A Thanksgiving to forget



We’ve all been there. My fellow club members know what I’m talking about.

(For those of you wondering what club this is-don’t worry-it’s not one you voluntarily join. It’s for us poor sods who have lost a loved one or more.)

Shout out to all my grief warriors–I’ve had one of those holidays–the type where you not only scare the family members, but also yourself.

Holidays can be an intense trigger for those of us burnt by the fire of grief. We try our best to move forward, but grief throws the worst surprise parties. It’s tricky and clever knowing just when to jump out and yell, “Hey! I never left!”

This Thanksgiving was one for the books (but a book I would like to misplace on purpose). This one included anger in the kitchen that could rival Gordon Ramsay, a throwback to closet crying and plans being changed in my honor.

My M.O. is to carry out the holidays in the same Martha Stewart fashion like my mother did. Only I will always fall short of her perfection–which makes me feel like I failed. Then I miss her more: her expertise, her advice and her love. I feel the pressure to prepare, carryout and cook all the holiday meals and festivities, just as she did to carry on the traditions and recipes long past down.

This holiday season brought with it a sprinkle of anxiety over this year’s current cancer scare, a dollop of fatigue due to low hemoglobin from having pints of blood drawn twice a month thanks to my new blood disorder, a pinch of sadness over my late aunt’s birthday and one year anniversary of her death and a dash of holiday blues from my parent’s absence. Sing it with me, “ Fa la la la la, la la la la!”

My emotions have been erratic: happy, sad, frustrated, angry, and numb. All of these at drop of a hat. When I ponder what’s wrong with me, I think, “Maybe it’s hormonal. Yea, I’m not crazy– maybe my hormones are off.” Then I think, “If my hormones are off maybe it’s the cancer brewing in my ovaries?” Which inevitably leads to “Oh my God, I have cancer.” And ends with, “I miss my mom.”

It takes very little to spark a mood change lately. And when my emotions take flight, flying this way and that, my husband is usually the landing strip. Luckily for me (and our family), he is experienced in taming the feral animal I become when stress-induced grief takes over. He is there to soothe the savage beast raging inside me with a smothering hug of love (think thunder jacket for dogs), a box of tissues for the copious tears and snot, or to take over as chef before pots and pans go soaring through the kitchen.

I’ve been told by several people in the past two months, that they are surprised at how well I remember things like their MD appointments, to bring chocolate to co-workers who I know are having a hard day or to call or send a card when a difficult anniversary is coming up–when I have so much going on myself. I think it’s because– I get it. I get the fear at an upcoming doctor’s appointment or procedure. I get the sadness creeping up before a holiday and anniversary. I get the frustration in trying to deny grief any headspace only to lose and feel more out of control.

Well, it felt selfish to do so, but I turned away all my usual friends and family phone calls on Thanksgiving. It was my way of telling myself, “It’s okay to not be okay.” Instead of faking happy on the phone, I just didn’t pick up. Though I did call one person back– my Aunt Jeanne. She got the flat affect holiday Cara, who barely held in the tears at the sound of her voice. AJ has always given good advice in her loving, blunt Jersey way. She told me there was too much going on medically and emotionally to expect an easy turkey day. She said, “Today may just be a drinkin day, Cara-Kins!” she said jokingly. Oh, and that my repeated blood draws were turning me in a psycho. She made me laugh. She also knows how to handle me.

A cousin of mine sent me a text to let me know my emotions were understandable. “Holidays are complicated without medical concerns; so full of expectations and nostalgia.” She said I reminded her Nessie from The Ballad of Nessie. I had never seen this Disney short, so I looked it up online. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a great five-minute video on how important it is to not be afraid to cry. Sometimes tears can form a bridge to healing or a better path. Also, too, how much a kind word or offering of support can mean to someone during a difficult time. Moral of the story—Be a Nessie!

I debated whether to post this. To admit to having an imperfect holiday caused by yours truly. But after reading Nora McInerny Purmort’s memoir, It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too), I learned the power and purpose to writing in the heat of grief. My first memoir was written, mostly, in hindsight with the help of my trusty journals. She began writing her memoirs right after losing her husband, father and unborn child, creating a memoir that was intensely raw, honest and sincere. She harnessed her raging emotions and put them into words for others battling grief to know—it’s okay to not be okay. Grief is messy and can’t be scheduled to appear when it’s most convenient for us. So in honor of Nora’s courage, I decided to also write, in the post-apocalyptic thanksgiving aftermath my anger and tears caused.~~~ Because We Find Strength in Each Other ~~~

Any of you grief warriors out there have a similar holiday meltdown??


