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 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

Daphne Bach Greer is a mother, author, non-profit founder, and lover of nature. She is the author of Barely Breathing: Ten Secrets to Surviving Loss of Your Child and co-author of other books. She blogs at grievinggumdrops.com, The Sweeter Side of Grief, instilling messages of hope, faith, and inspiration to grieving hearts. Find her on Tiny Buddha, Today Parents, Yahoo, Her View From Home, The Mighty, Having Time, among others. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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