I remember sitting in the doctor’s office and the doctor saying it wasn’t fair, not at this time of year, to be going through what I was going through. It was almost Christmas time, and I was waiting to give birth to my daughter, who would not live because of a severe heart defect. The doctor offered condolences and a prescription for an anti-depressant.
Unfortunately, hard trials in life don’t wait for the right season or holiday to pass before coming. Both of my miscarriages happened in the fall and an unexpected job change happened the Monday after Thanksgiving. But my experiences are not more extraordinary than what many go through during what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Many experience the death of a loved one, job loss, a cancer diagnosis, divorce, loneliness, mental health challenges, and financial struggles during the holidays. We can suddenly feel life falling apart to the backdrop of Christmas carols.
The answer to my own struggles that year came in a package on my doorstep. It was a gift from my mother. A gratitude tree embossed with my last name. Inside the package I found little note cards to write on and stick in a pocketed envelope each day in November.
The prompt on each note card was, “I’m thankful for…” During the years when the trials seemed greater than the blessings, “I’m thankful for..” made me think each day beyond the typical around the Thanksgiving dinner table gratitude list. You know the one: Food, clothes, family. All necessities of life we take for granted.
When times were really hard, like Rocky 4, “Eye of the Tiger” hard, I had to look deeper for my gratitude list. Instead of writing “family,” I would write, “I am grateful for my toddler’s blanket and binky.” One note reads, “I’m thankful Dad is funny.” Laughter helped keep tears from coming.
My little family has been thankful for braces, Winnie the Pooh, our favorite restaurant, and diapers. Some years we wrote anything and everything we could be thankful for under the umbrella of family, friends, food, home, and clothing. As we filled our Thanksgiving tree, our hearts became lighter and we were less worried that our lives did not resemble the Hallmark Christmas movies.
Sometimes at the holidays we ask ourselves why it doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year. Perhaps instead we can finish the sentence, “I’m thankful for…” Some years we may be grasping at straws to fill in the blank. It may be you’re thankful for the cheap, twisty, melt-in-the-dishwasher straws. But as I once read on a sign in a craft store, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”
So pull out a stack of cards and start answering, “I’m thankful for…” This may not be your most wonderful time of the year and I am sorry for that, because it is not fair. But after Thanksgiving and Christmas comes a new year with new hope. And with new hope comes new lists of things to be thankful for.
QUESTION: Are there current challenges in your life or past events that affect your ability to experience the happiness of the holiday season?
CHALLENGE: Start your own list of “gratitudes”, big or small. Be creative! This can be as simple as a thought scribbled on a whiteboard or a note card taped to your wall.
Edited by Nollie Haws.
Image from Pixabay; graphic by Anna Jenkins.
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