You can find hope in the darkness of grief by embracing the Practices of Gratitude.

If you feel trapped in a dark pit of grief right now, you might want to scream at me for even suggesting you be grateful. Let alone establish a practice of gratitude.

Don’t you know I hurt? I’m in deep dark pain? Grief overwhelms me and I don’t feel grateful for one damn thing.

Dear heart, I do know. And if I could stop the pain or lift you out of the pit, I would. Let me reassure you.

You are not broken by grief. You’re broken open.

In the darkness of grief, you feel helpless and hopeless. Unable to act. Gripped by lethargy. You don’t even try to escape, move forward, get unstuck.

However, your hopelessness stems from the lie of having no control. But you can take control and make your life better – find light and hope in the darkness.

Gratitude is the key to Hope. Hopefulness leads to action. Action creates momentum.

Here are three ways the Practice of Gratitude helps you find hope and light in the darkness of grief.

It’s your choice

First, you must choose to practice gratitude. It’s an act of your will and not based on your emotional state. You’ll feel resistant; maybe even angry. But don’t wait for resistance to disappear. Decide to embrace gratitude.

Recognize the mind-body connection

Grief “fritzes” the brain and takes a significant toll on your emotions and body. Grieving people become physically exhausted and extremely fatigued. They’re literally “dying of a broken heart.”

Yet, you can reverse the process. Studies of the brain using neuro-imaging show interesting results. When we practice gratitude, the molecular structure of the brain changes. Gratitude activates brain regions associated with dopamine -the happy hormone. Also, gratitude reduces cortisol levels in our brain – the stress, fight-or-flight, hormone.

Practicing gratitude deepens your breathing, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Things that combat the physical fatigue of grief.

Write it down

One way to foster gratitude is to start a gratitude list. Throughout the day take a few minutes to be in the present. Take a deep cleansing breath. Relax. Close your eyes if you want. Begin listening to the sounds around you. Or look around the room and notice something beautiful. Focus on it for a minute or two.

Maybe you hear birds chirping outside. Or you see a lovely vase of flowers. Or perhaps you’re in your garden and feel a warm breeze. Notice the sound, colors, texture, scent. What about it is lovely? How are you grateful for them?

Write it down.

Think about someone who’s shown you kindness. Sent a card, brought a meal, gave a hug.

Write it down.

Reflect on a happy moment in your life. Re-experience it. Visualize the scene, hear the sounds that were around you, feel the sensations in your body.

Write it down.

Do this several times a day. At first you may not feel a difference. But as the list grows and you review it daily, you’ll notice a shift.

The act of writing connects your brain and body. Plus, you can review your list on the days you simply can not get out of the darkness.

Anchor your soul

When gripped in the darkness of grief it’s hard to believe it will ever end. You can feel adrift in a sea of darkness, a flag whipping in a hurricane barely tethered. Embrace the practice of gratitude. It’s an anchor of hope for your soul.

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,

If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...

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