Gratitude is both next to impossible and essential when we are grieving. Don’t even think that I’m going to that place of being grateful because your loved one is no longer suffering or in heaven. That sort of thinking is flawed. That sort of gratitude is very messy and complicated – mostly because it stifles the voices of those who are suffering in order to make others feel less uncomfortable. I’m talking about looking for small ways to be grateful, even when our grief is still powerful.
There came a time when I was still deeply grieving that I knew I needed to change my thinking if I wanted to move away from being overwhelmed and sad all day long. I knew studies had shown that being grateful helped people live happier lives so I figured I had to give it a try- even though I was still feeling pretty gnarly and angry and far from grateful about pretty much everything.
I began by being grateful for little things like my air conditioning working when it was 30 degrees outside, eating a tomato that had grown in my garden and crawling into a bed with clean sheets. Sometimes I was grateful the day was done and no new crisis had reared its ugly head. Over time, I found that by consciously searching for things to be grateful about (and writing them down), my mind began to shift. I came to realize that not every moment of my day was painful.
Holding on to and appreciating those small joys made me acknowledge how fortunate I was to have good friends to sit with, to walk along the beach (even if I had to drive to get there) and to simply stand in the sun and feel it’s warmth on my face. There was still a lot of chaos and pain in my life, but noticing and being grateful for these small moments of reprieve helped. It also made me realize that uneventful days are, in themselves, gifts and not a given, as I had once wrongly believed. I learned that my days, like life, would always be sometimes easier and sometimes harder. Searching for these small moments of grace in my day made me appreciate and value the people in my life more and perhaps even life itself more. This last part was way, way down the road.
So if you’re struggling start with the small stuff. It may take some effort, especially on difficult days, but it will help shift your thinking, ease you pain a little bit and maybe even make you laugh. Try to come up with three things and work your way up to five. Do this daily and if you forget start again tomorrow. No harm, no foul.
Let me know how this turns out for you.
If someone you love is struggling consider making a game of this with them. I can guarantee it will make you more grateful for what goes on during your day. More importantly, it may help your loved one.
P.S. You don’t have to wait for loss to make this part of your day. We used to play some version of this around the dinner table every night. I never grew tired of hearing that one of the best things of Richard’s day was coming home to be with us. Those moments will always definitely be some of my favourite memories.
Till next time,
Looking for previous Widow Wednesdays? Start here with Widow Wednesday #1
If you’d like to read more on how I put this into practice check out my blog on my gratefuls buddy “Everyone needs a Jo-Anne”
Buy Heike’s book “Grief is…” click here
To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here