Do you ever find yourself recoiling from an off-handed comment to “Count your blessings,” or “Cultivate an attitude of gratitude?” If so, you are not alone.
With Thanksgiving on the way, there will likely be a surge of advertisements and well-meaning people encouraging us to focus on what we are grateful for in our lives. This can be difficult to do on an average day filled with hassles and disappointments, never mind in the midst of grief. When someone you love dies, and everything feels wrong, it can seem nearly impossible to focus on what’s right in your world.
So, how do those who are grieving make sense of the disconnect between loss and gratitude? Is there any benefit to mustering the energy to be grateful while struggling with grief?
Research shows that increased gratitude is associated with improvements in emotional and physical health. We recognize that asking those who are grieving to focus on what they are grateful for must be done in an environment that allows for open discussion about their pain and sadness. This experience of feeling heard and understood opens the door for those who are grieving to also recognize what is still comforting and nurturing in their lives.
If you’re interested in cultivating gratitude in your own life, here are some suggestions for practice:
- Start a daily gratitude journal. Write down 3-5 (or more) instances you’re grateful for each day.
- Write thank you cards (or letters or emails) on a regular basis. You might also consider writing one to the person who died, thanking them for what they contributed to your life.
- Thank yourself. This might mean writing yourself a thank you letter or just silently acknowledging what you’ve done for yourself or others.
What are you grateful for? We'd love to hear from you. Find us on Facebook to share more.