Sarah's Dad Holding His Grandson, Brecken

Feeling Grateful While Grieving

By Sarah Kariniemi, Brecken’s Mom

Thanksgiving can be an extremely hard holiday for those grieving the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a child. There is so much during this time that is centered around being grateful or giving thanks as well as spending time with family and friends.

In July 2018, I lost my son Brecken, and then in November 2018, I lost my dad just a few days before Thanksgiving. Two major deaths exactly three months apart and the Thanksgiving holiday has never been the same.

That first Thanksgiving was extremely hard. It was probably more like going through the motions. I was not feeling grateful for anything. I was grieving the loss of my little boy, grieving the loss of my dad, and grieving the loss of family time there would no longer be. Even through all of this, my family still went through with the big turkey dinner and attempted our rituals of black friday shopping that holiday.

In the last couple years I have learned that I need and can tailor the holiday to my feelings. I have learned that I can be grateful for a lot of the small memories I am making with my family while also expressing how much I miss my little boy and dad. I have learned that it is impossible to choose between being grateful and feeling sad, and that I can do them together at the same time.

This holiday season will forever be changed moving forward. It might not look the same year after year and that is ok with me. I will continue to be extremely grateful for all the support and love I have received through my grieving journey. This Thanksgiving I will set my two empty chairs and light a candle in their honor. Because I know they are always with me.

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