At Thanksgiving, Say Their Name
Thursday, November 28, 2019 will be the 30th Thanksgiving I’ve lived through following the death of my 18-month-old daughter Erin in 1990. The 21st since my wife Trici died in 1999 and the 15th since my 13-year-old son Rory died in 2005.
One thing I know for sure is that I can’t expect anyone to mention the name(s) of the people I love who have died. Believe me, I have learned this the hard way. Expecting someone to say their names only creates disappointment and pain for me. I know now, that there is a good chance that Thanksgiving will come and go with no one saying the name(s) of my beloveds who have died. At least that has been my experience. More than once.
Believe it or not, it’s our job to bring the people we love that have died into the family's Thanksgiving gathering, and sometimes that can be tough to do. At a time when many of us are feeling incredibly vulnerable and fragile, the last thing we want is rejection or indifference. So – I’ve come up with a few concrete ways we can try and let family and friends gathered for the holidays know that it’s okay - in fact, comforting - to talk about our loved ones who have died.
1. You can serve/bring the favorite dish of the person you love who has died to the holiday get-together. Talk about it before you pass the dish around!
2. Bring a favorite picture or two of your beloved. Pass the photo(s) around. Work the picture(s) into the dining table centerpiece. Perhaps you even have a picture of your loved one with each person that will be sitting around the holiday table. Use these pictures as place cards, propping them up against a glass or setting it in the middle of the plate. What a great way to get people talking!
3. Bring a favorite memento of the person you love who died – a book, a poem, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a toy – share it after dinner with all gathered before dessert is served.
4. Have your loved one’s favorite music playing in the background – tell everyone the story!
5. Light a candle. Before the meal is served, as everyone is standing around the table, light a candle. Invite everyone gathered to say the name(s) of the people they love who have died over the years. This is a wonderful way to include everyone's loved ones in your family gathering.
6. Photos of all our loved ones who had died. If you decide to light a candle and invite everyone to say the names of the people they love who have died over the years, consider going a step further. Set up a small table off to the side in the dining room living room or family room. Invite each of your guests to bring a photo of their loved ones who have died to the family gathering. Display all of these photos on this special table.
One of our biggest fears is that the people we love who have died will be forgotten. When no one mentions their name, especially at family-centered events and holidays, the loneliness we already feel can be magnified. Try not to be caught off guard. Think ahead. Be proactive. What can you do to bring the person you love smack in the center of your Thanksgiving gathering? What will you do to make sure people say their name?
You might also like to include this simple candle lighting ceremony in your family gathering. Click here to take a look: A Simple Candle Lighting Ceremony
My book Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Grief is available at amazon. It makes the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list who is learning to live with the death of someone they love. You can find it by clicking: Tom's Book.
If my NEW WAY of "doing grief" resonates with you, I'd love to work with you one-on-one. If you are in the Rockford, Illinois area we can do that in person, otherwise, I am having great success coaching people all over the world via Skype, FaceTime or Facebook Chat. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take the next step on your grief journey. We can discuss details and schedule a coaching session.