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Giving Thanks

As fall settles in, we shift with the season and focus on the changing leaves, the crisp weather, and giving thanks. Some feel autumn is a sad time when plants shed their leaves and the landscape takes on a cold, naked look. But it can also be a happy time.

While nature may be preparing for the hibernation of winter, fall also signals a time to take stock. We remember all the blessings we’ve been given throughout the year, from kind compliments to fun parties. Even in hard years — when it feels nothing has gone right and the universe is conspiring to make things more difficult at every turn — we find things we can be grateful for.

This is true, too, of our children. Sometimes, pulling up memories feels like an exercise in torture, designed to remind us of moments we can’t have back. Other times, these memories become simple moments of appreciation that they existed at all. And it can sometimes be easier to take the appreciation approach when Thanksgiving is on the horizon and we’re getting stark reminders to stop and give thanks.

Here are a few good ways to remember your child during the Thanksgiving season:

  1. Have each family member share a happy memory. When the family is gathered around the table and ready to say grace or give thanks for the meal before them, many rotate around the table to hear what everyone was thankful for during the year. But going around one more time to share a happy memory of a child who no longer sits at the table can put a smile on everyone’s face. It’s a great way to keep a child’s memory alive in the context of a holiday when many parents, grandparents, and siblings struggle.
  2. Put together a thankful jar. Each day during the month, write down a memory, a detail, a favorite saying, or a funny story about your child. Put these slips of paper in a jar in a visible place (both so you remember to do it and so it remains accessible). Then, when you’re having a hard day or needing a pick-me-up, you can read through the papers in the jar. This works especially well when it’s carried out multiple years, resulting in a wide variety of memories and details you’re trying to retain.
  3. Go on thankful walks. Your personal spiritual beliefs will influence how you want to approach these walks, but taking some time to walk alone in nature during autumn is food for the soul. By getting out and about in nature as the season transitions, you can put yourself in a great frame of mind for reflecting. Reminiscing over happy memories, thinking about changes you want to make, or simply taking a 10-foot view of your life can be restorative during a trying holiday season.
  4. Create your own celebration. The end of the year is stacked with holidays — it can be a mad rush for families from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. And, of course, every big family holiday can surface sadness about the child who isn’t there to celebrate. Creating a celebration to honor that child can assuage some of the guilt and sadness associated with celebrating holidays. Make your child’s favorite meal, gather the family together to watch his or her favorite movie or play a favorite game, and take some time to bask in the feeling that your child still lives on through your family’s memories and words.

Giving thanks can be challenging when a beloved child is no longer here. Fall, however, can provide a good setting to take a breath, slow down, and think of how thankful we are for the moments and memories we have. We’re the ones who got to spend time with these special people, and autumn is a wonderful time to remember what made them so special.

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