On Holidays and Extended Family

Hey world!

U.S. Thanksgiving is coming soon, and with it, family, holidays and those times when adult orphans can feel the loss of parents even harder.

When I first met my husband, he was vegetarian and I had no interest in cooking meat.  Then, when my mom passed, I realized that I never learned how to cook a turkey or a roast beef – two of my favorite holiday meals.  It hit me so hard.

Who would cook turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

I felt alone and adrift, without that one meal and home to go to, without my anchor.  Yes, other relatives made meals too, but it just wasn’t the same.  Not the same home, not the same standard clean-up rules as mom enforced.  And I’ll be honest, my mom made the perfect gravy, and I’m a gravy snob.  So I set out to cook one myself.

I decided to try the turkey.  My mom always put the bird in the oven at night, slow-cooking on low, then cranked it higher in the morning.  We would always wake up to the smell of turkey.  Very mouth watering experience, makes you forget about the morning coffee!  So I really wanted to do this myself.  I realized after a few tries that cooking the bird was easy.  And I’ve even perfected my gravy, but I never learned the secret to her home made, in-the-bird stuffing and nobody else does it the same.  One day, I will perfect this too.  I’m still working on my roast beef as well.

Learning to cook these meals myself has given me comfort.  I know that at least one part of a holiday that I look forward to, is in my control and I can carry on the traditions we had.

But still, I remember the first few years of feeling that void.  My extended family is somewhat fractured (long story for another time), so there aren’t many other holiday dinners or locations that feel the same as mom’s.  For me, it’s been about re-creating mom’s meals and traditions for my husband, brother and now my son.

For others who have larger or more welcoming extended families, it may be easier to attend a meal and feel connected.  But it still may be bittersweet.  Even if you are surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., it may also remind you of your own parents who are not there.  You may feel alone, even surrounded by people/family members.  My advice – try not to isolate yourself even more.  You may feel like hiding away, but try to make an appearance and put on a smile, even just for a few minutes.  And try to find a quiet corner of solitude in those busy situations, so you have an exit if you really need it.

Holidays are always hard for those whose loved ones have passed.  Try to find new traditions or ways to incorporate old traditions into your new lifestyle.  It’ll be different for each person and each situation, but try not to get overwhelmed by loss.  Remember that life is about living.

I know others out there will immediately understand these feelings.  If you are an adult orphan, I don’t have to explain it.  Just know that you are not alone.  If this blog reaches even one person, I know I’ve done my job.

For everyone else reading this – if you know an adult orphan in your life (or anyone who lost close family members), please try to include those who are feeling lost or adrift.

So hang in there this Thanksgiving… or Christmas, or any other holiday you may celebrate.  Your parents are with you in spirit.  Just remember that.

Until next time.