I’ve included these poignant, yet contrasting quotes on grief.

The first one I identified with.


The second one, my friend sent me, and though it is beautiful, it is hard for me, yet, to see grief this way on my bad days.

author unknown

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Pat Owens says:

    hope your hubby is supportive; is he a Nessie? My father died when I was around 20; my mom died when I was around 50; I guess I got over the losses; feel a bit challenged since I do NOT obsess as you do

    1. Yes Pat, he is hugely supportive! He’ll sit with me and allow me to cry it out until it passes. Losing parents at any age is hard, but really young shakes your foundation. Haven’t had a rocky holiday like this in awhile, but like I said, there is a lot of medical stuff going on that’s not helping matters. My body is run down and my next oncologist appt has me scared.
      I had hoped by being so transparent others dealing w similar grief wouldn’t feel so alone.
      Thanks for reading ❤

  2. Suzanne says:

    You certainly accomplished that. You help me feel not alone often with your work. I miss your mom so much and I’m so glad we can share our feelings. Your transparency is inspiring. I admire your bravery. You’re loved beyond measure❤️❤️

    1. Thank you . Yes, it makes it easier to share our struggles. Someone sent me a quote by Maya Angelou about how when a Great tree falls how many are affected by the loss, but how much better we are for the fact that they existed in the first place. Think I’ll post it.
      Love you too and your support!

  3. Beautiful post having lost so many family members over the last couple of months it is difficult to always be strong and put on a smile for the world I still as a mum have to make the magic happen at this time of year
    I was lucky enough to be able to write as that helps me express it and once the feelings are out for the day I can focus more on the good and the living 😀thanks for sharing

    1. That’s incredibly hard to lose so many so close together . One is terrible enough. I’m not a mother yet, but I can imagine the courage it takes to put on a happy front for the children, esp at the holidays.
      Writing has been the biggest tool in my healing. I can only hope to help others through my hurt.
      The last post I did about Thanksgiving was hard to post. So I appreciate you reading and commenting! I almost deleted it, lol 🙂
      Best to you and your continued healing. Give yourself time to not be okay ❤
      I look forward to following your site. Thank you for the follow too 🙂

  4. writenaked says:

    Sending healing thoughts and vibes your way. Sorry you’re going through this difficult time. Glad you spread so much positivity! ::hugs::

    1. Awww thank you so much! It was difficult to press “publish” and show myself in a bad light at the holidays. But if I’m trying to reach out and help others going through grief, I thought I need to be honest/raw and show all sides of it. Thank you for the support! Hope you are well 🙂

  5. JoAnna says:

    This was my first Thanksgiving without both parents. Siblings are gone, too. So my husband and I had dinner with my high school girlfriend and her siblings who are also without parents now. It was kinda like a new club. Different, but comforting. One holiday at a time. It helps that I’ve felt my father’s presence often. I enjoyed your honesty and writing style.

    1. The ” Firsts” are the hardest. Nostalgia, longing and sadness for the ones that are missing at the table and memories reminisced. But the they only leave a great void if they were giants in our lives. And we have to be thankful we were given the time we had with them. That’s not easy , I know. I think it’s perfect they way you did it. Trying to recapture holidays exactly as it was, can make it harder. Choosing to do something new or start new tradition can make it easier.
      I’m sorry you’ve suffered so much loss. The holidays can be hard. I’ve gone back and forth between trying to recreate holidays as my parents did or trying something new- some years are better than others.
      I’m glad you feel your fathers presence- I like to believe they are never gone but w us in a different manner and let us know by sending us signs. Comforts me anyways.
      I wish you peace this holiday season and that you’ll keep writing ! Thank you for your kind words too. I almost deleted that post several times, but felt there might be someone out there who could benefit from hearing they aren’t alone in the holiday blues or feeling out of sorts.
      It was nice to meet you!

  6. JoAnna says:

    I am thankful for the time I had, the time you’ve given here, and that you did not delete this post!

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