By Kerry J. Bickford, VOICES Editor
This year, traditional Thanksgiving gatherings are being altered by safety protocols designed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic. For those who are already grieving the loss of a loved one, the increased isolation can mean facing even more time away from the support of others, since there will be even fewer places to gather and experience a sense of connection.
Peer grief support group facilitators Jeanne Flynn (Consoling Partners) and Kerry Bickford (Nathan’s Circle) have decided to host a meeting on Thanksgiving Day from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Zoom for anyone who is grieving a death from substance use. Please join us while we light a candle of remembrance for your loved one and offer each other peer support. We are hoping that anyone who is feeling lonely or bereft will join us. Even if you are surrounded by friends and loved ones, it can be comforting to spend some time with others who know what you are going through. This is truly the strength of peer grief support. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link.
I was thinking about the first Thanksgiving we experienced just three months after we lost our son in 2018. My husband’s sister and brother-in-law invited us to their home, and it was a relief not to have to think about any of the planning and to be somewhere other than the house our son grew up in. When it came time to sit down and share the meal, my brother-in-law stood and spoke a few well chosen words of comfort — honoring both our presence and Nathan’s memory. There was no elephant in the room as we all took a moment to hold him close to our hearts. I felt relieved that we were among loved ones who knew how hard this day would be, and, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, it made me deeply thankful.
This led me to wonder how we could do something for others in a similar circumstance with the challenges that we continue to face during this pandemic. Taking the time to offer support and a listening ear is a gift that each and every one of us is capable of giving and receiving. A phone call, an email, a note: all are ways to let people know you’re thinking of them. Sharing memories, pictures and stories are also powerful ways to include someone who has died and can mean so much to those left behind.
We have a tradition in our home of lighting a candle “for the people who are gathered here today and the people who are missing.” We started doing this when our kids were young and we wanted to teach them how to hold a place at the table for the ones who were not able to join us by including them in a spiritual sense. This also means people who are still living but unable to be with us. Saying their names and remembering them somehow takes the sting out of their absence. This can be an especially comforting ritual this year as we look around the table, and I have heard people talking about doing a Zoom greeting prior to the meal to connect with others who are far away.
Reaching out to those in need is a way to step outside of our own sorrow and help — while helping ourselves. Gathering with others in a circle of caring could possibly be the best thing any of us can do for ourselves this Thanksgiving, whether in person (with safety) or virtually.
Just remember, we are all in this together, and you are invited to join Jeanne and me at 5:00 p.m. this Thanksgiving. Please email email@example.com for the Zoom link. Hope to see you there. Hope to see you there.
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