On the verge of Thanksgiving, it would be apropos to discuss GRATITUDE as a means to counter GRIEF. These two antithetical sentiments are not innate to a widow or widower.
Gratitude is a decision to consciously be aware of the positive in your life, notwithstanding all the negative and painful aspects. Grief will overshadow gratitude repeatedly because it just consumes our hearts. Moreover, a conscious effort to engage in ‘gratitude’ despite your grief will cause your brain to sway the sadness of your heart.
When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters that affect our health, mood and sleep cycle. They work as natural antidepressants. They directly affect the area of our brain called the amygdala, where our emotions, such as anger and fear, are born.
As we take stock of our losses, it is easy to lose sight of our victories. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seed you plant.”
Take stock of what you have accomplished; every little mundane task is, in fact, a significant accomplishment for a grieving heart. Every failure you encounter requires you to rise above it and overcome it. Be grateful for these little victories!
Our brains emphatically do get affected by the trauma of losing a spouse. We are consumed with pain and sadness for weeks, months, and years. However, we can and must choose thankfulness. We can and must choose to overcome. We can and must choose to live for a cause greater than ourselves.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for what I had in my 29-year marriage (even though it is a loss that hurts to the core).
I am thankful for my ability to perform the daily tasks of life (even though I am merely a shadow of my former self).
I am thankful for my daughters and the joy they bring me (even though it is painful watching them hurt for having lost their dad).
There is much we have to be thankful for – all of us – despite all we have lost.
Have a Thanksgiving filled with GRATITUDE! May we overcome our sadness. May we overcome our grief. May we continue to honor our loved ones through the lives we continue to live – remembering them, loving them, and celebrating them through a life well-lived.
2 Samuel 22:50
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
Cynthia Mascarenhas, RN, LNCC