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Giving Thanks During a Pandemic

jstevenson | Journeys through Grief

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” -Alphonse Karr

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”

It has been a tradition at our Thanksgivings to go around the table and share some of the things we have been thankful for. Over the years as our kids have grown, the responses changed from giving thanks for simple things such as new toys or video games, to “I don’t want to answer” during the teen years, to more reflective thoughts as the children matured.  Things like good health, good jobs, family, and so on are now  topics of thanks.

Last Thanksgiving was our first without Grandma Connie. As our family’s matriarch, she was the heart of our celebrations, and it was both sad strange not to have her presence to enjoy. As we nibbled on our appetizers before the big feast, we all shared some of her specialty—deviled eggs.  No family gathering was complete without Grandma Connie’s famous and delicious deviled eggs. We all commented and reflected on how ours weren’t quite as good as hers. It was one of many reminders during the day of her and how much we missed her. After dinner, we had the football game on and an Allstate commercial came on featuring Edith Piaf singing her classic “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” That was Grandma Connie’s favorite song by her favorite singer. We all kind of looked at each other with a hint of sadness knowing how excited she would have been to hear Piaf’s beautiful voice on TV.

Thanksgiving, and all holidays really, present so many reminders of our lost loved ones that it can be very emotional, especially in the first year after a loss. Many of the sights, scents, and sounds of the season serve as reminders of that person, and memories come flooding back. We all gave ourselves permission and room to cry, laugh, or just pause in reflection throughout the day.

It was also our first Thanksgiving in a pandemic. This year, we find ourselves living through our second COVID-19 Thanksgiving. Undoubtedly, one of the questions that will come up this year will be, “Can we be thankful during a pandemic?”

For many people, the pandemic has affected their health, their jobs, and created great angst and stress in relationships. It has not been an easy haul. So, can we really be thankful? Especially if we just lost someone we love? If so, how?

Although we are not out of the woods, the vaccine is having an impact on lowering the number of cases and its severity. Things are opening up with some restrictions in place. Companies are desperate for employees as the job market improves. So, for that we can all be thankful.

When we dig deeper into our lives, there are many things that perhaps we take for granted that we can be thankful for. Clean water. Electricity. Food in our refrigerators. Jobs. Friends. And so on. These sometimes get clouded by the stresses and strains of life, and throwing a pandemic on top, doesn’t help. But there is much evidence that showing gratitude, despite the circumstances, is actually good for you. According to an article on called “Why Gratitude is Important During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” experts point to these many benefits of being thankful:

  • It’s good for our physical health – By focusing on the positive and counting our blessings, we can boost our immune systems, so says the American Heart Association.  This is especially helpful during a pandemic when many people already have compromised immune systems.
  • It’s good for our mental health – According to studies by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, those who practice gratitude are at a much lower risk of having anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
  • It helps us get a grip on stress – When we concentrate on the positive, according to the National Institutes of Health, it helps us deal with stress. And no one must tell us that these are stressful times!
  • It helps us improve the quality of our lives – Studies show that people who are grateful tend to exercise more and eat healthier.

An easy way to show thankfulness is to simply write it down. Keep a journal of all the things that you are thankful for, from the simple and mundane to the extraordinary. List the things that you like to do and do them when you are able. You may see a change in your state of mind when you realize how much you have going for you when it is all right there in front of you.

Despite the trials of our current times, and especially if you are dealing with the recent loss of a loved one, we hope you will all find the time to reflect upon what we have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and in the months and years ahead. Happy Thanksgiving!