Grief and Gratitude

November is a strange and welcome month in Arizona….it is a time of extremes and contrasts.   While it is officially fall, there are 95-degree days as well as 55-degree days.   The Bermuda grass is dying and the rye grass is sprouting.  Halloween decorations come down and Christmas lights go up…..Thanksgiving sometimes gets lost in the shuffle aside from a gathering for a  family feast and football rivalries on television.

Grief is also full of extremes and contrasts.    Laughter and tears mix as memories and stories are shared.   There may be a sense of connections and loneliness, sometimes within the hour.   You may feel great pain and deep gratitude for the life lost and the love shared.

This year, with so many things uncertain and influx, November is a most strange time.   If you are newly bereaved, you have faced extraordinary challenges in this time of COVID.   You may have been separated from your loved one who died.   You may have postponed their funeral or been limited to a small service with the closest family and friends present.   You may have had your own health and life issues.

And now, Thanksgiving approaches – the holiday of gratefulness and abundance.   How can we feel gratitude in a time of grief?   It would seem the grief would cancel the gratitude.  For some, it does. 

Grief can also magnify gratitude.  How can that be?   Death often brings life and values into focus.   A major part of grief is remembering and honoring the life of our loved one who died.   We do this through gathering, sharing stories, love and support for one another….in short – connecting and realizing the impact of the legacy left behind.    Death also reminds us of our own priorities and mortality.  This affords a time of self-reflection and the opportunity to adjust course for our own legacy.  

Consider the life of your beloved.

  • What are the first words that come to mind as you remember them?
  • What were their qualities that you admire / miss?
  • What did you learn from them?
  • How are you different because of that relationship?
  • If you could thank them for one thing, what would that be?

Yes, grief and gratitude can co-exist.   As time goes on, as we heal, the balance shifts.   Gratitude outweighs grief and we learn to say “thank you” for that which we shared. 

Dr Sandi Howlett is the Bereavement Specialist for Hansen Mortuaries and Cemetery.  She may be contacted at [email protected].