Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Gratitude can be strongest antidote to grief

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 7, 2018

Each night, when I say my prayers, I thank God for the day’s blessings.

I’m grateful for small things, like chipmunks begging for handouts on the porch, rays of sun painting patterns on the breakfast table, a steaming mug of French roast coffee.

I’m also thankful for the 33 years I had with my best friend, who happened to be my husband—and all the adventures and happy moments we shared.

Beautifully enough, thanking God for our blessings helps heal our hearts when we’re grieving.

When I prepared for my husband’s funeral, the house was filled with relatives—some sleeping on couches, others on the floor—and in the midst of that friendly chaos, moments of thankfulness began.

The hubbub in the house reminded me that love and loss walk hand in hand, and light glimmers even in the darkest night.

I recall sinking into our double bed, my head resting on a pillow that still held my husband’s familiar scent, and thanking God for the people who loved me.

The next day, my niece’s husband needed a tie, and he came into the bedroom and we rummaged through my husband’s clothing to find one. That was a little moment when I felt grateful someone needed me for something.

In the weeks that followed, my gratitude continued to grow, when my sister came to stay for a week, followed by one niece and then another. There were also friends who slept overnight, so I wouldn’t be alone.

As the months wore on, the grief was sometimes so overwhelming I thought it would kill me. In fact, I prayed God would take me home, so I’d be with my husband again.

But even in the midst of intense emotional pain, gratitude was part of my daily prayers, as I thanked God for friends who let me cry, a counselor who consoled me and a priest who ministered to me.

They say, “Time heals all wounds,” but some wounds leave scars that change you forever.

You’ll never be the same person you were—in my case, someone who took her blessings for granted. You may never again see the world as safe and predictable.

You’ll never say “goodbye” to someone you love without wondering if you’ll ever see them again.

You’ll never hear the words of Christ without taking them to heart in a new way. Especially in the scenes where he raises people from the dead.

Christ said to Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?”

She said, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

In the scene with Jairus’ daughter, the crowd mocks him, as they will later, when he is condemned to death. But with the simplest words possible, Jesus performs the greatest miracle imaginable.

“Little girl, I say, arise!”

We all carry around wounds, whether they result from losing someone we love—to death or divorce—or some disappointment, some deep-seated problems.

We’ve been “sorrowful unto death” as Jesus was, when he lay face down, praying to avoid the chalice of intense suffering.

Whenever we drink from the chalice at Mass and hear the words “the Blood of Christ,” our “amen” means so much.

“I believe this is really Christ’s precious blood. I know how much he suffered for me—and I will accept suffering too.”

Amen also attests that suffering isn’t meaningless but instead has redemptive power.

For those who answer Christ as Martha did—“Yes, Lord, I believe”—death will never have the final word.

On my refrigerator is a little note, where I jotted down the words of a priest, who knew Jef well, as a reminder: “Because Jef believed, he was given the gift of eternal life.”

And for this, above all, I am deeply grateful.

Artwork (“Jairus’ Daughter,” oil painting by Jef Murray Lorraine’s email address is