Gratitude: The Way Through Grief-Holes in Our Lives

“How do we choose to allow the holes [in our hearts, brought by grief] to become seeing-through-to-God places?” – Ann Voskamp

It’s really hard to drive and cry at the same time. Darn near impossible, actually. But the heartache is the real distraction. Today’s was a heavy ache, since it was the last day my neighbor Katherine and I would walk our kids to school together. Her family moves this week for a new military post abroad.

Ever since our oldest daughters were in kindergarten, we’ve walked home almost daily from dropping the kids off at school – joking, laughing, venting, supporting. I love seeing her over the fence that separates our yards. My kids love her kids. They’ve played for years together – from trikes to big-kid bikes, and Little People to lip gloss.

I can’t imagine life in my neighborhood without her. Our families’ shared the entire elementary school experience together. The idea of my kids going back to school this fall without our friends feels like a dark hole in my heart. Empty. Quiet. Lonely.

Grief is like that. Empty… lonely. It startles us and blows holes in our lives, even if it’s not a death grief. Change brings grief too. What do you do when life has a hole in it?

The answer surprised me this morning as I drove through tears: gratitude.

Ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I’ve absorbed the idea of being grateful in everything – that the action itself opens my life for God’s miraculous hand. And to His comfort. Because it is deliberate choice to see what GOOD there is in any moment. At first I tried the “gratitude thing” as an experiment. I figured with special needs kids at home, there would be lots of frustrating moments on which to practice!

Friend, it’s shocking.

Gratitude actually transforms you. It makes the crap of life less crappy. It allows us, as Ann says in the quote above, to see God through the holes in life. Since I’d been practicing, sometimes even robotically, being grateful for as many things as I could think of in any frustration I faced, I found myself crying in the car today automatically…. THANKING GOD.

Thank you, Lord, for Katherine. For her friendship. For the ways she supported us when B had seizures. For how she took over the school walk-pool for months after A was born. For her Christmas spicy cheese dip and the way their family always sang carols at the door to deliver it. For her smile. Her edgy humor. Her delightful outlook on life and people…

There was so much to be thankful for that my tears turned from sad to joy-filled. I laughed at the memories. The antics. The ways we played “good cop, bad cop” when our kids misbehaved. What a gift I’ve had living next door all these years!

Pressing in to gratitude allowed me to exist in the grief, and see the good through the holes. As I saw all the good that has been here, it gives my heart permission – encouragement even – to look for the future good that’s on the way. On the other side of the dark hole of now. On the other side of goodbye.

What are you grieving today? Will you take the risk to be grateful in the middle of it?

In comfort and encouragement,

If you’re in a grief-season and are feeling stuck, I can help. Email me to set up a complimentary initial coaching session and we’ll work together to help you use your strengths to get through this season. If you know someone else who would benefit from that support, please refer them. I’ll take good care of anyone you refer.

Share the love. . .Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookEmail this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this page


  1. says

    Katherine, I'd be stoked to have you tapping in to my wireless forever. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing those fun memories here. Love you, dear friend. Be blessed to overflowing in your new adventures!

  2. says

    Laurie…you make it seem somewhat one-sided (as even now I am tapping into your wireless to leave this). Here is what I am grateful for in the midst of my grief of moving: for the random blueberries and strawberries you once dropped off…you had no idea how yucky and hard of a day I was having and those sweet delicious berries reminded me how sweet life truly is; for the beautiful plant you gave me on my birthday two years ago that is blooming right now in the back (I am sad to leave it, so please check over the fence occasionally to see it for me); for the many, many, many plates of cookies that would mysteriously show up on our doorstep and they were delicious; but most of all the way we could share our faith in God and Christ with one another without inhibition even though we practice different “religions”. I have never had a neighbor to share like that with and it was AMAZING. I will miss you too!!!

  3. says

    “gratitude lessens the blow of grief” – yep, I agree. It's antimatter to the grief we face. Sucks the darkness out of it in many ways.

  4. says

    Laurie, this is beautiful! I love the reminder to be grateful. Somehow, I think gratitude lessens the blow of grief and change. Thank you!

  5. says

    Such a good reminder Laurie…thanks! It inspires me to do that, and to read the book you mentioned too as more encouragement to look at the bright side. I definitely need to get better at this!!!

  6. says

    Laurie, I LOVE this post, and bless your heart that your friend is moving away.

    I experienced the same “shock” several years ago when I was challenged to “thank God in everything…” I started thanking Him for even the bad things. It was my way of telling God, “I don't like this one stinking bit, but I know that YOU are still in charge.” The freedom and peace I felt was amazing, and still is.

    Thank you for the reminder — of who God is and why He wants us to be grateful.

    God bless you!

    Your friend,