Saturday, November 22, 2014

permission to be grateful without being happy

What do we do with this season of gratitude . . . when gratitude is so often about feeling happy  ?  

For the grieving heart feeling happy is hard.  So how do we reconcile  devastating loss with joyous  family gatherings around an abundant table ?  It all feels so incongruent.

 Maybe it would help if we were simply given permission to be grateful
 without being happy about it.  There is a distinct difference between gratitude and happiness.  

We can absolutely be grateful for all the delights in our lives . . . all those times when we smile at the thoughtfulness of a kind friend,  collapse into breathless belly laughs or greet some unexpected joy that changes everything for the better.  Who wouldn’t feel grateful and happy for such moments ? 

But there is a deeper gratitude, I think.  
And that is the speechless wonder, the pure gift, of a life that we were privileged to cherish for too short a time.  Gratitude this deep is born of the penetrating grace of memories that take us back to another time when happiness was easy. 

Now we know a more serious happiness of the heart - a profound gratitude that spills out of us through tears.  And this is perhaps the truest form of Thanksgiving there is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

quiet bravery

Recently, our support group entertained two penetrating questions about fear. 
First, we asked,
             “What is it that we fear today, that we didn’t fear before our child died?” 

Some shared the fear of losing themselves in this intense sorrow (“Who am I going to be after this unfathomable pain I’m enduring?”).  Others were afraid of forgetting their child  in all their specific beauty, or afraid for the safety of their other children.  

The second question was,
            “What is it we no longer fear . . . now?”.

And there was one quick response - “I’m no longer afraid to die.” 

I’ve come to believe that these are both very important questions to try to answer with as much honesty as we can muster.  And when we do, they lead us to a place of quiet bravery.  

Mark Nepo says:

“Inner courage produces acts of outer courage.

We are being quietly brave when we open ourselves up
             to feel,
             to see what is before us,
             to accept,
             to break life-draining patterns and
             to cross the threshold from woundedness to aliveness and
                                                   from judgment to compassion.”