When Thanksgiving Day Hurts

by | Nov 21, 2022 | what you can do | 2 comments

Photo cred by SJ on unsplash

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday season, but many people aren’t looking forward to this time of year. Are you one of them?

For parents whose children have ruined their lives with drugs or alcohol, struggle with a mental illness or self-injury, have an eating disorder, struggle with their sexual orientation, are in trouble with the law (in jail or prison), can’t stop gambling or looking at porn, the holidays can be a brutal time of year. They don’t look forward to Thanksgiving much less Christmas.

I remember when my daughter was young and innocent. She’d curl up on my lap, giddy with excitement to watch the big Thanksgiving Day parade. Happy sounds filled our home. It was a joy to be together. After the big meal, she would join in pulling on the turkey’s wishbone, smiling and laughing, hoping her wish would come true.

Years later, when my daughter was in full-blown addiction, the holidays changed for me. I became desperate for my wishes to come true, but no turkey bone could make that happen.

The holidays I once looked forward to, I now dreaded. What previously brought joy, now brought increased pain and sadness, regret and longing. I didn’t know how to cope.

What About You?

What about you, dear mom or dad? Do you know how to cope? Do you yearn for your wishes come true, for your child to be restored? Would you be giddy with excitement to have them back, healthy and whole? If only things were as easy as making a wish on a turkey bone.

We still remember how cute and sweet our sons and daughters were. But today, instead of putting smiles on our faces, those memories make us frown. The happy days are gone. Our children aren’t who they once were. Not anymore. Everything has changed. Our hearts are broken.

If our children don’t live with us, we might not know if we’ll even see them on Thanksgiving. Will they call or come visit? If we do see them, how long will they stay? Will there be drama and arguing? And what about Christmas? If they visit, the holiday could turn sour and be miserable.

Can we be honest? Sometimes, we wish our child wasn’t going to be with us. Who would understand if we told them? Some of us wonder if our child will survive until New Years. Others would be satisfied just to know they’re alive.

One Thanksgiving, when my daughter wasn’t doing well, I attempted to follow my typical tradition of listening to Christmas music that afternoon. But this time, when the melodies began to play, instead of bringing joy, the familiar tunes brought a meltdown. I couldn’t listen without crying. I had to turn the music off.

For parents like us, the holidays can be bittersweet. Sweet memories from the past combined with the bitterness of the present. We want the season to hurry up and be over. We want the pain to end.

Do you wonder how you’re going to manage?

Dear mom or dad, I have a suggestion that might help you manage this holiday season.

Shift your focus.

Put your hope in God.

You never know what tomorrow might bring.

A few years ago I heard from a mom who had been on the verge of despair. After years of disappointments and heartache, she’d lost her ability to focus on God. All hope for her child was gone, then something miraculous happened. Out of the blue her wayward son showed up on her doorstep. He gave her a big, long, hug and declared with enthusiasm, “Mom, I’ve found my faith again!” He had returned to Christ and begun to live a new life. He was a different person. Their relationship was restored. How quickly things can turn around.

Friend, your child may not “come home” this holiday season, but if you shift your focus and trust God, keeping your hope in Him, He’ll strengthen you while you wait. He’ll get you through. You can count on Him, and that’s far better than wishing on any turkey bone.

This Bible verse helps me: Wait for (trust in) the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Ps. 27:14) NIV.

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, as the holidays approach and everyone looks so happy, show me how to cope with my heavy heart. Help me lean on You and focus on the fact that You are with me. Comfort me when sadness closes in. Lift up my head and renew my hope. Make Your face shine upon me and give me Your peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.



  1. Andy Malloy

    So needed this today! thank you so much for what you guys do for all of us that are hurting parents…

    • Tom and Dena Yohe

      Thanks Andy,you are very gracious.