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Feeling Lucky In The Unluckiest Circumstances

As I navigate the confusing space of my own grief it was also imperative for me to help my daughter navigate her own grief. Watching her grieve, made my grief even heavier as no one wants to see their children suffer.

If you have listened to my podcast you will have heard how I finally turned a corner in my grief and moved from deep grieving to re-engaging with life. The turning point for me was gratitude.

At first I started with keeping a gratitude journal and because I was in a space where I didn't feel I had much to be grateful about I was resentful. I knew I had to do something as my grief was dragging me and those around me down. I have always been big into journaling so that is where my gratitude exercise began. I bought a journal and began to write 3 things every day that I was grateful for. My only rule was I could not repeat the same gratitude - every entry had to be specific and unique.

The first entries were very basic, and when I go back and read them I can feel the energy of resentment in the words. However, along the way something magical happened and it happened without me even realizing it immediately. One day I was on a walk and found myself stopping to look at a beautiful yellow snail. I was so captivated by this snail that I stopped to take a photo as I had never seen a snail like this before. The next day I saw a

post with knots in the grain that made it look like the post was smiling at me and I took a picture of that. Both of these went into my gratitude journal and I was struck by how my focus shifted from feeling unlucky and resentful to feeling grateful. My practice grew and grew from there and my dark heavy grief began to lift a bit.

Because this had such an impact on me, I wanted to extend this practice to my daughter. Teenagers are finicky at best but I knew it was worth a try. Although my daughter didn't embrace the exercise as wholeheartedly as I did, she indulged me and we began to incorporate gratitude into our day.

It took me 4 years to see the actual manifestation of the power of this exercise in her life and it happened when we were on vacation. My late husband and I promised her that we would take her to Europe when she graduated high school and I then made a promise to him when he was diagnosed that I would make that happen - which I did. She and I talked about how lucky we were to do this on several occasions.

We were with a tour group and there were some challenges with the train from London to Paris. As people like to do there was much grumbling and complaining from others in the group - to the point that it was becoming annoying. When we finally got situated on the train, my daughter said, "I am grateful to be on the train" to which I responded, "I am grateful to be going to Paris", to which she responded, "I am grateful for this time with you before I leave for college" and so on. My heart swelled with pride because the seed I planted years ago had taken root.

When she left for college shortly after our return, I put together "Open When" envelopes for her. One envelope said "Open When You Are Feeling Grateful To Be There". Inside the envelope was a letter from me and a small Lucky Gnome with a poem about luck. I wrote in her note how lucky she is to be in college, the college she wanted, in the city she wanted and having this experience. Whenever she felt unlucky to hold the Gnome and remember all she has to be grateful for.

Life is full of both lucky and unlucky situations. Some situations are so unlucky they leave us feeling cursed but sometimes all it takes to change that energy is to shift our focus. Even when it feels difficult or nonsensical, there is always something (and often many somethings) to feel grateful for. My grandmother used to say, "curses never come alone but neither do blessings".

Losing your dad, losing you husband is one of the unluckiest things that has happened to her and me but as we move through our grief, we have been able to find reasons to feel luck in the midst of that unlucky.

Shifting your focus doesn't change the bad but it can change your perspective and provide you reasons to see the luck in your life. Not to mention it leaves you in much better spirits. Time to find your Gnome.

Susan Ways is a speaker, blogger, author, podcaster with a passion for creating a safe space for people to express and understand their own unique grief journey. For more information visit

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