You might have seen this article title and thought to yourself “Gratitude in Grief!!?! Yea right, maybe in your own dream world you can feel thankful while grieving”.
We hear you.
It sure sounds like an oxymoron to feel gratitude while grieving.
However, neuroscientists and therapists agree that gratitude is one of the greatest practices for grief.
Kingsley Gallup, MA, LPC, says “With gratitude, we can embrace our grief and burn it as fuel for our journey.” And we agree!
This Thanksgiving, give yourself the gift of gratitude.
Even when it feels difficult.
Curious how to begin?
Here are 5 practices you can start with on your gratitude journey:
#1: If you’re struggling to get started, join a Gratitude Community
Sometimes we don’t have the strength to lift our gaze to the beauty of life in our grief journey. That’s why we have community! If this is you, consider joining Just One Little Thing.
Just One Little Thing is a Facebook Community that was started by a grieving Mother who faced a devastating loss of her son. In her desperate attempt to have something to grasp on following her son’s death, she created this space to remind her of the beauty life contains. If you join this community, from what we’ve seen, each day you get reminders and notes of hope and inspiration to bring you back to gratitude. Each day is different, and engaging! Here is an example post below.
All you have to do to join is simply like the page. Here is the link.
#2: Create a gratitude ritual with your family for the holidays
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago, our entire family had a very hard time going about our lives. We were, in a way, already grieving the loss of my mom before she had gone. One day, on the birthday of a family member, we were all somber, sitting in silence at our meal. One of us suggested going around the room and sharing why we’re grateful for one another. Each person in our family got a turn to receive gratitude from everyone at once. It was a very powerful experience for all persons involved.
Although my mom is still with us, another family member did unexpectedly pass a few days after we did this practice. And even five years later, we all agree how meaningful it was to be able to say why we’re grateful for each other before we faced a sudden loss of someone we love.
Try it yourself – gather with family and friends, especially those affected by the loss, and take turns having everyone share their gratitude for each person. It’s such a beautiful idea for the dinner table on Thanksgiving!
#3: Write a letter to your loved one thanking them for everything
It might sound depressing or difficult to write a letter to a lost loved one, telling them how grateful you are for them. However, you’d be surprised by how uplifting this practice is. The heaviness you feel when you’re grieving does feel lifted off after such a practice, in our experience.
Try it for yourself. Write to the person you are grieving, and tell them all the things you’re most grateful for. You can list the reasons, or tell them in story form. Get creative. And see how that carried you through your day, or even your week. You can keep the letter, or bury or burn it after. Up to you!
If you really like the idea of a gratitude letter, try this Gratitude Letter Challenge below!
#4: Count one blessing each day
During tough chapters of grief, it can feel impossible to imagine that you’ll ever feel happy again. Everything might feel heavy and sad. There may be nothing that you can notice that’s going right at that moment. But if you make it a daily practice or ritual, to notice or count one blessing each day, you’ll also notice how your reality shifts.
You can write the blessings down each day on little pieces of paper, and collect them in a jar. Then, when you have a hard time coming up with a blessing one day, you can take one out of the jar to remind you of the many blessings life has given you.
This practice has helped me through some of the darkest times of my life. I hope you can try it!
#5: Let your heart break open
All of these practices are beautiful, but it’s important to remember to give space for grief, too. By practicing gratitude to avoid our grief, we lose the opportunity to feel our deepest, most authentic hearts. And what we repress, usually festers in our bodies, mind and spirits into dis-ease.
So make sure you let your heart break open. Leave room for the mess of your humanity to unfold itself onto the floor. Observe the beauty in the mess. Don’t shame it or yourself for it. Just let it be. Let your heart break. And trust that it is breaking open to let in more love.
That’s all for our gratitude practices this Thanksgiving. How did they support you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!