Thursday, November 22, 2012

But What if I DON'T Feel Thankful?

A picture of Heather's beloved companion, Kiko
     Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Holiday Season that can be devastatingly hard for those who are struggling with loss. And Thanksgiving itself might be the worst holiday of all of them.  Not only are you required to be happy, but also to be thankful. If you have lost an animal recently, those around you may expect you to be especially thankful for the time you shared with your beloved companion.

     But here's the truth: it is perfectly normal to have a hard time mustering thankfulness when you are caring for an ill animal or mourning.

     The expectation that you must be thankful too often causes people to feel shame and guilt.

     Your animal is the love of your life and a hugely important to you.  It is easy to start wondering, "What is wrong with me that I'm not thankful for the time I had with such a special creature? Am I so self-consumed and ungrateful that on this, the day set aside for such things, I can't feel thankful for the wonderful gift of my beloved animal?"

     Sometimes the pressure and guilt is too much and you are shamed into feigning thankfulness, even though you can't actually feel it. You don't feel like you can admit your true feelings to those around you. And you end up feeling alone and isolated.

     Consider this post your Get-Out-of-Thanksgiving-Jail-Free Card! We know you love and cherish your animal. We know you are grateful for your time together. And we also know that sadness over your animal's illness or loss may eclipse feelings of thankfulness. Time and distance will ultimately give you the perspective to feel thankful genuinely, and  it's OK if it is not today.  There is nothing wrong with you - or even unusual.

     Unfortunately, the same time that will help you feel genuine gratitude, also causes people to forget their own great anguish after loss and how they actually felt. Time dulls the hurt - for better and for worse. The fact that those around you don't remember feeling this way, doesn't mean that they didn't.

     You are not alone.

     There is nothing wrong with you.

     You are grieving. You deserve compassion, not judgment; love, not shame; understanding, not doubt. Seek out those who will put their arms around you no matter what, who may not understand, but won't shame you into feeling something you don't because of the date on the calendar.

      Enjoy the turkey, the pies, a nap and a day of rest.  Those things will help you heal. Give yourself permission to leave the thankfulness for another day.

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