Thanksgiving Eve. We are raised to associate holidays with families and being thankful on Thanksgiving just IS Thanksgiving, right? From the preschool days of making turkeys shaped like our hands with things we are grateful for on each feather to the blessing said over the yummy turkey dinner, Thanksgiving means being thankful. Except when you are not. Adding guilt over all the things you think you “should” be doing isn’t in this post. Ways to force gratitude when your life feels like it is falling apart also won’t be found here. I debated writing a “things NOT to say to someone grieving” on Thanksgiving but the people you need to read it will be too happy being happy to read it anyway. So this is for you, all the ungrateful, hurting betrayed women this Thanksgiving.
It is TOTALLY O.K. not to be thankful today.
I am nobody, except someone who has been in your shoes and is on the other side, but I say to heck with all the expectations and formalities and niceties. You are hurting and if you don’t want to be grateful, well let me pull up a chair next to you and sit with you for just a moment. Here are all the things I will NOT say to you.
‘At least you have your health.’ While you may not be in the hospital or have some crazy scary diagnosis, you don’t actually have your health do you? No. The truth of the matter is that trauma and grief affect us physically and diagnosis or not, your health is suffering from the betrayal. Maybe it’s the insomnia, the heart palpitations or inability to eat. Maybe it’s the flashbacks that won’t leave you alone or the way the anxiety just leaves you exhausted. Maybe it’s the depression or even the STD your husband gave you when he cheated on you. Maybe it’s the brain fog or fatigue. Whatever your physical symptoms are, trauma affects our health. Even if Aunt Suzie cannot see it.
‘You have your beautiful children to be happy for. ‘ While you may physically have your children with you this Thanksgiving or even if you don’t they will come home, things are not what they used to be with your children are they? Maybe it’s the way you snapped at your son for no reason or the fights you know they heard. Maybe it’s the sharing precious time with your children now that your husband left you for another woman. Maybe it’s the trauma they have endured when their Dad abandoned them. Maybe it’s them just knowing things are tense and their own trauma symptoms making them unbearable to be nice to. Maybe it’s their fear of abandonment making them clingy and exhausting. Maybe it is your utter immobilizing fear of how you will take care of them on your own because you know their Dad is still betraying you. Maybe it is your fear that you will never be a good Mom again. Addictions are a family issue and even if your children do not know about the betrayal, it surely has affected them. Even if Uncle Henry is clueless.
‘He is still with you and is sober now.’ While your husband may have chosen you over the affair partner or you over the porn, that doesn’t erase the fact that at one point, he didn’t choose you does it? Maybe the trust being so understandably shattered is affecting your marriage more severely than you could have ever imagined. Maybe the cost of all his therapists is eating at your retirement fund. Maybe the time spent on recovery is creating extra work for you, leaving you little to no time to take care of your own needs. Maybe his newfound guilt-free happiness makes your skin crawl because he is lighter with the burden of his secret life lie exposed while your dual realities are still not clear and your world is forever altered. Even if his Mom has no idea just how deep the pain her son inflicted runs.
‘You are young, you can remarry and are better off now that you know.’ While your abandonment or decision to leave an unrepentant man may be the best solution in a horrible situation, that doesn’t make any piece of it easy or even OK. Maybe it’s the struggle to understand how many Thanksgivings were even real. Maybe it’s the family of his that you grew to love that was ripped from your world. Maybe it’s the fact that you had planned to spend every Thanksgiving with him and he isn’t there anymore, ‘forever’ was ripped from you. Maybe it’s the absolute mind-blowing fear you have of getting hurt again and the concept of ever dating again is terrifying. Maybe it’s just the fact that NONE of this was fair. Even if your Mom doesn’t see just how deep this has crushed your spirit.
‘You have Jesus, that is all you need.’ While Jesus is really all we need, a truer statement could not be said but really, this statement doesn’t help. Maybe it is the fact that your faith is shaken to the core, having married a Christian and doing things right only to have THIS happen to you. Maybe it’s the Pastor who spiritually abused you into tolerating your husband’s abuse for years, all while he was cheating on you. Maybe it’s the Christians who never bothered to hold him to the fire, to sharpen him like iron as they should have. Maybe it’s all the church activities, prayers, and songs that remind you how restoring and forgiving and life-changing God is when your husband doesn’t want restoration and refused repentance. Maybe it’s all the promises of The Bible that just are not happening for you or at least not how you wanted them. Maybe it’s how vulnerable anything of faith makes you feel and how Gosh-awful scary being vulnerable feels after everything you have been through. Even if Grandma simplifies the situation and can’t see what has happened to your family.
You have many reasons to be ungrateful today. I am so sorry that you do. I am also sorry if nobody in your life is giving you the space to say ‘That’s OK.’ You can give yourself permission to be whatever you need to be, even if it is only for a little while. There is some serious power in being authentic and sometimes, life authentically sucks and no amount of platitudes fixes it.
It is totally OK to NOT be grateful today. You will be grateful again one day. You may be grateful for different things than you had planned but one day, you will feel reasons to be grateful again, I promise. Until then, be NOT OK if you need to, if only for a few moments. Feel free to remove the masks the world expects you to wear, the ones that say you have to be this or that just because a calendar date says so. Be what you need to be today, and if that is not ok, that is ok.