I always liked the holiday Thanksgiving primarily because it is one of the few holidays that my Black ass family comes together to be around each other on purpose, "presence is a gift" type of thing.
*FUCK THE ORIGINS OF THANKSGIVING FOREVER, FUCK COLONIALISM, HONOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ALWAYS, TRY TO DECOLONIZE YOUR LIFE DAILY*
The other big reason is that is it often fell during the time of the year when my mother is celebrated for her life, either a day earlier than Thanksgiving or the day after. My mother's birthday happened to fall right on Thanksgiving this year and it still creates a pit in my chest to even think about, let alone write the fact that my mother died nine months ago.
Since 2013, Thanksgiving felt even more of a need to be celebrated and for family to come together as my family continued to lose family members (continue to sleep in peace in Grandma and Uncle Webb). In most of the year 2020, I’ve been literally waiting anxiously and agonizing on what this week and this day would feel like. It hurts my eyes to cry tears that feel as foreign as they do natural. Everyday since February 25th 2020 has been a journey for more peace and healing.
Had this been a year close to our normal, today we would eat and she would receive the attention you deserve (which will make her feel awkward at first, but eventually she would come around because she secretly wanted it) and then the next day we’ll find ourselves at Dover or Christiana Mall, shopping and catching whatever Black movie came out.
Our new reality is like no other. I was prepared to spend Thanksgiving alone, for the first time in my life, and Zoom with my family. There has been a bit of a compromise.
I'm sitting in a hotel room that my aunt got for me just so that I could be closer to family, still eat dinner together but not as close and still maintain our health. After she told me she got the room, I bawled to my therapist, feeling so thankful, so happy and sad at the same time. Because this shit feels too real to be real. I woke up and shedded a few tears, wrote in my journal, and meditated. While I am blessed that I do not have to be alone to experience my mother's birthday without her and with who I wanted to be with the most on a day like this, I still wanted to honor my intended healing process.
Grieving through a pandemic feels like the most unfair way to grieve, if I could be honest. I have all this sadness to release and so much that I feel for the greater collective. People lost a lot this year, relationships, friendships, jobs, ways of being. It feels unfair because I know and believe that chapters end and doors close so that powerful transitions and transformations can occur in real time - that doesn't make it less painful to experience.
I feel for all the people that have to grieve alone - especially on a day like this where most of US society celebrates family, togetherness, being around the people you love. I respect all the people who are not allowing others to dictate how you grieve by creating your own peace and process. I also offer you all the strength you deserve because whether you chose to be by yourself today or not, you still have to find ways to healthily cope with loss (and when you do, let me know cause I can't keep stress eating).
I also do not have shame to give to the people who decided not to be alone today or any day earlier in part of their grieving process. Yes, I say this in full recognition that we're in a pandemic. I also say this as someone who plans to be right back in my own space for the next week oh so solo.
While I do think there is much to be learned as one surrenders to their grief in solitude, I also believe in the power of human connection in times of grief. I recognize that navigating 2020 means that more apart we are, the more alive we will feel. But how?
Photo: It was her birthday in 2014.