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Choosing Gratitude in the Midst of Grief

choose-gratitude

Guest post from Laura of LauraSueShaw.com

Last year I learned that the simple act of recording blessings from the day is truly life-changing.

My journey of learning to choose gratitude started the Christmas of 2014. I received Crystal’s Blessings Journal as a gift from my parents. I was so excited to get started! I loved the idea of this quick and practical way to practice gratitude every day.

Little did I know that what I found inside would change my life and help me through the most difficult season I’ve ever been through.

I was pretty good about writing a line or two each day, and was particularly excited to write a HUGE blessing in my journal mid-June of 2015… I was pregnant! We were thrilled to be expecting our first child.

Even as nausea and exhaustion took over most of the summer, we were so thankful for the little life growing inside me. I recorded many blessings throughout the summer months.

“We got to see baby and the heartbeat! Everything looks good!”

“So thankful for our sweet little baby.”

As summer turned to fall, we scheduled an extra appointment when they saw something a little off at 13 weeks. We were told not to worry and sent to a specialist in mid-September.

At that appointment, we were given devastating news that would test this new-found gratitude habit: Our precious baby had a fatal birth defect.

The pages of my journal stayed empty for a week or two as I processed this news, grieved the fact that our child’s life would be short, and tried to figure out how to fill our baby’s life with as much love as possible for as long as we had.

A week or two after we got the news I finally opened my journal again and wrote a blessing:

“The doctor that had to break the news to us was really nice.”

I couldn’t imagine having to tell anyone what she told us. I was truly thankful she was so kind and compassionate.

It wasn’t every day, but thanks to the habit I had already established that year I was able to still fill my journal with blessings over the next few months:

“I’m thankful for all the love, support, and prayers we have received.”

“I’m grateful work is allowing me to be flexible with my hours.”

“I’m grateful that we were able to record baby’s heartbeat.”

Just as the weather started turning cold enough for me to dig out my winter coat, I went into pre-term labor at 30 weeks on December 15th. Our beautiful little girl Taylor was born the next day and lived for just under 3 hours.

“I’m thankful I got to hold her in my arms.”

“I’m thankful we were blessed with incredible doctors and nurses.”

“I’m thankful that we got some wonderful photos and keepsakes.”

“I’m thankful the funeral home staff took such good care of us.”

“And most of all, I’m thankful for the child that made me a mama.”

I learned to recognize all the ways God continued to bless us throughout a difficult journey. I don’t know that I would have been able to really recognize all those blessings if I hadn’t started documenting them at the beginning of the year.

So I’m especially grateful for the Blessings Journal.

Learning to look for the little blessings has pulled me through the most difficult of times. It’s something I’ll carry with me through my entire life as I face good times and bad.

Now don’t get me wrong — I’d still trade it all in an instant to have my baby alive and in my arms. But I know that no matter what we are facing, God’s blessings still surround us.

There is always hope.

I’ve learned to always look for the blessings, no matter the circumstance and it is my prayer that you can do the same.

Laura Shaw loves to share practical resources for organized and purposeful living on her website, LauraSueShaw.com. She lives in central IL with her husband and dog. Some of her favorite things include spending time with family, cute planners, and coffee!

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23 Comments

  • Mari in MD says:

    Very inspiring. Thank you.

  • Alisha says:

    Thank you so much for this! It honestly could not have come at a better time. Last year I had a miscarriage and it’s hit me really hard. I’ve been in the middle of the grieving process that seems to be dragging on for months now. Mother’s Day was extremely difficult for me, as our Baby was supposed to have been born May 6th. I was supposed to spend time with my amazing son and his new sibling he’s been yearning to have.

    These last few months have been extremely difficult, but I’ve also tried to find Gratitude in the midst of all this. I am not sure if I would have started my Master’s Degree so soon if it wasn’t for my loss. For so long, I was set on becoming a Doctor without really knowing whether it really is what I wanted to do. I’ve always been interested in research and psychology, but would have never thought that I might actually enjoy it this much and do so well in my first Master’s level course. I am not sure if I would have started my Blog if it wasn’t for my loss. For years I’ve been thinking about starting this Blog, but always questioned myself on whether I should start it. Who would want to read about the struggles of a Caregiver? Who would want to read about the small successes we have as a family in the midst of a sea of struggles?

    I am not sure whether I would have started these two major and life-changing journeys for MYSELF if it wasn’t for my loss. I’ve developed deep love for my unborn child and I miss her so much, but this experience has also given me so much strength; and for that I am so grateful.
    Thank you for sharing this. It truly could not have come at a better time for me!

    Bless you!

  • Courtney says:

    Thank you for writing this, your beautiful words touched my heart so much. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Alicia says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This was such a beautiful and touching post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kelly S says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. How lovely to hear such an inspiring example of gratefulness even when it’s not easy. So sorry for the hard time you went to – I can’t even imagine. Thanks for taking the time to share so personally! This is a great reminder for me.

