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It Could Always Be Worse: The Power of Gratitude and Perspective

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” ~Marcus Aurelius

So, yesterday wasn’t the best day. I backed up into my husband’s car in the dark, on my way to a meeting. I didn’t see it in the mirrors. It was dark. (Did I mention that?) Well, it left a healthy size dent in the front, and needless to say, the tension began.

I felt bad. I honestly didn’t see it. Whenever I put my car into reverse, the mirrors automatically adjust and seem to point down, which makes it difficult to see out of them. Then, I have to look on this little screen when I back up, and in the dark, it’s hard to distinguish obstacles in the way. I just can’t get used to it.

So I tried. I put the car in reverse, slowly backed up, and then… crunch. I heard it. Ouch.

Afraid of the destruction I had caused, I reluctantly opened the door, looked back, and assessed the damage. Instantly, I knew he wouldn’t be happy.

I imagined steam pouring out of his ears after I gently broke the news to him.

Throughout the rest of the evening, a giant rift began forming between us. Worries about finding money for the deductible, battling higher insurance rates, and paying for repairs spiraled into distress. We went to bed without speaking, which sent me into a fit of self-pity accompanied by tears of guilt and sorrow.

How much worse can things get? First the septic problems, then the furnace, then the electric problem, now the car. Wow, when it rains, it pours. Why can’t things just be easy for us for once? Is that too much to ask?

Our thoughts are powerful things. They can instantly set off a chain reaction of overflowing, overwhelming emotions.

And then this morning, I learned of a friend—a dear woman, wife, and mother in our community—whose young adult child had just passed away in a car accident.

Rapidly, all my worries about denting the car seemed ridiculous.

Perspective came rushing back to me in a moment’s notice, bringing me back to reality.

I had been there. I had been that mom whose child died. I had made that dreaded phone call, as I lay helpless in our mangled and demolished car.

It has been eight years now since she was flown from the accident scene to the trauma center, and I, transported in an ambulance, was rushed to a local hospital. The last day we had hugged, talked, and touched each other. Sometimes, it seems just like yesterday.

My eyes welled up with tears, as I knew exactly how this newly bereaved mother was feeling. I swallowed that forming lump in my throat as memories of the accident with my children came surging back, bringing me back to that life-altering day.

After a few moments, I caught myself holding my breath as I abruptly stopped in my tracks to say a prayer for her and her family.

To be told your beloved child has died is the worst pain. It’s a paralyzing and debilitating state that leaves you feeling like you are suffocating, making you scream in terror and disbelief.

And this can last for months, even years, as you desperately try to wake up from such a horrifying dream.

My heart is heavy. It’s not fair, this arduous, frightening journey that was forced upon this mother this snowy winter morning.

Today it was her child, tomorrow it will be someone else’s father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter.

It knows no discrimination. No one is exempt. Loss. Grief. They will find us at some point in our lives when we least expect it, pulling us into an abyss of heartbreak and despair. And then what?

My point: Among the daily stress, tension, and challenges of life, stop and search for gratitude. What a gift it is to even be alive.

For that car that is broken, give thanks that you have a car to fix.

For that necessary and expensive home repair, give thanks and realize what a gift it is to even have a home.

For that taxing job, give thanks that it pays the bills.

For that exhausting child, give thanks for their strong personality and recall how wonderful it was the day they were born.

Find perspective. Embrace it. Look with eyes of wonder and hope for tomorrow.

Take time to enjoy the rainbow of colors in that sunset, appreciate being able to hear those birds singing or see the wildlife out your window. Smile with joy when you’re able to build that snowman with your child.

Unfortunately, many of us are clouded in our judgment until we experience a rock bottom tragedy. Our daily challenges can be upsetting, but we’re fortunate to not to be standing where someone else is standing right now. Someone who is grieving, for they have lost a part of themselves and are struggling with a gaping hole deep in their soul. An unforgettable void that can never be filled, nor replaced.

So try it with me.

Stop what you’re doing. Take a step back, and try to imagine walking in someone else’s shoes. Someone you may know who has suffered the loss of a loved one. While you may not understand, acknowledge their loss and the road of profound sorrow they must now travel. It’s not easy.

