I’m not talking about the kind you work to achieve, but the kind that your brain sometimes automatically jumps to in a bad situation. When, instead of having to tell yourself to look on the bright side or count your blessings, your first thoughts are those of gratefulness. That is a gift.
Around 3:00 am this morning Zoya threw up fairly whole olives all over the bed. She had given no signs of feeling bad before bed and my first thought was how glad I was that this is the first time she has ever thrown up.
So we cleaned everything up and she was acting great and we went back to bed and a few minutes later, even more throw up, this time much more digested olives.
So now we had to take a bath and before I consciously started thinking about how to respond, I was just so grateful I wasn’t feeling sick or exhausted.
It was only then, as I sat on the bathroom floor that it began to consciously occur to me that this was not my normal response. My normal response is how much I wish Shah was still alive to share the load and how awful it is do be a single parent and how miserable it is to worry about a sick child. And if those things sound horribly selfish to you when my child is sick, yes, they are, but they are true.
Now that I’m laying on the couch as she falls back asleep on my chest after the third round of throw up tonight and I have a moment to contemplate gratefulness, I realize how much gratefulness plays a roll in healing after loss. I realize how many of the books I’ve read by widows who are happy now and how much they feel like they are filled with gratitude. Some of them, annoyingly filled with gratitude, when read by a new widow who can still not see past the loss to comprehend gratefulness for friends and family or dogs and blue birds. (Do not take this post as license to tell a grieving wife to just be grateful or to even suggest gratitude to someone who has lost their child. That is something she can find within herself and nothing an outsider has a right to suggest.)
You can know you should be grateful and even make yourself feel grateful, but there is nothing like the blessing when grateful thoughts just arise, unbidden, from the depths of your soul.
Gratefulness gives you strength and can make all the difference between a situation being bad or being good.
Last night, after two exhausting days that spanned the first anniversary of my husband, Shahriar Zolfaghari’s murder, a friend watched Zoya and bathed while I was able to go take a shower and weep. Days of pent up emotion and memories of what an amazing man I was married to came flooding out. His death was a huge loss. I no longer get to live with and share my life with this prince of a man, this man of honor, this man who loved so well.
We finally made it to bed and Zoya fell asleep and without consciously trying to make it happen, I was overwhelmed by the amazing friends I have who love me and show their love like Shah did. I fell asleep truly happy with my life and these amazing people.
I’m not saying anything against working for gratefulness. It probably trains our minds to feel gratitude more easily and certainly is one way we have to control our lives is to chose to be grateful.
But there is also nothing like the blessing of unbidden gratefulness, when you don’t have to work to remind yourself to be grateful for the two years of a healthy child, but that that is the first thought that fills your mind and gives you strength for the now fourth clean up of the night. It’s that gratefulness that feels as outside yourself and as supernatural as anything that has ever happened. It’s that gift that makes you think all you should ever pray for anyone is for the gift of gratefulness.
A blogger I love, Kathleen Duncan, lost her son a few years ago on the 12th of the month always posts 12 things she is grateful for on the 12th. There is something healing about gratefulness and something that makes you feel one more step closer to heaven.
But as I possibly fall back asleep, I’ll follow the advice of Bing Crosby and count my blessings instead of sheep…
I married a man who removed my baggage rather than create more.
Between throw up, my baby is happy.
A house cleaned by dear friends.
A sister who is here if things get worse.
A planned weekend of rest.
Friends who took time out of their lives to be with me.
A normally healthy child.
The chance to share my story and Shah’s story with others.
A still baby whose stomach seems to be feeling a tiny bit better.
Sacrificial friends who share their burdens while holding you up.
Friends who will give your child a bath without evening asking if they should.
Friends who drive for distances to sit a few hours.
Friends who sit in the sun and make gardens that bring this look of delight to your baby’s eyes.