Seven Days of Thanksgiving: Thankful for BOTH, Thankful for AND

There’s no denying it — Thanksgiving is here. “Black Friday” deals have been advertised for the last week, grocery stores are crowded and picked over, and therapists write about the many benefits of gratitude. Some of us are excited, making holiday plans and looking forward to the coming season. Others of us have a sinking feeling and are tempted to pull the duvet over our heads and stay in bed until its all over. Some of us, if we are honest, are both.

Thanksgiving. The time to be grateful. The time to count our blessings. As if on cue, life is supposed to be joyous and full and complete. Except when it isn’t.

I think of the father who has to tell two young sons that Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce. The couple waiting for years for a child to join their family. The military families separated for yet another holiday.

Loss doesn’t stop for Thanksgiving. Yet if we don’t feel grateful, we often feel guity, which only makes us feel worse. We think we can only be either grateful OR sad. Either happy OR worried. Either full OR empty. When sometimes we are both AND.

So read and try the very valuable count your blessings advice at this time of year, AND then be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to be where you are and feel what you feel. Give Thanksgiving some proactive thought. What do I want the day to be like? What do I feel good about, and what do I feel sad about? Given that, what do I need? Name it for yourself, then speak it and ask for it. Share it with someone else who cares about you. Go ahead and acknowledge “Today is a tough day. I do feel grateful for x AND I’m also sad about y.”

Allow yourself to be both, and may you find the Swedish proverb rings true: “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”

Every day for the seven days leading up to Thanksgiving, we will post a new blog for the series, Seven Days of Thanksgiving. You can also follow The Imago Center of DC on Facebook and Twitter to get our latest articles directly in your newsfeed.