Thanksgiving Redux

Thanksgiving Redux

Prior to my family estrangement, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It was gratifying to sit at a beautiful dinner table, candles lit, delicious food passed among family and friends. Following the meal, we took turns expressing what we were grateful for. Inevitably, each person said that above all, they were grateful for their family.

Thanksgiving is quite different these days for estranged parents, who feel a deep sense of loss, abandonment, loneliness, and betrayal. Even if there are other children and other family members with whom we share a normal, happy relationship, the estrangement from a child is such a painful soul wound that it can overshadow the enjoyment of the family we do have. 

Family. What is it about family that is so overwhelmingly pervasive as a necessary ingredient for a happy, successful life? The problem with this mindset is that we can’t control who our family is, how they behave or how they relate to us. Maybe we have a great relationship with a sibling but not so great with a parent. Or an adult child has addiction issues, a disorder, or has a partner who is difficult. We simply cannot control anyone, family or not.

So, according to the paradigm of spending holidays with family, we must actually have a family. Many people are bereft of family, or they have a family with issues like estrangement. So what can we do?

This year, I will continue to acknowledge all that I’m grateful for. It will look quite different from past lists, because it won’t focus on family. I simply can’t do that because my family has hurt me too much and for too long. So, here’s my list, revised to fit my current circumstances:

I am grateful for music, dance, books, art. I am grateful for the autumn leaves raining down from the trees, drifting sideways, dancing across my window. I am grateful that I’m still standing, stronger than ever. I am grateful that I’ve learned to let go. I’m grateful that my broken heart is still beating, and healing more each day. I’m grateful that I still giggle, that I still cry when I witness new life, that I still wait in my car to hear the end of a song I like. I’m grateful that I’ve grown kinder and more patient. I’m grateful for the lesson of detachment, because grasping only makes things worse. I’m grateful for peace and for the quiet that fills me up. I’m grateful for the deep understanding that people come and go, that there is no permanence, that I can’t let my happiness be dependent upon what someone does or doesn’t do. I’m grateful for my life, for love, for that quiet voice within me that  says, “I won’t give up. I’m willing to see and to do things differently. Everyday, I choose to rise up and begin again.”

This year, Thanksgiving will be an inside job. And I’m grateful for that.

5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Redux”

  • Even if God doesn’t move in their hearts to change as they have a free will, God is good. God has been placing good in my pathway for moments of feeling love and giving love. Having half a family is full of genuine love that there’s no pretense’s real.

    I’m reading a new book called: Divine Disruption by Evans, Hurst, Shirer. It’s not “estrangement” but it sure is about their overloaded grief .. we have estrangement that is intense grief.. the heart is grieving. I am believing that there are no coincidences with God. The blessing he gives us hurting children along our journey are meant to uplift us, strengthen us, and provide hope .

    A blessed day to all of us.


  • In the midst of this estrangement another trial has beckoned our lives. My daughter who has been the most constant in my life and who loves beyond loving a mom… is facing a breast cancer diagnosis . We don’t know the entire depth of it but God surely has allowed this for whatever reason. But it is crushing my heart and our family that is still United. Will she reach out to her sibling about this ? That’s her call. I don’t know what response would be … no one knows . But we can hope . Prayers are welcome if you could. Healing, a miracle is in Gods hands.

  • I am grateful for your beautiful prose that always seems to show up in my inbox when needed most. Thank you for your clarity on reframing this holiday– and all holidays. I appreciate your focus on finding gratitude within and not searching for family substitutes. Your words resonate with me: those of us living with the wound of estrangement heal best by finding our individual paths of gratitude and using them to find meaning in our lives. Thank you for your nuggets of wisdom.

  • I enjoyed reading your list of things to be grateful for. It made me feel wistful & hopeful that perhaps better days are coming and peace is possible. Thank you for sharing..

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