≡ Menu

“I’ll Be Alone for Thanksgiving”

From the forums:

Thanksgiving

This will be my first Thanksgiving without any family. My father and his mother passed away one week apart in 2009, my mother passed away this past March, and my father’s sister passed away a couple of months ago in August (both of my grandfathers passed away when I was a toddler). I am an only child, single, and have no children. I have only met my mom’s mother and brother a few times in my life, and do not really consider them family.

I am wondering what to do for the holidays. A couple of my friends have invited me for meals those days, which I am grateful for, but I think spending too much time around large, happy families will just make me sad and uncomfortable. I do not have any friends like myself who are single and do not have family to spend the holidays with. Should I just treat Thanksgiving (and the holidays) like any normal day? Have any of you been through something similar? — Alone for the Holidays

First, I’m so sorry for your losses. We will all hopefully expect to outlive our parents, but to lose them both at what I assume is a relatively young age, and so close together, and without the support of siblings or a partner is so sad, and I really feel for you. But I know the human spirit is resilient and I was reminded of that recently through a woman named Madonna Badger who experienced overwhelming loss and has found happiness again in spite of it.

Two years ago, on Christmas day, Badger lost both of her parents and her three young daughters in a house fire. I remember hearing about the fire while watching the news with my parents and sister, who were visiting, and my husband and my newborn son. There I was, surrounded by my closest family, experiencing the joy of my baby’s first holiday season while this woman, who surely at some point had felt the same happiness I was experiencing many times, had suddenly lost the most important people in her life. All at once. Just like that. How could she possibly go on? I wondered.

But she did go on (she’s even engaged to be married next year). And in an essay in this month’s Vogue she talks about how she survived that first holiday season without her family. She volunteered, helping kids in need (and plans to do the same this year). The first Christmas without her daughters, on the anniversary of the fire that claimed them and her parents, she volunteered at an orphanage in Thailand for girls who had lost their parents or who had been rescued from sex slavery. She writes:

The garage behind [my] house in Stamford hadn’t caught fire, and I had stored old boxes of toys there that my girls had outgrown and a bunch of things I had saved for them for when they grew up. I took a bag of it all to Thailand, and on Christmas morning I gave the girls presents, and they were so excited. Thirty or so of them came and stood in front of me and prayed for me in Thai. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them we were all crying. When I looked into the girls’ faces, I saw my children. It broke me open in a way I still can’t fully explain. But if these little girls were living their lives with joy and happiness, I realized—and if they could give their love to me after all they had been through—how could I possibly feel sorry for myself? What they showed me was that what had happened to them had just happened. It wasn’t “done” to them, just as none of this had been “done” to me. I wasn’t being punished; I had not been singled out.

I imagine that, like you, she probably had friends who extended invitations to her, but it was more healing for her to give to people in need, and in return, to receive probably more than she hoped for.

It’s never going to be easy. The pain is just so huge that sometimes it feels like a prison cell. But trying really hard to not feel sorry for myself makes me feel good. Being of service helps the pain to go away, if only for a little while, and giving and receiving love makes me feel good.

This holiday season, try being of service to others. Give graciously so that you can receive love and gratitude in abundance. It is healing. And, I think, it probably does help some of the pain and loneliness go away, as Madonna Badger says, if only for a little while.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

{ 115 comments… add one }

  • avatar fast eddie November 22, 2013, 9:18 am

    Having been alone for many holidays, I can relate. A great way to turn it into a positive is to volunteer at a senior center or homeless shelter. They always need extra help for holiday meals. Most assuredly you wont feel lonely.

  • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 9:31 am

    Lovely response, Wendy. I read that the other day too and remember when it happened. I don’t know how people who’ve been through that can go on. I also think of the Newtown families this holiday. I just can’t imagine. A reminder of how lucky some of us are (which I really needed this morning especially).

    I think volunteering is a perfect way to spend the holidays when you don’t have family and don’t think you can handle friends’ families. Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving LW.

    • avatar TECH November 22, 2013, 11:14 am

      Yeah, I think the link to the article Wendy posted, as well as the example of the Newtown families, really can bring perspective. It’s tempting on holidays to think of all the perfect families who are enjoying their perfect holidays together. And then you think of Newtown or other situations, and you know these people are absolutely heartbroken. There are millions of heartbroken people across the country who will have a tough time this Thanksgiving. I think just remembering that you are not alone with feeling grief, sadness, or loneliness is really helpful.

      • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 12:17 pm

        I agree. And it shouldn’t be a thing where “oh they have it worse, so don’t feel bad.” Not at all. I love how you put it-remember you are not alone in your sad feelings.

  • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 9:39 am

    I was going to suggest volunteering as well. It will give you a sense of purpose for the day and hopefully distract you.

    Maybe you can meet up or join in on one of the friend invitations in the evening? Or go catch a movie!

  • avatar kerrycontrary November 22, 2013, 9:44 am

    Oh I’m so sorry for your loss and I think Wendy’s response was beautiful. Volunteering is definitely a great idea. If I were in your shoes I would do it mostly to distract myself. Maybe you could go over one of your friends houses’ later in the day to eat some leftovers and hangout with just 2-3 people instead of a big family. I hope you have a good holiday! And in the future if you need a sense of family, and it fits in with your lifestyle/working hours/finances, I would suggest getting a cat/dog. I am lucky to have family and a significant other, but my dog makes my house feel so much more like a home and it’s very nice to have someone to come home to. Obviously a pet doesn’t replace family at all, but it helps a little with the occasional loneliness.

    • avatar jlyfsh November 22, 2013, 9:53 am

      Pets definitely help. I think it helps to have someone you know relies on you. And in return they snuggle and greet you at the door every day with the same excited look! And my dogs both know when I’m sad. One doesn’t want to deal with it, but the other snuggles extra.

