We Can Be Thankful Even in Hard Times


This season is such a reflective time for me. It’s a time to pause to remember everything we have to be thankful for as we enter this season of celebrations.

Sometimes it’s harder though.

It’s easy to be thankful when everyone is healthy, employed, together, and ready to celebrate, right? Here’s what has helped me find ways to be thankful in good times and especially when it’s harder.

Don’t be afraid to change plans and traditions.

I dreaded this season one year, when both my mom and mother-in-law had passed away. How do we celebrate when we are missing so much?

Well, we don’t. But we can figure out how to squeeze a little joy out of a day that held little promise.

Instead of hosting a typical holiday feast we scaled back to include just my husband, son and father-in-law who lived nearby. Instead of spending hours cooking, we spent hours watching holiday episodes of old sitcoms and ate a small dinner. And lots of pie.

I still think about how much we laughed that day. The low-key coziness of being together. We were thankful and grateful for each other even as we acknowledged all we had lost.

There is strength in numbers.

On the morning of 9/11 I was home alone with my young son. I watched the horror unfolding as it was broadcast live on TV. I called my friend who I knew was also home with her young daughter. We tried to grasp what was happening.

Within an hour I was at her home, an emergency play date for the kids and our own emergency get-together. Togetherness helps bring a sense of normalcy, comfort and routine.

The same with the Zoom happy hours with friends during the pandemic or how family and friends surround those coping with loss. We are thankful for each other and in difficult times we wisely seek out that companionship.

If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them, especially now. Even a quick text to check in, a card to let them know you are thinking about them means a lot. If you are facing difficulties reach out to your friends and family and please check local organizations like Relief Parenting Respite and Resource Center, and local mental health resources for assistance.

It’s the details that matter most.

You’ve probably heard this quote, “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” – Author Unknown.

To pursue happiness has always seemed strange to me! It’s worth thinking instead about everything we can be thankful for – the relationships we have, our communities, our work. A great cup of coffee. Our bodies in motion. The sun rising every day, even under clouds.

Paying attention to all the details in life helps to remind us of the abundance that already surrounds us. In the best of times and especially in difficult times.

In the last few months of my dad’s life he often said to me, “Life is for the living.” I think this was his way of letting me know that it was OK to enjoy life, to continue on when he was gone. On days when there is so much, too much, to process in our world I hear him. I know it is OK for me, for all of us, to smile, to laugh, to love.

Be kind to yourself and to each other.

When the bad seems to outweigh the good it’s always sign to take a step back. It may mean putting down the phone and shutting off the news. You may need to leave your house or to head there to seek peace and refuge. Whatever you need to do, take that step.

Spend time outside with family and friends, volunteer, immerse yourself in a great book, or eat delicious pie. Here are some of my favorite places around the Seacoast, and I’m thankful for all of them.

Seacoast outdoor spaces: My husband and I started riding bikes on the gorgeous Coastal Trails this summer. Park at a trailhead in Seabrook and enjoy miles of paved or stone dust trails leading to Newburyport and Amesbury.

My favorite lowish-effort/big reward local hike is Blue Job Mountain, slightly outside of the Seacoast area but well worth visiting. On clear days from the top you can see Mount Washington in one direction and the coastline in another.

Blue Job Mountain, Farmington, NH. A view from the top, with granite visible and pink, blue colors on the horizon, with the moon low.
Sunrise at the top of Blue Job Mountain in Farmington, NH in August was the perfect start to the day for the author and her close friend.

Seacoast pies: Thanksgiving and pie go hand and hand. Since my sister-in-law pie-baker extraordinaire now lives three time zones away, I had to find substitutes. The Roundabout Diner in Portsmouth has delicious options, as does Harvey’s Bakery in Dover and Popovers On The Square in Portsmouth and Epping.

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Hello, I’m Nancy! I’m a New Hampshire native and have enjoyed living in the Seacoast with my husband, stepdaughter and son for quite a while, decades in fact! I’ve been a software engineer, home stager, a school and community volunteer and a stay-at-home mom. I wrote a weekly running column for Seacoast Sunday/Foster’s Daily Democrat/Portsmouth Herald for many years and reported on road races including my dream assignments at the Boston Marathon. Not surprisingly, I’m an avid runner and am happiest outdoors! Nothing beats the sweet exhaustion after a long and active day spent outside in every season. Our nest is now generally empty with both kids navigating their own adult lives and my husband and I are enjoying our time together and with our two great cats. Motherhood (and life) is ever-changing and I’m adjusting to this new stage and reflecting on how lucky we’ve been.