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Heart to Heart: Naming our losses and our gratitudes

sunsetFrom the Heart

Like you, I am feeling the effects of the pandemic we are all experiencing, and it brings a sense of loss.     

Perhaps the losses you feel come from canceled vacations, sports seasons, concerts, holiday, wedding, graduation, or birthday celebrations.  For example, one of the losses I am feeling along that line is the loss of my son’s hooding and graduation ceremony.  It would have culminated his successful completion of the six year pharmacy program.

In the face of our losses it is normal and natural to experience grief.  Naming our losses is one way to identify and validate the emotions we feel as we grieve.  In naming our losses, we want to be honest about what’s hard, without getting stuck.

In addition to naming our losses, it is also important to take time to name the things for which we are grateful.  Numerous studies have demonstrated the many positive impacts of gratitude practice such as increased positive emotions, improved sleep quality, reduced stress, increased optimism and resiliency, and enhanced overall well-being.

What happens when we make lists of our losses and gratitude statements?

  • Naming our losses helps us be honest about grief.
  • Naming our losses helps us not minimize them. 
  • Naming our reasons for gratitude prevents us from drowning in sorrow.

Pairing a list of gratitude statements with our list of losses does not minimize the impact of our losses.  Rather, it can help us remain hopeful and optimistic during difficult times.  There’s no need to try to balance or equalize the two lists, but it is important to find something that is going right in our lives when so much feels wrong.  

Here are some ideas and tips I hope will help you in making the two lists: 

  • Make your lists on paper that you keep in a notebook, on a page that you post on your refrigerator, in a document on your computer, or in the “notes” app on your phone.
  • Speak or share your lists aloud at the table with your family or on a voice call or text message with a friend.
  • Start journaling.
  • Jot lists on your calendar: jot feelings about losses beside the events that are being canceled and jot gratitude statements on the days that you notice them.
  • Look for a win – Here and there, create some positives like a living room piano concert if the public recital got canceled, for example, or a virtual chat with friends rather than a lunch date with them.

Sources:  Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, https://livehealthyosu.com/; Brad Griffin, https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/naming-loss-and-gratitude-with-young-people; Kori D. Miller, https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Photo Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_sunset_on_lake_foxen_(july_2005,_25).jpg (downloaded 4/21/20)

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