  • avatar bethany November 22, 2013, 9:46 am

    The first year my parents were alone on Thanksgiving they volunteered to serve dinner at their church. The dinner was for those who couldn’t afford a nice Thanksgiving dinner, but also for people like you, LW, who don’t have family, or who weren’t able to be with their family at the Holidays. They really enjoyed it, and plan on doing it again this year.

    I’m sorry for what you’re going through, and no matter what you decide to do for the holidays, I hope you find some comfort and joy.

  • avatar jlyfsh November 22, 2013, 9:50 am

    I think it could be helpful to do both. Volunteer and accept the invitation. A few years ago (well actually it’s been 8!) I lived pretty far from family. I didn’t get to see them on Thanksgiving or Christmas. But, I did have friends in the area and went to their family’s Thanksgiving. And it was actually so much fun. I ended up getting invited to go Black Friday shopping with their family (there are four moms who are sisters in the family and they each have at least 3 kids, so it was a big fun group). And then for every holiday after that (even St. Patrick’s Day!) I was invited to hang out with them. It meant so much to be included in their celebrations and be treated like a member of the family. You might be surprised how easy it is to be ‘adopted’ by other people and how wonderful they can be. I had to have surgery while I was there and my friend and her Mom helped get my Mom there and helped take care of me then too.

    • avatar TECH November 22, 2013, 11:09 am

      I completely agree that it’s surprising how willing people are to “adopt” you into their families. I know people that A) Live far from their families B) Are estranged from their families or C) No longer have living family. As a result, they have friends who they consider their family. They even call them “brother” “sister” or “cousin” even if they aren’t related by blood. It’s awesome.

  • Fabelle Fabelle November 22, 2013, 9:56 am

    WWS– volunteering is something that gets you out of the house, helps others, & fills you with a instead of purpose. It also doesn’t allow you to feel sorry yourself (which, in your position, you have ~every~ right to feel sorry for yourself—but it’s not a good feeling to have!)

    If you don’t feel up for volunteering, for whatever reason, I’d just accept the friends’ invites. Or maybe travel? (Like, do that adventurer thing where you travel alone?)

  • avatar Sunshine Brite November 22, 2013, 9:57 am

    Sorry for your loss. I think volunteering’s a wonderful way. You can create your own traditions too. I still get holidays with my family but 2 years ago I had to work a double on Thanksgiving. I came home to an empty house as my roommate was with her family and cooked my own holiday meal and enjoyed some videos and had some gratitude. I’ll do that again if I’m ever alone on Thanksgiving, it felt really good.

    • avatar TECH November 22, 2013, 11:06 am

      I love the idea of starting your own new traditions. It is sad that the LW’s family has passed away, but she is still here and there is so much that can bring pleasure and meaning to her life. It might mean every Thanksgiving she volunteers at the soup kitchen. Or it might mean she learns to cook a new dish and then makes it every year, so she has something to look forward to. I think the LW just needs to look into her heart and figure out what would make her feel good, and that will be her new tradition.

      • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 11:33 am

        I would like a new tradition of drinking mimosas all day and watching the parade on loop. Just in case LW is looking for other non-volunteering ideas.

        • avatar rachel November 22, 2013, 11:59 am

          Oh. I should totally put champagne and orange juice on my Thanksgiving shopping list.

        • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:15 pm

          I’m super excited for the Gaga/Muppets special!

          • avatar ktfran November 22, 2013, 2:08 pm

            I just watched a trailer for the new Muppets movie. With Tina Fey and Ty Burrell. SOOOO excited!

            • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:10 pm

              I love the Muppets sooo much. (And Gaga too. Don’t hate).

              I probably mention this every year, but if you (any of “you”) haven’t seen A Muppet Family Christmas, please watch it immediately. I’m not big on Christmas, but it’s THE BEST Christmas movie everrrrrr.

  • avatar painted_lady November 22, 2013, 9:59 am

    A few friends I know have Thanksgiving with friends only, and the friends who have family come after dessert at their own houses. I don’t know if you have anyone like that, but some of these people are too far from family, some have no family left to speak of, and some choose not to spend it with family. Do you know anyone who might be game for that? It’s a lot of fun from what I hear, but I live too far to make it anymore, and when I lived nearby, I always had to work on Thanksgiving. Maybe in addition to volunteering?

  • avatar Fancy Pants November 22, 2013, 10:25 am

    I just have to say, Wendy, you are so awesome. This was a really A+ response.

  • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 10:35 am

    Volunteering really does give you warm fuzzies. I’ve found, recently, that I especially love helping the intellectually/developmentally disabled population. Some of them have been through SO MUCH and continue to deal with hardship on a day to day basis, but their demeanor often remains friendly, happy, and grateful. In my efforts to help them, I think they help me more by changing my perspective.

  • avatar TECH November 22, 2013, 10:51 am

    I love the suggestion of volunteering. It’s a good idea for the holidays, or for just any day in general when you’re feeling down in the dumps.
    I also just wanted to mention that the holidays only have the meaning you assign to them. I am not a holidays person, for a variety of reasons. Part of the problem with holidays are the expectations we bring to them. People have this image in their mind that Thanksgiving and Christmas should be these heartwarming occasions like something out of a Hallmark card, and when it falls short of that, it can be hard. It reminds us that we and our families (or lack thereof) are not all we want them to be.
    I’ve struggled with that on holidays. There’s a lot of divorce in my family and I find it hard to juggle between extended step family and all the other weird dynamics going on. So, while my situation is not at all like the LW’s, I can relate to how holidays can just suck sometimes. I’ve been able to adjust my attitude though, and it helps a lot.
    Thanksgiving really is just another day on the calendar. But the upside is you get the day off work (hopefully) and you can just relax a little bit. LW, ask yourself, “What would make me really happy today?” Look at it like an unexpected day off work, where you can treat yourself and do whatever you want. Maybe it means ordering in Chinese food and having a movie marathon in your pajamas. Maybe it means exercising in the morning, curling up with a good book in the afternoon, or catching a movie at the multiplex at night.
    One thing I’ve learned through the holidays — movie theaters are always open. I’ve gone to the movies every single Thanksgiving and Christmas for years.
    If all else fails, we will be here for you at DW. Pop into the forums on the holidays. Someone will be here to cheer you up!

