When we have faced tremendous tragedy and loss, sometimes the last thing we want to do, the hardest thing we face, is finding a way to be grateful or thankful. Especially when others around us are in the midst of celebrating the blessings of life, and we are barely clinging to the remnants of our lives.
Holidays and milestones are tough on those of us who’ve lost a loved one. We may find some solace in the fact that their gift of life has changed the lives of many others. We may find some comfort in being with family or friends as we go through the motions of our holiday traditions and routines. But underneath we find something – or more accurately, someone – missing.
We might feel hollow in our attempts to be thankful at Thanksgiving. We might struggle to see the good things that life still brings us. We might even harbor bitterness, resentment, and yes, anger at those families who can still put on the Norman Rockwell dinners and go on as if nothing has happened.
In these times, we must remember that gratitude is a choice. And the truth is we do not have to choose, but we can choose it. We may not be able to rise above the feelings that would keep us from expressing thankfulness, but we can give a cognitive nod to the fact that we still have somethings to appreciate in this life. That nod might be the very thing that helps us rise above the dark feelings and begin to see some light in our world. Not easy to do. Not joyful to do. There might even be feelings of betrayal if we allow ourselves to acknowledge some of the good that remains. Perhaps though, just perhaps, our loved one would understand if they could be here to tell us, “It’s ok. Go ahead and be thankful for what remains.”
We can start with the good memories we still hold in our hearts for our loved one. We can build on the shared memories family and friends have of time together on holidays gone by. We can open our hearts, even if it’s just a tiny crack, to let others share our pain and sorrow as we also share our fond memories.
Choose gratitude if at all possible. In choosing gratitude we affirm life and we confirm that our loved one is just that – loved, missed, yet celebrated.
Written by Mark Mikel, donor father.
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