It’s OK to not feel grateful on Thanksgiving (or any other day of the year)

Here it is, the 4th Thursday in November. Thanksgiving can be the hardest holiday of the bunch. It’s centered on community and gratitude and all of it seems to highlight the empty place at the table.⁣

Let’s take gratitude apart for a minute. In this culture, we tend to use it as an admonition: “Eat your peas! Other people in this world are starving! Be grateful for what you’ve got!”⁣

Gratitude gets presented to grieving folks as a cure for their ills: “At least you had them for as long as you did. Be thankful for the memories.” Parents grieving the death of a child are often told to be thankful for their remaining children. None of this is helpful.

Gratitude and grief don’t cancel each other out, they sit side by side.⁣

There are ways to celebrate and acknowledge the holiday that don’t unintentionally make things worse. It’s far more helpful to find gratitude for things that help us survive, that give us even a bit of comfort.⁣

There are so many things in this life to be thankful for. For example, “I am so glad for the Off button on my phone. Thank you, technology, for creating this bubble of peace and silence around me.” Or, “I’m thankful for the birds outside my window, for bringing me company and beauty today.”⁣

Finding things that companion you, exactly where you are, can be a great way to practice the theme of Thanksgiving.⁣

Always remember that you can choose to ignore any holiday, no matter what anyone else says.⁣

⁣If you’re trying to support someone you love through the holidays, remember that you can’t make their holiday good. Reminding them to be grateful for what still exists won’t help — in fact, it can make them feel worse. Instead, you might ask how they’re feeling today. Let them know you’re willing to support them no matter what they need to do to make it through.⁣

If they’re having a hard time, companion and support them inside their sadness without trying to fix it.⁣

Wherever you are in the world, I hope your fourth Thursday in November has at least a few moments of peace inside of it. I wish you true reasons for gratitude, inside yourself: the company of real friends, the relief of solitude, and the shelter of love in all its forms.