Are you grieving or describe yourself as brokenhearted? Have you ever felt ashamed or inadequate as you struggled to find even one thing to be grateful for after a significant emotional loss?
I’ve noticed that the task (or societal pressure) to express appreciation has had adverse effects on many of my grief clients.
Maybe logically you know that gratitude has all these wonderful benefits… yet the thought of only focusing on what you appreciate in life just leaves you feeling like a failure?
I’ve observed that many of my clients believe it’s ‘gratitude versus grief’ and see the two states of mind as black and white… that if you’re truly grateful, there’s NO space for feeling any depleting emotions like sadness or anger. After a significant emotional loss, they hang their head and say, “I should be more grateful that I have a roof over my head” or “I shouldn’t complain, others have it much worse.”
By saying we “should” feel more gratitude, we will in-turn feel ashamed for being hurt, confused, empty, angry, lost, hopeless… (which are very common and appropriate emotions to have after a death, divorce, break-up, or major transition). So many of us have a critical inner voice that beats us up for our struggle to find hope and appreciation.
As a Grief Recovery Specialist, I can tell you that there are TREMENDOUS benefits (physical, psychological, spiritual) to feeling HEARD and VALIDATED for feelings of fear, pain, loneliness, confusion, anger and sadness after a loss. There’s benefits when we can be honest with our feelings without fear of judgment, analysis or criticism.
Grief and Gratitude are not polar opposites. It’s not Grief vs. Gratitude. It’s not one or the other.
My suggestion is to practice verbalizing your feelings in a safe place where you can be heard and validated. AND practice verbalizing your gratitude in a safe place where you can be heard and validated. It has to be BOTH.
Research shows that expressing gratitude has amazing physical and psychological benefits. Whether you were born with gratitude in your bones or if you have to actively work on cultivating and practicing gratitude – affirming the goodness in your life can reduce stress, improve relationships and change our outlook to a “rosy shade of appreciation.”
Just spending one minute with your hand over your heart and re-experiencing a past event/memory where you felt gratitude and happiness can align your head and heart as well as leave you feeling less stressed, more coherent and at peace. Journaling about your gratitude, sending thank you notes, verbalizing appreciation to loved ones are beautiful things to do – and there’s no surprise that health professionals will suggest “practice gratitude!” to everyone of their clients. It is crucially important, however, that we honor our honest feelings while we are grieving AND we find space for gratitude.
There has to be space in your heart for BOTH gratitude and grief.
You are not a failure because you can’t fully focus on the positive. You’re GRIEVING.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re feeling… you are right where you need to be.