  • Jamie says:

    Though I don’t use the official “Choose Gratitude Journal,” I began writing out what I’m grateful for while doing the MOYM course. I had just moved from Central IL (small world!) to Colorado to be with my father, who was sick. Had I not been in the habit of expressing gratitude (or taking MOYM/MOYE–but that’s a different conversation), I would not have noticed how hard the Oncology hospital staff was working to keep him safe and comfortable. I would not have noticed how unified our family had become during the process. And, I would not have noticed how peaceful he was when he passed. I wouldn’t have been able to grab onto any of the things that kept me sane and healthy during his last few weeks. So…thank you, Crystal, for suggesting making this a habit (with the journal or not). And thank you, Laura, for sharing your story. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.

  • Janice says:

    Laura, I’m so sorry for your and your husbands loss. We had a very similar experience with our little boy born in Feb. of 2015. The first year can be so hard, keep looking for those blessings. They sometimes hide, but they are still there. Two things that friends told me that helped through the first year. Wear your tears as a badge of honor (I always had wanted to hide). And whatever you are feeling at the time is ok.
    I know you weren’t looking for advice, but as a fellow Angel Mom I hoped it might help. You two will see your beautiful little Taylor again. Thank you for sharing your tender experience.

  • Jody says:

    Thank you for sharing your powerful testimony of choosing gratitude so transparently and honestly. Your journey really touched me, thank you.

  • Lydia senn says:

    I am thankful for YOU that you took the time to write this. I know if must still feel raw but you are helping so many people, you just don’t know. I am still buried in my own grief from a very recent miscarriage. Thank you for inspiring me today.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I am thankful for reminders and encouragement.

  • Kariane says:

    I’m so happy that you were able to find gratitude in the midst of your grief. That’s not easy to do. A virtual hug to you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Karen M. says:

    This touched my heart so deeply and my heart is broken for you . {{{hugz}}}

    I have two beautiful children on earth that I was forced to give up by my own mother. Neither one wants anything to do with me as my mother lied to them both and told them I had abandoned them when I had not. They were in the custody of other people and I could not bring them with me even though I tried many times to contact them. I have not seen my daughter since she was twelve and now she has a sweet boy of her own. I have not seen my son since he was 2 1/2 years old. I love them both so deeply and dearly that I cry and weep alot. But I still cover them both in prayer.

    In between the two I had a very painful miscarriage before I learned whether the little one was a boy or a girl and I have not been able to have another child since then due to my health issues. Nor can we afford to adopt as we are both Disabled and on fixed SSI Benefits for one person and I am still fighting for mine.

    I want another child so bad but it is beginning to look like I am being forced to give up that dream and it hurts so deeply. Family just does not understand how deep this pain runs. But of course, none of them even know the next bit of News I am sharing…… At the time I had the miscarriage I went to the bathroom and thought it was just a blood clot I flushed, but as I look back on that painful memory there was a small flesh colored mass laying upside down in the water that I flushed as well. It is not something I can just get over. I try to look at it like it was a blessing in disguise like God foresaw things that were either going to be severely wrong with the child or myself but the pain is still there. I still see myself as I murderer….. It all happened so quickly I did not have time to even process it until after it had happened years later.

    The nurse that told me I was not pregnant any longer was cold and rude about it. I told her I was having a miscarriage and her response was, “Well if you were, you certainly aren’t anymore.” No softness in the news , no kindness, and certainly no compassion.

  • Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It blessed me today.

  • Laura B says:

    Thank you for sharing your story here (even though I had already read it on your blog). Another piece of advice I can give about loss, having lost my Dad 10 years ago, is to continue to spend time with your loved one during the grieving process. Set aside time every day, or every week, to be with your baby. Sit and hold something of hers, look at photos, and talk to her. That will remind you that she still exists, and she is still with you; just not in the way you were planning for her to be.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for this advice. I am 32 weeks pregnant and my mother in law has terminal cancer. The oncologist thinks she has about four to six weeks. Already grieving in the midst of hope…

  • Cynthia says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. It sounds strikingly similar to my own story in 2012. Taylor will always be in your heart and be a blessing. God Bless you, Laura.

  • Heather C says:

    Oh, Laura… I am so sorry for your loss. I have never lost a child but have been blessed enough to carry five for other people. I’m going to print your story for my two 13 and 14-year-old adopted daughters to see that no matter how difficult life is, one can see the blessings if they simply look. . Got bless you, and I wish you a wonderful and bright future with as many healthy children as you desire .

  • Kellie McDaniel says:

    Great article!!! May God bless you & watch over you and your family daily!!

  • rene says:

    Laura, thanks for sharing your story. My heart aches for you, but I am also happy that you’ve been able to still recognize that you had things to be grateful for. My son died a few hours after he was born, and I will always be grateful that I got to hold him as he passed, and that my husband and I were able to spend time with him in our home, thanks to a loving funeral director. This will change you forever, but I can tell you with certainity that time will make the heartache lessen a bit. Love to you.

  • Virginia says:

    So sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your story. It helps me put things in perspective. Thanks a ton!

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