The Ground of Gratitude Beneath the Deep Waters of Loss
I grew up in the middle of a prairie but spent much of my childhood in green hills that held a lake. Atop one hill lived a little yellow cabin, and in that cabin we made food and fires and nearly 40 years of memories. We would walk a stone path down the hill to the water’s edge and to large docks that were tethered to shore by cables and long arms of steel and concrete. The lake rolled beneath the docks and yet even the chaotic tides of angry storms could not dislocate the structures from shore.
Recent years have brought unprecedented rains to the area and as the lake swelled over the shoreline and crawled uphill, the docks, flexing like giant metal muscles or enormous silvery jellyfish, rose with the lake level and buoyed faithfully on the flood water. They were of course not without serious damage from the excessive rain and flood, but the docks stayed afloat and alive. However, the pipe and plank pathways that bridged the water from shore to door and the cables and strong arms that anchored each dock in place disappeared beneath the gray lake. It appeared as if the docks simply sat in place by will alone and with no support.
As I sat on my porch this morning I thought about how that image of the flooded lake tells a story of gratitude and loss. I am learning that one of my deepest resources in a season of grief and loss is gratitude. Gratitude for even simple sources of love during a season of separation and deep homesickness. Gratitude for the sturdiness of the earth beneath my bare feet when the path forward seems flimsy and unsure. Gratitude for how I can still fill my body with breath, even when sadness has stolen all the air from the room. These small moments tether me to myself, and to any sense of peace that may be hiding in me and is waiting to be found. Simple acts of gratitude are like those cable and strong arms of the dock, keeping me rooted to the invisible earth when the floodwaters of grief threaten to dislodge and dislocate me. I may appear to be aimlessly atop the water, afloat and damaged from the storm. But if I am able and willing to remember the things in my life that I can be grateful for and to reach for them, I am reminded that in the shadowy, watery depths, I am still secure and not adrift. I am supported. Like steel lines that root into a shoreline, gratitude helps me root into my sense of place, my sense of self, and my deeper sense of well-being. Gratitude does not resolve my hard emotions during seasons of loss, but it helps me tap into a sense of strength and stillness that allow me to be present with my grief in ways that move me forward into healing.
I realize gratitude in a time of crisis like the current Coronavirus pandemic can feel like a much harder and more complicated reach. We are not all experiencing the impacts of Covid-19 in the same way, but there is a clear sense of shared trauma and need for hope. I am not trying to minimize any experience or devastation, or offer naive solutions to global grief and heartbreak. I simply encourage anyone to just try, in any amount, to gaze in the direction of gratitude and find out what goodness can be seen, felt, and absorbed right where they are today.
Right now I feel grateful for…..
The sound of the rain in the evening. We are being watered.
The sight of the ripening green and spring colors following the death and cold of winter. We are still growing and will ripen to more vibrant life, even during this season of loss.
The sight and sounds of any neighbors, as they try to do their best in a season of being home-bound. We are in the presence of others even from a distance, and our presence is an offering to them.
The stories of people helping and being helped. We are a part of that human family, in all its tragedy and beauty.
What are you grateful for today?
Who or what are your connections and support– the things that remind you that you are not alone and adrift?
Consider keeping a jar or vase nearby, and when you recognize something you are thankful or grateful for, write it on a slip of paper and drop it in. It can be a fun and simple source of encouragement later to read those when you need to be reminded of experiences of goodness and gratitude.
Would you like to talk about anything that is happening in your life? Please do not hesitate to be in touch.