Few things in life can bring up a sense of sadness and loss than endings. Whether the ending involves the dissolution of a marriage, the termination of a job, a forced residential change or anything else, we are thrust into a state of disconnection and emptiness.
Part of this feeling is caused by the disruption of our normal routine, but the biggest part of it stems from our reliance on the lost situation(s) as part of our identity. We don’t know who we are without them, and we struggle to find a foothold in our lives again.
One way to make life transitions smoother and less disruptive is by using a gratitude focus.
Gratitude can help you remember that along with the darkness of every ending comes the dawn of a new beginning. Gratitude can smooth the sharp edges of any painful experience and usher in a more gentle transition that contributes to your personal growth. Finally, gratitude can help you shed the burden of unhealthy situations in order to clear a space for something better to arrive in your life.
Below are a few simple steps to help you turn any negative situation into one of healing and growth:
1) Open a notebook or journal to a clean sheet of paper and write, "I grieve the loss of this situation because ___________." Write the reasons why you feel sad about your loss, how you feel without it, and how you think it will affect your quality of life.
2) Turn to a new sheet of paper and write, “I value these things that I received from the existence of this situation in my life: ____________.” In this space, write all the good things that came from the situation you are now releasing.
3) Finally, turn to another clean sheet of paper and write, “The release of this situation from my life now provides an opening for __________.” Think of how the release of the old situation has provided an opportunity for something better to come along. For example, if your marriage has ended, one possibility is that you can now invite in a healthier relationship that will better fit the person you are becoming. Likewise for the loss of a job, and so on. Find some positive things that will eventually happen because you are releasing the old situations/people/experiences.
No matter how terrible a loss may seem at first glance, there are always hidden blessings within it – if you’re willing to look for them.
It’s important to understand that it may take time to see obvious benefits from your gratitude exercises. Remember that there is a grief process involved when transitioning through life phases. Allowing yourself to feel the sadness of your loss will help you move more quickly through the grief. At the same time, giving more of your focus to the formation of something better can make the process seem less devastating.
Do these exercises as often as you feel necessary to help shift your mind-set from helplessness to optimism and healing.