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Gratitude and Grief

“Grief and gratitude are kindred souls, each pointing to the beauty of what is transient and given to us by grace.” ~ Patricia Campbell Carlson

Heading into the late fall and winter, many people have been experiencing grief in new and overwhelming ways since the beginning of the Pandemic. Loved ones have been separated by distance, illness, or death. Many of the things that bring us joy and love in life have been taken away, such as public gatherings, weddings, rites of passage, music festivals, art shows, movies, etc…It feels as if the whole world is getting familiar with grief on a whole new level. The holidays in which we normally focus on togetherness and gratitude, can be filled with grief. But gratitude and grief are emotions/mental states that can support each other.

“We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew,” explained grief expert David Kessler.The disruptions in the normal routines and rhythms of everyday life contribute to the lingering unease and sadness that we are all feeling. Not only are we mourning the loss of thousands of lives, but we are also mourning the loss of normalcy, from seeing our co-workers to engaging in the mundane routines that we previously took for granted.” Kendra Cherry

As we know, grief is a collective emotion, even though we often feel isolated and lonely when we are in its throes. At times we may feel it humming in the background of our experience, sometimes it is a tidal wave washing over us, bringing us literally to our knees. However, we are in it together- the nature of being human is impermanence, therefore no one is free from tasting the bittersweet flavor of grief at some time or another. But there are ways we can weave gratitude into our daily lives that buoy us up, that nurture our hearts as we feel our grief.

Gratitude is amazing because “when we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.” Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury

Gratitude is better than any RX we can get.

“Gratitude may be a gesture or a group of kind words that we give or receive from others. But these simple exchanges of thankfulness goes a long way in affecting our overall biological functioning – especially the brain and the nervous system. The effect of gratitude on the brain is long lasting (Moll, Zahn, et al. 2007). Besides enhancing self-love and empathy, gratitude significantly impacts on body functions and psychological conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.” Madhuleena Roy Chowdury

So how can we use gratitude to support us in this very normal process of grieving life as we know it?

After losing her son, Kelly Buckley began a practice of writing down and sharing one little thing she was grateful for every day. She writes, “It did not change the pain of the loss. But it did alleviate some of the suffering. I started to see that all these one little things were actually the big things that really gave meaning to my life. This path of gratitude was healing me, and tethering me to the present moment as I grieved. And in the present moment, I was okay.”

Gratitude is an active practice, something we cultivate, to remind ourselves there are beautiful moments in life, blessings, happening all the time. “Regularly journaling about the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with the rough patches when they pop up.Courtney E. Ackerman

HERE are some templates to help you get started.

Gratitude is a soothing balm in the midst of heartache. We can be grateful for the loving care of the people tending to our broken hearts in moments of extreme loss. We can be grateful for the sun rising each morning, offering us a glimpse of hope and warmth. We can be grateful for the time and blessing we had with those we’ve lost. We can be grateful for the beautiful moments we had with people or careers or lifestyles we have lost. We can be grateful for the people who we remain connected with during Covid, new closeness with neighbors, Zoom connections with friends and family far away. Gratitude is a gift we give to ourselves, it is a warm blanket we wrap around our tender hearts, to comfort and nurture ourselves. Gratitude doesn’t erase grief, but it does boost our hearts and brains, giving us the support we need to grieve. Give yourself the gift of gratitude this holiday season.

Here’s a playlist to enjoy.

Feeling anxiety, stress, numbness or overwhelm are all normal at this time, you are definitely not alone! If you would like additional support, please reach out to us. We are here, and happy to stay connected with you. At the Strength in Motion wellness community, we believe in a mind-body-soul approach towards finding and sustaining balance. We feel honored to be on your path in some way and are here to support you in living to your greatest potential. Click here to find out more information about who we are and how we may be a support to you. We are offering telehealth during this time and free consultations as always. We are here to support you.

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