In the months since my mother’s passing, I have spent a lot of time looking for ways to manage my grief. Small things often do make a big difference, and the reality is that grief simply takes time. You have to be with it and go through it in order to get past it.
However, in the meantime, as life is going on, as life is want to do, it is necessary to find ways to stay chin up in order to keep moving forward. In both the best and worst of times it is often recommended by nearly every spiritual teacher out there to keep a gratitude journal. I’ve highly recommended this method myself. Gratitude keeps the heart light, even a broken grieving heart, if you can make the shift. But I found that the more I wrestled with my feelings of loss and grief the harder it was to connect to the feelings of gratitude even as I was in the process of writing about things that I know I am grateful for.
One day, I decided to just count my blessings. Literally. Ever one of them, as they happened. “I woke up this morning. That means I’m still alive. It’s a blessing.” That’s one. “I have a roof over my head. A good one. And I like this house. It’s a blessing.” That’s 2…maybe 3 if you want to be technical about it. “There’s one banana left, just what I need for breakfast. It’s a blessing.” So I did this all day, any time I thought about it, and do you know what? 72 blessings in one day! Now, even if you’re feeling low and only come up with 10 or 12 things all day long, that’s a seriously blessed day. Did you know that you were that blessed every day? It’s one thing to think about all the little things we take for granted, or even big things we quickly forget about, but if you write them down, one at a time, and then give them a number and actually count them, you may be totally astonished at how blessed you truly are. Often I did not actually appreciate that something was a blessing until I wrote it down and counted it as such. “Five of my clients thanked me, with genuine gratitude for the class I taught today. Wow, that is a blessing!”
It’s a very simple practice. You might even try alternating between gratitude journaling and counting blessings. I’ve been able to change my perspective on bad, sad, and lonely days many times just by realizing that in the midst of all the pain, hurt, loss, confusion, and dissatisfaction, there are still a wealth of blessings even on the worst of days. The pain may still be there, but at least when you have a list of blessings to review at the end of the day, your last thought will be light and filled with gratitude regardless of whatever else you’ve been feeling. Ending on a positive note is always a good way to begin a little better in the morning.