This post was inspired by a newsletter that I sent out soon after Mother's Day earlier this year. I talked about the fact that for many of us, it can be extremely difficult to cope with a specific day in the calendar if it reminds us of someone that is no longer with us. It could be Mother or Father's day, a birthday, anniversary, Christmas or anything else that acts as a trigger for you.
I received some lovely replies to that newsletter which i really enjoyed reading. It made me think that it touched a chord with many of you, so I thought I would rework it as a blog post. I decided to focus on using gratitude to help get through a difficult time, which I hope you enjoy reading.
When my parents died it was a very sad and difficult time, but of course you can't make the assumption that losing a parent, or anyone, is always a sad thing. There could be any number of reasons why it's not. What is certain, is that whatever the situation, there will always be emotions involved. I feel that using gratitudes can be helpful to cope with any emotions, but also a helpful way to approach life generally. It's not just about facing times of difficulty, so I hope everyone will be able to take something away from this post.
The science behind gratitudes
Gratitude is actually big business now. Many large companies have increased staff morale, leadership qualities and productivity, amongst other things, by incorporating gratitudes into their work model. It doesn't only benefit those in the workplace though.
Research has shown that being grateful has a positive impact on the central nervous system and can actually affect the molecular structure of the brain. The result is that we are happier, healthier, less stressed and we're also likely to sleep better. What's not to like? If you're interested in understanding a bit more, read this article by The Power of Ideas on the power of gratitude for more details.
My own story
My mum died 11 years ago. I was only 31 at the time and about 8 weeks pregnant with Ivan. Sophie was 2 and a half and got chicken pox on the day of my mum's funeral. I can laugh about that now, but at the time it nearly tipped me over the edge, and means that I will forever associate chicken pox with funerals! I will always be grateful that I told my mum that I was pregnant just a couple of days before she was admitted to hospital and was still 'with us'.
My dad died almost two years after my mum. My parents had me late in life (I was an unexpected blessing according to my dad!), so they weren't young when they died, but that doesn't really make the grieving process any easier.
Using gratitude every day
Eleven years on, I'm happy to say that Mother's Day is no longer a traumatic day for me. I often think about my mum, but Mother's Day is now a day when I am particularly grateful for having her be my mum and can enjoy happy memories of her.
For the last few years I'd been trying to use gratitudes to help get me through difficult times like Mother's Day without realising that they were a 'thing'! Now I know a bit more about it, I have worked gratitudes in to my daily life with more purpose.
I use the Best Self Journal most days to keep myself organised, and one of the nicest parts about using it is the space to write three things you are grateful for morning and evening. I now find that even on days when I haven't used the journal, I am much more likely to take a step back from whatever I'm doing, long enough to think about what I am thankful for. It has definitely put me in a more positive frame of mind, and more importantly I think, it's helped me become a more thoughtful person.
What I'm grateful for
Of course this changes day to day. This morning when I went for a run through my local woods, I was grateful for the shade of the trees (it was about 28 degrees at 8:30am!), for my health so that I can run, for my running partner who gives me the incentive to keep up the running and for having somewhere as beautiful as Highwoods Country Park just a few minutes from where I live.
At times like Mother's Day it may well get a bit more deep and meaningful. As I mentioned in my newsletter, I will sometimes find old photos to help me remember my mum and dad and be grateful for them. These are a couple of my favourites.
The first one is in 1969 I think. My parents both worked in what was then Rhodesia (my mum was a nurse out there and my dad helped to run a school for local children on a Methodist mission). They met, married and my big brother and sister - the twins - were born out there. This is them all coming home to Britain for good on the ship SA Oranje. I don't know why, but I've always loved this picture, even though I wouldn't be around for another 5 years!
On their way back to England, 1969
The next picture is in 2003, just after Sophie was born. This was the first time they met Sophie. She was their first grandchild so it was a very special time for them.
Mum, Dad and Sophie - proud grandparents, 2003
Some easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your life
It's very simple to make gratitude a part of your everyday life. Here are a few pointers:
Interested in finding out more?