  • avatar SasLinna November 22, 2013, 11:12 am

    I love the volunteering suggestion, but I think any activity that would give you a sense of peace and self-connection could be good. For example, if you like traveling, go on a trip by yourself. Or if you love concerts, go to a concert. Or is there a friend who you could meet up with individually (rather than with a whole family around)?

  • avatar bethany November 22, 2013, 11:14 am

    Also, along the Volunteering line- I know several of our animal shelters are open 365 days a year, and they need people to come help on holidays. I’m sure you have to go through an orientation before you can volunteer, so you might not be able to do it for T-Giving, but you could probably go for Christmas.

  • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 12:04 pm

    Ugh. Madonna Badger is NOT my favorite person. Sorry, but THAT tragedy was so jawdroppingly preventable it made my blood boil… Sorry. But I remain rather aghast at sheer stupidity — esoecially, you know, when it KILLS five people.

    With regards to this Thanksgiving — I say go to see your friends. Have dinner and if it bothers you — go home. And you know what? As this is your first Thanksgiving alone, it’s fucking all right to feel sad. Have a good cry if you need to. It’s nice how everybody is telling you to volunteer. But my first thought was — Jesus, hasn’t this LW suffered enough? Now she’s expected to spend the day serving crazies at the homeless shelter?! Sorry, but have any of you actually dealt with the homeless lately? They sure ain’t a bunch of noble, down on their luck, lost — but wise souls. At least not here in LA. The homeless population of LA is seriously and truly mentally disturbed. If spending the day around that hopelessly unfixable problem — Thanks, Reagan! — will somehow cheer you up, LW. Then go for it! If not — DON’T feel bad about yourself.

    Sorry, but it’s hilarious to me how whenever this comes up the go to reaction of so many is — GO HELP THE NEEDY!! Which is something that somehow those WITH families NEVER have to do as THEY have families. But if you’ve somehow lost yours — society’s punishment for you is sending you off to serve those that we all threw away in the 1980s…

    I have a family. But as I see them at Christmas. Then again midwinter. And once or twice in the summer… Thanksgiving is one plane ticket too far. For the past 13 Thanksgivings I have headed up the coast to San Francisco to hang with the brother I never had — my straight best friend. We have a blast and every year, we find new ways to celebrate. Family can be more than just family. Spend this next year building yourself a new one. Remember. All it takes is one person.

    Sorry for your losses, LW. That’s gotta be real rough. And sorry for this rant. But telling lonely people that they all must now dutifully trot off to volunteer is simply obnoxious to me. Or at least clueless. It’s rather like wandering around a funeral proclaiming vapid platitudes such as “he’s in a better place now.” “God always has a plan.” Ugh, talk about the LAST thing anybody wants — or frankly — needs to hear…

    • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 12:14 pm

      Do you walk around your house before bed checking to make sure other people haven’t potentially done something that might start an accidental fire? This woman lost her entire family on Christmas and your reaction is it was her fault? I just can’t even. You sound like pure evil.
      I can’t even get to the part where you believe homeless and mentally ill people don’t deserve food.

      • Fabelle Fabelle November 22, 2013, 12:18 pm

        Ehh, I see BGM’s point about the volunteering (although I don’t agree with his characterization of homeless people…)

        It’s not for everyone, & the LW shouldn’t feel guilty if she decides ~not~ to go this route (which is why in my comment above, I was like, “If you don’t feel like doing this, er, for whatever reason…”

        • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 12:20 pm

          I don’t think anyone was saying she should feel guilty if she doesn’t volunteer. Plenty of great ideas TO HELP HER HAVE A BETTER DAY were given. Volunteering might be a great distraction. Staying home alone and watching old movies might too. (I don’t mean to be snappy at you, I just can’t believe anyone would say those things)

          • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:24 pm

            Yeah, volunteering or helping others can be a good way to feel better about yourself while also, you know, helping someone in need. Some people offered alternatives to homeless shelters in case that’s not her cup of tea. I don’t think she’s being “guilted” into volunteering, but it IS a good idea if LW hadn’t thought of it. Also, LW said she didn’t want to be alone OR with families, so… seems like a logical suggestion, right?

            • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 12:26 pm

              I can’t believe anyone would say volunteering is a bad suggestion.

              • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:28 pm

                I don’t even volunteer because I’m selfless. It really IS a feel-good activity, haha. Not in a smug way. I can’t really explain it.

              • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 12:30 pm

                It is just always the Go-to Pat suggestion. Honestly? I don’t think I have EVER even read an advice column where this hasn’t been tossed out as the feel-good, magical fix-all from those that have never truly been there.

                Frankly, I’ve never been there either. But several of my good friends who HAVE been there have told me they find this crap offensive and rather patronizing.

                • avatar rachel November 22, 2013, 12:31 pm

                  Right, except that Wendy actually talks about how the woman who HAS been there (who you hate so much for…suffering a tragic loss I guess), did use volunteering to help get through it.

