The Taos News has committed to implementing a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat, and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
This time of the year can be so difficult on me as Thanksgiving creeps in, and I wonder about gratitude as I feel so much loss. Gratitude almost feels like some sort of spiritual platitude with a demand to pretend. Does grief include gratitude or is that just something that was made up to pretend to be happy?
Thank you for reaching out and sharing your thoughts and feelings as we enter the holiday season. There is a lot of pressure within society to feel a certain way at certain times. It would be nice if our emotional world could be set on a dial and behave the way we want them to behave. But as you portray in your message, emotions do not behave as society expects and this can lead to isolation due to feeling you are doing grief wrong or feeling the demand to act and feel a certain way. In authentic grieving, gratitude is a possible emotion in its authenticity, it can be the fuel that helps you move forward after being depleted from loss.
When gratitude (or any other emotion) is not authentic, there can be a depletion of energy with new levels of futility or disconnect from your true self. Platitudes, cliches and other ways of avoiding authentic feelings dismiss your unconscious world and usually cause more discomfort, as you are not being congruent with your emotional state. With that said, it is easy to get caught in finding more and more reasons to be ungrateful, angry, resentful and upset with the world around you. It is almost like the “go to” for our unconscious, to find what is wrong with the world you live in rather than valuing the pieces that may be okay or even awesome, without bypassing the parts that are hard and in an emotional healing phase. The story of Thanksgiving serves as a reminder to try to balance the difficulties in life and the aspects that help us through those difficulties.
You may be sad from a loss and authentically be grieving that loss. Your grief can include people, spirituality, safety and other aspects that are helping you walk through that loss. They may include the history of what you are grieving, which may include love, happiness, joy and experiences, which in this moment seem so far away as the loss is dominantly in the phase of feeling something that has been removed. Grief is the process of allowing yourself to find a present balance between what appears to be polar opposites, such as gratitude and sadness, joy and sorrow, loss and abundance and any other emotional areas that seem unfathomable to carry both aspects of life. Letting go of societal demands and honoring both states of emotions can help bring balance into your life and allow healing. I wish you well and please stay safe. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat GWR@newmex.com or call at 575-776-2024. Weekly virtual grief groups, at no charge, are being offered to help support emotional well-being. Information can be accessed through goldenwillowretreat.org.