“Tell me another one,” my dad asked.
He loved a good joke.
Most of them weren't that good, but he didn't care.
When my father was in the hospital I would tell him a joke of the day each morning. I would call him on my way to work then tell him the joke when I arrived in the parking lot.
I would usually cry at some point on the call or after.
It was a rough couple months.
When he did pass, I was a wreck. The reason I was able to cope was for two reasons:
- My family
- My gratitude journal
My family was the support that I needed. We shared stories and complained about how grumpy he was becoming as he got older. We joked about how he was ready to go and hang out with his mom so she could make his German noodles and Rouladen dish that he loves.
The second part is my gratitude journal. I had kept a gratitude journal for over a year and at some point I stopped doing it. I noticed my attitude and joy had dwindled. I needed to support my own journey back to joy as I dealt with the grief of losing my father.
I needed my journal to help reframe my day. Throughout the day I would worry about losing my father. Who would I go to for advice? Who would encourage me to keep writing? Who would laugh at my stories so easily?
My journal helped me process my grief. It helped me focus on all the good things I had instead of what I was inevitably losing.
Our brains remember the most impactful thing that happened to us in a day and how we remember our day. If we take the time to pause and process a difficult situation by thinking about what we learned from it we can reframe it and log it in the memory banks as something good for us, even enjoyable. This is a skill that we aren't taught. It's something we must practice for ourselves.
That's why a gratitude journal can help you in the grieving process.
At the end of every day I would write about what I was grateful for in my life. I would usually start with a moment with my son.
The journal entry would look like this:
- I'm grateful for my time of playing tag with my two sons because their laughter lights me up inside.
- I'm grateful for my career that allows me the flexibility to work from home because sometimes I need heads down time to get work done.
- I'm grateful for my father because he has taught me so much about being a kind and strong man.
I focused on what my father gave me, not that I was losing him. I realized that my father would always live on because I pass his wisdom on to my sons.
It's been 2.5 years since his death and we still tell stories.
When we went to visit him, he would pick us up in the car. On the way back my son would inevitably make a remark about driving and my father would say in his German accent, “Who is the driver!”
As if to say stop complaining. You relax. I'm in charge.
We would then all say, “Who is the driver?”
We would all laugh and have a good time.
He was a magical man.
He was also a tough man that didn't show affection very well. He was very strict when I was growing up too. I remember wishing I had some of my friends’ dads because they seemed so much easier to get along with.
Maybe they were, but I wouldn't trade my father for anyone. He taught me self discipline that has helped me write the Bring Gratitude book and create the Bring Gratitude Challenge.
He was far from perfect, but he was mine and my gratitude journal helped me see that.
He didn't thank me very often, but he always spent time with me and listened to me. I remember telling him that I wanted to be a writer. He loved the idea. He asked me how much it would take to get started. We both had a few beers and we were feeling good. A little too good.
I suggested $100,000 to help me make it happen. He said he would talk to my mom. It never happened, but he believed in me. That belief was his gift to me. I didn't fully appreciate this until I kept a gratitude journal. I didn't remember these sides of him until I began to take the time to think about it.
You can do this with or without a gratitude journal. It's about the ritual of pausing to appreciate what you have in your life. Too often life carries us away and we forget to do this.
My challenge to you:
If you are struggling with grief, try keeping a grief gratitude journal. Focus on the good things in your life and what you learned from the person you are grieving over.
Then find a support network to help you. A support group online and offline can help you when you need someone to talk to and process your thoughts and feelings.
If you want some help, try the Bring Gratitude Quiz. It’s only 8 quick questions. You’ll get a score and you’ll find out your gratitude level, then you’ll get custom emails for your level and ideas as that will help you build a more grateful mindset.