Grieving and Grateful:
Is is possible to be grateful in the midst of deep grief?
Grief is such a wild thing, a live wire that can be still on the ground for months and -all of a sudden- it picks up momentum and sparks fly everywhere, forever changing everything in its path. The Year 2020 has been full of grief–cancelled plans and dreams, fear of the unknown, anxiety over all of life’s sudden changes. Even the way we buy groceries has drastically changed, not to even mention our schedules, relationships and perspectives on life. And I’m just talking about the outside forces that have swooped in and affected all of us globally; I’m not even mentioning whatever personal battle we are enduring in our own individual lives, within our small circles of family and friends, within our own hearts and minds. Grief.
Is there space in this deep pool of grief to float to the top and feel grateful?
I know, this is a strange question. For whatever reason (I’ll blame my wise grandmother), I always connect grief with gratefulness. To be clear, I’m rarely grateful for the emotional breakdown that happens as soon as I reach my car in the hospital parking lot. It is not a habit to thank God for the agonizing pain or puddle of tears that have left my face red and my spirit wounded. However, choosing to go through grief (rather than tiptoe around it) gives us a golden opportunity to feel the weight of both the pain and the immense thankfulness to God for this life.
Think about your age today. How many days have you been breathing on this planet? (use a calculator, if needed…no judgment) Those total days of your Earthly life are thousands of days of miracles of your existence. You are a miracle! The thousands of little-big things that must go right each day for your body and soul to function are absolutely incredible. As a child, I thought that the older I got, the wiser I would be. Ha, I’m not so convinced. What I am sure of, however, is that the older I get, the more precious I realize life to truly be. (English teachers, please forgive my grammar.)
So how can I take a sorrowful situation, feel all of the grief, and yet also find gratefulness?
Let’s go back to that “breakdown in the hospital parking lot” scenario. You know, hypothetically. We are sobbing, we have received horrible news about a loved one and we are all alone. Here is the grateful among the grief, in thoughts:
- I am SO overcome with sorrow! My voice is making strange, gutteral sounds while my eyes are leaking tears. Wow, I don’t get to totally free myself of emotions like this, uninhibited, very often. I’m grateful for my privacy right now. This is a safe place.
- This car is so quiet, even though I’m surrounded by other vehicles and literally hundreds of people in the hospital across the street. I am by myself, yet I am not alone. Many others are enduring their own health mountains right now. We are a sort of community here.
- Wearing this COVID mask is truly soaking up all of these tears. I hate wearing a mask, but I realize it is on my face at an opportune time–more privacy and instant tissues to soak up my sorrow. Bonus!
- I hear my breath–in and out, in and out. And I’m still breathing. I see the glimmer of the sunshine peeking out through these concrete walls, and I know there is a day out there that I need to be a part of. I’ll give myself a few moments to release the tears, and then I’ll join the world again.
- I can’t imagine anything other than this horrendous pain, but I know that there are people in my life whom I love and need to share in supporting right now. We will grieve together, and we will-somehow-get through this. One foot in front of the other. I’m grateful for past experiences that have proven the strength of my own self and others around me.
- God, I’m so upset. I don’t know what to do. And yet, here I am, talking to You. I’m mad, disappointed, full of sorrow, in pain, confused, tired, and I want to direct a lot of this at You. And I know you’re listening, so thanks. I can be mad at you and also love you at the same time; our longtime relationship has proven this time and again. Thank you for the growing roots under my feet of your steadfast love, and the tree of strength that you’re letting me lean on right now.
Those are a lot of thoughts in a 5-minute span! And, yet, it’s an example of walking through the dark tunnel of grief while seeking some sort of gratitude along the way. The gratitude sometimes looks like 3 things: choosing hope, choosing to embrace the pain, and choosing to feel all of the feelings because avoiding only makes it harder in the long run.
No one wants to grieve. Yet, grief is an inevitable part of life, as change happens and relationships evolve. Whatever is labeled as grief in your spirit today, may you authentically feel the deep pain and also lean into the deep gratitude that can be found, too. Who knew I’d be grateful for my thick, hot face mask in a horrible moment??? These little things can bring us back to reality, to the hope that tomorrow is a new day, and to God’s promise to always be present with us in our pain, pleasure, and all of the parts in-between.
This life is truly a gift.
John 16:22 “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
- Check-in: How would you describe your current life season? Where do you experience grief and gratitude in this time? (Either write down your thoughts or share with a trusted one.)
- Action/Inaction: What are some ways you can seek to discover the tension of grieving and also seeking gratitude at the same time? What do you need to do to share this with God?
- Time with God: God, thank you for the freedom to grieve around you. Help me to embrace the changes that truly hurt, while also actively looking for the miracles and grateful moments of this life. Give me wisdom to discover the growth and hope of this time, even if there are particular trials and difficulties right now. Guide me in your gift of life and joy. In Your Son, Jesus’, name we pray, Amen.
I thank God for this opportunity to spend 5 minutes of your valuable time with you. May we stay in touch with our own grief and gratitude.