Grief and Gratitude

When the death of a loved one knocks us down, gratitude is the farthest thing from our minds.  And it is okay to honor that you don’t feel it. More likely, you’re angry, bitter, and feeling abandoned by your loved one in some sense. Feelings aren’t always logical and it’s important to go with the flow.

I did manage to get to the place of gratitude a few hours after my father passed away in August 2010. Hours after we had cremated him, I pulled out my gratitude journal and wrote out a list of 50-75 things I had been grateful for during this terribly sad time in my life. I started with the obvious. “I am grateful for the support of loving family members, for all the meals our friends brought us, for domestic help that made it easy for me and my siblings to focus on doctors and tests and reports…”

And as I started to write, it poured out of me. More and more reasons why I was thankful. A check arrived completely unexpectedly for an article I’d written months ago and even forgotten about. It was so timely when hospital bills were mounting. My father waited for my brother and husband who flew in all the way from Chicago, before he breathed his last. The family was together. We bonded and did things that made his spirit happy. And the last one was the hardest reason to write down.

Thank you for releasing him from a painful physical existence.

I cried as I wrote the words, but my heart knew exactly why I was expressing that sentiment. For sixteen long years, my father had been living with the multiple effects of a brain injury . His life had become all about hospitals and doctors and charts and diet restrictions and pain and a constantly contracting world.

I’m so glad I wrote those things down. That is a journal I will keep forever. It reminds me that in the darkest of times you can glimpse glimmers of light. Tiny pieces, perhaps, but they illuminate your experience.

If you’re grieving the loss a dear one, know that they hear and feel your gratitude. If you do nothing else this Thanksgiving, do this one thing. Pull out your journal and start to write. Or set up your easel and start to paint, make a hand-crafted object, sing their favorite songs, or dance. Express your gratitude to your loved one in whatever way feels right for you.

Forward this to a friend or family member who is grieving. It would be a way of saying thank you to the Universe.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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