Thanksgiving – Not So Picture Perfect

Guest Post by Reclaimed Beauty (Heidi Dennis) 

Well, the holiday season is upon us.  It’s the time where families gather together and waistlines expand.  I love this time of year (it doesn’t hurt that I was born on Thanksgiving Day- my nickname was the “turkeybaby”).  It’s an amazing time for so many.  In scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, you see countless smiling family pictures.  You also see posts with the perfect spread of turkey, mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, and green bean casserole (oh man, I’d better wipe this drool off of my keyboard, stat).  Everything and everyone looks so…perfect.  But you know just as well as I do that there is no way everything is as perfect as it seems.  I know this to be true because retail isn’t the only business booming during the holidays.  My therapy office sees a huge increase in clients just trying to survive the season.  If you have ever struggled over the holidays, this post is for you.


So, how do you survive if your family isn’t so picture perfect?  And how do you survive when the holidays are a sad reminder of loss?  Suddenly, thankfulness is the hardest emotion of all to muster up.  Of course it is.  I’m here to tell you, there is nothing wrong with struggling to be thankful in the midst of pain.  You will not hear any cliche’s from me about “just count your blessings” or “better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”.  I saw the funniest grief card the other day (if grief cards can ever be considered funny) that said “Can I be the first one to throat punch the next person who tells you that everything happens for a reason?”  Oh my goodness, I love it!

Let’s be real- sometimes it’s hard to be thankful- especially when you are hurting.  It’s impossible to take the perfect family picture when there is a missing seat at the table where a loved one once sat.  It’s hard to post about the amazing Thanksgiving you had when you are forced to spend it sitting alongside past abusers.  I know that these kind of things happen in real life because I’ve talked to them, I’ve cried with them, and I’ve shaken my fist with them at the injustice of it all.  There is no pressure to enjoy something that is painful. (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

Instead of the cliche’s or perfect pictures, I’m just going to be real with you- sometimes the holidays suck.  Sometimes they are hard.  It’s ok to admit that.  Because once you do, you can begin to heal.  You can begin to realize that you are not alone.  You can begin to normalize the painful (and sometimes awkward) situations that you find yourself in.  And these things- the healing, the solidarity, and feeling somewhat “normal” amidst the crazy- these are the things to be truly thankful for.  Now, pass the turkey!

Have you ever struggled to feel happy or thankful this time of year?  And, if you have, have you ever felt guilty about struggling?  Comment below- at least to let others know that they aren’t alone. 

…Next time, we will be continuing our theme of struggling over the holidays with the next big event- Christmas.  I want to look at some of the “gifts” that we would love to return.  More specifically, I want to look at the gift of anxiety.  Yes, you read that right- I called anxiety a gift.  I promise I’m not crazy (maybe).  I will explain in the next post- I promise.

Heidi Dennis is a Licensed Professional Counselor at the Joshua Center and wife and mom to a precious little boy. 

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