Holidays can be bittersweet; focus on gratitude

By Megan Erbacher

The Message assistant editor

For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving was my granny’s holiday. Regardless of other invites that popped up over the years or other family members we may have dined with, we always spent part of the day with her.

Those plans changed almost seven years ago when we lost her to the dreaded ‘c’ word: cancer.

See, the thing with holidays is one minute you’re merry and embracing the festive spirit, then the next you’re lonely and longing for friends and family who can no longer celebrate with you. Sometimes I feel robbed of so much time with deceased loved ones. I know they’re in a better place, and for some, they’re no longer in pain; but I’m still sad without them.

As I write this, it’s the six-month anniversary of my friend passing. Most days it’s still hard to believe, while some days it feels like a lifetime ago that I heard Chel laugh or saw her bust out a classic dance move only she could pull-off.

The holidays remind me of times the two of us would meet up with a couple of our other girlfriends for dinner and drinks, staying up way too late to make sure we caught up on all the details of each other’s lives. It’ll be bittersweet this year without her.

My granny and Chel are far from the only people who are absent this year for the holidays. Each one of my lost loved ones is desperately missed. While it can be easy to wallow and allow the sadness to poison the merriment of the season, I’m trying a different approach this year: focus on gratitude.

I’m thankful to have been blessed with sweet grandparents who never gave me even the slightest chance to second-guess their love for me.

I’m thankful for my great-aunt, my granny’s sister, who is very much a part of our lives. She watches my niece, Jude, once a week. I’m not sure she realizes just how special it is that she shares those days with Jude.

I’m thankful to have had a best friend like Chel and to have thousands of wonderful memories of our adventures. Do I get sad sometimes, realizing we won’t make more memories? Without a doubt, I do. But I’m so thankful to have shared some of the best times with her.

I’m thankful for all of my other friends and family for their support and guidance, and their unconditional love.

I’m thankful to be marrying into a family who loves me and accepts me as their own.

I’m beyond thankful for all of the blessings God has given me.

Although I’m not sure when, or if, the heartache of missing loved ones will subside, this year I choose gratitude. I pray the rest of you who may be hurting can do the same.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).