Finding Gratitude in Grief

My first attempt at writing this post about gratitude took the form of a “how-to” type of article. I included the reasons why cultivating gratitude is beneficial. I wrote about how I try to incorporate it into my day both formally and informally. It was coming along just fine.

As I look back over the original draft, however, I realize that the tone doesn’t really align with what I’m feeling when it comes to gratitude this month. Much of the gratitude I’m experiencing right now stems from feelings of loss and grief.

I’ll try not to go too far down the rabbit hole here, and I promise there is a point to all this. Let me explain.

This month, there has been a confluence of loss-related events and anniversaries for me. It would have been my dearest friend’s 49th birthday, whom we lost to breast cancer in 2014. I miss my funny and irreverent mother-in-law, who would have turned 86 this month. A close work friend of my husband’s died a little over a week ago and his birthday was just yesterday. This month there was also a 5k fundraiser run in the name of our friend’s five-year-old son who passed away from a (currently) incurable disease.

It’s been a tough November.

I’m not listing all this to be self-pitying or to elicit sympathy. The circumstances above are just what’s true for me right now, and the emotions associated with this are right under the surface, coming up in ways both expected and unexpected.

So what does this have to do with gratitude? Quite a bit, from my perspective.

In spite of the fact that I wish none of these losses ever occurred, they have. And what I’ve noticed is that the pain associated with loss sharpens my awareness of just how much I have to be grateful for.

For the time being, I am denied the luxury of being cocooned by my busyness and to-do list.

This month, I’m noticing the low angle of sunlight as it creates long shadows and shines with a harsh beauty.

I’m feeling gratitude for my comfortable home and all the ways it expresses who me and my husband are and what we enjoy.

My gratitude allows me to weather irritations and annoyances with unruffled patience because I know it’s just not important.

This is what’s shaping my sense of gratitude this month, but it isn’t necessary for you to be dealing with the same sort of challenges to tap into a sense of gratitude yourself.

I invite you to take a moment or two each day to pause and reflect on all the blessings in your life, whether large or small. This habit of cultivating gratitude has many benefits, but perhaps most importantly it allows you to be more fully present to, and appreciative of, the richness of your life right now.