Thanksgiving: How to Survive the Family Party

Celebrations like Thanksgiving can be particularly painful after any big loss. You think you will enjoy yourself at a family gathering …but you don’t. In fact you are kind of miserable.

Remember, you don’t have to go to Thanksgiving dinner. There is no law requiring attendance. If you do decide to go, however, you have to take some control. Preparation is the key.

You phone the host to find out some useful things. You might have done this anyway. Explain that you need some extra details so you can enjoy yourself now you don’t see so well. You might ask some of the following questions.

Who is going to be at the party?

You may ask this to check who can give you a ride, but it’s the size of party that’s most important. In the first years small is best – six to ten people. If your Thanksgiving party is big, think about how comfortable your extended family are likely to be with your situation. If they haven’t seen you recently it can be a bit of a lions’ den. You can still back out. Thanksgiving is almost sure to occur next year.

If you are up for it, here are the next questions:

How is the meal being served?

If it’s a buffet you need to ask someone to go through the line with you. Family style is easier.

What’s the seating plan?

Formal seating is generally easier for a person who can’t see much. You can ask your partner or the person next to you for a run through of who is sitting where.

What job can I do?

Your host will say, “Oh don’t worry!” but you need to insist. A job gives you a role, and prevents you getting stuck somewhere. You could count the plates, fold the napkins, set out cookies or appetizers, arrange some of the drinks or glasses. That way you get to hang out and maybe find out more about the meal.    

What can I bring?

It’s good to bring something so you are a member of the party, not an invalid – chocolates, a bottle of whatever you like to drink – simple is best.

Further Phone Calls

If you are going to a big party, you will need at least one assistant or escort. You could also phone one or two of the other guests to ask them to check on you – to make sure you aren’t standing forlornly in a corner, or trapped by a chatter-box.

The bigger the occasion the more assistants you need. Then no one gets over-stressed, especially you.   

Last piece of prep: Read the blog post for Nov. 6, How to Talk about Your Vision Loss, and When

If this is your first year of vision loss and you enjoy some parts of the family Thanksgiving, you’re doing well. The smells, the taste, and the pumpkin pie will still be great.

Tell us about your Thanksgiving. Did you enjoy it? Do you have more tips?

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