Find Your Lily Pad: The Gratitude in Times of Loss

While we as Nova Scotians are just starting to grapple with the unthinkable loss of 22 our own, we are now faced with the tragic loss of 6 of our military members. A friend of mine asked: “How much more can we take?” The truth is that we can actually take a lot, more than we can imagine. We are a very adaptable species. It hurts, it’s exhausting, and it takes some time and effort to get up again—but we can and do get up.

In our last post, we talked about taking care of our heart and bodies, and reaching out to others for support. It’s also important, in times like these, to begin to make some intentional decisions about how much time we spend focusing on difficult news and thinking about all that has been lost. It’s not about denying what is happening or minimizing the gravity of the loss. Rather, it’s about self-preservation and finding that proverbial lily pad to rest on, to take a break from the heaviness of grief.

This is where the practice of gratitude can be incredibly helpful. It is okay to simultaneously grieve these losses, and to also recognize what still has value in our lives and in our community. In fact, focusing on what we are grateful for is important in times of grief. The vast majority of research and clinical studies on the topic indicate that overall wellbeing is greatly supported by intentionally acknowledging what we feel grateful for in our lives.

It can be helpful to keep a gratitude journal and to write daily notes about things that you were grateful to have seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled, or experienced. You can start by observing things in your day that you typically have not thought much about, like water as it flows from your tap. Or you can make note of bigger concepts like displays of compassion, kindness, selflessness, and resilience that are so characteristic of the people of this province.

There are no rules to what you write in your gratitude journal. Bottom line: if it has value to you it is worthy of noting. Get creative with your journal, too. Try adding photos, doodles, or stickers to your notes to make them more memorable. From time to time, you can re-read what you have written. Research shows that just the act of revisiting positive memories can help to lift our mood.

As you write in your journal, take a minute to think about how these things add value to your life. Perhaps even conjure up ways that you can make efforts to bring these things in to your life more often. You may find that this practice helps you notice a little more to be grateful for each day, and eventually you may notice that you can find more “lily pads” to rest upon. 

Written By- Lori Parker, Registered Psychologist