It’s 2:06 am and I’ve turned on the light to write. To you. Because I’ve been tossing and turning for the better part of an hour. Thinking of you. Not you in the context of the kiddos you love. Not you in the midst of your work. Not you as a friend or you as a neighbor.
You. Just as you are.
I’m writing to you at two-something-in-the-morning because you matter. How you feel matters. How you are doing matters.
And so I want to write to you about gratitude.
(Which feels like the right place for us to take our traditional breath together, doesn’t it? Here with gratitude and grief. breathe innn. and ouuuuutt. innn. and ouuuuutt. )
Chances are, you’ve felt both of these lately. Lately like in the last few days. Or even lately like in the last few seconds. We all are. Sometimes it is a mellow appreciation. Sometimes it is a raw lament. Sometimes they entwine in a sharp bittersweet.
It turns out, we need them both. For gratitude alone is a saccharine state that isn’t sustainable. And grief alone is a burden that pulls us under. Together they do not function to cancel each other out, they exist to acknowledge our wholeness.
Let’s start with gratitude. It has been making a splash culturally in the past few years. And while it seems nice to be grateful, it turns out there is much more to it than that. The research about gratitude is stunning in its scope. It reduces depression, and increases our optimism. It lowers our blood pressure and strengthens our immune system. It improves our decision-making as well as our patience. It makes us more generous and compassionate, less lonely and isolated. Gratitude increases our resilience during the day, and it helps us sleep better at night.
A gratitude practice. It is small. It is doable. And it makes a difference.
And as wonderful as it is, it needs to be practiced as part of our grounded truth.
Which brings us to grief.
And a quote I would like to share. David Kessler, one of the world’s leading experts on grief, said about these New Times “we don’t have enough time to count all the losses we are encountering right now.” Which may be why I am awake at two-something-in-the-morning to write. To you. We need to see just how much we have lost.
Everything has changed. Everything. Has. Changed. And our grief is our grief. What does that mean? Grief isn’t comparative. There’s no scale of worthiness. There aren’t ‘first world problems’. There are problems that come first in your world. Name them. Honor them. Then honor your neighbor’s totally-different-and-yet-no-more-or-less-important-than-yours problems.
And this grief? We need a practice for it, too. We need to write it out by hand (not type it) because (here’s the research again) it turns out that writing something down helps us process it faster. We can increase the rate at which we metabolize grief. And in these New Times of not having enough time to count our losses, time matters more than ever.
So, here it is. A page for you to write your appreciations and laments, side by side. Not as one to counter the other, but as an acknowledgement of your wholeness. A space for you to be grateful and grieve. You can write in the morning, or as the day unfolds, or as a way to release things before you sleep. Whatever feels best to you is best for you to do.
Another reason I am up in the middle of the night is another quote from David Kessler. “Grief must be witnessed.” I heard this quote weeks ago and it has been swirling in my mind ever since. Grief must be witnessed. In order to truly feel we must be fully seen. In order to fully heal, we must truly speak.
I believe the same is true of gratitude. It is most powerful when it is shared.
So now that you have written your gratitudes and griefs, tell someone about them. Someone special. Someone unexpected. Someone with whom you can start a new tradition. Text them, call them, email them. Shout over the backyard fence at them. Talk at the dining room table at dinner with them.
Talk to someone daily about what matters to you. Because you matter. And that someone can be me. I’m here. And I’m listening. I’m grateful for you.
Just as you are.
Want to talk more about gratitude and grief? The doors of Evolving Parents are open, and I am here for you. We can chat over the phone / FaceTime / zoom for 15, 30 or 50 minute sessions. click right here, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get connected.
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Want to (re)read Our Social Spring?
Here’s week 3: Cute. Sweet. Worried. Anxious. Piglet.
Here’s week 2: Feeling alllll the feels.
And week 1: how to build a schedule