Gratitude During Difficult Times
Can you practice gratitude during difficult times? You may be without a job or facing a difficult relationship dilemma. You might have lost a loved one or currently watching the devastating destruction of an illness as it takes the life of someone that is dear to you. Maybe you are struggling financially. All these situations can cause much difficulty and distress for you. However, there are ways to find gratitude during troubling times. More importantly, having gratitude in difficult times is when you can gain the very most from gratitude.
When my sons were young, we had a lot of difficulties with them. They were wild and had previously had little structure in their lives. After they were first placed with my husband and I through foster care, at 2 years old, I began a journal to document their behaviors, progress, and my feelings towards what we were experiencing. They cried or had tantrums every 15 minutes for months. It was so hard.
I questioned if I was making the right decision to be a foster parent. I doubted my abilities to be a foster parent. I questioned my abilities as a mother. I feared that they were too much for us to handle. I lacked a support group that truly understood what we were going through.
Others didn’t understand why we didn’t go out in public. The boys couldn’t handle overstimulation.
My friend didn’t understand why I wanted to sit beside them during our carpool. They needed to know I was their mom and not her. How else would they know who to go to if something was wrong? I was just as dispensable to them as she was.
So, how did I navigate this difficult and trying time? Through gratitude. I was grateful for the opportunity given to me to be a mother. I was thankful to be given the children that I received because they were destined to be my forever children. I was grateful that my parents raised me to be a strong, determined, and confident person. I was thankful that my husband was willing to go through this experience with me. I was humbled by my great friends, who let me vent. And, most importantly, I was in reverence to my higher power for making such a beautiful life that we are blessed to live.
Even then, life was not easy. As a family, we’ve endured many difficult times and there will be more to come. On the other hand, I have determination. I have persistence. And, I have joy! Every day, my 3 gorgeous children, who I have built an amazingly strong bond with, are present to demonstrate these three attributes – determination, persistence, and joy.
Gratitude in Difficult Times is Possible
Yes, gratitude in difficult times is possible. More like – essential. When we are broken, gratitude is what can heal us. Gratitude brings us hope to overcome our struggles. That being said, it is not exactly natural or easy to feel gratitude when something crappy is happening in your life. When you run out of gas or step on something cold and slimy in the dark, you aren’t going to be jumping up and down with glee. More likely with fear or disgust – depending on what you hear or smell after stepping down.
As a result, you may not “feel” grateful about the messy stuff in life, but you can choose to “be” grateful about life. Being grateful versus feeling grateful is actually more resistant to the highs and lows that we experience. If you can achieve being grateful as a natural state, you can gain perspective over the situations that you experience.
Reflect on the Bad
Only through the bad times in our life can we appreciate the good times. These negative experiences give us perspective over the bad and appreciation of the good. Through devastating experiences, we realize that time and those things that we hold dear can be stripped away in an instant. Therefore, we must feel grateful for what we have – NOW!
Without this realization, we take things for granted. Furthermore, being grateful helps insulates us from stress and making us more resilient. When every day situations occur to a grateful person versus and ungrateful person, the results can be completely different. For example, if an ungrateful person has a broken sewer pipe, they’re going to have a bad day or a bad month; “nothing good ever happens to me” and “this is just another sign from the universe”. On the flip side, a broken sewer pipe to a grateful person is an opportunity to clean, repair a nuisance, and overcome an obstacle.
Reframe Negative Occurrences
Life is difficult. You will face struggles. You will endure heartaches. There is no other way around it. You can’t tell someone to buck up and get over it when they lose a job, suffer a devastating illness, or lose a parent or child. It would be irresponsible to say that with gratitude all your worries and suffering will cease to exist. That just isn’t the case.
Nevertheless, that does not discount the importance of gratitude in helping you travel through life. Having the ability to process a life event through the lens of gratitude gives you the power to transform a difficulty into an opportunity. In other words, you can reframe a loss into a gain. Think about a negative situation in your life. Don’t rehash it or relive it. Dwelling and enmeshing yourself in the heartache is not beneficial. The goal here is to think about the event neutrally and find a fresh perspective on it.
How did this situation impact your future? Did you gain anything positive out of the experience? What lesson did you learn? Is it possible to find a way to be thankful for this event occurring; even if you weren’t at the time? Did this situation identify or enhance a skill that you didn’t realize that you had? If you can’t feel grateful for anything about the experience, what would it take to reframe the event to a positive?
Hopefully, time and perspective can help you reframe your upsetting life experiences. I know for me, those daily struggles with my sons were worth every second. I have a great relationship with them. They trust me. They depend on me. They know exactly who to go to in a crisis. At the same time, they are independent. They are strong. They are resilient. I’ve done fine job so far and gratitude will get me through the next 6 years just like it has through the first 6 years. They are determination, persistence, and joy.
How can you find gratitude during troubling times?
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Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash