Between October 31 and November 1, the world changes. For some, November 1 is the official start date of the Christmas and holiday season. They turn on their Christmas music, bring out the decorations, and start perusing sale ads in preparation for holiday gift-giving. Others prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving, and focus on the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pies (mm, pie!). Whether you’re an early Holiday-er or not, you will probably have seen many people on your Facebook feeds writing about things they are grateful for. November tends to be a month where we focus on and celebrate gratitude as a virtue, and the specific people and things we appreciate.
I usually resist joining the crowd in the November gratitude train (what can I say, I’m a rebel). This year, I am made keenly aware of what I have to be grateful for in light of some particularly difficult times. Over the last couple of weeks, I and my family have been faced with several painful losses and impending losses. It’s been a stressful period of time, to say the least. I have many clients who are facing anniversaries of losses, funerals, and reminders of those they’ve lost as they join with family during the holiday season. In this time of transition, I have become more aware than ever of the value and amazing power of connection.
In the face of both present and oncoming loss, I have been witness to and a participant in opportunities to (re)connect with family and friends. I have seen the way a face lights up, or sags with relief as a door to relationship opens or reopens and someone realizes they don’t have to go it alone. I’ve felt a flood of warmth and love as people around me have offered support, kind thoughts, and compassion for the difficult choices I’ve faced. I have seen friends and family jump to help me manage logistics such as childcare and rearranging my schedule. In a time that could easily be overwhelming and disheartening, I find myself unspeakably grateful.
I am grateful for the life of a loved one that included being genuinely, deeply proud of my accomplishments and successes. I am grateful for life lessons that included holding tightly to my own integrity, even when it caused friction. I am grateful for willingness to say “I’m sorry,” especially when it costs something to say so. I am grateful for a deeper understanding of what it means to accept a loved one within the boundaries of healthy love and relationship, and for the happy memories I can keep in my heart. I am grateful for moments of reconciliation.
Gratitude doesn’t have to mean loving everything about a difficult situation. There are many things I don’t like about the scenarios before me over the coming days, weeks, and months. There are many conversations I don’t want to have, that I will have. But I don’t have to like them to feel grateful for the support I have experienced in approaching them. I don’t have to be excited to make difficult decisions to feel thankful for the love I’ve received from those around me as I work through them. I don’t have to be happy about the way things go to feel grateful that I’m not going through it alone.
So, to my friends, family, clients, and everyone else who has offered their kind thoughts, prayers, hugs, whispered words of encouragement, and other supportive gestures: Thank you. I am more grateful than you can know, and you are what I am giving thanks for in this time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Photo by Bart LaRue