Gratitude in the Midst of Loss

Rachel developed gratitude in the face of personal loss. She learned one of the secrets to becoming happier and more optimistic. Rachel changed the way she perceived herself and others by incorporating a greater sense of appreciation into her daily life.

Grateful woman by the sea with outstretched arms
Grateful woman with outstretched arms

She found herself going to bed each night feeling a sense of loss, anger and loneliness. Rachel recently ended her three-year relationship with her charming and quite handsome live-in boyfriend after discovering through a trusted girlfriend that Richard had been repeatedly unfaithful. Everyone seemed to know but Rachel.

Shame seeped into her everyday experience. Shallow and interrupted sleep left Rachel exhausted each day and was interfering with her work. She became more irritable and less able to focus on her role as a physical therapist.

Talking therapy helped her to understand more about the men she chooses. She began to see the patterns of her behavior. Rachel serially dated men that reminded her of her father, who had a long history of cheating. Her parents bitterly divorced when she was about 13 years old.

Now 33 years old, Rachel finally grasped how she was searching for someone like her father, but with whom she hoped she could have a happier ending. What she discovered was that she needed to broaden her horizons and not be so fast to reject men that did not immediately grab her attention in that old familiar way.

She told me that she often found herself feeling angry and cheated. This attitude ran interference with Rachel’s ability to connect in her relationships with men and women. She experienced little appreciation for the good in her life.

I suggested that she keep a gratitude journal. Rachel already kept a journal where she recorded her feelings and the events of the day. This gratitude journal would be intended only for writing down those events of the day for which she felt grateful. The object was for Rachel to diminish her anger and resentment and develop a greater sense of appreciation.

Gratitude is an integral part of a healthy life and sense of well-being. Rachel was loosing herself in her own negativity. Developing a stronger sense of gratitude is one of the key factors towards creating more happiness in one’s life.

She wrote in her gratitude journal nightly about 3-5 experiences for which she found a positive angle. Over time she found herself feeling more optimistic, happy, open-minded and less resentful. Rachel felt a greater sense of connectedness and wanted to spend more time with friends. She also noticed a qualitative difference in her sleep.

After several months of our conversations and writing in her gratitude journal, Rachel was back to a healthier social life. She felt like she had truly developed a deeper sense of gratitude. This time she moved more slowly and thoughtfully as she went out on dates. She also found herself feeling more appreciative of her friendships and her ability to take care of herself.

What are you grateful for today?

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4 Responses to Gratitude in the Midst of Loss

  1. Losing a boyfriend or husband is one thing, but how do I find gratitude after losing my adult son to suicide? I know that gratitude is the key to finding happiness again and overcoming this tremendous depression, but I struggle with how to do this. I cannot be grateful for the 23 amazing years with my son, without feeling the immense pain of having lost him. It’s been three years and I am in real trouble if I can’t find my way out of this.

  2. I am so sorry for your terrible loss. I can think of nothing worse than losing a child–at any age. This is simply not the natural path of life. Nonetheless, life can hand us what sometimes feels like insurmountable challenges. My guess is your son was in pain and he took his life as an act of desperation to put an end to his suffering. There is no going back. Your job now is to somehow find a way to create meaning in your life, regardless of your son’s decisions. You can get involved and buoy yourself up and make the most out of these years for yourself. You carry your son with you everyday in your heart and in a way he will always be with you. I suggest you dig deep and think about about whatever used to bring you pleasure or fulfillment and go back there. Finding your life purpose now can be quite healing and will strengthen your capacity for resilience and might even make a difference in the lives of others. It takes courage to live fully, but the rewards can be magnificent. I wish you the strength to move forward and make the most of your life.

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