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Practicing Gratitude (When It’s Hard)

It’s natural to be grateful during good days. It’s as easy as smiling at a pleasant surprise.

But as with a boat not designed to be stuck ashore, gratitude is a practical skill most necessary during challenging times, just like a candle is mostly needed in darkness to light up our pathways.

Gratitude isn’t confined to only big things. Gratitude for the small things, also known as micro-gratitude, is just as valid and valuable as gratitude for the big things.

When you practice gratitude, you look for things, big or small, to be grateful for each day, especially amidst hard times, such as when you are experiencing grief due to losing a loved one, contracting a disease, losing a job, etc. These small things can include a beautiful sunrise, a kind gesture from a friend, or simply the ability to breathe.

Here are some simple thoughts I’d like to share about gratitude when I lost my dad last year:

One: I know it’s hard to be grateful during hard times. I lost my dad in September 2023, and I could barely notice small good things happening around my dad’s passing when it happened. It’s really hard. I was sucked into a rabbit hole of deep sadness, not having a clue how to navigate this experience. That’s why you should give yourself some space to grieve, and to grieve only. Take as much time and space as you need.

Two: Over time, you’ll begin to notice things. Slowly but surely, things begin to unfold in front of your eyes. I noticed that many people came to my dad’s funeral, and I received advice from them. I noticed that the requiem mass for him was well run. I noticed that the entire funeral procession was a success. I noticed that his grave location was decided thoughtfully, and it’s a beautiful spot. I noticed that he’s been teaching us all these years with his deeds and real-life examples. I noticed that he’d been working so hard to make sure things were good at home. I noticed that he didn’t ask for much for himself; he was always happy with little. I noticed that his life was really a good model for us, his children. Deep down, as time progresses, I will keep noticing things about his life, more and more.

And third: I am grateful for his life. It’s been 9 months since he passed. I am still teary-eyed whenever I remember him, but today I am at a state where I can finally be truly grateful that he was my dad and always will be. If one could pick a life for themselves, I would still pick my dad to be my dad. In another life, if it’s even real, I would love to meet him again.

What I am saying is this: It’s totally fine if you don’t feel like being grateful right now as hard things happen. Acknowledge that it’s hard to. Know that God understands you completely. He’ll be OK with that, trust me.

After a certain amount of time, there’s going to be a phase where you begin to see things with a new set of eyes. Eyes that have been washed with constant tears. And there you’ll see things you didn’t know you could see after the experience. For me, I receive a lot of insights from what I discern personally from the experience and what I read and listen to from multiple sources.

But above all, it was the divine power that enabled me. I can tell you this with high certainty because time and again, it’s when I surrendered to God that I was strengthened again. Had it not been for His company, I totally doubt that I would be where I am right now, because I know just how hard it was to pick myself up again.

As with all good things in life, it takes time.

Let me assure you that you’re going to grow through hard times. You may never heal fully. I never did. But life is there for you. Life welcomes you anytime you’re ready to continue. Keep being alive, for the people you hold dear, deep in your heart.

They will be proud of you from up there. I truly believe that. 😊


Paulinus Pandiangan

Author: Paulinus Pandiangan

Saya seorang Katolik, anak ketiga dari 3 bersaudara, ayah dari tiga anak, orang Batak, saat ini bekerja di sebuah pabrik kelapa sawit di Kalimantan Tengah. Saya dilahirkan pada 8 Januari 1983. Capricorn.

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