by | Sep 5, 2011 | 5 comments

There is no intermission when you’re grieving, but I wish to implement a kind of break anyway.  I want to take a moment and do something that feels really strange and almost perverse: be thankful.

You were always thankful Dan.  You told me that one day at a retreat in high school, I think it was high school, you realized you just didn’t want to complain anymore- and then you really didn’t- rarely.  Of course, you were human.  But I, the perfectionist, the critical one, found a lot more to complain about.  I’m sorry you had to hear that so much.

What I am thinking about today are not just random things I am thankful for, but underneath them all is the fact that- yes, this actually could be worse.  No, you could not be any more dead, which is the worst, but- at the same time, struggling financially, or being completely without friends and family, would certainly add an even more unlivable quality to the life I now must live.  I am thankful for:

a year of free grief counseling.
financial provisions that enable me to stay home with Audrey for at least one more year.  And that I am not destitute like many people, widows or other, are.
help from a friend to get Audrey on state health insurance.
my lease was renewed six more months so I didn’t have to move before I felt ready.
I recently received a giant box of beautiful hand me down clothes for Audrey from a friend’s sister.
Audrey is potty-trained for a few months now and sleeping well in her big girl bed.
She is bright and is already articulating her grief so that she will have less work to do later on.
I recently found an art therapy program that starts as young as three years old and the fee per session is small.
I am very pleased so far with her preschool and we also received some scholarship there.
I have two loving parents who adore my child.

That are many more, different kinds of things I could be thankful for right now, but I think I’ll stop there. This is an awkward post to write- it does not flow naturally.

These gratitude notes are just crumbs in the giant crater in my life now, but they are important nonetheless because this is my life now and I have to still live it.   One of my favorite “grief analogies,” described the loss as a giant tree stump in the ground- what remained of a beautiful, fallen tree.  A grieving person cannot remove the stump, but what they can do is start to plant small flowers around it.  These notes of gratitude are like that, but instead of being planted, they’ve grown up on their own- like wildflowers around the remains of my life.


September 5, 2011


  1. megan

    crumbs in the giant crater – yes.

    So many people suggest "be thankful for what you have" as a way of dismissing the reality of the grand painful suckage this is; a "don't feel what you feel, it's annoying me." Makes it harder to even say there are things you are thankful for – nothing is or ever can be "in trade." But there are small beauties, small gifts, not in exchange, but just – also.

  2. Anonymous

    Like you Julia, I was able to feel gratitude co-mingled with grief. It completely caught me off gaurd as the grief was so absolutely consuming. However, along with that all consuming grief, there was gratitude for all that everybody had done for us during Michael's illness and then his death; so completely grateful for the 18 years I was blessed to have with him on this earth. I understand your gratitude. I have to work much harder now to feel gratitude as I'm just pissed off with the death of another son on top of my first son……anger is an easier emotion for me to deal with, less tedious I spose. Thank you for sharing your soul with us. I grow from your beautiful artistry of words. Sonya

  3. Anonymous

    I think many people who have not experienced grief are not "annoyed" by grief (perhaps some are, I don't want to meet them), but uncomfortably aware how quickly it may become their own. We walk a brief passage. Also they don't want to seem condescending or insincere which instantly makes them seem both. I would like to plant flowers at the base of your tree stump but right have I? Either way, I'm sticking in some tulip bulbs that will bloom yellow come spring.

  4. Jo Julia

    thank you anonymous. that's very well put and i'll gladly take the bulbs- or anything else i can get.


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