Thursday, November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving: Finding Gratitude in Grief
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. This year has been a tough one for me. I have experienced more loss and grief in the past 12 months than I could ever imagine. And I have known friends who have experienced the same.
At the time, when these things were happening, I asked all the same questions featured in those thin pamphlets about grief: why was this happening to me? Why can't I have a break? Why are the people I love being taken away from me? I began to think that my good fortune brought bad luck. So whenever anything "good" happened to me, I'd be terrified. I thought that I was being punished.
So I tried to bargain. "I'll do X if it means that X doesn't die," I pleaded with the universe. "I'll give up X if you keep X safe," I muttered under my breath on my walk home from the tube, talking to the sky. People must have thought I was insane. I kept this bargaining up for a while until it was clear that, well, that's just not how life works.
I had to relinquish control.
Then I came to the stage of acceptance. I accepted that I had no control over these tragic events. That they weren't a result of something that I did or did not do. Were they senseless? Unjust? Unfair? Of course. But it wasn't my fault.
After I accepted this, I tried to find gratitude in these experiences. It was hard. When I was hurting and suffering the most, my friends and my husband told me, "You'll get through this, you're strong." But I hated hearing that, because I didn't feel strong. I didn't feel like I could get through it. "I can't," I wept. Then I gritted my teeth and I did. Not out of anger, but out of determination.
I was also grateful for these friends, both old and new, who told me I could do it. Who sat at my front door with bagfuls of groceries waiting for me to get home from work so they could stay with me after a funeral when John was travelling. Who brought me a plant with a note that said, "Fresh start." Who texted me to say, "I'm thinking of you today! It's okay to be sad!" Who did not leave me alone.
I was grateful for you: you, who gave me permission to think aloud on this blog, alongside my jarring posts about trips abroad and pretty bracelets and indulgent supper clubs. You, who shared with me your own stories of loss and grief - some of which were so moving, I cried silently while reading them.
So, today, I am thankful for this year. I will not think of this year as the "terrible year". I will think of this year as the year I realized my own strength.
And I will be grateful for it.