Even through challenge, light will prevail.

Truth, the holiday season tends to bring out the best in people and has always brought out the best in me. Regardless of the hardships I was facing, I always felt that I was able to put aside my pain to enjoy the company of loved ones. I smiled hard, I laughed often, and I made sure that those around me knew and felt they were loved . . . that was, until holiday season 2016. Earlier that year, I decided to ALWAYS stand in my truths. As such, I shared frustrations regarding my “adoptive” family dynamic with them, in hopes that our interactions would get better.

Unfortunately, a little over 1 month before Thanksgiving, the adoptive family that I considered to be mine, was no longer. Within weeks, the father figure I was raised by since the age of 11 no longer felt compelled to talk to his own “daughter” and our bond was no longer worthy of fighting for. The woman I considered to be my second mother, told me that I was not someone she ever felt connected with. And their children; a young teenage sister that I loved and cared for as my blood, treated our sisterhood as though it was disposable and my youngest brother at the age of 3—without his choice, was no longer able to be part of my life because my father did not allow me to see him. In addition, the one my heart decided to love, felt like it was the wrong time to love me; as though matters of the heart were calculated perfectly in time. And furthermore, I was struggling with the loss of many loved ones from illnesses that won, as their bodies lost within that year.

Scheduling time to cry and feeling a deep sense of loss starting around November, the holiday season of 2016 was one of the toughest holiday seasons that I had to get through and remember. I did not know how to feel gratitude through my pain on Thanksgiving. I loved so hard and it pained me to know that those that I was once thankful for, were no longer part of the perfectly imperfect perfect picture. Although I was surrounded by loving people, I felt alone and I did not know what to be grateful for. My heart was broken given the absence of the people I loved with all of me. Devastated, I interacted with folks with fake smiles and blank stares into the abyss that was unknown to them and myself.

However, at some point, I progressed passed the pain and was able to find a new happy place. I knew that I deserved happiness and needed to express my gratitude of life, even with a broken heart. It was clear that even though I was hurting, I still had a lot to be grateful for. After the holiday season of 2016, I learned how to be grateful through a time when I felt so much pain as the world was telling me to give thanks. Expressing gratitude through pain takes courage! Expressing gratitude through pain takes strength! Expressing gratitude through pain takes the willingness to be vulnerable and trust that even as you feel pain, you can still be happy. This piece will discuss how to get yourself to a point where you can feel and express gratitude through the pain this holiday season.

In order to feel gratitude through the pain, consider the following five:

1. Admit that in the moment, you do not feel your best. Rather than run away from the pain, you must accept the reality, sit with it for some time, determine how to best move forward, and move forward accordingly. Yes, it hurts today, but tomorrow is another day. Healing takes time, but you must first admit that it hurts.

2. Absorb the energy of the loved ones who are around you. If you process pain in isolation, push yourself to socialize with at least one person whose energy will lift your spirits. Sometimes, all you need is the life and energy of others to provide you with perspective to push through. Loved ones will kindly remind you that even though the pain is deep, it could always be worse and you must be grateful that it is not. Laugh with those you love and remember the good moments your life consists of.

3. Talk it out. Pain to your core should never be kept to self, especially during the holidays. Whether it is with one, a couple, or a few people; express the pain you are feeling with loved ones. Make sure you are speaking with those who are able to hear your voice, take in your feelings, and assist in providing you with comfort and strength. You will be surrounded by amazing people, do not prevent yourself from speaking to them.

4. Make new memories with the loving people you do have in your life and appreciate them by spending the bit of energy you do have with those who are present, not wallowing over those who chose to be absent in your life. It gets tiring to always focus on those who decided to walk out of your life. If people want to be in your life, they will be, by choice—not by force. For situations that you are struggling with out of your control or contribution and you wish that life dynamics were different, remember, you cannot spend your energy on the situations in which you cannot control.  

5. Love yourself. In moments of pain, it is easy to be hard on ourselves and spiral downward further. Take a step back and reevaluate who you are. Love yourself again or for once and remind yourself why you need to push through. It is not light work to make your life work how you envisioned it would be at all times. But if you could love yourself through the pain, and still be able to give thanks—you are healing and prospering in a truly fulfilling way. The pain is real, but your life is a valuable gift, never forget that you still deserve to give and receive love.
One of the most challenging realities of life, is smiling through the pain we feel—especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving–a time when family and friends come together to break bread and express moments of gratitude for life, health, love, friendship, vision, and an opportunity to create more priceless memories together. Beautiful in its sentiments; however, let us not forget those who are feeling incomplete, at a loss of words and empty because the pain they are feeling weighs heavier on their heart than the gratitude they are expected to express during this Thanksgiving holiday season. Know and believe that you can and you will get through the dark hours. Feeling and expressing gratitude through the pain requires deep self-love and understanding of circumstances. Though it may sound impossible, feeling and expressing gratitude through pain truly is doable.

This holiday season, as you work through your pain, focus on who and what you do have, rather than on who and what you do not have. Know and believe that expressing gratitude through pain does not mean the painful realities are not present, but that the present moment is a present the deserves to be cherished, not disregarded.

 Even with a broken heart, you can feel and express gratitude and love.

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