Thanksgiving 2020: Finding gratitude in the midst of a pandemic

November 26, 2020

By Gracie Bonds Staples

Thanksgiving Day celebrations at my home have been shrinking for years so this one, just days away, won’t look that different.

Depending on how you look at it, it’s one of the blessings or, in my case, curses of your kids growing up and moving away.

But life isn’t just about me and mine. It’s about all of us so I’m well aware that for a good many of us, there will be people missing from Thanksgiving Day tables here and across the country.

That is always true, but more so this year because of the coronavirus. As of last count, it had claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, leaving behind a trail of grief that hasn’t been seen since the Spanish flu hit in 1918.

And that’s not all. Thanks to a world and holiday season drastically changed by COVID-19, we’re forced to make changes to our holiday traditions this time around, just as we did during the July 4 holiday weekend and the holiday before that.

So many of us are struggling to find reason to be thankful about anything.

Indeed, the blues have already taken hold.

While exact statistics on holiday blues are unclear, one survey by the American Psychological Association found that 38 percent of respondents said their stress levels increased over the holidays. A separate survey by Healthline found 62 percent felt elevated stress levels. And since many will be unable to be together with friends and family this year, many more people could be feeling isolated, depressed and lonely.

Maybe you won’t be able to travel to Grandma’s house, but all is not lost.

Instead of inviting the entire family, health professionals are urging people to host small holiday gatherings that are limited to only those living under the same roof.

The idea, of course, is to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a long list of things to consider as you’re making plans. You can find them on its website (

If you’re wondering how to remain positive and still experience the joy of the holiday season despite the ongoing pandemic, Annette Nunez, a licensed psychotherapist based in Denver, offered these simple tips for overcoming COVID-19 holiday blues.

• Create new traditions with family and friends. This can involve making cards and holiday gifts, staying in and watching holiday movies every Friday night, baking holiday cookies, decorating your house, etc.

• It is really important to incorporate self-care strategies into your everyday living. This includes taking five to 10 minutes out of your day to go for a walk outside, listening to calming music, lighting a scented candle and doing breathing exercises, and drinking water.

• Schedule regular virtual FaceTime or Zoom calls with family and friends. Every Friday or Saturday, plan virtual calls with family and friends you are used to seeing over the holidays to stay connected with them.

If nothing else, this pandemic has forced all of us to think more deeply about loss and what that means. Consciously or not, we are all grieving something.

Focusing on what we are grateful for will go a long way toward harvesting the fortitude we’ll need to get through this season and guarantee a happy Thanksgiving Day this year and for years to come.

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