How and Why to Give Thanks Even When You’re Not Feeling Thankful

Zoe Weil wrote this Thanksgiving post for Psychology Today, which we’re sharing with you today. We hope that you are safe and healthy and wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

2020 has been a beast, and instead of being celebratory, Thanksgiving 2020 may feel heavy with loneliness, worry, and loss. COVID-19 has touched all of us. If we haven’t been sick or lost a loved one ourselves, there’s a good chance someone close to us has. If we haven’t faced significant loss of income because of the recession, we surely know others who are struggling mightily.

We’re likely separated from beloved family members this Thanksgiving, too. And 2020 isn’t just the year of COVID; it’s also the year of climate change disasters and societal and political upheavals that are causing great stress and strife, even as they raise critically important awareness.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving may feel like a stretch.

Before I launch into my suggestions for giving thanks amidst so much pain, I’d like to share my own fraught relationship with this holiday. Thanksgiving is a struggle for me every year. Because the holiday is based on a story that erases the injustices perpetrated on the indigenous people of this land, I not only feel conflicted, but also angry, frustrated, and sad on Thanksgiving. I do not like being complicit through celebration or pretending that America hasn’t perpetrated genocide.

I’m also sad because this holiday—often called “Turkey Day”—results in the horrific treatment and slaughter of more than 45 million sentient birds. Turkeys are gentle animals whom we brutalize, confine, and mutilate in ways that would be illegal if perpetrated on a pet bird. Knowing that tens of millions of animals are treated so cruelly and then slaughtered for a single day makes me want to weep.

Despite how conflicted I feel about this holiday in general, and how sad I feel that this is the first year I will not be with my son on Thanksgiving, the call to give thanks is powerful. And it occurs to me that whatever our circumstances, taking time to self reflect on what we’ve received might be very good medicine, especially during trying times.