Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Hope is as reasonable as despair"**

On Wednesday, my colleague spontaneously gave homework to our bereavement group. She asked each member to grab a pen upon waking in the morning and write down things they are grateful. In fact, she asked that we all write 10 grateful things every morning for a week.  My first reaction was “cool, what a great idea.” Then I thought, TEN? That’s a lot!!  

In this new series of group sessions, we’ve decided to turn to the subject of resilience a lot sooner. We find that if we wait until the last two sessions, our group members seem more resistant to closing the group, begging for more.  While we encourage telling their stories many times and completely endorse crying and expressions of despair as a necessary part of grieving, we also see our role as guiding our clients towards living again.  Grief processing is easier when it includes a positive view along with the sadness.  For example, flashbacks of the final moments and the shock of the death itself can be alleviated through remembering the good times, all the years of love.  Just as one can’t stay stuck in abject sorrow, keening and wailing without end, it is imperative to let it go for a while. Put the grief on the shelf for an hour or so and take a walk in the woods.  Don’t suppress your feelings but balance them with some small activity of daily living. Breathe.  Relax.  Laugh.  Be grateful.

When I woke up this morning it was with a rather ungrateful thought. I sat with it for a while, noticed it, then took out a journal.  I chose one from several years ago, with many blank pages.  The first pages were scribbled with a few random daily descriptions and one of my favorite poems by ee cummings: i thank you god for most this amazing day.  I smiled, picked up a green pen (for gratitude) and completed my 10 Grateful Statements.

What are you grateful for?  It doesn’t have to be a huge thing; my first statement was that I am grateful for morning birdsong, even in Manhattan.  I am grateful for each of my children of course, and I am grateful for my new career and the people I work with.  I am grateful for every insight I am privileged to witness from a person who is mourning and rediscovering the meaning of their life. 

Try it - tomorrow when you wake up, write down some Grateful Statements.  It doesn’t matter how many…

***from Healing after Loss, Daily Meditations by Martha Whitemore Hickman.

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