As a new hope is on the horizon with COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions loosening, the last thing many of us want to do is attend to our grief. In fact, most of us want to run far from it into the joy and new life this next season is hopeful to bring. So often we live in either grief or gratitude, sadness or joy, despair or hope. Perhaps the best way through this next season is not or but both.
Regardless of what you have personally experienced this past year, we have all gone through a collective trauma and grief. In seasons of high complexity and intensity, there is no way our hearts can fully feel grief and gratitude; we are always dipping our toes in both pools. Attending to our hearts means acknowledging the experience of both.
Some of us may be quick to jump to gratitude in seasons of suffering—trying to find the bright side of a loss or looking for the good in the midst of pain. While this is a beautiful notion, it can also be dismissive of the very real sorrow your heart is experiencing. In fact without acknowledging the grief and loss we are carrying, our gratitude is shallow at best and inauthentic at worst.
Telling the truth about this past year is essential to caring for ourselves. We have pushed through the crisis to see a light at the end of this tunnel. Now we must do the heart work of giving space to what has been lost. Gently allow yourself to name and remember some of the most difficult moments of this past year. Let your heart feel the sorrow; instead of pushing it down, taste the reality of this past year.
And, once you’ve allowed your heart to be grieved, embrace where you are. You are here, alive, stepping one foot in front of the other. It’s okay to celebrate and feel proud of yourself for simply getting through. We are meant to hold both grief and gratitude simultaneously, maybe with grief in our stronger hand.
If this year has been particularly painful for you, know you are not alone. If you want to talk to a licensed professional and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.
Written by Kathryn
2021 Graduate Intern
Allender, D. (Host). (2020, November 20). Engaging grief and gratitude [Audio podcast episode]. In The allender center podcast. The Allender Center. https://theallendercenter.org/2020/11/engaging-grief-gratitude/