Thanksgiving Reflections: Remaining Thankful in Times of Grief

Giving thanks always, even in the midst of pain

By Yvonne Ortega Published on November 26, 2015

YVONNE ORTEGA — Do you have memories of Thanksgiving dinner where you had to say what you were thankful for? I do, and I still keep that tradition. I also keep a gratitude journal — even though gratitude hasn’t always been easy. What about you? What are your Thanksgiving reflections this year?

A friend sent me her November newsletter. She said that for the Thanksgiving after her first breast cancer surgery she bought a Thanksgiving-themed tablecloth with lots of blank space on it, along with a box of wash-resistant colored markers. On that tablecloth, family and friends wrote what they were thankful for that year, and signed and dated it. The adults traced handprints of the little ones with their name and age.

She and her husband have continued that tradition year after year. Today they have lots of thankful messages. If they receive an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home, she asks if they can take their Thankful Tablecloth and markers.

Among my Thanksgiving memories are the times my little guy, my only child, and I would cook a fresh pumpkin to make pumpkin pie. By the time we would put a pie in the oven, he was covered with flour, spices and pumpkin. So were the kitchen table and the floor — but we had fun.

I had Thanksgiving candle figurines of the pilgrims, the Indians and the ships. I placed them on the dining room table on November 1 each year. My son would arrange and re-arrange them, ask me questions about the first Thanksgiving, and talk to the Pilgrim and Indian figurines. I kept them on the dining room table until after Thanksgiving when the Christmas decorations would go up.

He loved my California stuffing for the turkey. When he thought I wasn’t looking, he would take a spoonful of it straight from the pan on the stove. After Thanksgiving, he would open the refrigerator and do the same thing. He was the midnight prowler in my kitchen until the last spoonful of that stuffing was gone. I laugh thinking about it.

Six years ago he passed away unexpectedly after minor surgery. I struggled with gut-wrenching pain. He never had the chance to mature and fulfill his dreams. His sudden death made me realize I wasn’t guaranteed tomorrow either. My dream had been to become a full-time speaker and author. Six months later, I took the plunge and left my job to pursue that dream.

I miss my son so much, especially during the holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas in addition to Mother’s Day, his birthday and the anniversary of his passing. I can’t call him, visit him, or send him a card or a gift. He can’t call me or send me a card or a gift. He’ll never walk through my front door again, and I won’t get to be a grandmother.

In spite of my losses, I still have so much to be thankful for. After my son’s death, my family and friends offered great support and encouragement. I clung to the promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This Thanksgiving season, I thank God for his faithfulness in seeing me through to the fulfillment of my dream to write and to speak, which is indeed now my full-time vocation.

One of my greatest Thanksgiving blessings is that God has allowed 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 to be part of my life. That passage says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Have you experienced the loss of a loved one? How has it affected your Thanksgiving?

I encourage you to let God work for your good and comfort you, so that you too will be able to comfort others with the comfort you receive from God.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Copyright © 2015 by Yvonne Ortega. Originally published at Adapted and used by permission.







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