Five Things 1,700 Grievers Have Taught Us | Part 3

Gratitude, Daily-Expressed, is Secret Sauce #1

One mystery in Grief and Recovery is this: Why do some ‘Live Forward’ with hope after devastating losses, while others with similar losses really never get out of that pit of grief? One lives forward with their pain of loss – another simply exists forward.

There are no short and easy answers to that question.

When we lose someone or something we deeply love, we must go to the pit of grief. Efforts to never go to that pit usually result in an unhealthy recovery.

While in the depths of the pit, we can hardly function. Almost all of our thoughts are focused on who or what we lost, and the pain can be overwhelming. 

We of course do not want to stay in the depths forever, mainly because other relationships that are important to us might be hurt or even lost.

Then we have loss piled upon loss, and the depths of that pit can actually become deeper.

So, what is one of the differences between those who are living forward and those who remain stuck?

Thousands of grievers have taught us it IS possible to Live Forward with our pain of loss, and a crucial component is a daily expression of gratitude for what we HAVE.

Note these points:

  1. Giving thanks for what we have helps shift the focus from what we have lost to what we have.
  2. This shifting of focus does not mean we forget our loved ones – that is impossible. It does not mean we are done grieving. Grieving will be part of our walk – life will never be the same.
  3. But, this grief will not lead to the loss of other important relationships we want to keep. We do not want to stay with grief that debilitates us forever (it WILL for a while).
  4. Expressing gratitude, especially when I am in deep grief, needs to be intentional and a decision I make – not necessarily an emotion I feel.

If I wait until I ‘feel’ like expressing gratitude, I might wait for a long time.

After spending twelve years at Harvard University, Shawn Achor became one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on mindset made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TEDtalk is one of the most popular of all time, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions.  

In his book The Happiness Advantage and in his presentations, he suggests our days can actually be powerfully more positive if we do some simple things on a regular basis.

Please remember we are NOT suggesting that if you do these things you will stop grieving or that you should not ever again feel bad or sad. Your loss will never go away. These suggestions are made to encourage you to be cognizant of what and who you have and not just focus all your energy on who or what you lost. 

Set a goal to do these 2 things for at least 21 consecutive days.

Two Suggestions from Shawn Achor that can help you “Live Forward”:

  1. Every day, write down ONE thing you are grateful for in your life. It can be one word, a sentence, or a paragraph. Keep it simple, and try to complete this every day as you start your day. Example: I am thankful today for my friend Mark.
  2. Every day, write down ONE positive thing you experienced in the last 24 hours. Again, one thing, from as simple as I had a good meal, to a friend calling, or the weather was nice, to I won the lotto. If it’s the latter, let’s do lunch, at a really nice restaurant, and go car shopping, or house hunting, for me. You pay.

I often refer to the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. In his book, Keller relates how one domino can knock down another domino 1 ½ times its size. Obviously, some force needs to exert energy to push that first domino.

When we are in deep grief, for a time we do not have the energy or desire to even knock over a two-inch domino. Our hearts are broken and heavy. Our loss consumes us. But we CAN knock over one small domino.

As you continue to Live Forward, that two-inch domino knocks over a bigger one, which in turn knocks over a bigger one. Our focus gradually becomes a bit more outward. So start with that small domino:

Decide to Express Gratitude Today

A healthy recovery is possible. A recovery that helps us live forward, realizing that though life can never be the same after loss, and realizing that the loss will never go away, life can be rich and fulfilling again, with purpose and meaning.  

Next Article: Purpose is Secret Sauce #2

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