There Is Always Something to Be Thankful For; Happy Thanksgiving to All

For the hundreds of family members who lost their loved ones in the Maui wildfires, as well as the thousands left homeless and business owners who’ve had their establishments burned down – this Thanksgiving will take on added meaning.

For all Americans who have families in war-torn areas in the Middle East and Europe, as well as many of us Americans indirectly connected but are empathetic to the death and destruction that’s ongoing in these regions – this Thanksgiving will take on a different light.

In years when global catastrophes take place – of late COVID-19, the major recession and ensuing inflation crisis, the Ukraine-Russian and Israel-Palestine wars – there’s a strong tendency to love deeper in all our meaningful relationships and to feel stronger intensities of appreciation and thankfulness.

At the same time, it’s also reasonable to skip being thankful altogether on Thanksgiving Day for some. In 2020, there was a Filipino family in Hawaii that lost a mother and grandparents due to COVID-19. The family members left in that household were a father and two children.  

Experts say it’s completely normal and acceptable to honor one’s feelings of grief as they come to enable grief to flow through and not be bottlenecked. Suppressing grief hinders healing and could lead to other problems like addiction to drugs or alcohol or acting out abusively toward others or oneself, experts say.

It’s been emotionally difficult but after close to three years passing, the father of that family plans to retire and take his first trip in decades back to the Philippines in 2024. The daughter gave birth to a child and the son is enjoying being an uncle for the first time.  Their Thanksgiving Day this year is expected to be lighter, joyful (with the addition of the newborn) and far less bleak than 2020 when half the family fell victim to COVID-19. Time can heal wounds as the saying goes. Deceased loved ones are never forgotten, but the pain of their passing slowly becomes less sharp, and acceptance gradually sets in.

What helped this family go through such devastation? Thankfully, they say they had each other to rely on, to talk with, and to work through their grief together as a strong family unit. They say it was more difficult to lose half their family that year to COVID-19 than if, for example, they had died in a car accident.

Why? They say it is because of the stigma associated with COVID-19 back then during its peak. People would silently judge us. “Why didn’t we protect ourselves?” “Why did we go to work and bring home the virus that killed our mother and grandparents?” We felt judged and we only had each other. We were very private after their passing. And we are still private on this matter, they say.

Message of hope in being thankful
The message of hope we can take from this family’s experience is this: Even in their bleakest moment in 2020 when they felt there was no reason to be thankful; they did have one, they had each other.

In 2023 as Thanksgiving Day is upon us, there might be similar situations unfolding for other families. Perhaps in Lahaina surviving members of a family who lost one or multiple members in the wildfires, they will be experiencing their first Thanksgiving Day without a father or mother or child or grandparent, there remains hope because they have each other.

They might not feel thankful for one iota about anything (which is okay in times of loss), but there is always something to be thankful for, no matter our life experiences, the stages in life we are currently in or in our differing and unique sets of challenges.

Sharing has always been at the heart of Thanksgiving Day
For some of us with copious blessings with far too many obvious things to be thankful for, perhaps reaching out and helping others not so fortunate in this time of giving thanks could lift one’s spirit. It could be sharing your time, your attention, a Thanksgiving meal, etc.  Concrete examples of sharing could be calling to say Happy Thanksgiving to a close friend you haven’t talked with for a while who you’ve heard is going through a rough time or inviting to Thanksgiving Day dinner a coworker who you know will be alone that day. Examples of sharing and doing good are endless.

After all, goodwill and sharing were the basis for the first Thanksgiving Day when settlers to North American came together with Native Americans to have a festive meal in peace (what happened after is another story for another time).

There is a famous quote by Marcus Aurelius that speaks to the heart of this: “Reflect on the interconnectedness of all things. Realize that your actions have consequences that ripple through the universe. Strive to contribute positively to the world and consider the greater good in all that you do.”

We are all interconnected. We extend a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving to all!  May you enjoy good food and great company and have meaningful moments to last a lifetime.

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