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Blog: Gratitude: The Healing Attitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.  It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie 

 I saw the above quote on the website, I have been a long time fan of Melody Beattie and have read many of her books. One of my favorites is The Language of Letting Go, a book of daily meditations that I found very helpful in some of the most difficult times in my life. Melody’s quote here so well describes one of the best ways to open up our lives and to help us be thankful for what we have right in front of us-today even if what’s in front of us is not what want or even asked for.

Many of us have been put into the position of caregiver by default. Many of us feel guilty because secretly, we don’t want to be in that position. It’s not that we don’t care about our loved one- we do care- very much. Many of us have put own lives on hold in order to care for those who can no longer care for themselves. The problem is that most of us have been doing this a long time and quite simply, we have run out of gas. Many of us feel we are missing out on living our own lives because of the monumental responsibilities of care giving. But the truth is that taking care of our loved one’s is a part of our life. For what ever reason, this is where we are supposed to be right now, even if it isn’t where we planned to be at this time of our life. 

 Melody’s quote reinforces that attitude is everything. Being a caregiver is hard. Lets face it, there are very few high points to it. We as caregivers can’t help but see the future as bleak because when this is over, when our care giving responsibilities are finished, our loved one will be gone. Doesn’t sound fair does it? Well, it isn’t. That is why in order to get through this difficult time, we need to change our way of thinking. Chances to feel grateful can be found almost anywhere if you look close enough. It doesn’t have to come from big revaluations or breakthroughs. I learned to be grateful when my mother safely made it though another day. I learned to be grateful when she didn’t burn the house down while she smoked her Salem cigarettes. I learned to be especially grateful when we both slept through the night. The new medicine that is helping your loved one sleep or eat better or making them more comfortable is something to be grateful for. Gratitude can be found in the fact that your loved one is still able to dress or feed them selves. Some days you might really have to look really close to find those moments of gratitude, but I assure you- they are there. Something as simple as the sound of your loved one’s laughter, the smile on their face, or a brief moment of clarity, can be all you need to turn things around. A good sense of humor helps too. 

 Dealing with any illness is a journey. Dealing with a terminal illness is a journey no one wants to take. It’s usually a journey where we know how it ends but are unsure of what will happen along the way. This can be the scariest part – the not knowing what’s going to happen day to day. This is where our change in attitude is needed the most. Instead of being hyper-vigilant and trying to fix everything that seems to be going wrong, we need to step back and look at each change in our loved one’s condition as an opportunity to understand the disease. Not only will looking at it this way help you to learn how to handle the changes better, it will teach you that sometimes what is happening is totally out of your control. Knowing what is going on and why can give you peace of mind. In a way it helps you to pick your battles, so to say, to the point where you will know what needs to be addressed and what does not. Knowing this will allow you to relax a bit and just be with your loved one when nothing else can be done. Sometimes. that is all they really need from us anyway. The opportunity to be close to your loved one and to share their journey is a gift and something you and your loved one will both be grateful for.