February 3, 2017 • BY Laurie Joy

What the Absence of Gratitude is Doing to You

It’s such a simple process, so why aren’t we implementing it?

Jennifer Sparks shares her expertise around gratitude with us.

Gratitude is something that has really been a huge catalyst for a mindset shift for me personally and I’ll share with you my story a little bit so that you understand where I am coming from.  And maybe, I really want to tell you I was super sceptical and I remember hearing about it on Oprah.  When she talked about gratitude and how this could change everything and honestly my first impression was mmm-mm, says the lady who has a personal chef, who’s got a trainer, who’s got a manager, who’s got a boatload of money and I realise she didn’t come from that. But at this point, I was like how the hell is gratitude going to actually help anybody who is truly suffering now? Like in this moment? Because I didn’t believe that at this point in her life she was, because she had all this stuff right. And whether she does or not I don’t know but appearances, you think okay, Oprah’s kind of got it made.  So super sceptical and I blew it off when I first heard about gratitude, and that was many years ago now.  But then a series of events happened in my own life and you know, I found myself really struggling with my mental health.

Mental Health

So super depressed, I had some anxiety, I was a married, unhappily married woman with two small kids and then I became a single parent, divorced, then my father was in an accident and then my daughter got sick.  

So she got sick when she was twelve and it really was out of the blue.  So to tell you how gratitude actually changed my life, you need to understand how low things had gotten for me.  I had gotten divorced so I was kind of struggling on my own, really, I was very jaded from the end of that relationship and I didn’t have a very good perspective of it.  Even though we moved on, what I didn’t realize was that I was still hanging on to a lot of things I hadn’t dealt with.  

And then one day, I walked into the living room and found my daughter on the floor, grey, foaming at the mouth and I truly believed at that moment that she was dead because people who are alive are not that colour.  And that is an image that I have burned into the back of my eyelids and I can’t blink it away.  But that day everything changed because it’s one thing when a parent is in a dire situation, I mean it is super stressful, no doubt about it but when it’s your child and it’s the child that you are supposed to protect and keep safe. I was my daughter’s lifeline and now she had this seizure disorder that was wreaking havoc on her, her behaviour, her ability to remember things, everything.  She had up to a hundred petit mal seizures in a day, she was having the grand mal seizures as well, and she was in and out of school, I didn’t know if I could work.  It was just an absolute gong show.  

I tried to call 911 and had hung up on them because I was shaking so badly and I just was exhausted and really at my wits end.  

And I got her to the hospital that day and once we got everything checked out and I brought her home and I tucked her into bed, I was just a mess.  

I slid down onto the floor and I just sobbed because I was just sitting here going “There’s only one of me, I don’t know what to do, I can’t help this child, she’s looking to me for help and I just can’t give her anything and this fricking seizure disorder is robbing her of her youth.”

And I had gone from being able to leave her to babysit other children to now, not even leaving her alone in her room.  So things had changed drastically for us and I realized in that moment, I was so exhausted, I don’t even know how many days I had been awake.  

Of course, I don’t sleep very well when she’s having lots of seizures because I’m sleeping with one ear open and I hear everything.

So it was a very cumulative, long term type of stress and I’m sobbing on the floor in my bedroom knowing full well that if something doesn’t change, if something doesn’t change, this is going to suck us into the vortex together.

Attitude of Gratitude

Here’s What I Did:

  • We are both going, not just her, not just me, but the two of us together are going.  And I remember hearing this quote once, that “If you can’t change your situation, change your perspective of the situation” and I probably was not impressed with that quote either but what I did hear when I was on the floor crying was just the word gratitude.  
  • And it didn’t really mean anything to me but I heard it again it was just kind of like a whisper.  Later that week, I went out, my daughter was resting and I went out into the back yard and I took a cup of coffee with me and it was sunny and I sat in the sun with the patio set.  
  • And I had that cup of coffee and  in that moment, I actually just started taking stock.  I really got into that moment. I took stock of all the things around me so I could feel that warm sun on my skin.
  • I could feel just a gentle breeze across my face.  I could hear the birds chirping and I had this warm cup of coffee in my hand that I could just take a sip and that creamy goodness was just so good all the way down.  And I just sat there for about five minutes, really paying attention to the details.  
  • And what I realised was, I was able to put my stress down for those five minutes.  And it kind of felt good.  Wow, who knew? So from that point on I thought to myself, okay.  What I didn’t realise, gratitude really gets you in the moment.  Really gets you focused on now. I didn’t realise that, because while I was focused on now I wasn’t worried about all the other shit that was going on in my life.
  • But I didn’t realise that at the time so what I did do, was I said to myself “I’m going to start taking stock of what I’m grateful for everyday” and what happened was knowing that at the end of the evening I was going to be writing down things I was thankful for, things I was grateful for.  
  • I woke up looking for the good. I woke up thinking “I’ve got three things to find that I’m thankful for today.  What will they be?” And it changed the way I interacted with my world.  It changed the way I filtered my environment.  
  • So, while all these wonderful things had been around me all the time when my daughter was sick I just didn’t focus on them because I was too focused on the illness and the sickness and the despair and the overwhelm and the sadness.

Once I started actually focusing on the things I was thankful for and grateful for I realized, even though my daughter was sick and has been sick for a long time and it’s stressful, I’ve got parents that love me that are there to support me, I’ve got siblings that support me, I’ve got friends that support me, I’ve got a job that is supporting me and trying to help me both parent and be a professional.  I had support and beautiful things all around me and they had always been there.  They had always been there and I never really took notice of them because I was too focused on the despair.  

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Jennifer wrote a Gratitude Transformational Journal and you can get it here

My Question to You Is:

What are you grateful for? Do you have a gratitude practice? Will you start one now?
Tell me in the comments below.

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