Tomorrow Americans will be sitting down with family and friends for their annual Thanksgiving meal. It’s a time for us to come together, break bread, carve turkey, dig into mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. But more so, it’s a time to reflect upon appreciation, gratitude, and give thanks for the many blessings in our life.
But what if you’re not feeling very thankful or grateful this year?
When you lose a baby, when you suffer a miscarriage, when you’re dealing with the challenges of infertility Thanksgiving can feel like a slap in the face.
What is there to be thankful for when your home feels as though there’s a family member missing?
How do you count your blessings when you struggle to find them through your grief?
Three years ago we were in the thick of it, just two months separating us from the day our Bella was born and died in the same breath. My husband and I hopped a plane south to visit family in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, we had been planning on the trip since summer. I didn’t want to go anymore. I wanted to hibernate, stay tucked away in my warm cozy bed, sleep, be in solitude. They thought the warm air, sunshine, and the ocean would be enough to erase the pain and heartache. I thought, “Misery loves company.” I surely wasn’t going to get the company I desired being around smiling happy faces all weekend.
What used to be my favorite holiday of reconnection, personal growth, and delicious food, had turned into a time dread. I kept coming back to the irony of how Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family togetherness, and I was going to any lengths I could to avoid the topic. My family, our family had been broken into pieces. There would be one seat forever missing at our Thanksgiving table. I worried that if someone inquired about her I’d immediately burst into tears. But, if they didn’t even speak Bella’s name at all, I feared the anger that would consume over how easily she was forgotten.
With a heavy heart, I packed my bags as if I was going to battle. I tucked away every little piece of distraction I could find as to avoid the awkward moments of small talk with the over 20 family members I’d face during our trip.
Let me tell you, that camera was my lifeline during our Thanksgiving of 2009. I brought it with me to our family feast and used it to hide from the awkward stares, sympathetic glances, and unknowing questions. I captured the smiles, happiness, and connection that Thanksgiving brings. I was able to keep quiet, hide when I needed, and find my purpose that holiday. My camera allowed me to tell the story of our extended family’s love through images instead of me having to share the story Bella’s heartache through uncomfortable words and conversation.
Gratitude can be a funny thing because it can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
I rediscovered my gratitude during that Thanksgiving meal.
Surprisingly it was hidden behind the lens of my camera.
This Thanksgiving, if you’re knee deep in grief and are finding it hard to cope I encourage you to pick up a camera and tell your family’s story. Cry your silent tears. Embrace the missing pieces in your life. But don’t forget to remember smiles of all those who surround you and love you through the hurt.
You might just re-discover your gratitude behind the lens this holiday too.
In the comments below, I encourage you to share in the spirit of gratitude with me today. Tell me your strategies for getting through these big family holiday gatherings. Do you avoid conversation and have a coping strategy you’ve found that works? Do you set a place for your angel? Do you light a candle in their honor?
I’d also love to start a gratitude chain in the comments today too. If you’re up for it, share one thing today that you DO have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. It could be something as simple as the ‘vanilla latte’ you had to warm you up this morning. Or your supportive husband/partner that stands by your side through your grief.
Whatever the case may be, I hope you have you have a peaceful, gentle Thanksgiving holiday this year surrounded by the ones you love most.