Finding Gratitude in Grief

Written on by Mindy Haas

I love Thanksgiving, even more than Christmas. Each year, my siblings and I gather at my brother’s house to stuff our faces, play rowdy games, and just be together. The atmosphere is warm and comforting as we laugh at old memories and make new ones. I don’t take for granted that we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. While I try to maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ each day, Thanksgiving is a time that I reflect more deeply and appreciate my life to date, particularly how blessed I am to have my family.

This year, however, the reflection is more somber. My family was rocked by the sudden and shocking death of our 32-year-old brother in June. It seemed so senseless. My mind rejected the idea outright when I heard– it just couldn’t be true. He and his wife were celebrating her victory over breast cancer. They had a resolve to cherish each other and their three children through quality time together.   He was healthy, ate well and worked out. He was so good, why him? After all his family had been through?

In my reminiscing, a memory of him returning from work one day played out in my mind. He entered through his kitchen door and smiled broadly as a greeting. When I close my eyes, I still see that smile. His attention then turned to his three little ones who demanded his attention in their excitement to see him.   I remember the sound of his chuckle as he teased and played with them. It was endearing how much he delighted in them. Even they were not impervious to his mischievous nature that made us all laugh.

I find myself getting back into the swing of the daily routine, but from time to time, I catch a glimpse of a picture of him and my heart jolts. It’s a reminder that he’s really gone. Even as I write this, the tears flow freely. It’s still hard to believe sometimes.

So, how can one be grateful in the midst of such a tragedy?

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.  – Unknown

In my heart, I know this to be true. If anything, I feel it more profoundly this year, just how grateful I am. Things matter more, life matters more.

So I give heartfelt thanks for these things:

I’m thankful for Alivia, his oldest. She’s sharp and curious and silly. She carries his interest in learning and gardening. She’s a spitfire and I know she’ll be a force to be reckoned with whatever she decides to do with her life.MindySteve

I’m thankful for Alexa, his second daughter. She’s delightfully impish and I know she’ll enjoy his love of practical jokes. Her loving and joyful spirit is infectious.

I’m thankful for Kyle. My brother was so delighted to have a son that he cried at his birth. He’s still so young, but I see Steve’s contentment and pleasantness in his personality already.

I’m thankful for my sister-in-law, whose strength to carry on is an encouragement to us all. I couldn’t ask for a better mother to the children of my brother.

I’m thankful for my siblings, that we can mourn and draw comfort from each other. I’m grateful for the bond and friendship and shared experiences we have.

I’m thankful for the reminder to be intentional about connecting with those you love. When life gets busy and when distance separates us, I heed the voice in my head that says the long drive is worth it, the little note will make a difference.

I’m thankful for the memories and the time I had with him. They urge me to choose to laugh, to love deeply, to be joyful, and to carry myself with the same dignity he did.

Lastly, I’m thankful for the air in my lungs and the purpose in my steps. I’m thankful there is still an opportunity for me to make a difference, to make the things I do count.

So really, he’s not gone at all. He lives on in his children, his siblings, his wife, and through our memories of him. He lives on when we make a conscious effort to be thankful for all that we have.   And I’m most grateful for that.

Cover Photo courtesy of Matt Lewis via Unsplash

Photo insert was taken of Steven and me in 1989

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