                  • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 12:37 pm

                    True. Of course — some also have good reason to feel more guilty about their losses. I don’t think this LW has anything to atone for…

                    • avatar rachel November 22, 2013, 12:44 pm

                      So, you’re saying, what? that Madonna Badger should be volunteering as some sort of penance? Because she had the audacity to make a mistake that cost her everything? I can’t believe anyone, even you, would be so cruel.

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 12:52 pm

                      Honestly? Had she killed her family in a drunk driving crash — would everybody be rallying so around her? This loss was at least that reckless and careless. Ashes tossed into an INSIDE trash bin? No working smoke detectors…

                      Sorry. But the media could pick a better hero.

                    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 12:57 pm

                      MARK. I consider myself at least kinda smart, and I would think nothing of ashes in a trash can. It’s not a fire – it’s ASHES. Meaning the shreds of burnt wood. How is that common sense?

                    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 12:58 pm

                      AND it’s a trash can. Trash cans don’t exactly sound flammable to me. I mean alright, don’t stick paper towel on top of a candle, got it. But ashes in a trash can? I don’t get it.

                    • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 1:11 pm

                      Drunk driving with kids in the car: a felony, for one. A deliberate act. Knowing with 100% awareness that you are risking lives and not caring about it.
                      House burns down to no fault of your own: accident.
                      The fact that anyone can compare the two makes me realize there are some unbelievably dumb people on this planet.

                • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 12:32 pm

                  What we should be recommending is wine, because that makes everyone feel better. That truly is a foolproof option.

                  • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:44 pm

                    Haha. Honestly, if it were me, I’d probably just get shitfaced on Blackout Wednesday and spend Thanksgiving in bed with Netflix and takeout. But that’s not a particularly “healthy” suggestion, and also I don’t care much about Thanksgiving so I’m not sure how bothered I would be about being alone.

              • Fabelle Fabelle November 22, 2013, 12:33 pm

                No one said it’s a BAD suggestion—I’m just taking a devil-on-your-shoulder route with the LW, like, “dude, you really don’t have to do this, even if it’s in the holiday spirit…” Of course the comments suggesting she volunteer aren’t meant to make her feel guilty, & I agree it ~could~ be a great distraction—but yeahh, I *was* nodding along to BGM’s comment (after filtering some of it through a metaphorical strainer ;) ) about how “volunteer!!” seems to be to go-to advice for people who’ll be alone during the holiday season.

                • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:38 pm

                  Yeah. If BGM had worded it like this, I doubt he’d be getting any criticism. But he prefaced it with “This woman’s tragedy is HER fault” and followed it with “Homeless people are crazy.” Left a bad taste in my mouth.

                  • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 12:51 pm

                    Yeah I kinda stopped understanding where he was coming from there. It’s like she’s probably blamed herself a THOUSAND times. And honestly, I would never bat an eye at ashes being thrown in a dumpster. Maybe that’s just common knowledge and I’m dumb. But whatever. And homeless people are not crazy. A lot of them ARE mentally ill, and undiagnosed and unmedicated. But it’s not their fault a lot of the time, and even if it is their fault, it’s probably their illness that stops them from wanting to take their meds.

                    But yeah, I don’t think this LW should feel like she has to volunteer. If I were her I would go spend time with friends. A lot of my friends participate in friendsgiving and I’m always sad I can’t make it, it looks so fun. They rent a cabin in the mountains and drink and snowshoe and snowboard and stuff.

        • avatar ktfran November 22, 2013, 12:22 pm

          Yeah. I’m going to side with you and BGM on volunteering. It’s not for everyone. I also liked BGM’s advice to the LW about building up relationships over the next year with people.

          I have a great family, but I also truly believe you can make your own in what is normally considered unconventional ways.

          • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

            Even though I did suggest volunteering, I def agree with those who say it might not be for LW and that she shouldn’t feel guilty of doing it.

            I probably would not volunteer and I would just spend the day at home in my ne’er pants watching football, drinking beer, and not having to leave the house!

            • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 1:06 pm

              Literally no one said or even implied she should feel guilty if she doesn’t volunteer or that its “the right thing to do.”
              (gg, just posting this anywhere, not directed at you)

              • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 1:09 pm

                I agree, but when EVERYONE says “this is the best choice” I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t up for it. You know? If you asked 10 people what to do, and they all said X, doing Y could bring up some guilt.

              • Fabelle Fabelle November 22, 2013, 1:10 pm

                Okay, but us saying she ~shouldn’t~ feel guilty, doesn’t mean that any of you said that she ~should~? It’s just, don’t feel guilty if___________. I mean, I know that I get guilty at people’s suggestions sometimes (weirdly, the example coming to mind is one of my mother being like, “why don’t you go outside!” when I was a kid. Like, of course I should go outside! Outside is good for you. But sometimes I didn’t want to go outside, so I didn’t, & then I felt guilty. So basically, same thing here: of course volunteering is good. But sometimes people need permission to be… not good. Or something. I’m terrified of phrasing myself wrong because Wendy just called us all assholes, but you get the gist. Maybe.)

                • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 2:48 pm

                  To me: the subtext of this letter was — gee, I have lost my entire family this year and don’t feel very thankful. Is it okay to feel miserable? To even spend the day miserable? My answer to the LW is a resounding YES! To me it sounds like she is still grieving. And she feels like she NEEDS permission to feel bad in order to do that. Sorry, but to me the last thing she needs is everybody to basically tell her to stop feeling sorry for herself (GREAT! Now lets add guilt) and that what she REALLY needs to be doing is be out somehow saving the world. As if her own problems don’t truly matter.

                  This will be her very FIRST Thanksgiving alone. She has every right to feel blue about it.

                  And if pointing this out makes me an asshole — so be it. Frankly, I’d rather be an asshole than unbearably trite.

                • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 2:57 pm

                  For many, volunteering makes them feel good, or distracted from their sadness. Both things ONLY the volunteerer benefits from, which was exactly the point of everyone suggesting it. Just like suggestions of all day mimosas at home. Many people who volunteer feel better doing it, which also was the point of suggesting it. It might make her feel better. Its an option to not be alone, since she was clear she didn’t want to be alone. I would’ve suggested a full day spa trip if I thought any of those would be open on T-day.
                  No one suggests volunteering to say you should stop feeling bad for yourself because others have it “worse,” you should feel guilty if you don’t, or you don’t have permission to feel bad. I do get why there could possibly be a guilt feeling if she doesn’t, however, that would be ridiculous for anyone feel bad for not volunteering, imo. Everything else about anti-volunteering, no, I don’t get at all. Its sad to me that this needed to be explained.

                  • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 2:58 pm

                    No one thinks she doesn’t have a right to be sad. This is just so ridiculous to me.

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 3:11 pm

                      Then why did NO ONE else out forth that simple suggestion? You know, that it would be okay to just stay home and feel sad? Instead it was a rousing chorus of “get thee to the volunteerery…” GG truly expressed my own thoughts as to why such a loud command from oh-so-many would most likely make the LW feel guilty. See her post on this as thesaurusing her words here would be pointless.

                    • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:21 pm

                      @BGM, probably because she specified that she doesn’t want to be alone?

                    • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 3:24 pm

                      wCatss, and because usually when you hear someone is sad, you try to make them feel better. Not you, obviously, but the general “you.”

                    • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:26 pm

                      @LBH haha re: “not you, obviously”

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 3:36 pm

                      Catsmeow. Read the letter again. I simply don ‘t see that spelled out anywhere in the letter.

                  • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:13 pm

                    Exactly! I don’t think anyone was suggesting volunteering as a “lesson” to LW to remember that other people have it worse. No matter who you are or what you’re going through, someone else has it “worse” and realizing that does nothing to make you feel better. But volunteering is good for not being alone and feeling warm fuzzies. If LW would prefer to day drink and watch the Gaga/Muppets special, that’s cool with me too.

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 3:22 pm

                      I am not saying its done to be deliberately cruel. Only instead that it is very misguided.

                    • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

                      Yup, exactly cats.

                    • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:50 pm

                      @BGM. True. I guess I was going off the title of the letter. If she doesn’t mind being alone, then my advice would be to, yeah, treat it like any other day (as she asks at the end).

              • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 1:14 pm

                Yea, I really am just going to step away from this. Apparently offering suggestions to help someone feel better means you are probably making them feel worse/guilty. Idk. I’m walking away from this discussion. I assume you both mean well because I feel like I just know you enough by now to know that. I just can’t even believe this discussion is actually happening. I understand your points though and that they both mean well.

            • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 1:09 pm

              What do you and gguy do for thanksgiving? Because your family has a restaurant right?

              • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 1:12 pm

                Usually we do every thanksgiving with his family. Last year we decided to stay home in fl and I cooked the whole huge meal (including a beer brined turkey- YUM!!) and we watched football and drank beer all day. It was amazing. This year we’re heading to rural SC to shoot guns, drink beer, ride 4wheelers, and eat fried turkey in a single wide. It’s basically heaven. (Oh his family will be there too!)

                • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 1:15 pm

                  That does sound fun. I’m going to cold-as-fuck Ohio. But it will involve beaucoup de beer and football and the NFL hall of fame so I shouldn’t ‘complain. But I should buy myself cute clothes.

                  • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 1:17 pm

                    Seriously go buy clothes. And a parka. I’ve been dying this week in PA.

                  • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

                    Um, isn’t Colorado colder than Ohio? Y’all got snow already, right? I’m not in Ohio (but I’m in the MIdwest), and it’s been in the 40s and 50s or warmer.

                    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 3:49 pm

                      Nah Colorado, Denver at least, is at lot warmer than people think. Now Nebraska, that place is fing cold in the winter. Denver averages from 50 degrees in the winter. I regularly wear flip flops all year. We’re decently far south which helps.

                    • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:51 pm

                      Oh, I saw a Denver FB friend talking about shoveling snow, so that’s why I thought that. It’s not freaky-cold here YET, though. Except at night.

            • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 1:46 pm

              Haha. Ne’er pants? I have never heard that before.

              • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 1:52 pm

                Underpants! Dang iPad autocorrect! I’m closing out my last day in the office filing like a mad woman and using DW for sanity breaks.

                • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 1:57 pm

                  Haha, I thought it was some old-timey Southern saying or something rather than an auto-correct error. Oops. Now I feel dumb.

                  • GatorGirl GatorGirl November 22, 2013, 2:11 pm

                    Well, if you talk to some of my husbands family it would probably sound something along those lines. With the draw and the mumbling.

                    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 3:06 pm

                      Ha I thought it meant she was a 49′ers football fan so they were like her “niner’s” pants. I don’t know.

      • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 12:18 pm

        Well, I sure wouldn’t stand there dumbly watching my boyfriend place ashes from a fireplace into a garbage can in the mudroom either. I also always have working smoke detectors…

        LBH — sure, the homeless deserve food. But society should provide that. NOT just those who have already suffered traumatic personal losses. The homeless also deserve mental help. But Republicans did away with that in the 1980s. Oh, and the Democrats? They all stood by and watched it happen.

        • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 2:43 pm

          Where did anyone say the only people who should volunteer should be the ones who’ve suffered tremendous personal losses? I would assume many DWers who have families volunteer around the holidays. I do, but you probably already guessed that since you know I’m oh so saintly.

    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson November 22, 2013, 12:29 pm

      BGM I was totally thinking that. Like she probably doesn’t want to make her life worse by volunteering. But that’s because I’m a dick. And so are you. And the only type of volunteering I actually enjoy is if it involves kids or dogs.

      • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 12:30 pm

        Animal shelters and crisis nurseries will probably accept volunteers.

      • Dear Wendy Wendy November 22, 2013, 12:46 pm

        God, some of you are such assholes.

        • avatar ktfran November 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

          It’s not that I think volunteering is a bad idea. It’s actually a really good idea. I guess what I wanted to highlight in BGM’s comment is that since the LW lost most of her family, she should spend some time trying to cultivate a new one. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the volunteer thing in my post above, I think I stated my feelings wrong.

          A nursing home is also a really good place to volunteer. Most of them are super excited to get visitors.

          • Dear Wendy Wendy November 22, 2013, 1:20 pm

            There are LOTS of places to volunteer. I didn’t specify volunteering at a homeless shelter. I also don’t think it’s the only way or even the best way for a bereaved person who has no family to spend the holidays, especially if there are multiple invites to friends’. But this particular person said she does not want to go to friends’ family celebrations where she will feel her own family’s absence more acutely. If she doesn’t want to do that and she doesn’t want to be alone and she doesn’t seem to have any single friends she could invite over to her own home, then her options are somewhat limited. Sure, cultivating a new family is a great idea, but I’m not sure how one would go about doing that on Thanksgiving Day if there isn’t already a seed that’s been planted.

            As someone who hasn’t celebrated thanksgiving with her own parents in over 20 years and was single at certain times in those 20 years, I will say that I never volunteered on Thanksgiving because that wasn’t how I wanted to spend the day. What I did instead was celebrate with friends who were also away from their families. I always had plenty of friends who were on their own and we had really fun, wonderful thanksgivings (they are among some of my favorite memories). So, personally, I don’t really relate to someone who says she has no one to spend the day with or no one who isn’t spending it with their own families, but just because that isn’t my personal experience doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize and offer alternative suggestions. Like volunteering. Which, as I said, isn’t what I’ve done in the past when I didn’t have family to celebrate with. But different lifestyles leads to different preferences and maybe this person would enjoy volunteering on Thanksgiving Day. That so many people think that’s a bad suggestion even when I framed it as something that helped someone who suffered unimaginable loss is… fucking sad.

            • ApresMoi ApresMoi November 22, 2013, 1:37 pm

              You’re suggestion is certainly a good one, but its also fine to let the LW know that its OK if volunteering is something she doesn’t feel inclined to do.

              • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

                EXACTLY!

            • avatar ktfran November 22, 2013, 2:23 pm

              I totally get what your’re saying. And I don’t think it’s a bad suggestion at all. I was just commenting to you because I know I worded my one response wrong and I was trying to clarify. It happens.

              Anyway, I’m an advocate of volunteering. Every Wednesday, I volunteer at a tutoring program for low income, at risk children. Heck you’re probably familiar with who this program is catered to because it’s called Cabrini Connections. I’ve tutored the same girl for the past four years. She’s 13 now and it’s becoming a bit more difficult, but I want to stick with her. If I can convince her to do something after high school that doesn’t involve “getting famous.” I’ll know I’ve done my job.

              And I’m not saying this to pat myself on my back. Just to reiterate that I like the volunteer suggestion. But I also like the idea of cultivating new family-like relationships. I think it’s important.

              Really, I just don’t want you to think I’m an a-hole.

              • Dear Wendy Wendy November 22, 2013, 2:31 pm

                I wasn’t totally serious when I said there were a bunch of assholes. Just one and he knows who he is and he loves it.

                • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 3:32 pm

                  Eh. Tomato — tomahto, Wendy.

                  I’d say, I agree with you about 98% of the time. But I truly thought your response here was a bit glib and trite. I dunno. It’s just I am often so much more impressed with what you have to say. Here is somebody with a very real, profound problem. And — in my opinion — the advice today just didn’t offer much in the way of solid REAL advice. Truthfully? If I hadn’t expected something more from you, I’d have never even bothered posting.

                  • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:38 pm

                    OK, so you didn’t agree with the volunteering suggestion. That’s fine. As a matter of fact, you suggesting to the LW that she need not feel guilty if she doesn’t choose to volunteer was the one useful part of your “advice.” But basically you said, “That Madonna lady was at fault for her whole family dying, and homeless people are crazy so it’s not worth it to help them.” I’m pretty sure THAT’s why Wendy suggested you’re an asshole.

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 3:45 pm

                      Could be. Look. My unvarnished opinion? If you keep running to PEOPLE magazine two years after the fact with puffball PR pieces hailing you as the next Joan of Arc — sorry, but I do feel that you then have chosen to open up your actions to criticism by those who deem them as slightly less than heroic. Hey, I’ve done PLENTY of dumb things in my time, but somehow… I’ve also never miraculously burnt up five screaming members of my family alive…

                    • Dear Wendy Wendy November 22, 2013, 5:01 pm

                      Yes.

                  • Dear Wendy Wendy November 22, 2013, 5:00 pm

                    That’s fine, mark. I appreciate that, actually. It was what you said about Madonna badger that I found so awful, even for you.

                    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 5:30 pm

                      I firmly believe she is somebody the media has built up and forgiven simply because she has a glamorous job. I found the way this case was handled to be very suspect. Hell, the DA was later quoted in the press that he couldn’t prosecute as the state had destroyed much needed evidence by razing the crime scene within 24 hours… It was all handled very poorly.

