This week is all about being thankful. How can you look around and see so much heartache, so much loss, so much suffering and be thankful? The world sometimes is plain overwhelming. Between TV and social media, we are exposed to tragedy all day everyday. There are people grieving everywhere. Those of us experiencing our own loss have discovered this thing we call grief. How do you carry grief and gratitude at the same time?
I believe you have to stop, look around, listen and pretty much everything you see will be a miracle. In my career I have been blessed to experience the miracle of birth with countless people. To watch a baby take its first breath is an experience like no other. The gleam in a new mother’s eyes is something you never forget. The tears that often run down a dad’s face are priceless. The satisfaction of “job well done” by the doctors and nurses lights up the room. When things don’t go as planned and young parents have to let their baby go, it is a gift to be present with them in that moment. Tears are shared as the moment is shared, never to be forgotten. As hard as it is to go through these experiences, it leaves you with true gratitude for being able to help during the most difficult moments of their lives.
Nurses at the bedside see human suffering every single day. Their days are filled with fear and uncertainty for their patients, uncomfortable tests and procedures, horrible disease processes that destroy their patient’s minds and body, and yet they go in every shift hoping to make a difference. Their own families change plans and reschedule holidays because patients have to be cared for and made to feel safe. As they leave each day, they feel grateful for their family and friends, their health, their ability to make a living giving to others, because truth is, one day you may need the services you are providing.
Watching someone suffer through a devastating illness makes you grateful for the simplest things. To be able to watch a sunrise or children playing makes you appreciate those that are blind and will never see the beauty around us. Listening to music, the sounds of waves crashing against the shore makes you appreciate those who are deaf and will never hear the sounds of joyful laughter. Taking a brisk walk on a fall day or strolling down the beach as the sun sets helps you understand how lucky you are to be able to move freely on your own, unlike the person confined to a wheelchair or bed. Reading and writing, watching TV or looking at social media, driving a car or simply balancing your checking account makes you realize there are those that suffer mental or emotional illnesses that are unable to accomplish getting themselves dressed in the morning. For my ability to see and appreciate these things, I am truly grateful.
When grief is your lifelong companion, you aren’t sure how to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. Grief is so heavy, it leaves you unbalanced and let’s face it, grief hurts. It is hard to look out into the world and think positive thoughts. That, my friends is normal. Watching the Christmas trees go up and the houses adorned with lights and yard decorations is painful for those missing someone they loved. Carving turkey and family get togethers are not the same nor will they ever be. The empty chair, the empty stocking, the empty spot in your heart is unable to be filled. What do we do to feel gratitude at a time like this?
I have found working through immeasurable loss that my mind is filled with the “good stuff”, memories made through the years. I don’t know how holiday time will affect me this year, being my first without Rick and my 10th without Lindsey, but I don’t feel resentment for those making plans and having fun. I understand that our journeys are different and their families deserve whatever happiness they can have. I was that family once, often unaware of the suffering around me, which honestly is normal. Life is hard when things are good and even harder when they aren’t. I am truly and unequivocally changed by the death of my daughter, and now my soulmate, but I am grateful for 29 years with Lindsey and 51 years with Rick. I am grateful to have my two daughters and my grandchildren in my life. I am grateful for family and friends and times gone by. I am grateful for my “Compassionate Friends” and all of those I’ve met on the “grief journey”. This group of people have changed my life.
This time of year was always my favorite. I was a “Christmas Nut”, one time having about 25 trees of all shapes and sizes, each with a theme. We were always big on tradition and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner was a joyful time. As I walk the maze during this holiday season, I know to take care of myself, to do what I can and to politely decline what I can’t. Please understand, this journey is individual. If you know someone hurting this holiday season, give them the gift of remembering. Let them know you care, let them know you can sit beside them with no expectations. Let them know that no one is judging them as they trudge their way through their own maze and they can take as long as they need to. Give them the gift of a story or memory of the person they lost. Let them know their lost loved ones are welcome at Christmas dinner.