During this holiday season, why are we surprised when that unwanted guest, Grief shows up? Listen to this Essay from Real Life as one family opens their arms to a young man walking through his journey of grief.
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Do you ever wonder if you’re the only one struggling with bumps and pitfalls on a daily basis? Listen to Real Talk: Essays from Real Life, straight from the CATCH Journal at catchiscommunity.org.
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CATCH, Community Action Together for Children's Health, is a 501(c)3 that provides support and education for families around mental health topics. Original content and materials from CATCH and its collaborators are for informational purposes only. They are provided as a general resource and are not specific to any person or circumstance.
An unwanted visitor quietly joined our Thanksgiving dinner and I didn’t even know it until the next day. Some of my family with whom I shared Thanksgiving still don’t realize he was there. The guest didn’t visit with everyone. He didn’t interrupt all the table talk and force himself into every conversation that made up the laughter-filled meal. But he definitely sat down very close to some of us. He insistently pushed his way in and he would not shut up.
Grief came to Thanksgiving.
He was unexpected and unwelcome, but that didn’t deter him from making appearances throughout the day. And, I didn’t even see him. I didn’t even know he had been there until the next morning when the pain left by his visit was too much for my daughter’s partner to bear. Grief did his job. He came and reminded us of a loss unspeakably difficult and of the big, dark and overwhelming hole that remains.
But, Grief brought Love to Thanksgiving, too.
They shared a chair at the table. Love demanded it. Grief’s bad manners were mitigated somewhat by Love’s peaceful, calming presence. My family opened their arms and wrapped my daughter’s partner in them. They did all they could to make him feel part of us. Later he shared that it all felt and tasted good, that he was appreciative, but that it was just so different; that he’d had fun, but the first Thanksgiving without his Dad was really difficult. I look back on our day with all the loud laughter, music and bustle of food preparation and wonder how I ignored the uninvited guest so completely. He’s a sneaky one, I think. Because he was definitely there between all the noise, waiting to squeeze his way in wherever he could. And squeeze he did.
Grief brought Gratitude, too, though. . .
Gratitude didn’t take a seat, but rather wound its way above, under and throughout our table. We were thankful to be together from all across the country; sharing time and making new memories. My daughter’s partner was grateful for memories already made and held tightly in his heart forever. Sometimes, I think, his heart got so full that he could hardly breathe or talk, much less enjoy his slice of pie. He felt alone at a very busy, full table.
So, now we’ve stepped aside and made room for Grief and his companions.
He doesn’t have to squeeze and sneak around anymore. We have invited him in and he’s got his very own seat - at the table, in front of the fireplace and in the car… wherever we are. Since Thanksgiving Day, my daughter’s partner has shared a lot about his father. We looked at photos, too. He told us about their holiday traditions and those things to which he’s accustomed. I hope we are helping him remember his Dad and all that they were and are. I hope we are helping him miss his Dad and sit next to Grief more comfortably. I hope that memories and stories of his Dad feel welcome here and will always be part of our holidays in the years to come.
When invitations go out for the next holiday celebration, Grief will be included on the guest list. He’ll be received warmly. Sharing the table with Grief will feel familiar, more comfortable and just right. And, without the squeeze, there will be more room for some other guests, too.
I’m going to invite Joy and Peace.