A small group of us held an expressive and heartfelt memorial service on Saturday for a much-loved friend and radio notable, the late "Dirty Deb" Arney. We celebrated her being with us for 65 years, and how we'll miss her unconventional, funny, quick-witted personality, and how we all are better people for having known her.

But this isn't to extol someone who made a temperature and place – "45 degrees, Rochester" – famous. This is about and for all the families spending their first Thanksgiving without a loved one.

I think one of our most difficult hang-ups is not knowing how to manage sorrow during the holidays. We know Thanksgiving 2020 isn't going to be like that perfect Norman Rockwell holiday classic. For so many, an uninvited and unwelcome guest is going to be present this year: grief. Adding to the distress are the COVID-19 restrictions limiting family gatherings.

Some will try to power through the holiday, but that's denying so many of our authentic, deep feelings of broken-heartedness. Expect the unexpected, because this won't be like past celebrations, and trying to replicate those lavish times gone by will be barren because the inner joy won't be there. Over the years, I've come to know some things that might be helpful.

If I can suggest, you could set a chair and place setting at the table in his or her honor. I'm willing to speculate that everyone will feel their radiance. Creating a meaningful centerpiece with mementos and a nice candle might be something that brings their presence into your hearts.

In our family, we always go through the custom of holding hands and saying what we're grateful for, but if this is the first Thanksgiving without your loved one, that might be a bit difficult. So give that tradition a tweak by saying thank you for the time, love you had with your loved one and bring up a specific memory with him or her as you go around the table. Everyone will have reflections and recollections to share, and yes, let the tears roll down, as well as the spontaneous, instinctive laughter, too.

Take all the love that was generated around your Thanksgiving table this year and lean on it to get you through, a day at a time, as you start to recognize this new normal. The sorrow will always remain, but the sting will lessen in time. Eventually, it will get easier.

The Paleologos family extends all our blessings to you and yours, and especially to all our loved ones who won't be with us physically this Thanksgiving.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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