Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes the image of loving families gathered together for a perfect day of togetherness and feasting. However, it can often create anxiety in families affected by changes in their structure. This Thanksgiving might be that first holiday we spend without someone we love due to a death in the family. There may be sadness due to a change in the family dynamics such as a divorce or separation. Other members may be absent due to incarceration or because of family conflicts and discord. Unemployment and the ability to make ends meet produces much worry. Unexpected health issues bring much anguish. Any number of circumstances can create an atmosphere for a holiday that causes distress and not so much comfort and joy. At times like these, Thanksgiving can be dreaded rather than anticipated, and the Christmas season is just around the corner!
There are some simple ideas that could help those of us who are struggling for one reason or another.
1) Name the pain. We really need to acknowledge that everything is not quite so joyous this year. It is okay to be sad when we are sad. Some people find it helpful to completely change their traditions by serving a meal to those in need or spending a few days away from home in a new atmosphere. It might be as simple as changing the mealtime or menu. It may be as profound as contacting someone you have been conflicted with, offering the olive branch of mercy and forgiveness, and accepting rejection if necessary knowing that you did all you could to reconcile.
2) The really important thing to remember about Thanksgiving is to be thankful. In spite of our losses and pain, we all have blessings in our lives. Some days these blessings are much more evident than others, but they are important. Name them too. These are the times when our faith is most important. Rely on friends and loved ones for support. Pray deeply for God’s comfort and mercy through the tough times. It is in these times that Jesus is with us most offering His love. Come to Mass and pray with those who are here. Many of them are also hurting or struggling with pain of their own. Pray for them.
This coming holiday season may not be merry and bright. But Jesus reminds us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”
Blessings to all,
Gloria Nolan, Pastoral Minister