Grief Knows No Time


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss
The anniversary of my dad’s death is also right around the time of Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving fell during Shiva and we had a small, but traditional turkey dinner. It felt dreamlike. Last year, we went back to our traditional meal at my sister’s with many family members and, although it was festive, we could feel Dad’s absence.
This year Thanksgiving falls on the first full day of Hanukkah. It’s a rare event that won’t reoccur for nearly 78,000 years. I have a feeling that my Thanksgivings will never be the same either.

In grief work, we tell families that grief is often harder the second year.  Holidays, birthdays, and special occasions often feel surreal the first year. Perhaps you go on vacation or enjoy the festive meal at a restaurant or different relative’s home. The second year, it may become your turn to host the event. It’s not surreal – but very real. The absence of your deceased loved one is palpable.

In the second year, people are often caught off guard by what triggers their grief. Special days are reminders of this absence. In the first year of grief, friends and family members make special allowances…ohthis is her first year without… In subsequent years, the expectation of others and maybe even of yourself is that everything should be back to normal. This is not the case at all.

What helps during the second year of grief when the holidays are at hand? Think back to what you did during the first year. What eased your stress and anxiety? If coming together with family brought comfort, do it. If baking your loved one’s favorite pie was too difficult emotionally, don’t do it. Think ahead. Plan and choose what you want to do.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah! People are referring to it as Thanksgivukkah—a joint celebration of two separate holidays that memorialize our religious freedom with delicious food. Latkes, sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes? We’re doing all three. My dad would have been tickled pink.

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