            • Fabelle Fabelle November 22, 2013, 2:48 pm

              Ahh, so my goal was like what Apres Moi said– just letting the LW know it’s alright if she doesn’t feel like doing that (which you didn’t neglect in your advice or anything, I was just expanding & re-stating more diplomatically what BGM was expressing). I wasn’t even specifically thinking of your advice to her, if that makes sense (like, I thought your advice was very nuanced & applicable to the situation; I think we all, in the above thread, were thinking more in generalities & discussion points?)

              edited to add: what ktfran said, I just don’t want you to think I’m an asshole, hahaha (but I see your response to her now, so maybe I’m in the clear ;) )

              second edit: I mean, clearly, I was thinking of your advice in letting the LW know it’s alright to ~not~ to do that, & in restating BGM’s opinion, but getting more into it, I feel like all of us start getting further away from the actual letter (as usual!) so that’s what I mean by generalities & shit

              • CatsMeow CatsMeow November 22, 2013, 3:15 pm

                If LW doesn’t want to volunteer, there’s nothing wrong with it, and there’s nothing wrong with you telling her that. You could never be an asshole, Fab. :)

          • avatar Temperance November 23, 2013, 8:35 pm

            I thought that I hated volunteering because I hated going to nursing homes and had no interest in working with the homeless. I just don’t have the patience for the elderly, quite honestly. I do volunteer occasionally at a legal clinic for homeless women, but that’s really difficult and I only do it through work.

            I am a huge believer in volunteermatch.org. It’s not perfect, and they don’t have the best opportunities all the time, but it’s nice to have a selection of opportunities, if you so choose.

    • Lindsay Lindsay November 22, 2013, 7:28 pm

      There’s a lot of volunteering that doesn’t necessarily involve the homeless, anyway. Various communities often do dinners and ask for volunteers.

      But I’m sure you were just trying to be over the top, for … whatever reason it is. So, joke’s on me for responding seriously!

  • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 1:04 pm

    “I watched him take them with his hand, the shovel, and put them into the bag,” Badger told Lauer. “I watched him put his hands in the bag … to make sure that there’s nothing on fire in the bag.”
    She recalled going to bed, but not before looking at the bag of embers one last time.
    “As I was going up the stairs, I saw the plastic box there on the floor and I saw the bag on top,” Badger said. “I remember thinking to myself I should put that outside. But then I remember thinking, ‘I watched him (Borcina) put his hands in there.’”
    The house was equipped with fire alarms, but Badger, a former Calvin Klein art director, said she never heard them ring.
    “I want to know what caused the fire, I want to know why didn’t the fire alarms go off,” she added. “The hard-wired alarms had batteries in them. Why didn’t those go off?”

    • avatar bethany November 22, 2013, 1:20 pm

      Something very similar happened in my neighborhood growing up. Ashes were put in a container, then put in the garage. The garage blew up, and caught the house on fire. Luckily, the garage extended from the side of the house, so it took the house a little while longer to catch on fire, and the explosion woke everyone up, so they were able to escape. It was right around Christmas, too.

    • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 1:23 pm

      Well, the freaking ashes were from a fire from that very day. Obviously, they were STILL hot. Her actions defy all logic and common sense.

      With regards to those smoke detectors… this is from an article about the official investigation from earlier this year. NBC News.

      “Records state that workers put smoke detectors by the stairs on each floor, but Raskopf and Grunow claim that Borcina had the smoke detectors taken down so painters could do their work.

      “The family lived in the house with this equipment on site, but not available for use,” the letter from Grunow and Raskopf says.

      • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 1:30 pm

        If I watched someone touch ashes with their hands, I would assume they are no longer burning.
        As to your other dumb point, where does it say the mother was advised that they didn’t work? It doesn’t, so don’t even bother answering. I’ve never been so disgusted by another human being in my life.

        • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 1:52 pm

          The house was a freaking firetrap. Rather obviously so if one reviews this report.

          http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Stamford-Christmas-Fire-Madonna-Badger-Michael-Borcina-Carpenters-Evidence-209399231.html

          Bottomline? If you OWN a fireplace — you should take the time to learn that ANY fireman would tell you exactly what a bad idea this is. Many ashes — especially those on the outside will not only feel cool. But be cool. The danger lurks inside. I dunno. I fucking learned this in elementary school. But maybe its not taught anymore… Its like building a pool with toddlers and NOT putting up a fence.

          At any rate, common sense is no longer common, I guess. And that worries me. It also makes me rather glad I posted this rant to begin with. If nothing else a few people learned NOT to toss fresh ashes in the trash.

          • avatar lets_be_honest November 22, 2013, 2:39 pm

            Two comments up you insisted they were still hot. “Well, the freaking ashes were from a fire from that very day. Obviously, they were STILL hot.” But now they are cold?
            I hope you never get into any accident in your life, since clearly all accidents would be your fault and no one should feel bad, even if your entire family was killed because of an accident…even one you played no role in.

            • bittergaymark bittergaymark November 22, 2013, 4:28 pm

              Some were cold. SOME were hot. Obviously. This isn’t rocket science, LBH. Do try to keep up. The blasted ashes freaking caused the fire… Hello? They caused the fire because enough of them were clearly hot enough to do so — despite the brilliantly scientific lets use my hand approach… Which is why only an idiot would put fresh ashes in a paperbag… in a trash can… in a room filled with freaking scrap wood… in a house with no smoke detectors with many windows boarded shut.

              Honestly, it was only sheer mercy that kept criminal negligence out of this case. It was looked into — you can count on that.

              And frankly — her story about watching him feel the ashes to see how cool they were strikes me as absurdly self-serving. Honestly? It rings about as true as me saying I just LOVE my life.

              Later, the District Attorney expressed frustration at his inability to prosecute both for negligence largely due to the state destroyed evidence. Which the state did by simply tearing down the house the very next day after it burned. Yeah. Nothing suspect there…

      • Lindsay Lindsay November 23, 2013, 12:13 am

        So, someone writes in about a hard time they’re having, and you just spend all this time and space bitching about some other person you apparently hate? Why do you post here at all? Most people seem to be here because they want to offer people some sort of empathy and help, and you just bitch about everything all the time. I’d be horrified if I were the LW and I came here to check out some advice about such a difficult time, and I had to sift through the hateful crap that you post about some family dying.

