small pumpkins and gourds on a table with a white wall behind them
Image by Annie Spratt

For many of us, Thanksgiving will look different this year.

Every year, we've had a big family gathering at my aunt's house for Thanksgiving. My uncle spends the day in the kitchen, the kids hang out upstairs, and the dog wanders around asking for food and pets. Everyone else drifts around downstairs to socialize and snack on appetizers before the big meal.

Most of my Thanksgiving memories are set in that house. One year, we all did the Mannequin Challenge. Another year, my sister ate so much turkey that she threw up. Last year, we went around the table with fun facts (for the first time) and got to know each other better. And every year, I regret eating so much dinner when I see the barrage of desserts come out. I stuff myself with pie anyway.

This will be the first year without that.

I'm glad that I can at least travel home for Thanksgiving with my immediate family. I'll be eating in a separate room, but I'll take what I can get.

We can take these obstacles and grow from them.

When I was younger, I didn't really know what gratitude felt like. I grew up living a privileged life in a white upper-middle-class town. Now that I've seen and done more, I understand what gratitude means.

This year, with all its brand new challenges, has given me another chance to expand my mind. I feel so thankful that I don't have to suffer the way some have to suffer. I'm a healthy young woman with the ability to work from home. I still have my friends and family with me, even if we're far away.

For those of us with lots to celebrate, let's do so safely. It's respectful not only to those who aren't so fortunate but also to ourselves and our loved ones. While we all wish we could greet each other with a hug, physical contact is not the only way to show affection. Keeping each other safe and healthy is the greatest demonstration of love.

It's okay to not feel grateful.

This year has been brutal for some people. After a year filled with countless blows, you might feel like there's not much left to be grateful for.

The following advice isn't coming from an expert but a fellow human. I'm not a mental health professional and I don't know what it's like to be one of the people who has been affected so severely by the pandemic. But I do know what it's like to be kicked when I'm down. I know that when I'm in the midst of an emotional episode, being told to be grateful only makes me feel worse. When I'm depressed, I can't even get up. Being unable to do something as "easy" as feeling gratitude feels awful.

So be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to feel the way you do. If you're too heartbroken to allow gratefulness in, it's okay. Don't feel pressured to make the most of this Thanksgiving and step away from social media if it's taking a toll on you. Your feelings are valid. Just get through in whatever way you can.