Through Grief to Gratitude

When faced with tragedy or loss, it’s a very normal reaction to feel grief.

Depending on our relationship to the person or thing lost, we may also experience the loss of hopes and dreams, time together, our sense of self, or the relationship with our loved ones. When processing that loss, we might experience hurt, pain, sadness, disappointment, anger, guilt, or regret. We all grieve in our own way and at our own pace.

There are no quick fixes and we never really “just get over it”. But we can get through it. With support and connection from our families, peers, and community, we can learn to live with our grief, and even to find happiness, peace, and joy in our lives again.

That’s where gratitude comes in. Gratitude can provide a powerful source of healing during the grieving process. In the midst of suffering, it isn't easy to see the positive and beautiful things around us. We certainly don’t need to feel thankful for the suffering itself. But practicing gratitude can help us both acknowledge what we have lost and celebrate what we still have – from little blessings that we experience every day to the memories of relationships with loved ones. The transformative power of gratitude can help heal our grief a little each day.

In addition to its role in healing, gratitude can also improve overall wellbeing, and connect to something larger than ourselves. When we count blessings daily and deliberately, we focus on what is present, here and now, rather than what we could have or should have. Focusing on the goodness in our lives – no matter how small – can help us feel more positive emotions, enjoy good experiences more, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Ways to Practice Gratitude After a Loss:

Allow grief to take shape

  • Sometimes our society is so fast paced that we try to minimize a loss or rush through the healing process. And most people are not exactly eager to talk about death and loss in the first place. But grief is normal and okay. Instead of trying to suppress it or avoid it, allow yourself to feel the pain of your loss and remind yourself that you’re grieving as a result of the love you have for what you’ve lost.

Find one thing each day

  • It may not be natural to feel thankful as a result of your suffering. But being mindful of the blessings in your life can help you move through your grief with a more purposeful outlook. Try to find just one thing each day that you are truly thankful for, no matter how small.

Try gratitude journaling

  • A gratitude journal can help you keep track of all the things that you’re grateful for in your life presently. Writing and recording your everyday thoughts helps you develop a daily practice. Gratitude journals are similar to keeping a diary in the sense that everyone’s entries will be different based on their individual grief experiences.

Write a letter of gratitude about the loss

  • The deliberate act of writing a letter to express all that you are grateful for can be very healing, especially when dealing with the loss of a loved one. Write down everything they meant to you and how they helped mold your life, memories, or attitudes. You can also express how much you loved and appreciated them. When you’re done, consider sharing it with someone you trust. If you prefer to keep your letter a private part of your grief journey, read it aloud to yourself, then place it somewhere for safekeeping.

Find your happiness and purpose

  • Gratitude helps us embrace our grief to use it as fuel to propel us forward in our healing. In time, you may feel ready to start looking for new ways to bring joy and happiness into your life. Finding a new sense of purpose after a significant loss may help you heal from your pain. Start with a purpose for each day - even if it's as small as making the bed or walking the dog. When you're ready, think about your personal values and your vision for what your life might be in the future. Consider any meaningful connections to what you lost that you'd like to honor or build on. Make space for new interests, activities, and relationships that can bring new positive experiences. Remember to practice gratitude for each of these new opportunities in finding purpose.

Change your perspective

  • While gratitude might not feel intuitive after a loss, you can learn about grief and gratitude by sharing the experiences of others. Reading books about grief and loss might help you see things from a different perspective based on other's experiences that might be similar to yours. These differing views might help you focus on where your grief stems from. Listening about others' grief journeys and how they've worked through their loss may help you embrace your experiences. Support groups for people who have experienced losses similar to yours can provide a source of connection and new perspective on your own experiences.