When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many times in life we are faced with tough situations. They might be in the form of bad news, loss of someone or something, heartache, or ill health. No matter what, these circumstances weigh on us and cause us pain and suffering.

My dear friend has recently had a relapse with cancer. The news was devastating and scary. I was angry and very sad. But, as I take my lead from her, I realize that life is more than any one diagnosis or piece of bad news. How you choose to live through the difficult time is so much more important than the difficulty itself.

At the hospital we laugh a lot, we help others and we say thank you to everyone. In the face of this incredibly challenging time my friend has reminded me to find gratitude everywhere I can. I am not suggesting we look for the silver lining in everything or pretend everything is hunky dory. What I am suggesting is practicing authentic gratitude allows us to feel the blessings in our life which in turn helps us cope through the rough waters.

gratitude for the present  moment

When we are able to stay in the here and now we are capable of surviving any moment. It is only when we start predicting the future or we try to control outcomes that we become fearful and uncertain. The more we can stay present and trust the process the better chance we have of not freaking out!

 Being grateful for what is right in front of us helps push out the noisy chatter that goes on all too often in our busy brains. When I am in distress I find it useful to pay attention to the simple but beautiful things that remind me that I am here in this moment. And once anchored in the present give thanks for the awareness that I am okay.

 A technique I have grown to rely on to centre me in the present is following my breath or my heartbeat.  I am instantly transformed to the present moment simply by noticing them. It is amazing how calming it can be to take a minute or two to focus on these constant and ever-present miracles.

gratitude for lessons to be learned

This is definitely a part of my gratitude practice that I find difficult but I really am so thankful for it. When I am able to reflect on the great life lessons challenges create I feel incredibly appreciative. There is no question that when we consciously look at our lives so much can be learned in tough times.  

I am grateful for the chance to reflect on how I handle myself, what I can do differently and what I can’t control. I have gained so much strength from understanding that every life situation is an opportunity for growth. In dark times I try to be thankful for the possibility of fostering a new and improved me. Often I cannot see this until after the dust clears but better late than never!

gratitude for the people who support you

Often times we take the people who love us for granted. We may even  take out our frustration on them as a way to cope with our fear and lack of control. And if after that they are still standing there holding us up we are  truly blessed.

Being grateful for these wonderful people in your life is not only nice for them but also creates love in you. A simple thank you, a smile or an embrace can create such a powerful connection between two people. That energy goes a very long way to helping us move forward through difficult times.

gratitude for hope

What would life be like if we didn’t believe that things could get better. Hope is a beautiful human emotion and I am so grateful for it in good and bad times. Hope radiates optimism. It exudes positivity.  When we are hopeful it is natural to feel grateful because we see the possibilities and celebrate them.

This is true of my friend. She embraces hope and uses it as a protective wrap to bravely meet her challenges head on. It is impossible to ignore the magic her hope creates. All of us who know her – staff at the hospital, other patients, her family and her friends – all believe in the clarity that hope brings her. It is our comfort and our motivation to help her through. I, for one, am so very grateful to be hopeful with her.

Difficult times test us. They are almost always demanding on us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But gratitude, just like stars in the night sky, brightens up the darkness. We don’t get to skip the hard times but with the practice of gratitude we can definitely see flickers of light as we cherish what we do have in the face of it.