In Chapter 4, I explored Rudolf Steiner’s views on connecting with a loved one who has died. To connect with them, we must express gratitude for their life, and our appreciation must focus on their actions. If we put ourselves in the place of that person, we can imagine exactly what they would want to experience from us: an “attitude of gratitude”.
Following Rudolf Steiner’s advice, as I seek to get in touch with my gratitude for Karl, I focus directly on his actions and all he has given me: in my body, my mind, and my heart. I learn that gratitude is the fundamental basis or ground from which genuine healing can grow and that an attitude of gratitude is a grounding and centering experience. I sense it in my belly, as well as in my high heart and near my throat.
I work out that Karl, now groundless, is showing me how to ground my memories and my gratitude for his life. When I focus on that, I feel my body respond, often with a gentle pulsation or streaming sensation. It’s important when doing this work that we remember that, while the dead have left their bodies behind, we still have a material body that enables us to do this work, which invites an intense inner self-awareness. (Karl repeatedly reminds me of the gift of Earthly, human life, which I still enjoy but which he has given up.)
Gratitude is good for us
Searching for comfort in my grieving process, I discover that gratitude is good for us.
I begin to feel thankful, even though I think I have lost everything. Of course, I have this miraculous communication with my Beloved Karl. Daily, I thank God for that. I learn that gratitude has many benefits. It can open the door to more authentic relationships, both inwardly and outwardly. That can be most beneficial, as sometimes when we are grieving, our social circle can shrink dramatically. I ask myself: how can I be present for others if I cannot be present to myself?
Gratitude also improves our physical health, sense of well-being, sleep, mood, and energy. That is my experience, checking my Fitbit to find my resting heart rate is now lower than it was before Karl died.
Gratitude is good for psychological health: it enhances empathy toward self and others and reduces aggression. Gratitude also increases mental strength and resilience. It invites blessings, often invisible but heartfelt and deeply reassuring. It enriches our ability for insight.
A small warning
I must sound a small warning here. Not all gratitude is gratitude. And not all so-called gratitude is helpful. As I process my loss and grief, the depth of my understanding of gratitude increases in direct proportion to my experience of others’ shallowness. I become a “gratitude barometer”, learning to distinguish between the real thing and the imitation: shallow gratitude.
Shallow gratitude can be a great teacher
You can sense shallow gratitude when you hear someone say to you something like, “At least he didn’t suffer” or “At least you had 23 years with him.”
By contrast, I feel sincere gratitude in my whole being, and when I sense that Karl is entering me, inhabiting my being for a while, I feel suffused with an unmistakable sense of authentic gratitude.
An extensive body of research evidence supports the contention that gratitude is good for us:
Amy Morin, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round”: www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#7bd2d37d183c).
Erica B Slotter, 2015, “The Power of a Grateful Heart: Appreciating each other more, research shows, leads to, well, more appreciation,” 16 December: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/me-you-us/201512/the-power-grateful-heart