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Kaela's Blog

A Grief and Trauma Therapist's Thanksgiving Day Survival Checklist

Thanksgiving can be a challenging time for individuals struggling with grief or trauma. The emphasis on gratitude and togetherness can sometimes exacerbate feelings of sadness, loss, or distress. As a grief and trauma therapist, my job is to help my patients navigate this holiday with a checklist tailored to their unique needs. Here's a general Thanksgiving Day survival checklist to for anyone who may find the holiday overwhelming.


1. Self-Care Preparation:

a. Start early: Plan your day in advance to minimize stress.

b. Prioritize sleep: Adequate rest can help manage emotions better.

c. Nutrition: Eating balanced meals leading up to Thanksgiving to stabilize mood.


2. Reach Out for Support:

a. Identify a support system: Connect with trusted friends, family, or support groups.

b. Notify loved ones: Let close friends or family members know about any potential triggers or sensitivities.


3. Setting Boundaries:

a. Say 'No' when needed: Give yourself permission to decline invitations or activities that might be too overwhelming.

b. Communicate boundaries: Communicate your boundaries clearly to others.


4. Mindfulness and Relaxation:

a. Breathing exercises: Follow deep breathing techniques to help stay grounded.

b. Meditation or mindfulness: Short meditation sessions to manage stress.

c. Progressive muscle relaxation: Follow guided online videos with techniques to relieve physical tension.


5. Emotional Toolkit:

a. Identify emotions: Acknowledge and label your feelings.

b. Journaling: Keep a journal to process emotions privately.

c. Create a coping strategy: Develop a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms.


6. Honor the Loved One:

a. Create a tribute: Find a meaningful way to remember and honor the person you've lost.

b. Share stories: Share stories with a trusted friend or family member, the importance of reminiscing and sharing stories about your loved one cannot be overstated.


7. Focus on Gratitude:

a. Shift perspective: Find gratitude in small moments or experiences.

b. Gratitude journal: Keep a daily gratitude journal to foster a positive mindset.


8. Distraction Techniques:

a. Engage in hobbies: Engage in activities you enjoy to divert your attention.

b. Watch uplifting movies or shows: Make a list of feel-good movies or shows to watch.


9. Have a Plan B:

a. Alternative plans: Already have alternative plans for the day in case your initial plans become too difficult.


10. Reach Out for Professional Help:

a. Seek professional help: It's okay to seek professional guidance if you feel overwhelmed or unsafe.

b. Crisis hotlines and emergency resources: Available list here.


Thanksgiving can be an emotionally charged holiday, but with the right strategies and support, you can navigate it more successfully. Share this comprehensive Thanksgiving Day survival checklist with a friend or family member who may find this holiday season stressful to help them prioritize self-care, connect with support, and manage their emotions during this challenging time.


If you or someone you know is in need of professional assistance, please check out these additional resources. To schedule an appointment for future grief or trauma therapy, please call 614-647-HELP.


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