 days of Thankfulness challenge, each day I thought of a profound statement but couldn’t bring myself to post daily. The more I brainstormed, the more I was genuinely able to see the fabric woven in me by not only my grandmother but others I loved so deeply that have passed on. When I think of who I am and the paths I’ve taken to get to this point in my life, my streets are lined with affirmations, confirmations, self-esteem boosters, and so much more. Those who pass on remain in our hearts but also continue to reflect through us.
Will these tips completely remove or eliminate your grief, no but for me, they have helped me to understand that I need to take my pain one day at a time. This won't be the last time someone I love will die. Busyness is a temporary state. I know how much I was loved by my grandmother and understand her lasting impression on me. My grandmother used to leave bible verses and quotes around her home. To continue to pay tribute to her, I plan to start doing the same.
In memory of her, I share this quote with you.
“The more thankful you become, the more your bounty increases because when you focus on the goodness of life, you create more of it.” -Oprah