There are a lot of things that feel not quite right about celebrating Thanksgiving after a loss. For starters, you're grieving, and grieving feels inconsistent with many of the positive experiences and emotions that you used to treasure about the day -- perhaps you can't seem to care about watching football, don't know how to spend time around family without the person who's died, or feel like you're the only sad person in a room full of smiling faces.
Not to mention, for many people, giving thanks and feeling gratitude for their current situation feels unfathomable. A secondary loss that people rarely consider is how grief can temporarily cut a person off from specific emotional experiences, like certain types of love, hope, optimism, and gratitude. Experiences like these may have previously connected you to a sense of purpose, comfort, humanity, or joy. However, since experiencing loss, these emotions may seem more challenging to grasp. And now, the emotional scales may seem tipped entirely on the negative end of the spectrum.
So, I wouldn't blame you if you were one step away from writing Thanksgiving off entirely. Or maybe you're saying to yourself, I'll go and eat the green bean casserole, but there's no way I'm feeling thankful. Both of these approaches are fine -- as we always like to remind people -- there will be more Thanksgivings.
Reconnecting with Thanksgiving Purpose
On the other hand, if feeling disconnected from the day's purpose bothers you (whatever that purpose is), remember that gratitude isn't only for people whose cup flows over with blessings -- just like joy isn't only for people who identify as "happy," and purpose isn't only for people who have things all figured out. I'm reminded of the following quote:
Unlike many sentiments about Thanksgiving and gratitude, the above quote sums up the very best many of us can do when we're grieving: find gratitude for the little things. This quote led me to look for more Thanksgiving quotes for after losing a loved one. Unsurprisingly, most felt out of sync with the experience of grief and loss. However, after scouring the Internet, I was able to compile a small collection of quotes that felt accessible and not over-aspirational.
Thanksgiving Quotes for After Losing a Loved One
“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” ~ Lionel Hampton
“Being grateful does not mean that everything is necessarily good. It just means that you can accept it as a gift.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
“Beauty exists not in what is seen and remembered, but in what is felt and never forgotten.” ~ Johnathan Jena
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ~ Marcel Proust
"Finding gratitude in grief can be challenging. For some it seems impossible and for others it seems pointless, we get it. However, we also feel that finding gratitude - big and small - can help you keep sight of hope, no matter how dark things seem." ~ What's Your Grief
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
“I count myself in nothing else so happy as in a soul rememb’ring my good friends.” ~ William Shakespeare
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~ Voltaire
“For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.” ~ Elie Wiesel
"After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations." ~ Oscar Wilde
"Gratitude is a divine emotion: it fills the heart, but not to bursting; it warms it, but not to fever.” -Charlotte Brontë
“Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song.” ~ Conrad Gessner
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
~ Laurence Binyon
“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” ~ John F. Kennedy
“When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness ... all the good things.” ~ Maya Angelou
“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
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