10 Ways to Practice Gratitude and Heal From Grief

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10 Ways Practicing Gratitude Can Help You Heal From Grief featured image

Psychologists often describe grief as a type of anguish you experience when you lose someone you love. Grief involves both physical and psychological disturbance. On the physical side, people often have lethargy, sleep loss, unexplained pains, digestive issues, etc. Psychologically, they yearn for the lost one and experience varying emotions such as anger, anxiety, profound sadness, guilt, and even disgust. 

There is no right way to feel when grieving; each person experiences it differently. As grief is complicated and deeply personal, it is important to take baby steps toward healing and accepting. However, acceptance requires conscious effort, and practicing gratitude towards things we have in life is one way to accept reality. 

In this article, we list ten ways to practice gratitude so that you can heal from grief. 

Appreciate what you have in life.

Thoughts of loss and deprivation often consume us in the weeks and months after somebody’s death. We often forget what we have in life and may even actively ignore the positive things. For instance, soon after losing someone to death, we tend to ignore our friends and family who are still alive. A rational way to practice gratitude is to acknowledge these people’s tangible existence in our lives and feel thankful for their presence.

Evaluate physical symptoms with humility.

Encountering a loved one’s death is a life-changing experience. Death is a physical phenomenon, and a loved one’s demise is an opportunity to acknowledge our mortality. Being thankful for the lack of severe physical symptoms and rating existing symptoms on a scale of 1-10 can shed some light on our strengths. Acknowledge these physical strengths while attending to your weaknesses and frailties with humility. Practicing gratitude in this context involves getting regular medical checkups and screenings, purchasing a gym membership, and working out regularly. 

Interact with people and complete unfinished projects.

While grieving, life does not stop. You may have to close the bank accounts of the dead person and complete legal formalities associated with the deceased person’s estate. Use this opportunity to distract your mind and make new friends. Please create a list of incomplete projects and consciously try to complete them. Practice gratefulness by acknowledging those who help you during these difficult times to complete your tasks. 

Motivate yourself to achieve personal and professional goals.

Although the weeks and months of grieving can be a dark phase of life, it can also be an opportunity to recognize personal and professional goals. When you come face-to-face with death and darkness, you may paradoxically recognize previously ignored opportunities. Be grateful for the opportunities that still exist and try to achieve them no matter how challenging the situation is. 

Display generosity and empathy towards people and animals around you.

Death can make us numb and disinterested in things and the people around us. While grieving, we often neglect whom we love and spend time yearning for the deceased one. However, this disconnects us from those still alive and those who still need us. Begin to display generosity and empathy towards animals and people around you and value their existence. Be grateful for their presence, and attend to their needs. If the deceased person was close to other people in your life, shared grief can make things more complex. Instead, help other grieving people cope by being strong, empathetic, and grateful for your strength and empathy. 

Start to value time and its impermanence. 

Time is fleeting, and everything is impermanent. Nothing lasts forever, and all things and people cease to exist someday. Acknowledging this truth will help you to value time and also its impermanence. When you realize that the people and things around you are transient, you will begin to value their presence more. Be grateful for their company and for time itself. This helps you value what you have and appreciate things still in your favor. 

Develop a sense of ownership towards life.

One of the defining features of grieving is a loss of identity. Many people who are grieving feel disoriented and even experience dissociation of some sort. During moments like these, it can feel like you no longer have control over your life and that unseen powers, destiny, and fate seem to own your life. However, we know that these are depressive cognitions that can distort your perception of reality. Recognize when you feel you don’t own your life, and counter those thoughts with evidence that you still own your circumstances. Although you may have lost someone beloved, you still own your life and the circumstances you find yourself in. Accept this new reality with gratitude, and improve it for yourself and others

Work on your self-esteem issues.

Grief closely resembles depression, and hence it is common for people to develop self-esteem issues during bereavement. If you cannot deal with self-esteem issues, consider therapy to boost your morale. Psychotherapy can help you recognize your strengths and strengthen your self-esteem, indirectly improving your mood and enabling you to heal from grief. It also gives you a sense of control over your life, for which you should be grateful. 

Counter negative thoughts and self-criticism with neutral thoughts.

As grief resembles clinical depression, automatic negative thoughts are almost identical to mood disorders. Grieving individuals commonly feel useless, unloved, and lonely and perceive things as pointless. These negative thoughts and self-criticism must be countered with neutral thoughts, which you learn during cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Being grateful for what you have and reminding yourself that things aren’t as bad as they seem can help you counter automatic negative thoughts more efficiently, and help you stop being negative

Practice mindfulness meditation to cope with the situation.

It’s not always possible to be grateful when everything feels like it is stacked against you. You will feel resentment, anger, guilt, and even helplessness. In addition, you may feel anxious and panicky about many things. Although not a panacea for all problems, meditation, especially mindful meditation, can help you cope better. It trains you to observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them and to notice physical symptoms resulting from grief. Learn how to meditate mindfully, and you may find yourself sleeping better and remaining calm when awake. There are even meditation devices to help you. However, if meditating causes agitation or makes you more depressed, consider psychotherapy online or offline under a registered mental health professional. 

Make genuine efforts but desist from toxic positivity.

Some people do not encounter death at a personal level until very late in life. However, many others are not so lucky and lose loved ones very early in life. Losing multiple people within a few years can destabilize a person’s sense of self-identity, as we often rely on others to validate us. 

Losing a loved one is not just a physical loss but also the deprivation of emotional validation. Hence, it is essential to acknowledge and accept these multifaceted losses before starting to “count one’s blessings.” 

Indulging in toxic positivity as an attempt to escape complex realities and the hastening of the grieving process can derail your efforts at healing. Instead, taking each day as it comes and being grateful for the little things in life can help you return to a regular routine. When you can no longer deal with grief alone, seeking therapy online or offline can help you cope with your realities.

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