Your Twin Sisters Separated At Birth: Gratitude & Grief
Think about it: Gratitude and Grief might be twin sisters separated at birth. Maybe it’s time to arrange a reunion. Isn’t that a head-scratcher? Not to worry, I’ll explain myself.
Because American Thanksgiving happens in November, gratitude and abundance seem to get a lot of extra attention. Over the past several years I’ve engaged in many different versions of a gratitude challenge. Sometimes I’ve been the one facilitating a group, asking group members to keep a daily list of things for which they’re grateful.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the benefits of cultivating gratitude—there’s been a lot of focus and research in the past several years. Here’s a link to a Psychology Today article that will remind you of the benefits and offer some scientific evidence in case you’d like a refresh.
A Breast Cancer Reunion
Cultivating GRATITUDE is great, but good GRIEF—don’t leave out her twin sister.
Life is a messy mix of gratitude and grief. Life includes loss and sadness and pain and death. So what if our focus on gratitude needs to acknowledge our grief? What if naming our grief leads us into deeper gratitude?
During Breast Cancer I found I experienced both every day. Cancer Commandment # 10 reminded me to “Choose joy and gratitude every day.” But I kept bumping into a challenge. What the H-E-double toothpicks would I do with the grief that kept showing up alongside of my gratitude?
I soon realized that I needed to name the presence of both. My gratitude and grief seemed like twin sisters—fraternal, not identical—but they kept spending time together as twins often do. They seemed to know what the other was thinking and they didn’t always need words to express themselves.
One minute I’d be flooded with gratitude for the beauty around me—the next I’d be hit by a wave of grief that that threatened to take me under. Since Cancer Commandment # 1 reminded me to “Be present and feel all the feels,” I’d ride the wave of grief while still filled with gratitude.
Breast Cancer. I lost a lot (Grief) that required some time and space to mourn. Some of you joined me in a farewell ceremony for my girls. Or, maybe you and I “lost” some of our valuable time in your taking me to my appointments and chemo treatments. But oh my. Wouldn’t we find ourselves overwhelmed with gratitude for the sweetness and beauty in our hours spent together, time we wouldn’t have otherwise had?
Perhaps authentic gratitude comes from more than your gratitude lists or prayers, though those are worthwhile ways to invest your time. Maybe it’s in making time to grieve that you’ll discover a deep gratitude for what you’ve lost. Maybe it’s in your mourning that you’ll find your way to joyous, grateful dancing for the life still beating all around you.
We’re at the beginning of this holiday season marked by a focus on thanksgiving, celebration and joy. Spend some time to ask yourself:
In the past year, what (or who) have I lost that I’m still grieving?
Even with the excitement of holiday season, what sadness and heavy-heartedness am I noticing?
As my calendar fills up with tasks and events, what will I do to stay present to both my gratitude and my grief?
Dear One, look around you. There’s life and death, sadness and joy, gratitude and grief. Make space and time to acknowledge it all.
Be intentional to include time for the twins, Gratitude and Grief. If you do, I’ll make you a promise that comes from my own experience. Your gratitude list will take on an added depth, beauty, perspective and presence.
I’d love it if you shared your gratitude list with me. Of course, I’d also love to come alongside you during the holidays whether you’re filled with gratitude or grief. Let’s connect.
More love letters to come…