Gratitude Beyond the Fog of a Cancer Journey
November is National Gratitude Month
As we approach another season of giving thanks amidst a dragging pandemic, there are ways to experience gratitude during the cancer journey that eases emotional trauma when practiced daily. This applies to both the child and parents. It is possible to practice gratitude with intent, even when it feels impossible.
Gratitude can feel unimaginable at the time of diagnosis when families are confronted with stress and the tremendous burden of understanding their child or young spouse’s cancer diagnosis and the treatment options. The long-term psychological effects of intensive cancer treatments in children have been studied since the 1980s. Some childhood cancer patients cope psychologically well with the experience, but many patients and families still report anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. The good news is that research has been ongoing to determine the most successful coping mechanisms, mental health healing, and overall emotional recovery methods related to families managing cancer. One significant finding showed that families that incorporate gratitude intervention (practicing gratitude) into their healing/treatment journey ease emotional trauma when practiced daily.
National Gratitude Month
November is National Gratitude Month and reminds us to be thankful. Of course, practicing gratitude can be that much more difficult with the bombardment of images of friends and strangers living their perfectly healthy lives. It can be challenging to see through the fog, especially when trying to support your child through the rigors of cancer. But, as years of psychological-based research have proven, those practicing gratitude can genuinely pull through even the darkest of days.
Finding a sliver of gratitude with intent daily is the best way for me to rise above the distractions. Gratitude with intent. What does that mean? It means pushing the boundaries of your mental and physical state and purposely hijacking the “fear monkeys” replacing them with thankfulness. Cultivating gratitude amid crisis doesn’t just happen. You must seek it out. It requires you to be self-aware for even a few minutes with no distractions. Shifting to an attitude of gratitude can be the difference between surviving and truly thriving. Gratitude requires an appreciation for the little things, like having clean water, having the freedom to educate yourself, or even just having a few green trees around you. Eventually, you’ll find that gratitude requires less effort on your part and starts to become a subconscious recognition of all that is good in your life. You’ll begin to appreciate what you can do instead of what you can’t.
There are proven ways to practice gratitude even when you don’t have the strength or will to do it.
The Attitude of Gratitude Method
- Cultivating the feeling of being grateful does not require you to be constantly in a state of happiness. The attitude that gratefulness can be small passing moments of contentment and appreciation. Be sure to take the pressure off yourself and know that it’s normal to be thankful for good things but still mourn tragic life events and illness. A little goes a long way.
- One of the issues with digital overload has been the increase in self-comparison. Try to stop comparing your family to others. Remember, people, curate what they want us to see. The reality could be completely different. Take a few minutes to appreciate what you have in one day, one hour, or a few minutes. You can teach your mind to scan for the positive things in life automatically. Remove ranking yourself against others to create genuine gratitude that is not forced or driven by someone else’s haves and have nots.
- Look for the little things to say “thank you” for instead of “I’m sorry” when things are out of your control.
The Generosity Method
There are times when helping someone else can fill the void of finding something to be grateful for. Showing appreciation for the people who choose you first, continuously checking in on you, and being by your side can help you feel good. This appreciation is gratitude with intent. There are several ways to express genuine appreciation to others:
- Send a quick text message or email with a simple thank you to a friend or family member you may have neglected during the cancer journey.
- A compliment to loved ones or even a stranger goes a long way and has the potential to change the whole trajectory of someone’s day positively. Your impact is something both of you can be thankful for.
- Battling cancer opens your awareness to others on the same journey. Being an active listener in a distracted world can seem like an arduous task these days. Reconnect by disconnecting and actively listening, try not to interrupt, and respond with empathy. You will receive gratitude in return for just being a sounding board for someone else, possibly on the cancer journey.
The Method of Savoring
Intentional gratitude includes engaging all your senses to appreciate what you have right in front of you in the now. Savoring moments of delight and calmness amid a storm can be incrementally uplifting. It’s easier to savor in small doses, starting with small steps. Paying attention to surroundings outside of your everyday bubble can help. For example, eating slower and tasting every bite of your meal, or watching a hummingbird hover for a few seconds, or experiencing a magnificent sunrise or sunset. Noticing and appreciating the good in each day will impact your gratitude not just during the cancer journey but for life.
I hope these methods to practice gratitude with intent help you see that there is always something to be thankful for beyond the fog. Here to Serve is grateful to help families receive support during their journey to ease stress and lighten burdens. If you or someone you know has a child recently diagnosed with cancer, please tell them about Here to Serve. If you are inspired to donate to help us help those families, please follow this donation link. Finally, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving!
“Is your glass half empty or half full?” asked the mole. “I think I’m grateful to have a glass,” said the boy.”
– Charlie Mackesy, Author of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse
By Sameera Rangwala
Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.