Grateful for the Good in Your Life

thanksgiving-post

[photo credit: flickr user Keri Logan]

Thanksgiving is not about the turkey or the football game or the parade. It’s not about just how many family members you’ve gathered around your table or how close your celebration can come to looking like the front of a Thanksgiving card. It’s not even about the mouth-watering meal and all its delicious sides.

It’s a holiday that has its purpose built into its name: thanks giving.

But how can you give thanks when you’re bearing such a weighty sorrow about your family situation?

Or be grateful when you feel so out of sorts with how “everyone else” is celebrating Thanksgiving?

How can you even feel grateful when you scroll through your social media feeds and see that “everyone you know” is sharing bright, beautiful photos of happy families and delightful memory-making moments?

The truth is that it’s difficult … but not impossible to foster gratitude amid the difficulties.

I’ve already written about finding something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving (and beyond) and five ideas for a peaceful Thanksgiving. So, today, I want to focus specifically on you.

If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, you’re most likely not in the best family situation. Because this is a website dedicated to adult survivors of emotional child abuse and you’re reading this, you probably have a toxic situation with your parents. And maybe today, the hurt of that emotional wound is aggravating you more than usual.

The pain’s a little sharper, the hole feels a little deeper, the sorrow bites more coldly into you.

Know that you’re not alone in this hurt. And know that this pain will, in time, hurt you less. As more time rolls along and you grow in your healing through therapy and prayer and boundary-setting, you’ll find yourself more and more able to foster gratitude in your life …

In time, you may become grateful for the fact that your eyes were opened to the abuse you suffered and now you can tackle the issues that have plagued you from the shadows.

What you suffered is terrible and horrific, no one is glad for abuse, but you can be glad that you see the abuse for what it is: a hidden, invisible monster terrorizing you. Be grateful that you now can see it and avoid it.

You may find a sense of gratitude for the person who you are becoming, the person who God wants you to be (not who your parents tried to force you into becoming). You may, in time, be grateful that, despite all the sorrow and pain, you are here, alive and functioning and creating a new, emotionally healthier life.

But that gratitude, my friends, doesn’t come swiftly nor automatically.

Gratitude takes time and a readjustment of your emotional lens. It’s not belittling who you were or mocking people who have good families. Nor hiding your pain or burying all your grief and hurts, which is unhealthy and leads to greater grief and hurt. It’s not ignoring what happened. It’s not automatic forgiveness for those who hurt you because you want to get to the “feeling better” part of the healing journey. Nor always picking at your wounds and seeing only the darkness around you.

No, gratitude is finding yourself still standing, despite it all, and being glad that you are. It’s that sense that you have survived emotional brutality against you … and are alive and seek help and have hope for better days ahead.

Grief, sorrow, hurt, pain, regret, anger … all these have not extinguished your desire to be here, to seek help, to want to be an emotionally healthier you.

Gratitude is looking at your life and finding joy there, even if it is in the tiniest of glimmers.

Not the “I won the lottery, I’m so grateful” attitude. But the small, quiet joys that make up a day. A good conversation with friend, a perfect cup of coffee, a favorite song on the radio, a nature walk, a moment of quiet prayer …

Some adult survivors find it almost impossible to find this joy. They feel they are composed only of their past, that everyone’s out to get them, that nothing—not one tiny thing—in their life is good. Having that viewpoint keeps them in constant loop, so they do not go forward in the journey towards healing. They find it easier (and more comfortable) to remain in a constant state of resentment and hurt and anger than to find ways to cope with those emotions and work through them to an emotionally healthier life.

You don’t want to be like that.

Even if you can only be grateful for just a minute a day, if you find that the only thing to be grateful for is that you aren’t dead, that’s a huge thing to be grateful for. Being alive is a tremendous gift to be grateful for.

Your gratitude doesn’t need to be for the showy, enormous, money-raining moments of life. Being grateful is a mindset of happiness for the small, lovely things in an ordinary day.

Doing that may sound hokey or cheesy. “Really? Grateful for such a small, insignificant thing?”

But the truth is that the smaller things are what make up a day. After all, it was the small yet constant, unyielding barrage of damaging comments and neglect and silent treatment and belittling through your childhood that led to the deep gash on your heart.

“If all small things can cause so much sorrow,” a friend recently told me, “then can’t it mean that many small things can cause so much joy?”

She makes an excellent point.

