7 Ways To Move Through Grief: Gratitude

Article #2 in a series of 7

I’m told that divorce ranks up there as one of life’s major stressors and that the feelings it invokes are just like what you feel when mourning other major losses such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job that been an important part of your identity for many years.

When I reflect on this past year, I can see that there was a combination of seven coping strategies that made the most sense to use before, during, and after my divorce. They were emotional support, gratitude, journaling, distractions, structure, future focus, and physical activity. This is how I made it through the unavoidable fog of shock, hurt, anger, and confusion.

In the previous article of this series, 7 Ways To Move Through Grief, I discussed a few types of emotional support that have specifically helped me. In this second installment, I’ll tell you about gratitude, which has always served me well over the years in keeping my state mind in a higher plane. It’s something that I’ve addressed here on my blog, in my article, Contemplating Gratitude And Its Effects, for OmTimes Magazine, and in many of the courses I teach online.

Gratitude Practice
Gratitude tends to be elusive during the dark and stressful times of our lives. Yet gratitude is a powerful emotion that brings light where there’s darkness. For example, you can’t be depressed when you’re feeling gratitude. You can’t be angry when you’re feeling gratitude. It just can’t happen because those feelings are mutually exclusive.

During the early days after my ex-husband told me he wanted to end our three-decade long relationship, I turned to gratitude in a big way. Gratitude helped me keep a balanced perspective as I experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions. Since I knew it would be a few months before I could move out into my own place, the habitual gratitude practice I consciously and faithfully adhered to was critical as I dealt with the mundane, day-to-day stuff that didn’t stop happening just because my life had been suddenly turned upside down.

Daily Gratitude: On 4/27/2014 I helped teach a self-defense class and bought a new phone.

Daily Gratitude: On 4/27/2014 I helped teach a self-defense class and bought a new phone.

It’s really simple what I did. Every night before I went to sleep, I opened a specially designated notebook, and I wrote a list of everything that occurred to me that I could be grateful for that day.

It didn’t matter how small it was, if it was something that I could be grateful for that day, I listed it. The page might be filled with references to my daughter, my dog, those who supported me that day, the clients I had worked with, the weather, and really anything that I could count as a blessing. I even expressed gratitude for my car on a few occasions!

Sometimes my ex-husband’s name would make it on my lists during those first few weeks. Maybe there was a part of me that believed he would get over the idea that he wanted to divorce – they call that the shock or denial stage of grief. So, maybe I was trying to find some good just in case. But, really, my motivation came from the thought that gratitude would help me deal civilly with him because we had to get through those few months while living together under the same roof. I figured that if I could find something decent and good in the rubble of our relationship, I could keep myself together enough to make it through what I realize now was a living hell of emotions.

I know from my studies of Wallace Wattles’ books and his statements about how gratitude brings one closer to the Divine, as well as from my ongoing practice of gratitude, that you can use gratitude to raise your vibrational frequency. In other words, gratitude would help me stay focused on taking the high road.

It worked, of course. Just as I knew it would based on my past experience. I stayed on the high road… most of the time. (Hey, I’m only human, I’m not a saint – at least not yet anyway!)

Time, Hindsight, and Gratitude
Some people tell me that I’ll look back from my future happy life perspective one day and feel gratitude that this happened. One friend who got divorced five years ago after a long marriage told me that she believes now that her ex-husband did her a favor. I guess I can sort of see her point. I’ve had that kind of hindsight-induced feeling of closure before. Where you look back on the unpleasant or downright awful experiences in your life and realize that what happened was the best thing that could have happened because look at where you are now – look at who you are now because of it.

However, what about the kind of grief that comes when a loved one dies? Can we reach that state of gratitude under such circumstances?

I guess we can be grateful that a person has stopped suffering if they had been while alive. Like my 33-year old cousin who is terminally-ill with advanced cancer. I’ll be grateful he will stop suffering when he passes, especially since I believe his soul is eternal and his life, like mine and yours, in a physically-limiting body is temporary. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad, especially for his wife and children, my aunt and uncle, and his siblings who will all have to carry on without his physical presence.

But what about a sudden, unexpected death? Like my friend whose husband died very quickly from his injuries on the street where he was thrown from his motorcycle during the accident. Or for the death of a child? Like my cousin who died when he was 6 years old?

Clearly not all grief is the same, though Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who defined the stages of grief, said that the stage of acceptance is inevitable for everyone and every kind of grief.

However, I know that gratitude isn’t necessarily part of that stage, and for most of us we would need to consciously and actively practice it to feel it.

It’s only been slightly more than 7 months, and I’m not even close to saying that I am or will ever be grateful for the divorce itself. I haven’t reached that level of gratitude yet. Where I am is more like acceptance and being at peace with it. And I can say I’m grateful for the feeling of acceptance and peace.

Another thing I know is that time does actually help heal a grieving heart. So, I’m also grateful for time and how that works because I definitely feel better now than I did a month ago and light years better than I did 7 months ago!

To me the secret to using gratitude while moving through grief is to be grateful for whatever you can whenever you can. Know that even a little dose of gratitude will help you. Even if it’s thinking of how grateful you for your car.

Next Up – Journaling as a key way to process emotions and move through grief.

Click HERE to read part three, 7 Ways To Move Through Grief: Journaling.

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Angela Loëb is into self-development… learning it, teaching it, and supporting others who do too.
More at http://angelaloeb.com
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