“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The funeral home sent employees to prepare my wife’s body to transport her to the funeral home. And all the while, I’m in shock. Eventually, they had prepared her and gave me the opportunity to spend a few minutes with my wife’s lifeless body. Excruciating.

I fell on the gurney that held and cradled her, and I kissed her on the forehead and on the cheek repeatedly through my tears. Spontaneously, I began to cry out to God. And something happened, and I can’t fully explain it.

Eventually, I began to thank God. I couldn’t help it. I started thanking God for thirty-five-and-a-half years with Kim. I thanked God for the children with whom he blessed us through her body. Gifts of our love. Again, I don’t fully understand how it happened. First of all, I wasn’t even able to put words or sentences together easily. I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts.

I realize now, it was a good and fitting response. Kim was a gift of grace in my life. I didn’t deserve her, but God blessed my life by bringing her to me. I was privileged to share life with her. I received the gift of children through her. I should be grateful.

And then I realized it’s a biblical choice. It’s God’s will for me. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To acknowledge God’s goodness helps to orient yourself to truth, regardless of your feelings.

Over the months, I remember listening to music and singing along through tears. One example, Counting Every Blessing by Rend Collective, has been a favorite. Here’s an excerpt from this song that was helpful in times when I needed to be recalibrated and centered to gratitude:

“I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing, letting go and trusting when I cannot see…Surely every season you are good to me…Letting go and trusting when I cannot see, I am counting every blessing, I’m counting every blessing. Surely every season you are good to me…”

This early lesson would be employed repeatedly. Gratitude is an appropriate antidote to grief. It’s a great discipline to employ as a counterattack every time a wave of grief rises and falls on the shores of my emotions.

One morning, I checked in with my children who had insisted on updates every day in the weeks following Kim’s death. My loss was still very fresh after only a few weeks. I wrote to them that I had an incredible insight that morning. Alone in my house, I was faced with Kim’s memory in every room, closet, and shelf. I told them my house shouts, “Look what you’ve lost.”

My house also shouts, “Look what you had!” Gratitude puts grief in context.

“When one hurts deeply, when there’s scar tissue on the heart, when things appear to be hopeless…the most powerful antidote for such conditions is thanksgiving.” Richard A. Burr

Grief comes because the loss is so great. The loss is so great because the one I lost was such a blessing—a gift of grace—in my life. Therefore, in time, loss gives birth to gratitude. Again, call it a counterattack on grief. This discipline of gratitude helped me keep perspective. It kept me grounded. Yes, I had experienced a great and tragic loss. But she was a gift from a loving Father who cared for me. And he cares for me now.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.“ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

16 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This is true…except…
    I wouldn’t call gratitude a counter attack, implying that grief is an enemy. I would call gratitude a companion to grief or a balance within grief. I don’t want to drive my grief away. I just want to hold it in the proper perspective. Gratitude has helped me process my grief, and still does. Where would I be without this gift of gratitude?

    • D. Ray

      Point taken. I read something this morning–grief is unavoidable but mourning is a choice. There really is something about the term “grief work.” Grief will be present because of loss. How you work through grief is a choice. Ignore it to you detriment. Process it–with gratitude–and grow through it.

  2. Anonymous

    Thank your adding the weapon of gratitude in my warfare against grief. Magnificent!.

    Mike Murphy

    • D. Ray

      Press on, Mike!

  3. Anonymous

    I can hardly read your posts without wanting to sob myself because they are so real and personal and because each day is such a treasure with the love of our life and we so often do not avail ourselves of that good pleasure. Thank you so much for bearing your grief with us that we might be challenged to walk in love with those with whom we share our lives.

    • D. Ray

      I am glad I can invest my journey to help others invest in their journey.

  4. Anonymous

    You are an encouragement. Prayers as you walk this journey.

  5. Anonymous

    Great word of encouragement. Thank you D. Ray for sharing your heart with us. Katelyn and Jarrell were with us this weekend. We were looking through old photo albums and found several pictures of Kim at different points in our families journey together.

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Burtons!

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks D. Ray! This one will be helpful to me and others as we experience loss. Praying for you my brother!!!

  7. Anonymous

    This was so sweet! The flip side of grief is gratitude. This is so corny but remember the old saying “it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all…”. We all have so much to be thankful for in every situation; we just have to find it. Kim would be so proud of your writing! Keep on growing D.Ray!

  8. Anonymous

    Thank you. Hadn’t really thought of the role that gratitude plays when dealing with such a difficult loss. Thanks again for sharing your heart.

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you baba D Ray this your posts are helping me a lot grief is inevitable but mourning is a choice wow. Thank you we have to appreciate the good that God has given us. Counting every blessing day by day.

    • D. Ray

      Ndinotenda, Baba. Ndinofara. Mwari wakanaka kwandiri.

  10. Annette

    I love the quote from Henry Drummond, “Where love is, God is.” This is a picture of you and Kim. Thankfully for all of us there is a divine plan for us orchestrated by a divine God who loves us more than we can think or imagine. Blessings my brother, you are such an inspiration.

    • D. Ray

      Thank you, Annette.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.