There have been times in my life when I have felt such despair, anxiety and irritation that I wondered if I would ever be happy again. If those difficult moments in life happen to coincide with the holidays, it can feel like a double whammy. You can feel more alone than ever, becoming melancholy and giving in to depression and anxiety.
When you feel like your life is crumbling around you, it’s hard to find reasons to be thankful. In fact, I was thinking about this as I read the many (MANY) Facebook posts as friends and family members who participated in the 30 days of Thanksgiving for the month of November.
I’ve struggled to find the words to express how I sometimes feel when my life has slipped out of control and the very air around me is almost too heavy to move through. It has been during times of grief and heartbreak that weigh so heavy it’s hard to even know how to begin to pull myself up let alone to be thankful.
I wrote about finding an attitude of gratitude, but there are times when circumstances make it hard to even have a desire to find gratitude. What do you do then? I know what I want to do. I want to give into the despair, wrap it around me like a blanket, curl up in a ball under my covers, eat chocolate and hope when I open my eyes that fairies do exists and my house is clean, the laundry done and a dinner is waiting for my family.
I can tell you, this has actually happened, to include the cozy blanket. Only my fairies were my neighbors, my friends and my family.
There is no quick and easy fix to heartbreak. Grief is its own journey and we all walk it a little differently. Loss of any kind — a relationship, financial stability or faith — can bring sadness and deep melancholy that can be debilitating. You feel like your life is literally falling apart.
I am not a professional, but I am a military spouse, mother of six, full-time employee, volunteer, daughter and friend. I also pretend to cook dinner. I have experienced loss, grief, suffering and pain. I’ve been despised, humiliated, embarrassed and wrongfully accused. I’ve wept, I’ve raged and I’ve shook my fist at the heavens.
When those moments come, I regroup, pull myself up and plan. It involves baby steps, humility and doing hard things. We can do hard things. YES WE CAN.
First I recommend you take a shower, fix your hair and, if you wear makeup, put it on. Notice I did not say you had to shave… baby steps. If your home is in chaos it means picking one area and cleaning it or bringing it into order. I start with changing the sheets on the bed. Then I can get back in after I’ve showered…
Another good area to start with is the kitchen sink. If that’s all you can do you would be amazed at how much better you feel with a shiny scrubbed kitchen sink. It also seems to suddenly make the rest of the kitchen clean too.
If you have children you need to feed, try to have simple, easy meals on hand. Now is not the time to beat yourself up over full, three-course meals.
Now, you’re clean, the kitchen is kind of clean and you have clean sheets. It’s movie night with the kids! Everyone is home, safe and fed. That is something to be thankful for.
You need help. Even if you don’t think you need help, you do. We are not meant to be alone. Your help might be the teenager down the street babysitting while you shower. Maybe it’s a friend who can talk with you while you do a load of laundry or two. Maybe you need to call family and talk, or have them come out for a few days. It’s different for everyone. There are different levels of help. Don’t be too proud to ask.
People have threatened to throw me in the shower and I have threatened others with the same thing. I have had dear friends from church and other circles come into my home and clean my kitchen, bring me a meal and take my children for the afternoon.
I have sobbed alone and on the shoulder of my husband when there were no words to express my heart. We have sought spiritual and emotional counsel when the burdens were too hard to bear alone. We have admitted we don’t have all the answers and have asked for help. You can be thankful you have places to go for help.
Doing Hard Things
This has meant asking for or giving forgiveness. Sometimes it takes the form of sacrifice in order to get control of finances, our family and our home. Evaluating how and where we spend our time, our money and our attention. We have had to drop some things off our plate or changed the environment we were in. It has meant we had to remove ourselves from friendships or reach out to rebuild broken ones. Sometimes it’s just learning to live life each day without someone in it anymore.
You can’t be thankful when you can’t function. You can’t function when your life is amuck and you’re missing out on living it.
It is during these times we have the chance to grow and strengthen ourselves and our families. It’s a time to discover if we are who we want to be. You have that to be thankful for too.
There is opposition in all things. There must be. Without despair and sadness we would never understand or appreciate the beauty, joy and peace that can permeate our lives once again.
So if you decide to test out my plan and you take that shower and shave a leg or two, you will begin to, once again, start finding things to be thankful for. Hot water, clean clothes and the only place to go is up.