How To Navigate Times When It's Hard To Be Grateful

Here in the US, we’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving. It’s the time when we're supposed to be thankful for all "our blessings." 

For people who have been to hell and back this year, for those who’ve lost a loved one, for those who have had their hearts ripped out and stomped on, it can be an insensitive thing to hear the words...what are you grateful for? 

Feeling like you have nothing to be grateful for

If you're someone who's had a gut-wrenching year, I can imagine that you’re thinking...I don’t have anything to be grateful for. 

There's been too much heartbreak this year...the unexpected loss of a loved one, the breakup of a marriage, the dramatic ending of a relationship that you didn’t agree to, the exasperation of working a job where the risk is high for covid and with minimal appreciation,  the devastating loss of your house to a fire, and on and on. 

It can just be too much for our psyche and our brains. 

It’s easy to has knocked me down and everything that could go wrong went wrong...when I'm gored and still want me to say I’m grateful? 

The holidays are not merry for everyone

Then, the holidays arrive. And you’re alone or you’re thinking I have to pretend like everything is hunky-dory with others around me who are happy.

People are with their families and you may think...I don’t even have a family! I just want to bury myself away in Netflix, alcohol, food, or under the covers. 

Holidays can be one more painful reminder of how alone we feel.

And how utterly difficult life can be. For those struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s an almost insurmountable time. 

For many, it's a joyous time to be with our families. This Thanksgiving and Christmas perhaps you'll be with your family for the first time since the pandemic. Congratulations. I’m happy for you. 

But for some of us, it will be something that we just 'survive'. 

Pause and reflect

Think about this for a moment. 

There are many countries around the world, struggling with poor access to vaccines, increased covid, and still no vaccines available. They will not be with their families or loved ones. For others, they won't have enough food. 

I have 3 young grandchildren I haven't seen for almost 2 years. They live on an island nation where covid doesn’t exist, isolated from the world with no real plans for when the country will be out of lockdown or open again. 

It’s painful to think that my grandchildren are growing up and I’m not a part of their lives. I miss them and I miss my son. I miss hugging them and being with them. 

And yet, I tell myself this is a champagne problem.

I can still see them on Facetime and Zoom. I can still “see” them.  I try not to imagine how long it will be before I see them again. 

And then I remember I do have so much to be grateful for:

No one in our family has covid, no one has cancer or a brain tumor. There's no loss of limbs and we can still communicate. We’re still a family. Just apart. 

As a therapist, I know it’s important to recognize the sadness in not seeing my grans. 

And that even though others may have greater pain than I do, it’s still important to feel my own sadness. 

We're all in this together

The pandemic has changed our lives. Our brains and our souls are not the same. It's hard just being alive. 

We all have loss and heartbreak. Some more than others. 

So when we’re talking about gratitude, I get that it’s harder than before to come up with what we’re grateful for. 

AND at the same time, I know that gratitude can save you from total despair. 

When we focus on what we do have or what IS going right, something seems a little less desperate. There’s more hope and lightness. 

Something you can do to feel grateful: 

Write down the names of 3 people or things you're grateful for and why. 

Pay it forward. Help someone you know who needs lifting up with an email or text. Tell them you're glad they're in your life. 

And if you're struggling, I want you to know you’re not alone. Even though you might think you are... you're not. But let us know. Let the people around you know that you’re having a hard time.  

For those of us who can lift our heads a bit and have less trouble, let us remember that we can give to others. 

Supporting those around us

Now is the time to use our kindness and compassion not only with others but with ourselves. 

Here are some things that we can do to help each other: 

Reach out to someone and ask them what you can do for them. 

They may not be able to tell you or think of anything but this is the time to just let them know you care. 

Listen to the person who has been battered and bruised.  Ask them how they're going to spend the holidays. 

Respect them if they say they want to be alone. Invite them to your house or for a cup of coffee.

Send them a text, an email, call them...reach out so that they know you care and that they aren’t alone.

And if you're lucky enough to be with your loved ones, hold them tight. Be grateful for this time with them. 

The holidays can be a challenging and painful time. But we can find moments of joy, even amidst the sadness. 

Now it's your turn

Reach out right now to someone you know who has had a tough year. 

If you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust and let them know that the holidays are hard for you and you need support. Granted, that’s a big ask if you’re depressed. But you can do it.  

What I know is that most people want to help, they may not know how. Tell them. 

Make 2022 a better year

Do you want to be able to let go of the toughness of this year? Want next year to be different? 

Whether you had a difficult year or a good year, taking time out for yourself to reflect and plan for 2022 is something that your future self will thank you for. 

This retreat is especially valuable if you've had a tough year. It can bring hope and help you feel like you're in charge of your life again...especially when it feels like you've lost all control. 

So, come and join me for my 2022: Your Best Year Yet online retreat. It’s online, it’s easy to participate, and I’d love to guide you. Go here to learn more and sign up. 

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