Thanksgiving is the one holiday that doesn’t present itself with a lot of hype and drama. It is truly a day for family and friends to gather together and celebrate with grateful hearts. All that is required is a good appetite, maybe a crowd-pleasing recipe, and a grateful heart.
Some years are more challenging than others, but there is always something to be thankful for, even in difficult ones. If you are missing a family member due to loss, distance, or disagreement, there are still ways to celebrate with a heart of gratitude.
- Volunteering is a great way to take your mind off missing your loved one and helping someone in need. Maybe there is a local food kitchen where you can volunteer to serve. You would be surprised at how helping someone in need can brighten your day. The holidays are challenging the first year after you have lost a loved one, and it is better to be proactive and make a plan in advance. The Durham Rescue mission has opportunities that you could sign up for. From soup kitchens and food pantries to churches and Meals on Wheels, serving or delivering food to less fortunate families is a great way to spend a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. The time commitment may be minimal, but it’s far outweighed by the benefits.
- It’s never fun to be alone on the holidays. Whether widowed or single, orphaned or separated from family by geography, the prospect of celebrating a holiday by yourself is never fun. There is Facetime, Skype, and Zoom, but you can be left feeling a bit isolated after the screen time is over. Inviting someone over to share your holiday can be an excellent way to spend the day. My sister-in-law is great at including people that have family out of town and would otherwise be alone. It adds to their fun and yours, and the extra bonus is a new card player to challenge at the table after dinner. Consider giving someone a much-needed respite from a solo holiday by extending an invitation for lunch or dinner. It may be a small gesture, but it could mean a world of difference to the invitee!
- I think missing someone due to a disagreement can be the most complicated and sad situation to overcome. Relationships can be complex, and it is no surprise that sometimes we disagree. Even so, Paul tells us to make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy in the book of Hebrews. Sometimes it can be difficult to unravel a conflict once it happens; here are some tips to help you reconcile after a family rift.
- Accept your part in the estrangement. What things might you have done that contributed to the problem? Journalling can help uncover the role you played. Examine your heart
- Don’t expect them to see your point of view, but do try to see theirs. Put yourself in their shoes as you replay the story in your mind.
- Figure out the least you will be happy with and set clear boundaries on how their behavior will need to change for you to engage in the relationship. Or, if you’re the one who has been cut off, be clear on how you will behave differently going forward. Be very specific about what this will look like.
- Don’t expect the other person to change. If you’re rejected, keep the door open. Stay in contact with cards on birthdays and key holidays that lets them know you’re still open to rekindling the relationship.
- Pray a lot. The Bible tells us that reconciliation is a priority of God’s, and he took the initiative to reconcile us while we were yet sinners. Forgiveness is essential to reconciliation, whether you are the one giving or receiving the forgiveness. God can move through your prayers; there is no telling what God can do.
If you find yourself in one of those difficult years, my heart goes out to you. Take courage, reach out, volunteer, invite someone over, and work towards peace with everyone.
Regardless of your circumstances this Thanksgiving, make an effort to be thankful to a faithful God! He chased after you before you even acknowledged him. He sent his son to die for your salvation. He will never leave you or forsake you. That in itself is enough to be thankful for.