Gratitude: Even in the Wake of Darkness

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie

As we approach the cherished and beloved American tradition of Thanksgiving, while simultaneously in the midst of a world tainted with war, devastation, and tragedy, I have been thinking a lot about both grief and gratitude.

During and after the terrifying events that occurred in Paris last Friday, November 13, 2015, I found myself experiencing an overwhelming wave of emotion. Although I was not personally or directly affected by these acts of terror, I have been following the stories and reports and wanting to educate myself more on world politics and news. That day and the days that have followed I found myself experiencing a mix of anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness...helpless determination to make it all stop. I caught myself trying to shake off fearful vigilance of my surroundings, thoughts about how nobody is ever really safe in this our world is doomed and how life is so frail and fleeting.

I know I am not alone in the emotional after-effects of such a tragic and threatening travesty. As the week has gone on, I have been working hard to stay on top of the news, while not letting the constant "depressing" stories take over my entire emotional state. I have been surrounding myself with family and friends, continuing to devote myself to my work and passions, and focusing not only on the darkness of the world, but also on the beauty and the hope that still remains.

Yesterday I was preparing for a Thanksgiving activity to do with a therapy group I am running with middle school students, and I came across an old art project from a therapy session with a client who was struggling with feelings of parental rejection and abandonment. We traced a turkey with the outline of her hand, and she was free to decorate it as she pleased. The prompt was simply "I am grateful for..."

Although I can't share a photo of her art, I can tell you that she decorated her "gratitude turkey" with all sorts of colorful feathers, and fervently wrote a random collection of words and phrases around it. She had no difficulty coming up with at-least 20 blessings that she is thankful for (and they were all non-material things). One of the words on there is hope.

My clients teach me every day.

So, with Thanksgiving and the season of joy upon us, my hope is that we don't lose sight of what what life is all about...that we continue to remain aware of harsh realities and to fight for justice and peace, but also continue to live, give love, and give thanks for the good.

*For a hopeful article by world renowned author and traveler Rick Steves, who offers an enlightening perspective on the terror resulting from the Paris attacks, click here.