I remember sitting at the cemetery with my family as we remembered my son Mitch one summer evening. The air was warm and the grass was cool – it was a perfect summer moment. Yet in our hearts was a dark cloud of grief and I wanted so much to shield my family from that pain and sorrow.
To each family member I handed a pendant with Mitchell’s finger print; a gift given to our family from a loving client. Each of us held, almost in disbelief, an evidence our son once lived and walked among us. In our hearts we asked ourselves, “How could this be?” It didn’t take long before we started reminiscing about Mitch – we laughed and cried as we talked about the happy times and the sad times. Most of all, we shared our gratitude for all the good things in our life, Mitch being one of them. Though we were all hurting, a little healing happened on that day.
It was this unlikely summer evening that I began to experience growth through gratitude.
Three years have passed and my heart and soul are still tender to the touch – and sometimes my sorrow overtakes me and I weep. Yet despite the grief I feel for losing my son, I have learned to live again – and that is a blessing I intend to keep.
At least for me, I have begun to see a relationship between grief and gratitude. At first glance, they would seem polar opposites … as different from each other as oil and water, fire and ice, love and hate. Yet the more I come to experience grief and gratitude, the more I begin to see they play an important and symbiotic role.
Grief tells our heart things like, “How can I possibly find joy again when so much was lost?” Gratitude responds softly, “Yes, it hurts, but what a blessing it was, even if only a short time.”
Grief screams. It commands and demands. Gratitude whispers. It is soft and subtle.
Grief sees only what was lost, while gratitude sees what was gained. Chris Jones via @lexibehrndt
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What I have found most interesting about managed grief is that can lead to more gratitude; and where there is gratitude, there is healing. It is not easy. In fact, grief is one of the hardest forms of work we will ever perform in this life. So, as strange as it sounds, I am grateful for gratitude, for I have discovered that is a key to healing.
I am grateful for my wife and kids and that I was blessed with Mitch in my life. I am grateful for a broken heart, for it has taken me to my knees and taught me deeper things.
Though I have come to know the pains of grief and loss, tonight my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the many good things in life. I am happier than I have ever been since I lost my son. Grief still screams inside me – and there are moments where grief is deeper than deep …. and I weep and weep. But I am also listening to the quiet whispers of gratitude. That gratitude is turning a once barren wasteland of sorrow into a garden of goodness. An invisible place of peace, not seen with the eye but a place where my mind and heart meet. Grief and gratitude are not so separate; at least for me, they’ve become one piece.
As far as I can tell, I experience healing and growth when I find gratitude. That is how I am coming alive again. Gratitude.
This post originally appeared in The On Coming Alive Project. The On Coming Alive Project is movement of people rising from the ashes and coming alive.The project features a diverse group of stories on the topics of abuse, addiction, death, depression/anxiety, divorce, domestic violence, illness, rape, and suicide. On Coming Alive was created as a platform for those who have suffered to share their stories of survival and their wisdom with the world.Read more stories of rising from the ashes and coming alive here.