” If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together…..there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart….I’ll always be with you.
-A.A.Milne (Winnie the Pooh)
The first Thanksgiving without my grandmother felt like the last piece of a puzzle was missing. Sometimes I help my five-year-old son put together challenging puzzles. We get to the end of the puzzle and realize that we are missing the last piece. We look for it on the bookshelf with all of the other puzzles, but can’t seem to find it. (My guess is that our mischievous dog, Belle, chewed it up!)
My grandma’s house looked the same during the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. The house even smelled as though she lived there. I could still smell the scent of her coffee that she made. My grandfather put out the same tree and decorations, just as she did. However, her absence at the dinner table was the missing piece of the puzzle.
Last year I created an activity to use with our grief support group before Thanksgiving. For a few children, it was the first Thanksgiving without their loved one. The children made memory placemats to use during Thanksgiving dinner or another special dinner. One child traced his hand three times and wrote things about his mom that he missed. A few children wrote/drew favorite hobbies and characteristics about the loved one. They looked beautiful when they were completed!
This is an activity that a child could create for a birthday dinner or the anniversary of the death. A child could make a placemat in honor of a parent that is deployed or hospitalized. We used foam sheets, stickers, and paper leaves for our support group. Use materials available around the house. Your child could browse through magazines and cut out pictures to glue. Scissors that make the curvy edges could add a special touch. Before you eat dinner with your special memory placemat, everyone at the table could say a favorite memory of the loved one.
My memory of my grandma would go something like this:
“I remember how Grandma always made holiday dinners special. She would have a favorite appetizer that my sister and I loved- black olives! Melissa and I placed the olives on each finger, eating the entire bowl. I will always remember a Thanksgiving when my sister and I dressed up like turkeys in our ballet leotards and tights. We stuffed socks with toilet paper to make feathers. (My idea, of course!) We laughed and enjoyed every minute with our grandma.”