Inhale deeply, absorb some sunshine, and remember, there are many others who would be incredibly thankful to be where you are today. Despite it all, you are blessed.

Let us all find perspective when facing struggles that are minuscule in the grand scheme of things, and recognize the gifts we have been given. Let’s not take this beautiful life for granted.

About Daphne Greer

Since the tragic death of her daughter in 2008, Daphne Greer began pursuing her passion for writing and helping others. She is the co-author of the book, Grief Diaries-Will We Survive, as well as a contributor to many other books. She blogs at grievinggumdrops.com while instilling messages of hope and inspiration to others enduring grief and loss.

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  • Siddharth Karunakaran

    which makes iT difficult. Good article. Gratitude is always a good thing. That doesn’t mean we have to always be happy despite our problems. We should solve as many problems as possible. We are problem solvers. And the system ain’t right. Not much I can do about it though. Seems like you have been through a lot in life. Take care and don’t forget to correct the typo in caps. It was i(s).

  • This is such an important reminder. Thank you.

  • Ellora Laskar

    This article really touched & moved me; lately, I’ve been working on allowing myself to feel sad/angry/etc. & while I still would like to work on that, this article was a powerful reminder of what gratitude can do. I admire your courage to live with the loss of your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful piece of writing.

  • lv2terp

    Brave and inspiring post, thank you for the reminder of the importance of gratitude, and that we are not exempt of tragedy by sharing your story to beautifully! (((hugs))) to you!

  • David de Souza

    Sorry to hear about your car.

    You are so right about taking the time to search for gratitude.

    For a number of years now, I have been keep a gratitude journal. At the end of the day I write a small paragraph of something that I am grateful for. It is one of the most useful exercises that I do each day.

  • Thanks David. I had to remember, its just a car. What a wonderful idea of a gratitude journal. I started one at the beginning of this year and it has been such a fulfilling thing that puts life into perspective as well. No doubt your journaling will have a huge impact in your life. Best wishes-you are a great example for us all!

  • Thanks so much for your kind words. Every day really is a blessing and it sure makes a difference to appreciate the little things.

  • Shari, thank you. I hope it can be of help for others. One day at a time!

  • Your words are so true. We don’t always have to be happy despite our problems, but we can choose to make the best out of every situation. Thank you for taking time to comment and share.

  • Thank you Ellora for your kindness. I think it’s wonderful you are allowing yourself to feel every emotion. Sometimes we shy away from them because they can be so overwhelming and scary. I admire your courage as well. We never know what life will bring us but we can always be grateful for what we have. Perspective is everything Blessings to you~

  • Siddharth Karunakaran

    You still haven’t corrected the typo though… “…which makes is difficult to see out of them.”

  • Robin Walston

    Oh wow…I don’t read all of these article I get, but was pulled to read this one. I also lost my young daughter. To a brain tumor. I instantly felt the lump and my heart hurt reading this, but you are right. It can always be worse and no one knowa that more than we do. Thank you for this article. Sometimes I forget…

  • dustybee123

    Simple, profound truths surround us – and yet we rarely notice the stars until the sky is darkest. Thank you for this very powerful reminder to Be. Here. Now.

    Gratitude makes the difference!

  • Rich c

    Great article, whenever​ I think I’m having a bad day I think back to a song lyric “I used to complain about not having shoes, until I seen a man with no feet, now I feel Rich” gratitude can turn a sad day into a genuinely happy day in a matter of minutes for me, or happy day into pure Bliss. I try to create physical thresholds as daily reminders to think of gratitude, such as taking a warm shower. Every time I hop in the shower I think of how greatful I am for the sensation of hot water on my body, which leads me to think of other areas of my life that deserve my concious gratitude as well.

  • Jane Love

    Sorry to hear about your car.

    You are very right about taking the time to search for gratitude. There’s always something to be grateful for. I always have something to be grateful for.

    Thank you for this.

  • Maria

    This article is a great reminder to always be grateful. Like you said, it could always be worse. And you mention how powerful our thoughts are and that couldn’t be more true. We have to be more positive and less critical of the things that happen to us. Also, I’m truly sorry to hear about your daughter. I applaud you for your strength and determination. Thank you for sharing! Lots of love to you! <3