Feeling gratitude during tough times

Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to plant a seed of thought that, over time, helps you to see things more clearly and appreciate all that you have. The most challenging part is allowing yourself to hear it in the first place.

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." — Epictetus

Unwanted advice

Recently, I spoke at length on the telephone with my grandmother, who will be 92 this year. She is sharp and wise and one of my favorite people.

When she asked how I was, I spoke to her of our infertility struggles, of nearly twenty months of heartbreak. Once she heard me out, she simply replied, “But dear, you already have two beautiful children. It's important that you are grateful for all that you’ve been gifted with already.”

Hurt feelings

And if I’m completely honest, I was rather hurt by her quick response... with what felt like her flippant attitude toward my pain. But, she’s my grandmother and I adore her, so I tried to let it go and chalked it up to her simply not understanding all that I was going through.

But, her words festered. She has five kids, what could she possibly know about the pain of infertility? Her advice burrowed into my mind and keeps rising to the surface of my thoughts.

More on our battle with secondary infertility >>

Common ground

When I spoke with my mom days after the call with my grandmother and shared with her the advice I was offered, she told me that my grandmother always wished she could have had more children, but had suffered miscarriages... that she knew the pain of wanting more children, just as I do. She knows what it feels like to have to carry around that emptiness.

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Since speaking with my mother, my grandmother’s advice has actually served as a life preserver at a time when I thought I might drown in my sadness. Infertility wears on you over time and before you know it, you feel like you just might drown.

Perhaps it’s because I’m finally trying to come to grips with the fact that the third baby may not happen. We may forever be a family of four and I need to find a way to accept that. It’s much easier to be grateful in times when things run smoothly, but so much more challenging when life doesn’t go as planned.

Of course I’m still entitled to grieve over what might not be. And it’s OK to be sad. But when I look around, I’m surrounded by things for which I am truly grateful, much like my grandmother is.

Love isn’t measured by how many children we’re blessed with and neither should our gratitude be.

I am so incredibly grateful to my grandmother for her reminder when I needed it most.

More on gratitude

Practicing gratitude: iPhone apps for fostering gratitude
Teaching kids to be gracious
8 Ways to become your best self


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Comments on "Practicing Gratitude: When gratitude doesn't come easily"

angela May 29, 2012 | 4:57 PM

My heart is sad for you. I think it shows so much about you and your capacity for gratitude and grace that you are taking your grandma's words and using them to find strength as you try to work through this. Hugs, always.

Kathleen May 29, 2012 | 2:13 PM

I want to thank you for posting this. I love the spin you have put on all this. I, too, have to figure out how to be okay with what I do have. After two miscarriages last year and now a year out from the last one and no new pregnancy and my age (I just turned 40) I may very well have to accept that child #4 is not meant to be. We have been ttc for almost 2 years now and it begins to just drain you emotionally. I love your column and how honest you are with your journey. Most people in my life scoff at my desire for one more and say hurtful things about secondary infertility. I love that you put a voice to it and can eloquently say many of the things I feel. I hope you get your miracle!

tayarra May 29, 2012 | 1:59 PM

Something You said keeps repeating in my head "when life isn't going as planned." One thing I learned through the hell of our miscarriage is that my plan doesn't ultimately matter and that I'm not in control. It was hard, extremely hard for me to accept, but that's probably the firmest thing I have learned out of it all and something I turn back to when things aren't following my plan. I'm not offering advice, just sharing what I've learned in my experience. My heart aches for You and others that are struggling with this.

Rachel May 28, 2012 | 2:52 PM

I think just by the pure fact you can turn around what your grandmother said into something positive while you are suffering so badly and in pain shows your strength and courage. My heart aches for you. :( xoxo

Sherri May 28, 2012 | 2:21 PM

You most certainly are entitled to grieve...and your pain is yours, nobody else can make you feel less of it. My heart breaks for you, my friend. xoxo

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