Talk about the Tough Stuff: Thanksgiving and Gratitude


November is the month of gratitude, and everyone is reflecting on all the things they have in their lives to be grateful for.  My expertise is in infertility, which is particularly difficult during the holidays because of all the family gatherings where questions are thrown about and young children are present (a visual reminder of what you’re missing).  However, I’m going to broaden this post to include anything challenging happening in your life, such as a death, cancer, health concerns, issues with children, life transitions, divorce, etc.  When you’re in the middle of something awful, it can be hard to think of a single thing to put on your gratefulness list. 

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I am a believer that vulnerability is ultimately what will bring you closer to people in your life, which can enhance relationships and bring you into a new level of support you never knew was possible.  Brene Brown discusses this concept in her work, particularly in this video.  It’s the tough stuff that brings us closer, but what happens when we avoid the tough stuff like the plague? 

It’s easy, especially around the holidays, to close off from others, shut down uncomfortable and challenging topics, and never share a real feeling with anyone.  We talk about light hearted subjects with family and friends we haven’t seen for a while, and we say we’re doing “fine”.  We are downplaying those things that are hurtful to make ourselves and others more socially comfortable.  But remember, people are not able to selectively numb painful emotions without numbing joy.

No doubt about it, the holidays are difficult for people for all kinds of reasons.  You don’t have to spill your guts about every detail of your infertility journey (or whatever is challenging for you at this time), but I want you to do an experiment this year.  When someone asks you how you are doing, what if you could be real with them?  What if you told them that you’re having a hard time right now?  Wouldn’t you want to know if you had a friend or family member going through something difficult?  My guess is, you would want to find a way to be supportive and show that you care if the roles were reversed.  Give the people in your life a chance to offer you help, support, and a listening ear.  Find those people that you can deeply connect with, and trust me, having that network in place when things get hard is everything!

So where does the gratitude come in?  How can you practice gratitude when you’re trying your best to not numb your pain?  I wish the answer was simple, but I guess in some ways it is.  Remember, numbing pain takes an equal toll on feeling joy.  If you’re not feeling your pain, you’re also not feeling your joy.  Exploring pain, finding ways to deal with it, and connecting with others is how you increase your gratitude.  Leave behind the energy you’re putting into avoiding your feelings and put that energy into feeling your feelings….ALL OF THEM.  You’ll start to notice the wondrous things all around you in new and exciting ways. 

Yes, this is one of the hardest times in your life, but it’s also an amazing time.  You have the unique opportunity to lean on others, to show vulnerability, to feel love from those people in your life, to be connected in a deep way to your partner, to gain new insight, to rethink possibilities for your life, to be woken up, to grow, and to wake up stronger and stronger everyday knowing that you’ve simply made it through another one.  You have the chance to look at what’s important in your life and what little things are happening everyday all around you that are meaningful.  Notice what brings you happiness even in darkness.  Your strength will amaze you, and that is something to be grateful for. 


I am a Marriage and Family Therapist and infertility expert located in Clear Lake and Houston, Tx.  I offer free 20 minute phone consultations (832) 827-3288 so you can learn how I can help you through your tough stuff.  I am grateful that I get to help people grow, find their strength, and accept themselves; that is a huge joy in my life.  I’d love to know more about your challenges, and your joys.