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When Your Thank-FULL is on Empty

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Thanksgiving it’s incredibly difficult to know what to do with “what was” and “what will be” when betrayal is dangling in the mix. Forcing a smile with Conner’s family was really tough. Pretending with my own family killed me. I felt miserable and scared inside so no matter what I did or said, I felt fake. How do you make it through a holiday with extended family that you don’t necessarily want to share the painful details of your relationship with, but also don’t want to walk around with a mask on all day?

As I looked around, it seemed like everyone else was celebrating. I saw smiles, hugs, warm wishes, new babies, and of course a family member or two that I struggled to give extra grace to. In the thick of it all, I ended up feeling numb. I didn’t know how to bring my heart and honesty to a table, full of sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberries, and stuffing.

I was the one that was stuffing. But can you blame me?

I give myself a lot of grace for back then as it was truly the best I could do to make it through that day. So how did I do it?

  • I focused on kids under ten and adults over 70
  • I got busy in the kitchen
  • I threw a ball and wrestled with the dog
  • I helped set the table
  • I conveniently took the kids and furry animals on a walk around the block
  • I played Yahtzee, Bingo, or cards
  • I went outside, got some fresh air and took deep breaths
  • I called my best friend, wished her a happy Thanksgiving, and felt some relief knowing she knew

I focused on things that I loved to do. I did whatever I needed to pace myself throughout the day. I gave myself permission to unplug from the pain. I didn’t need to change or explain. I didn’t need to fake it or be “nice” to Conner. I wasn’t mean, but I didn’t need to guilt myself into being different with him just because it was a holiday. Being authentic and honest with myself was far from a consolation prize. It was my way of being what I learned to value deeply.

It’s okay to be right where you are. You don’t have to pretend, but you don’t have to spill your guts either. Maybe, just like me, you’ll make a plan before you go and have a list of things you can do to take care of yourself throughout the day. You might even try to focus on the things you’re grateful for. Things that momentarily lighten your load, make you smile, or distract you. Give yourself permission to pause for those tiny moments of gratitude throughout the day.

I see you. I understand. I’ve walked a similar path and I’m grateful to walk this road with you.



Dr. Sheri

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Oh, Sheri!! Your heart is so amazing, and I just love how you took time, today, to “remember” a time in your own journey that was hard or sticky; a time that can pave a way for all of us who admire you and listen to you when you share! Thank you!!! I always love reading a post you’ve taken time to write. Praying heaps of blessings on you this Thanksgiving season. So thankful for the reminder you give on “’s okay to be right where you are..” Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you so much Keri! I so appreciate your kind words. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

      Dr. Sheri

  2. Thank you Sheri. I appreciate how you described how difficult holidays are. I am trying to be thankful each day to change my mindset. I really have been Blessed with many good things.
    Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for doing this for us that are struggling. God Bless you!

    1. I’m so glad you felt heard LaVerne. Knowing we’re not alone is powerful. God bless you too!

      Dr. Sheri

  3. Thank you, this was very thoughtful. I have been struggling with this very thing. I find it so hard to try to be ok for others when I’m hurting on the inside. Thank you again.


    1. It is hard Heather. Holidays can bring up painful feelings and emotions. You’re not alone. I’ve walked this path and I see you.

      Dr. Sheri

  4. So appreciate your heart in what you do. It truly shows in all your writings and in person too! And, wow, what a powerful post during a time of year that so much of society says “you’re supposed to …” (fill in the blank).. For years, it did feel fake and even like a mask that I didn’t wear other places. But there, it was the best option. Appreciate you normalizing these feelings and giving specific ideas to help others. I’m gonna pass this on!
    Much gratitude and prayers that you have a beautiful Thanksgiving!

  5. Thank you for sharing your insight about the struggles we may find around the holidays. I truly enjoy your blog and your heart felt honesty . I have been divorced from my ex who struggled with SA and would never tell me anything (and I do mean nothing ) . This December will be three years divorced and I have to say that today only by Gods grace and an awesome Christian counselor that dealt only in SA , I was able to leave and rebuild my life again . I hurt for every woman who has been hurt by this addiction and I thank you for your positivity and encouragement as it is much needed . Have an awesome Thanksgiving and God bless you , may God always show you his favor for the work you do ❤️🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

    1. Thank you so much Phyllis. I’m so proud of you and all the work you’ve done to get to a healthier place emotionally. It takes a lot of blood sweat and tears to heal but it’s so worth it. You have a great Thanksgiving too!

      Dr. Sheri

  6. Thank you for the reminder that it’s okay to be right where I am. I appreciate you sharing your journey it provides some hope along mine. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  7. Your words, “I focused on things I loved to do” is the very thing that is presented on my plate these days from my counselor. I recently filed for divorce after the TRUST bridge was blown apart again after discovering my husband’s second sexual affair. I am a giver not a taker in life, so for me to even consider my wants and desires ‘first’ is foreign. This deep grief of passing through this wilderness wanderings has me clinging to my Guide Jesus with just enough light for my next step.

    1. I’m so sorry for all you’re going through Sara. It’s so hard. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that you’re counselor is bringing the same thing to you. Learning to consider what we need is something betrayed partners often have to learn. But self-care is so important in this journey and I’m glad you have someone walking this road with you.

      Dr. Sheri

  8. Thank you for your wisdom. The holidays are specially hard for me. I am struggling with making the decision if I should stay in this marriage that trust has been broken over and over, or should I move on. It’s so hard to make this decision that will change my life forever.

    1. I’m so sorry for all you’re going through Star. The holidays make it especially difficult. I’m wondering if you have a copy of my book “Intimate Deception: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Betrayal?” I think you’d find it really helpful.

      Dr. Sheri

  9. Thank you Dr. Sheri… Got through Thanksgiving and now trying to figure out how to do Christmas, again, during this difficult season. I baked cookies with a few of my grand children while we watched the animated movie, “The Star.” Children have a way of taking our minds off the heavy stuff. Thank you SOO much for helping look at other ways to enjoy the season with so much pain.
    Hugs n Love, Angie

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