pronouns: they, them, their

Gratitude and Grief – A Thanksgiving Reflection


Rev. Chani Getter

November 19, 2023

Many years ago, I was going through a particularly hard time in my life. Nine years after leaving my ex-husband, he took me to court and I was once again fighting for custody of my children. I was on the phone with a colleague, and she could tell that my voice was breaking. I was struggling to concentrate on the particulars of the conversation we were having. 

She paused the conversation and asked me what was going on. It all came pouring out, my frustration, my overwhelm, my fear. The words spilling out over one another. She listened, then reminded me of a practice I used to do that had fallen by the wayside. A gratitude practice. 

“Every day, as you begin your day, take time to make a gratitude list. Write down 5-10 things you are grateful for.” 

As I began again this practice of noticing the good, counting my blessings, something shifted. The day-to-day became easier, and I was able to focus on the delights of life as opposed to worrying constantly about the next court date looming.

It has been 14-years since that phone call, and it is a ritual that I continue to do almost daily. 

This moment in time also feels particularly hard for me. Long standing family tensions have come to the surface of late. They are painful and difficult to navigate.

Thanksgiving is followed by Indigenous People’s Day, and marks a complicated and violent time in our nation’s history.

AND at the same time, it is a day many of us have time off from work, which can be rare and precious, giving us time and space to sit  around a table to be together and connect with one another, regardless of our religious upbringing. 

This year, as some of us gather for Thanksgiving, let us keep in mind that in addition to the atrocities going on in the world, many of us: 

Did not receive invitations.

Were told not to attend.

Do not have family to gather with.

Are struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Are wrestling with complicated relationships with those they are related to.

Have health issues making it impossible to celebrate.

Can’t afford to take a day off work or cook a nice meal.

Do not have food to put on the table.

This may feel bleak.. And so why am I writing this to you?

Because there is no shame in not having an invitation. In losing your family. In not having enough money to put food on the table. I have had those years. 

For some, Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful, a day to count our blessings, a moment to bask in the goodness and bounty of the year. For some, it is not. The loneliness and othering felt more deeply as the chipper “happy thanksgiving” is wished, as if it is expected to be only that. 

As my colleague taught me all those years ago, when things are hard, grounding myself in a gratitude practice allows me to notice the good, to recognize the gifts, to sit in the joy, while experiencing life in all of its colors.

The practice is about holding the fullness of life. The joy alongside the pain, the connection alongside the grief, and the excitement alongside the worry.

It is about allowing ourselves to feel all the various emotions at the same time. Sometimes we are the one who looks around our table and in grief, realize we have lost our family and in joy, notice we have created a new kind of family.

What are you grateful for today?

How can you bring gratitude into your life?

What might you need to hold alongside the gratitude and give it space?


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