Chapter 8: Gratitude

Attending to, befriending and surrendering to grief, we are surprised to discover a profound gratitude for life.

—Miriam Greenspan, The Wisdom in Dark Emotions, 2017: 4.

Gratitude is the second Gateway of Wisdom on the healing path after Acceptance. Keeping close to one we love after they have died can help us to access and express gratitude for what we had, what was lost, and what remains.

Losing Karl and finding Karl

My life has been destroyed. I have lost everything: all my identities, my whole present, my profession, my future, and my precious love. All I can do is weep. What on Earth is there to be thankful for?

These are my initial thoughts, and I’m sure many readers can relate to them. Isn’t gratitude a ridiculous response to such a disaster? Does that sound familiar to you? Where’s the place for gratitude in such a shocking tragedy?

Well, my experience is that staying connected to our loved one can allow us to find gratitude, as we sense their comfort and hear support and find guidance in their words. To my astonishment, I discover that losing Karl was also about finding Karl. As I traverse the rough terrain of grief, my loved one becomes my guiding star.

As we approach the Gratitude Gateway, painful and conflicting emotions will almost certainly arise.

Acceptance is tough enough.

So much harsh reality.

I stumble through that rugged Acceptance terrain. And now, I am supposed to feel grateful?

Are you kidding?

But there is no escaping the task of engaging with gratitude and passing through that Gateway into its terrain, for gratitude is an essential component of healing grief. It is the bedrock of most healing practices, including this one. Forming a close bond with my Beloved shortly after he died and persisting in communicating with him opens me to gratitude. I am confident that it can have the same effect on others.

My experience reveals that, as we grieve, learning to dwell in a state of gratitude can help us with the challenging but necessary work of reframing hurtful acts and deep losses as experiences to be grateful for.