  • avatar Sara November 22, 2013, 3:16 pm

    I would say plan to go to one of your friend’s houses, but plan an out, so you can limit your time there. Maybe try to arrive closer to meal time so you don’t have to socialize as much in advance, maybe tell them you have to be somewhere else afterwards.

    You may find that being around a happy family is what you need on a holiday…but in a small dose. I definitely was a bit more hermit-like after my father passed (when I was younger), but I was surprised at how much I did need to be around people for those special occasions and even some normal non-holiday days. I thought I would feel numb or resentful but actually did feel a little better for the human contact. However, I always hit my limit after a certain time (doesn’t help that I’m also an introvert) so would plan to spend x amount of time then head out.

    Also, is meetup active where you are? Where I am, I often see the different groups posting events for those who don’t have family around for the holidays. If you can’t handle being around happy friends and their families and don’t want to volunteer, what about dinner with complete strangers who are in the same boat?

  • avatar XanderT November 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

    I am going to be completely alone this Thanksgiving as well – 1st ever in 50 years! I’m hoping my favorite bar & grill will be open so they can feed me cause there is no way I am cooking! This next year I am going to do my best to cultivate more friends so next year I will hopefully have more options. With all of the changes you have had this past year I think you just need to get through this holiday season and not put too much importance on it. I have found the 1st year after the death of someone close is always the hardest. Each holiday, birthday, etc. is the 1st one without them. It is hard!! LW, please do whatever you want to do & don’t worry about what others think you should do or what you think they think. Who cares? LW, what do you want to do? Oooh, maybe I will put up my Christmas tree that day – after the bar, of course. That should be interesting. Good Luck, LW. Let us know what you decided.

  • avatar Amanda November 22, 2013, 3:59 pm

    LW, I am so sorry for your losses. I recommend that you spend the holidays this year doing some of your favorite things that make you feel good. For me, that would entail drinking wine, laying on the couch and relaxing all day. Relaxing is one of my favorite pastimes; what are yours?

  • Lindsay Lindsay November 22, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I’m sorry for your losses. Volunteering is nice, but depending on where you live, the opportunities may already be filled up. I know that I tried to find one the week before Thanksgiving one year, and apparently people had already signed up months prior.

    I generally spend Thanksgiving alone, and while I’ve thought that being with people I don’t know that well would be more sad than being alone, that tends to not actually be true. In theory, pretending Thanksgiving doesn’t exist might seem like a good idea, but I know that I personally would just feel bad for myself for not “being able” to celebrate or the fact that I had to do that. Obviously, you’re not me, but I always found that being able to articulate that I did something for Thanksgiving made me feel surprisingly better than I expected.

  • kare kare November 22, 2013, 10:54 pm

    I’m not sure why I thought of this…

    “Oh, did the little rich boy have a problem with the butler? Yes, mine’s worse!”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZUDTS5ApnM

    I’m going to watch every Thanksgiving episode of Friends this weekend. Best. Weekend. Ever.

    • avatar lets_be_honest November 25, 2013, 9:25 am

      kare, how do you do that? is there a tv special or do you have the dvds?

      • kare kare November 27, 2013, 12:39 am

        I have the entire series on my computer, so I can just make a playlist and watch whichever episodes I want. I think some of the episodes are available for purchase on an individual basis on Amazon too.

  • avatar Temperance November 23, 2013, 12:51 pm

    Everyone here has given some good suggestions, but I would like to chime in that there are plenty of opportunities for volunteer work that don’t involve direct contact with the homeless or dealing with senior citizens, which seem to be the go-to. It’s also completely fine if you would rather have a “Treat YoSelf” day than spend it serving others. Seriously, in your shoes, I would watch shitty TV, eat pizza, and then go shopping and hit the sales. IDGAF.

    I would suggest that, if you are so inclined, you check volunteermatch.org for opportunities in your area of interest. I do a lot of volunteer work, both personally and through my job. My favorite was working in the box office of our community theatre. It was relaxing, easy, and didn’t involve direct contact with low-income populations. As a bonus, I was also able to get free tickets to their shows, lol. My actual job involves legal clinics for low-income clients, including homeless folks, and it’s mentally and physically taxing. Volunteering is “my” time, and something I do for me.

  • avatar csp November 25, 2013, 9:22 am

    This is such a sweet idea, Wendy. Another option is to travel. Two years ago I went on Safari over Christmas. It was great because you are in a tour group and everyone on the trip was pretty unattached because if you had kids, you wouldn’t travel at that time. If you find a tour group you won’t be lonely. Sometimes, going somewhere you can marvel at is really therapeutic.

    • avatar MsMisery November 25, 2013, 12:58 pm

      This is a good idea, too! I went to Puerto Vallarta one year over Thanksgiving. It was weird being out of the country for an American holiday. No turkey or pumpkin pie! But it was also nice to be somewhere warm :)

  • avatar MsMisery November 25, 2013, 12:56 pm

    If you’ve been invited somewhere, go! I am also single w/no kids, but (thankfully) I still have my parents. My mother is in another state though, and I am not all that enthusiastic about my step-family via my dad. So, there have been years I have spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, AND Easter over at my best friend’s parents’ house (even though my BFF lives in another state, too, since her husband is in the Navy). But I’ve known them for over 20 years so I am always welcome at their table.

    If you truly don’t think you can stand the sight of happy families this year then donate your time at a (human or animal) shelter or food kitchen.

Leave a Comment


− one = 5