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Giving Thanks During a Pandemic

Nov 20, 2020

Each week, as I write this column, I often have a seasonal theme.  The theme on the Friday before Thanksgiving is usually based around how to prepare for the holidays and attempt to not overindulge in seasonal treats at celebrations in the coming six weeks.

Early this week, I pulled up last year’s column for inspiration and read the final line “Most of all, remember what the season is about—celebrating and connecting with the people you care about.”  That’s when I realized this week’s article needs to tackle a completely different subject.

In the past eight months, we have lost so many precious moments—graduations, christenings, weddings, funerals.  The list goes on and on. As you read this, I’m sure that your list of losses is running through your head. Now we learn that we need to give up our large family Thanksgiving celebrations and the December celebrations are looking doubtful.

I am a pretty upbeat person, but I’m having a tough time with this. “Enough is enough” I hear in my head.  I know the social restrictions are the right thing to do. But, come on, this is hard.  My moment of “enough” came when I read that line in last year’s article about celebrating the people in our lives. I froze and had a really tough time getting started again.

Some of us are experiencing extreme feelings of sadness and loss for the first time in our lives. Many of our friends are experienced with these emotions and are being hit harder than ever. 

If you find yourself unable to maintain a good attitude or getting your work done or some other manifestation of sorrow, there are resources to help. Give one of these organizations a call if you are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the pandemic situation.

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health provides access to services and supports to meet the mental health needs of individuals of all ages; enabling them to live, work and participate in their communities. The Department has a special section devoted to providing resources for managing social isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 public health crisis (www.mass.gov/info-details/managing-isolation-and-loneliness-during-covid-19, 888-215–4920).

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the nation’s leading grassroots advocacy organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with mental health conditions and their loved ones. NAMI Massachusetts provides assistance throughout the Commonwealth (www.namimass.org, 800-370-9085). NAMI Cape Ann serves the communities of Ipswich, Gloucester, Manchester by the Sea, Essex and Rockport (www.namicapeann.org, 978-281-1557).

If you’re a Veteran or service member in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — there are caring, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 800-273-8255 and Press 1.  Text 838255.  Support for deaf and hard of hearing: 800-799-4889.

If you are a family caregiver, you may be under even more pressure than usual. Family Caregiver Support services are available from SeniorCare. Call 978-281-1750 and ask to speak with a Family Caregiver Support Specialist to learn more.

If you find that you will be alone on Thanksgiving, there are organizations providing Thanksgiving dinners.  The North Shore Community Action programs has compiled a list that can be viewed at https://www.nscap.org/2020/11/06/happy-turkey-day-here-is-a-list-of-places-serving-up-a-free-thanksgiving-dinner/.

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the blessings in our lives. This year, it’s more important than ever to concentrate on what brings joy into your life. Connect with loved ones by phone, Zoom, FaceTime or other medium. The pandemic will end, but the connections and love we have for others won’t. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Celebrate those you love the best way you can, and look forward to 2021.