Tomorrow will mark eight years since my husband M died. As my grief instructor S said shortly after M’s passing: “The hole in your heart will get smaller, but it will never fully close.” S was right.
My life has evolved a great deal since those dark days of December 2007. One of the biggest behaviors that has created positive change in my life after 50 is having an attitude of gratitude. Like yoga and mindfulness, having an attitude of gratitude is an awareness practice. With gratitude I’m learning to have more contentment for all the things I have and all the things I can do, versus being disappointed with the things I don’t have or can’t do.
For example, when I see my friends celebrating their 25th or 30th wedding anniversaries sometimes I am sad that M and I will never have an opportunity to achieve such a milestone. Then the gratitude meter checks in and I become grateful for the 24 years we did have together. It’s more than many couples get, especially with the rate of divorce in this country.
Wearing Gratitude On My Wrist
I wear a MyIntent bracelet on my wrist with the word “GRATITUDE.” It acts as a constant prompt to be thankful for all the things I can do. “Breathe because you can,” said my yoga teacher N in today’s class. N is right, I am grateful that I can breathe.
A Bucket Full of Gratitude
If I could hold all my gratitude in a container, it would fill up a huge bucket. In that bucket would be my daughter A and my son D, my boyfriend L, my BFF L and BFF R, my sister N, my late mom and dad, and many more friends and family members. I’d add the gratitude for my beautiful home and my condo on the corner at the shore, top that with my yoga and meditation practice, and for the retirement I earned from my full-time job that is enabling me to live life to the fullest during my second act. There’s more, more, more gratitude for you, my blog readers who bring me great joy each week when we connect through my posts.
Ah yes, the gratitude bucket sometimes gets blown over by negative thoughts that creep in, especially when the aches and pains of my aging body act up or I see more wrinkles on my face. Then I remember that gratitude is a practice and it’s not going to be perfect every day.
The Benefits of a Gratitude Practice
Nancy Rones from Yoga Journal wrote that “Practicing gratitude four times a week – by keeping a gratitude diary and listening to a guided recording for fostering gratefulness in life – lowered study participants’ levels of depression and stress and increased their happiness within three weeks, according to a recent Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine study.” Wow, in less than a month this little practice can boost happiness!
For sure when I honor M tomorrow evening at our temple services, my gratitude bucket will be full as I hold him close in my heart. The tears may shed as they usually do, yet the framed quote that hangs in my office will remind me of how truly grateful I am to have had M in my life for each of the 24 years I did. As it says, “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”
This post is a huge inspiration for me. I love the image of a gratitude bucket and I will try to remember that from now on. Thank you, Judy, and I wish you peace.
Helene, thanks so much for your support. My yoga teacher was telling us to use a jug and add all the good things into it that happen throughout the year. I was inspired by her idea.
Yesterday was both my birthday and the three month anniversary of my childhood best friend\’s death. I have a lot to be grateful for for being able to have a birthday, but I have a long way to go in a practice of gratitude. Thank you for your post.
Alana, I’m sorry for your loss. Grief takes time, you cannot rush it. Gratitude can help you through it.
You are very wise, Judy, and very fortunate to have such a wonderfully positive attitude of gratitude. I\\’m so sorry for your loss but applaud you for honoring it and moving forward with your life. Xo
Thanks Sheryl. It’s an ongoing process and gratitude has helped me manage through the ups and downs.
Judi,I am grateful for this posting which expresses beautifully how I feel about the man I loved for over 46 years who died 18 months ago. And yet I too have found a kind companion for this part of my journey. It reminds me of the childhood rhyme which I have changed – Make new memories but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold. I am grateful to know you in real life and to read your website.
Susan, thanks so much for your friendship and readership. So glad you have silver and gold in your life.
It will be five years, this Christmas Day, that my husband died, while out for a run. I know what you mean about watching other couples celebrate… or travel. I’m happy for them, and while I’ve gotten over that gnawing sadness that he and I will never have that, I’ve come to the point where I’m grateful and looking forward to my life. Excited, in fact! Brenda
Brenda, I’m sorry for your loss. I remember we talked at a recent event and bonded over the loss of our spouses. Glad that you are excited about your life after 50.
YES Judi, gratitude saved me when I felt all was lost in my late 40s. It was an important tool in my transition from a life lived for others to a life lived my way. Thank goodness for gratitude!
Laura Lee, glad you have gratitude in your life.
This was so beautiful and very timely for me as I grieve my sister’s recent death. We need to be realistic, as you said, and acknowledge that sometimes that gratitude bucket will get knocked over, but we need to keep picking it up and refilling it. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s the path of healing–again, with the understanding that the hole never really closes all the way. Thank you for sharing this honest and heartfelt post, Judi.
Lee, so sorry for the loss of your sister. A sister is a special bond and friendship. Yes, sometimes it is tough going but that’s why it is important to live each moment to the fullest.
Judy – your best one so far for me. Thanks for the inpiration!
Janet, thanks so much for your comment. Hope you are doing well.
Reader K wrote:
You have no idea how many times I have read your blog….and it is just what I needed to hear. You blog today about gratitude is so close to my heart. The words you wrote down echo my sentiments. While I have not lost my husband, I have lost people that are still near and dear to me. But mostly, what I have taken from your post is the ability to move forward and keep my memories close to my heart.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey, you are a treasure.
hugs to you
prayers to you ….
Yes what a great post. Having gratitude is such a great thing
I am so sorry for your loss. But your post is beautiful and inspiring.
Connie, thank you so much for your comment. Glad you found my post inspiring.
In any crisis, it is always better to be positive than negative–and gratitude is the best of all positives. Not easy to do but the idea of keeping a gratitude notebook has inspired me to try it.
So glad you are inspired by the post on gratitude. Hope the journal provides a positive reinforcement.