If this is your first Thanksgiving as a single mom, I welcome you to a tribe you didn’t think you’d be in and probably still don’t want to.
If this is your first Thanksgiving solo, you may be surrounded by friends and family – and maybe you wish you weren’t.
Or you’re alone and wish you weren’t.
Or you have no clue what you really won’t expect everything to just be back together one more time.
No, not that. ?
Whatever you feel, or can’t feel, or have no clue about, is exactly where you most need to be to let the season conspire on your behalf.
This is my 3rd solo Thanksgiving. For my first, we were separated for 6 months. He picked up our teen son to take him to “our” favorite beach. I stood on the porch watching them get in the car. Every emotion I never experienced before hit me.
I realized they were going away and I was going to be home alone. On Thanksgiving. The holiday I cooked for his side plus us, and sometimes my family. A year ago, I whipped up a dinner for 10 and I’m now alone with a restaurant bought a tin of sweet potatoes. As he shut his door I yelled, “F@&K YOU”.
He rolled down the window and said, “Did you say something?”
I smiled with fear and with the satisfaction that I finally uttered my truth. Sweet potatoes were waiting.
Then I went in the house and ate for the next 4 days straight while crying and calling every friend I still had-which was 3.
Bottom line is, it stinks. The whole entire thing.
I’m asking you to do the hardest thing imaginable for your first Thanksgiving as a single mom- Let It Stink.
Let It Hurt. Do whatever needs to happen to face it – not drink it, sex it, or shop it away. Ok–Or eat it away. Just sit with it.
You know why?
In the words of Dr. Diane Gross, my acupuncturist, “We don’t bury things alive. They come back for us.”
Let the feelings run their course and face them head-on. Disorientation is the new normal. Nothing will make sense – because your kids are with their dad and you wish they were with you. Or they are still with you and you wish they had some time with him. Either way, this holiday will make no sense and it’s not supposed to.
Make a hot bath, forget to get in, and go to bed early because a short Thanksgiving Day may be the best way to cope.
Alternatively, pull an all-nighter and use every dishtowel you have because you ran out of tissues. Let the dog out and repeat.
Bury the feelings dead. The only way out is through. Feel into F&*K you are, the I hate you’s and the I still love you’s. Read what’s happening to your brain in articles like this one called, This is Your Brain on a Breakup. Google “toxic relationships” or “passive-aggressive” or “depression” or “addiction” or “codependency” or “fear of abandonment”. Start to figure out what happened to life as you knew it- so you never ever re-create it and unconsciously bury it alive. Oh heck no. Not you. Not on our watch.
If the walls start closing in, text your girlfriends. Ask to go to someone’s home. Go do something you don’t normally do – drive to another city and ride around. Take your dog for a walk in the neighborhood (NOT your ex’s. He has a girlfriend you didn’t know about. Trust me. Forget it- just let the dog mess in the house. Don’t go out.)
Find one thing to be grateful for – sorry for the cliche but brain science is right. It helps. I was grateful for yelling my F-bomb truth. I was grateful for having the brain cells to not repeat it. I was grateful for smiling.
Then I realized was grateful for never ever again having to explain myself, sitting for hours on end trying to work it out, regretting speaking any word ever. Lastly, I was grateful for telling my truth even though no one but me and definitely the neighbors in the cul-de-sac heard it. Brain science is always right. Gratitude does work.
Here’s the deal – there’s only one first single mom Thanksgiving. This year is uncharted territory. You are learning what you need and often that’s a hard-won hindsight truth. In fact, you are even doing the pre-work of what you need for Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Kwanza.
Soak it in. Learn your new normal. Figure out if an all-day jammie fest is needed or if the only friends you need are Ben and Jerry’s.
I can’t speak to having a boyfriend. For me, the best way to get over a 19-year marriage was not to get under someone else. However, that said, I DID search a local “friends” site to hire a date if needed. Except, I had nowhere to go. So, no. I can’t speak to any of this. Looking back: Smartest. Decision. Ever. For. Me.
I swear to you that there is only one first/ worst Thanksgiving.
I don’t know what next year will hold for you. But for me, the next year my mom came. My gram died earlier that year and I was not cooking. She didn’t blame me. We both cried. My son drove to his dad’s and I cried for about 15 minutes. Then mom and I cleaned, napped, and drove around to see Christmas lights then noshed on leftovers. I talked her ear off. She listened.
This 3rd year, my ex asked if our son could stay with me for Thanksgiving. My mom is coming again. We are cooking the entire Thanksgiving together. There is finally joy. And shared sweet potatoes.
Let the pain do its magic and believe Dr. Diane Gross: You are equal to the pain. It’s not bigger than you. It may feel like it is. But that is not the truth.
And you are not alone – you have sisters around the world in the same place. Here’s what you can bank on. There’s only one first Thanksgiving as a single mom. But the healing, joy, and induction in the sisterhood who have risen from the ashes of leftovers remains forever.