Thanksgiving When You Don’t Feel Thankful


That’s quite a title, isn’t it? If you are reading this you may be simply curious about a therapist writing a blog about not feeling thankful… or maybe this is a year you are not ready to see the holidays arrive. If that’s you, this one’s for you.

The holidays are a great way to reconnect with family, to have a "Friendsgiving" with those who aren’t family but probably should have been, to share old traditions, welcome new folks, watch a game (and argue about the game), argue more about politics (Okay, probably not this year), and to be with

"your people",

whoever they may be. It’s a time that is supposed to smell like baking and food and cinnamon. The leaves are supposed to turn (except here in California we have to travel to see that sight), and sweaters should appear as we sit by a fire.


Except for some people, it’s none of that. Those are my people. As a grief counselor, I spend this time of year with clients missing loved ones, some with losses only weeks ago. New clients find me online after searching for bereavement and loss therapists. They bring in children trying to make sense of what death means. Teens come in trying to figure out how to go to church next month when they are no longer sure God exists or, if he or she does, then why they should pray to someone who took their mom or dad or best friend. Others come in who created a family with their furry family members, and a special one who meant everything to them has now crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

For my people, the grievers, the survivors, the ones still in shock about what just happened, the holidays are not all fireplaces and fuzzy socks and pumpkin pies. They are a collective sense of:

  •       Panic- crowds are too much for them
  •      Sadness- they miss someone so much that “celebrating” is unfathomable
  •      Anger- their loved one died, and everyone else at the table has their person with them. Or someone at that table has told them to get past it, to be happy their loved one is not longer in pain, or that they should celebrate that they are healed now. Or, even harder, someone at the table did not show up before their loved one died.
  • Exhaustion- they just have no energy for events or memories or cooking. Or even smiling.
  •   Fear- what happens if they need to cry? Or leave?
  • Stress- death can be expensive. They may not be able to afford the stuff that makes the holidays.

Grieving people are frequently encouraged to attend the events and to be strong or to smile and celebrate the memories. It’s easy to say and expect that. It’s not realistic for many. So here are my rules for the holidays when you wish they would just go away this year.

1.     You do not have to host

2.     You do not have to attend

3.     You may take your own car if you do attend that way you can leave if you feel overwhelmed.

4.     You owe no apologies for not attending or for leaving

5.     You need to rest more

6.     You need to take your vitamins, drink fluids (not too much alcohol please), and take care of yourself

7.     Shopping can wait, or be done online. You’re probably not sleeping, so shop at 2am.

8.     Church/temple/meetings/mass is not required

9.     Socializing at #8 venues is not required of you do attend

10.  Take time out to remember your loved one, and talk about them. They are still part of your holidays- and they always will be.

11.  You have permission to not follow traditions, or to change them.

You can’t avoid the holidays- the grocery store, post office, bank, TV, and coffee shop have seen to that. But you get to choose how much and if you participate.

I am here to help if you need some extra support . Call me at Central Counseling Services, (951) 778-0230, or find us at