Living Well, Dying Well

Mary Friedel-Hunt

November: a month focused on gratitude. How often do you say thank you each day? To a friend, spouse, child, cashier, doctor … ? To yourself?
Our brains are designed to protect us from harm and because of that are super sensitive to danger and that which frightens us. Hence, it is much easier to focus on the negative than the positive. Creating a habit of expressing gratitude is an excellent way to make it easier to focus on the good things in our lives and things that do not feel good but which help us grow if we use them well.
Like any habit it takes time to create a gratitude practice. It demands being aware and present, which involves moving more slowly. It means being in touch with the “little” things like vision, breath, a flower, a dog, a paved road … .
So there are several ways to begin this habit. 1. Keep a daily journal of things you are grateful for each day. 2. Before dropping off to sleep, identify what you are grateful for. 3. As you go through the day, look for things for your list. You can even use refrigerator words to list them on your door. Get the kids involved in a car game naming everything they see that they are grateful for. Ask them why.
Soon you will find yourself doing these automatically and you will feel more positive, even hopeful in these difficult times on our earth.
When Thanksgiving arrives and you gather with family and friends or visit those in nursing homes and hospitals, let those you love know how grateful you are for their presence in your life. It will come back to you. Before the meal, ask each guest to name some things they appreciate in their lives.
When the month ends, do not let go of the practice. During December’s stressful days, stop often to breathe, to be grateful for the people you lost this year and others and all the gifts they gave to you. Do something for others to help them feel grateful.
By January 2020, you will have a practice of gratitude that will last your entire life. My husband, Bill, and I had a habit of stopping each evening to share gratitude. I still do this as it is deeply engrained and brings me closer to the life we shared and to what I have now.
The holidays are difficult for those who grieve, especially those who grieve a recent loss. It may be their first holiday without a spouse or child (young or older). Be aware of this. We are all grieving and especially in these difficult days on our planet. Be aware of that and reach out.
Wishing you a holiday season that is peace-full, with many moments of kindness and gratitude. Pause often to breathe; be present. Move slowly. Have fun. Laugh often. Say thank you.

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, Yes!
—Dag Hammarskjold

Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW is a clinical social worker, thanotologist and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfriedelhunt@charter.net; P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588; or www.PersonalGrowthandGriefSupportCenter.com. Vincent Kavaloski’s “Parables and Ponderings” will return next month.