Pecan Pie Couldn't Heal My Pain

12/01/2014 01:45 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

Thanksgiving was a tough one for my family this year. Our dog was put to sleep a couple of nights before. My father-in-law passed away last month. My father has terminal cancer. And the list goes on from there. Sounds like I had more than enough justification to consume an entire pecan pie along with the stuffing and marshmallow-smothered sweet potatoes. In the past, I probably would have done just that. I would have let myself get caught up in the "woe is me -- I so deserve to comfort myself with anything and everything" and I would have fallen into a downward spiral of sugar and despair. But I didn't do that this time.

Instead, I felt my feelings and just enjoyed my food.

Much to my own surprise, I was and still am feeling quite grateful. Grateful for all that I have, grateful for the worries that I don't have and unbelievably grateful that I can actually FEEL my feelings.

I couldn't always do this so well. I was taught to be strong and strong meant not showing your pain. Strong meant holding it together. Somewhere along the road to strong-ness I stopped feeling some of my feelings and buried them in comfort food or just about anything else that could distract me from the pain. Strong served me well until strong ended up eventually breaking me down...

This past week, as we struggled about ending our precious dog's life, I felt that urge to mentally check out daily, but actively chose NOT to flee. "What is the right day? Should I be there when it happens? How will I support my kids when I will be in such pain?" I struggled. It was overwhelming, but I stayed with it. I felt it all. And as the waves of grief moved in and out, I stopped and felt them, and then let them pass. And, in between those moments of grief, there were and still are joy and love and hope.

Thanksgiving is the annual day of group gratitude but every day can be the day of personal gratitude and mindfulness. Rather than burying your feelings into over-eating or over-drinking or picking fights with relatives or not showing up at all, I urge you to join me as we continue to feel our feelings. I did eat lots of stuffing and way too much pecan pie, but I loved every bite and still managed to be present and open for all the feelings both good and bad and for that I am very grateful.