The act of gratitude involves being appreciative and thankful for things and experiences you’ve had. It is a quality we all possess, though it may sometimes be hard to show, especially when grief is clouding your mind. Grief is like a storm cloud in Texas; its intensity comes and goes; a continuous cycle filled with good days and bad. Though it may seem difficult to be thankful in the midst of grief, finding gratitude is one of the most powerful, healing tools to have handy. Practicing gratitude can help enhance physical and psychological health, improve mental strength, and reduce aggression.

So how do you find the strength, words, or emotions that reflect gratitude when you are hurting? Gratitude in grief requires practice; it doesn’t come easy. Start small with different gratitude exercises and the more you do them, the easier it becomes. Here are a few you can try:

  • Gratitude Journal: Begin by writing down one thing you are grateful for daily. If you can write more, that’s great! This is something you can reflect on weekly, monthly, or even at the end of the year.
  • Gratitude Jar: This exercise requires minimal supplies; all you need is a jar or box and small slips of paper. Decorate the jar or box any way you’d like. Write down a few things you are grateful for daily on slips of paper and put those slips in the jar or box. Notice at the end of the week how many are in there and reflect on those as desired.
  • Gratitude Letter: Write someone a letter of gratitude. This can be a person, a family, an agency, or even your children. Think of why you are grateful for them. Did they do something kind for you in your grief? Were they there for you when you needed them most? Make sure to tell them that. You don’t have to give them the letter but think of how you could brighten their day with a word of thanks.
  • Meditation/Mindfulness: Meditation and mindfulness have been proven to have many health benefits. While meditating, be mindful of the things you are grateful for and reflect on those.
  • Random Act of Kindness in Memory of Loved Ones: Perform random acts of kindness in memory of your loved ones. Did they enjoy coffee? Go to a coffee shop and pay for someone’s coffee in honor of them. Did they coach or play a sport? Make something for their team in honor of them and watch the smiles that are a result of their memory and honor.

Practicing gratitude in grief doesn’t change the pain of the loss, it simply eases some of the suffering. Often times, we tend to focus on the person not being here anymore, while neglecting what we had and being thankful for time spent. On particularly difficult days, reflect on the things you are grateful for to provide flickers of light and hope. Reflect on the person that was in your life and lessons you learned from them so their spirit and memory live on. A few moments of gratitude will keep you afloat. In the words of Albus Dumbledore:

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter series