Most widow(er)s need more than the good break of a wishbone to survive Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter. We must come into the holidays with armor: Kevlar style.
Top 10 Things that Should be in ALL Widow(er)’s Turkey Toolkit:
10. The buddy system. We all, or most of us, have that friend who stuck by our side through this incredible mess of death. They are the ones who bitched out the people who left us and the ones who said the wrong thing, and brought us flowers, chocolates, and paid for our drinks. They will, in fact, also be willing to skip Thanksgiving with their incredible *cough* families to be by your side for the Thanksgiving shenanigans with your family, or scarier yet, your in-laws.
9. Make your own top 10 list of the incredible things you are doing in your life, however meager they may seem. Make ’em sound GOOD. “yeah, I started a blog and am really enjoying connecting with other widows!” The backbone to this could be that you posted on note on your facebook page ranting about your family in particular, and another woman seconded your opinion. But still, it’s a start. Did you get out of bed yesterday? Stretch it a little! “I woke up early yesterday and got all the things on my to do list done before work!” They don’t have to know that your to do list was simply to get out of bed on time for once. Accomplishments give you positive things to chat about.
8. The good times. Most likely, if your family or his/her family is comfortable with at least acknowledging the life of the person who passed, discussions will come around to “the good times”. I have heard HORROR stories about families who twisted those good times to mean that the spouse who is left, ruined them all. But we know, this is not the case. So how about YOU bring up the good times first? Think of one of the most positive memories you can of your deceased spouse, and in particular, try to choose one that involves the people with whom you’re sharing Thanksgiving. “Remember the time that we had that BBQ and you all came over and so & so fell into the pool?” Always good for a laugh, and a happy memory of when all of you were happy TOGETHER. Let’s just hope the other party doesn’t twist it into the fact that Uncle Frank also got drunk and hit on your mother in law at that same BBQ.
7. Bring tissues. At some point, you’re going to cry. Some smell or activity, or part of the day will remind you of your deceased spouse. The first Thanksgiving, just 4 weeks after Kevin died, it was seeing my widowed grandmother, who has now passed, and the look in her eyes of sadness. I broke, and hugged her like nothing else. Don’t just bring tissues, bring the whole dang box.
6. Have in your mind a hideaway spot. You will get overwhelmed. No question, don’t think you might be able to handle it. Just understand that you will want to escape. Whether your siblings are reflecting on their great vacation they took with their spouse and his family, or the new grandchild that has just arrived, or the 50th wedding anniversary of your parents. There are going to be many bitter reminders of what you no longer have. Run up to your old room. Go to the basement where the pets are hidden away. Sneak a cigar or a drink on the back porch. Take a moment to breathe completely on your own and away from it all. Recollect yourself, and go back in with your Kevlar.
5. Use this time to reconnect or make amends. You probably said something hurtful to your family after your spouse died. You may still mean it, and they may still mean some of the pretentious things they said to you. But for this day, you need to let go of it for a few hours. The fact is, family is family as much as you may hate to admit that. They’re still there. Even if you’re not getting along, put aside the differences. I don’t have children, but I think if I did, it would be important for me to have a peaceful holiday gathering with my family and his family for my child. Be the bigger person, because you already know you are.
4. Have an after-festivities fun plan. Meet up with you buddies for a drink. Take a long drive somewhere special for the evening. Plan that midnight crazy Black Friday shopping trip. Have something to look forward to that will get you through the holiday. You know that this will only last a few hours, and then you can let loose and do something you really WANT to do.
3. Pick out your favorite family and stick to ’em like glue. You have a cousin you LOVE. Your Aunt is a total trip and makes you laugh. Don’t be afraid to stick by their side all day long just to make it through the day. They are your glue.
2. Bring dessert. Yes, amazing dessert. Dessert that makes the Cake Boss look like Joe Schmo. Fluffy, decadent, and delicious. Bring a dessert that people talk about, and something that gifts comfort to you. Know that after the dinner of awkward conversations surrounding your loved one, you can dive into this and forget the rest.
1. Skip it all. When it comes down to it, you ALWAYS have options. If this is part of your toolkit, you can forget the rest! If this holiday is just too tough to share with others, and you instead want to have chinese with your entire bottle of Pinot Grigio, I ain’t gonna judge.
Whatever you choose, have yourself a ______ Thanksgiving.