• Nina Vallone

Finding Gratitude in Grief

Grief and Gratitude- they seem to be two sides of the same coin.

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly six weeks since my sweet mom passed away. Some days, the Grief, the ugly, messy, petrifying Grief, pulls the rug from under me and leaves me breathless on the floor of my closet.

Yes, my 48-year-old self finds comfort on the floor of my closet, crying. Nothing makes you feel more like a child than losing a parent. And yet. I must live and adult and parent and wife and friend and write. And I do.

And there is Grief, and there is Gratitude. They seem to be two sides of the same coin.

How can it be possible to feel so much gratitude while I am grieving? How can I be smiling and welcoming the sun on my face while walking one moment and then crying the next? Well, no, not crying…It’s more like my eyes are leaking. The tears come from nowhere, no thought, no emotions lurking- they just…leak. How can this be? I’m not sure. And I really don’t care why it’s happening, only that it is.

My broken heart, which I know will never be fully repaired, is filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the love of friends and family. Gratitude for small reminders that I’m not alone. Gratitude for a look or a wink from someone unexpected. Gratitude for a text saying ‘you’re on my mind.’ Gratitude.

And then I’m brought to my knees by the Grief, AND by this Gratitude for all I have. Even though there is so much missing right now, my heart is filled with Gratitude.

I’ve noticed there are three things that keep the Gratitude at the forefront of my consciousness.

The first is my people. My family. My friends. My tribe. My posse. My Faithkeepers. You know, those people around you that lift you up, hold you close, and leave you alone when you need it. I am blessed to have such people around me. They encourage me to let them in. I keep them close. I thank them for loving my sorry ass and for allowing me to be happy, to be cranky, to be me.

The next is walking and anything physical. Walking outside has been healing and calming, and grounding. Sometimes I walk in my neighborhood and find joy in the flying birds, the young moms pushing strollers, and the quiet of the grass growing.

Sometimes I walk at the beach and watch the waves glide in, or crash in ,or not move much at all. Water is restorative. Water silences the noise around me, calming me almost instantly. The vastness of Lake Michigan makes me feel small yet vibrant. It heals.

And lastly, what keeps gratitude present for me, is allowing myself to be vulnerable. I allow myself to ride the waves of this Grief/Gratitude journey. That means letting the tears come instead of fighting them. And welcoming the melancholy sometimes. And crying on the floor. And embracing the laughter and joy and vibrant moments. And smiling and shopping and reading and dancing. And living my life, every moment of every damn day.

Living this life means experiencing all of it. Both sides of this Grief/Gratitude coin. When I stop typing and drink my coffee, I don’t know if Grief or Gratitude will take me. But I know I get to feel them both fully because I love my mom so fully. I get to live this life, write these words and get up every day. I’ll let you know which side of the coin comes next…

Nina Vallone is a freelance writer and author/owner of the blog You Know Neen. Her writing has been featured in ChicagoNow, Forest & Bluff Magazine, The Lake Forest Leader and Make It Better. Nina is on a quest to write about what she talks about: life, love and the pursuit of getting up after falling repeatedly. Her passion for mindful living led her to teach mindfulness meditation classes and host speaking events on cultivating gratitude. She was a terrified yet excited story teller in the 2016 Chicago production of Listen to Your Mother, a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother's Day. Nina is a mostly adoring wife and mom of two pretty cool young adults and a sweet old pup named Coco. She and Hubs tirelessly peruse warm weather real estate in hope of finding their next big adventure.