On this Thanksgiving Day, you are in my thoughts and prayers. Know you’re not alone in your sorrow … and that you’re not alone in your desire to become more emotionally healthy and steady.

Onward, friend. Onward.


Veronica Jarski is the founder and writer of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad online publications. She also is the author of an e-book about waking up to the realization that one had an emotionally abusive childhood.

Five Ideas for a Peaceful Thanksgiving

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Advertisers during the Thanksgiving season present an exaggerated image of the simple holiday. Sumptuous feasts bring together far-flung relatives. The coolness of the weather chills past arguments and lets bygone be bygones.

Moreover, people perpetuate this unreachable ideal by promoting glittery, heavily edited holiday images on their social networks.

Unfortunately, the expectation can be so high during this season that people who are estranged from their families of origin or those who are far from them due to military or business reasons can get very low-spirited this week.

“There’s this idea that it’s supposed to be perfect, and if it’s not, the person asks, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”  states Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.

Expectations for the perfect holiday are sky-high, which triggers myriad issues related to mental health. However, statistically, the number of “traditional households” in this country is not in the majority, Rodino adds.

To help you lessen that stress and to embrace the true spirit of the holiday, this post will offer ideas for immersing oneself in a spirit of thankfulness.

After all, the holiday name itself tells you what its focus is: giving thanks.

1. Celebrate Thanksgiving with your family-from-the-heart

During Thanksgiving, you may feel that everyone in the United States is celebrating the feast with all their relatives. However, you’re not alone. Some of your friends may not have relatives nearby for the holiday or you may know other folks estranged from their kin. If you want to share the day with special friends, invite them over for Thanksgiving.

No rules exist for the feast. You don’t need to be related by blood. Invite relatives and friends whose company you enjoy. Give thanks for the good people in your life, whatever role they play in your life.

(This concept of celebrating with friends has been picking up steam lately. Do a Google search for Friendsgiving, and you’ll find oodles of ideas for celebrating.)

2. Celebrate the hidden treasures in your life

As an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you may find yourself focusing on the darkness in your life rather than the light. And whereas there’s nothing wrong with self-reflection, one must balance it out by looking for some goodness, something of hope in one’s present.

A holiday can make finding that hope difficult. You may just focus on loss. Where are the relatives? Why couldn’t my family be normal for the holidays? Why does everyone get a real Thanksgiving except me?

But remember that you are a wonder. It’s a tremendous blessing that you were able to see the emotional child abuse for what it is and now head towards a life of healing and light. That’s a huge blessing.

YOU are a blessing.

Then also think about the beauty in your life and focus on all the neat treasures tucked into your day that you may overlook or even feel silly about being grateful for them. On Thanksgiving, celebrate those treasures, no matter how big or how small.

“Today, I am grateful for… my awesome purple-framed glasses that help me see better, for listening to new music on Spotify for free, for Cary Grant movies, for art supplies and the hope and expectation in blank sheets of paper, for Cupcake Red Velvet wine, for the crunch of autumn leaves when I go on a nature walk, for the graceful silhouettes of geese against the gray sky…”

Give thanks for the world around you and all the beauty within it, even if you have to dig for it sometimes.

3. Indulge in a hobby… with all this uninterrupted time

What hobbies or activities are you often putting off because of important commitments? If you’re spending Thanksgiving by yourself, indulge yourself in the pleasure of that hobby without interruptions. Want to paint? Practice your music? Work on your karate skills? Try a new recipe?

Do it.

Be grateful for this gift and use it to your heart’s delight.

If your hobby is watching movies and analyzing them, go for it. Just steer away from holiday-themed movies, as they can trigger nostalgia and longing on this day.

4. Reach out to other people

“Help others,” recommends Laurie Stoneham in her article 10 Things to Do If You’re Alone on the Holidays. “Volunteering at a mission or shelter for the homeless will help you feel connected.”

You can find those places to volunteer online, check your newspaper or church bulletin, or check your city’s message board.

5. Treat the day like any other day

“Not everyone is down with holiday events,” writes blogger Kat Dawkins at Psych Central. “And that is perfectly OK.

“Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or weird about not participating in the Thanksgiving holiday. We are not all interested in that type of thing.

“If the day is a trigger for you, make sure you surround yourself with others in a positive environment. Keep yourself busy your mind off negative things as much as you can.”

Have any tips for a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday? I’d love to hear them. Just drop a note in the Comments.