Is it possible to be grateful when times are tough?
The last few months have been challenging for humanity. With hurricanes, earthquakes and mass murder, it’s a difficult time to be grateful. And for those who have been directly affected by these events, it may just be nearly impossible to find gratitude. The question is, is it possible to be grateful when times are tough?
When we see homes destroyed in hurricanes or flooding, our first thought may be that at least they are still alive. That’s one way to find gratitude. However, loss of property can also be devastating and life-altering for many who are not able to get insurance or who did not have the coverage needed to protect against natural disasters. And it can be tough to find gratitude when you no longer have a roof over your head or anywhere to lay your head down to sleep.
When someone you love dies
Of course, losing someone you love is much more difficult than loss of property. We can rebuild and start over, however once someone has left this world, they are physically gone for good. Whether it is a spouse, a parent, a relative, a friend or even a (most terribly) child, it is not something that we get through unchanged. And the feeling of loss never really leaves us.
My own first loss was when I was in high school; I lost a friend to suicide. Our school was very small and she was friends with most people in our grade. I still remember the day we found out she had died and still today, there are occasions where I’ve dreamt about her. When I drive by her old family home, I think of her and what could have been, because in my dreams, she never died.
What do you say?
I often feel at a loss for words when someone I know loses a loved one. It can feel like the words ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ are trite and don’t really make a difference. Yet, sometimes just acknowledging that they are hurting can bring some comfort. And the hardest part many is that life will go on for those who still alive on earth once our loved ones have passed. This blog post from Oprah.com is very helpful when you want to comfort someone who has lost a loved one. More importantly, it shares what not to say.
One thing I do want to point out is that using the words, ‘It’s a blessing in disguise’ can be very painful. This is not a good way to look at loss with gratitude. Even for someone who was suffering dearly, the loss of a loved one is never a blessing.
How is it possible to be grateful when times are tough?
First: Start by grieving.
It is natural and very healthy to grieve. It isn’t to be avoided or kept inside. And if you find yourself stuck in grief for a long and uncomfortable period of time, seek professional help so that you can move forward through the stages of grief in a healthy way. Grief is very painful and can be debilitating if not addressed or dealt with. And we can also grieve the loss of property, homes and businesses. Even though physical structures can be rebuilt, we have memories and emotions that were wrapped up in our familiar structures. This is a different type of grief that is just a real and important to address.
Second: A daily gratitude practice can be a part of the healing process.
It may be difficult to find anything to be grateful for each day. In some cases, we might not even be grateful that we have left behind and still breathing. My suggestion is to try to find even one small thing each day that gave you hope. Or maybe find gratitude for a gesture of love that someone gave you during your time of need. Over time, as your habit becomes more and more solid, you’ll eventually find it easier to find more things to be grateful for every day.
We can still be grateful as we go through the stages of grief. Gratitude can be a part of the day even when we are angry or frustrated. A small moment of thanks can be a respite from the pain – even if for just a brief moment. I wrote about eleven simple ways to be grateful every day in this post. Perhaps one of these may help on the road to healing and recovery.
Thirdly: In some cases, something good does come from our losses.
Our path in life can be shifted dramatically by a loss, especially a sudden loss. With the benefit of time and space, we can take a look around to observe what good may have eventually come from a loss. These grieving parents, Glenn and Roslyn Crichton, lost their 5 year old daughter to leukemia. After realizing that there was a lack of local support for others dealing with grief, they founded The Coping Centre in Cambridge, Ontario seven years after their daughter had passed.
Although we will never be grateful to have lost someone we love, perhaps we can find gratitude in what has changed since that time. Many activists have been called to action because of a personal loss, one that was truly devastating at the time.
Finally: Look for faith.
Faith can be so hard to find, especially when a loss is sudden and we’re stuck asking why. Faith in God, the Universe, Buddha, the Tao – whatever name you choose for it, now is the time to dig deeper and find the spiritual connections that may help. It is always when times are most difficult that our faith is tested. Our faith community can also help support us when we are grieving. And often, it’s this community that we are grateful for when times are the most difficult.
It’s not easy to be grateful when times are tough. However, what social science has found is that those who choose to focus on an attitude of gratitude tend to recover faster and are more resilient. Gratitude truly is the foundation of happiness and joy. Start building your foundation of gratitude today, so that when you are faced with a challenging time, you’ll be able to use your skills for healing and recovery.
This beautiful blog post about gratitude and loss written by Kristine Carlson is titled Returning from Grief to Gratitude. It’s a well written post about how gratitude fits into grief and recovery. For those who have lost loved ones, especially most recently, I am sincerely and truly sorry for your loss. I hope that you may find something in this post or the links I’ve shared to guide you on your next step.
I am so excited to share that I had the opportunity to be featured on The Beautiful Money Podcast with one of my mentors and closest friends, Leanne Jacobs. She asks some great questions and I think you’ll not only learn lots about me that I’ve never shared before, but you’ll also get some excellent tips on being an entrepreneur and of course, gratitude. Episode 29 on iTunes or your favorite podcast app! I love Podcast Addict for Android.
30 Days of Gratitude to Create Wealth starts on Oct 11th! Last day to register is Oct 10th. This program will not be offered again in 2017.