I can't remember the last Thanksgiving I spent with my little brother. I don't remember whether I sat by him or across the table. I don't remember hugging him or telling him that I was thankful for him, that I really loved him. This thought is all-consuming on the drive towards Lacey for Thanksgiving dinner. I spent a good portion of the day shoving it from my brain. "Don't let it ruin your day," more than one friend suggested, well-meaning. But on the drive, my brain worked hard trying to muster up the memories of our last holiday together. Tears stung and were choked back down when the painful search came up empty.
My brother has been gone for three months. Let's be stark here: That's not a very long time. I wanted to shake everyone awake. What would you do? How would you feel? All of these friends mean so well, they do. They're thinking of us and they want us to enjoy our holiday regardless of the gaping hole in our chests. It might make them uncomfortable to put themselves in our shoes. They complain about their holiday woes while we grieve an empty chair at our holiday table.
I can't remember my last Thanksgiving with my brother. Last not meaning most recent but Last meaning the end.
I'm learning that some days, it's okay to not be okay. It is perfectly acceptable to let it ruin your whole day, to feel the hollow feeling in your chest and to embrace it. You do not have to act normal because the first holiday without your loved one is not fucking normal. It is brutal and it is immensely painful.
You shouldn't talk about it if you don't want to talk about it and you shouldn't keep it in if you need to get it out. Nothing seems quite right and it will probably never be the same again.
If you lost a loved one this year, I want you to know it's okay to be a mess. It's alright if you want to drink one too many spiced eggnogs and have a good, long cry. It's okay if you don't want to go anywhere or spend this first holiday on vacation in Bermuda. I understand if you don't put up the tree. Whatever you need to do to feel that loss and to heal from it, do that.