We have come to the season of Thanksgiving and Celebration. The messages of good cheer and gratitude are everywhere. For those who are going through major life transitions and feeling sad, lost and overwhelmed, connecting to gratitude may seem out of reach.

Just recently I was introduced to a reading by Joyce Rupp from her book, “The Circle of Life”, by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wierderhehr. “A Closer Look at Thanksgiving” invites all of us to look beneath the surface to find gifts of gratitude and growth that may feel impossible during tough times. I share excerpts of it with you this month in the hopes that it will bring comfort, insight and hope.


“If you look at a sunset, you might see only the disappearance of daylight. If you look beneath, you may see darkness opening the splendor of the stars.”

If you are in the midst of divorce, the pain and letting go of once joyous family celebrations can seem impossible. You may not know where you will be for this year’s Thanksgiving Feast. You worry about your children not being with you as it may be Dad’s turn. “How did I ever get here?”

” If you look at a broken relationship, you might see only a harsh ending. If you look beneath, you may see the courageous seeds of new growth.”

Maybe you have lost your job and are reeling under a mountain of unpaid bills and a very uncertain future. The fears and frustrations of trying to find employment fill every day and night. “What can I afford this year to put on the table or gift to my loved ones?”

“If you look at lost dreams, you might see only disappointment and doubt. If you look beneath, you may see the stuff that new dreams contain.”

Perhaps you have suffered health and aging issues during this past year. The future feels very uncertain and the present is consumed with doctors, treatments and loss of mobility and the freedom you once enjoyed. “What is there to be grateful for?”

“If you look at illness and disease, you might see only physical diminishment. If you look beneath, you may see it as a teacher bringing you vital wisdom.”

Finding gratitude during times of transition, uncertainty and loss is truly a challenge! But it is also this challenge that is the key to finding your way through the pain and grief!

“If you look at the death of a loved one, you might see only pervasive sorrow. If you look beneath, you may see that love lives on forever in the heart.”

How do you find gratitude during hard times so you can unlock that fullness of life? Here are 5 Steps to help you look  and see beneath.

1.  Knowing and Adjusting your Expectations
Your current situation and where you are at is your reality. Placing the expectation on yourself that “you should” feel something you don’t, or “you should” do something that doesn’t fit for you right now, places one more weight on your shoulders. Instead, think about adjusting your expectations. What do you need your holiday to be?
Maybe something simpler, quieter, and nurturing would feed your spirit and soul.

2.  Reach Inside Yourself
In looking for what will nurture and feed your spirit and soul, you may discover what brings you comfort and healing. Surround yourself with those things and let them soothe you.  Music, walks, exercise, meditation and prayer can help you restore your sense of wholeness.

3. Reach Outside Yourself
Surround yourself with friends and family who support you and can lift your spirits with caring words, actions and laughter. Reach outside of yourself by volunteering and helping others in whatever way is meaningful to you. Take in the feelings of self worth that doing for others can generate.

4. Tap Into the Power of Belief
What is your sense of faith and hope that you can come through hard times and learn a lot about yourself, your strength and resilience in the process? Know your part in  this journey through being honest with yourself. How do you mobilize your attitude and actions to bring you to where you want to be?

5.  Looking for Gratitude in the Simple Things All Around You.
Open your eyes, ears, and all your senses to appreciate what is around you. The warmth and comfort of a cup of tea or the beauty of a sunset are a soothing balm. Enjoying a good book or listening to music can have restorative powers. Seeing acts of kindness and contributing some of your own can make all the difference in accessing gratitude.

“Thanksgiving is a time to look beneath our external lives for the unwavering love, the ceaseless peace, and the enduring strength that lie in the deep waters of our soul. The more we trust the “unknowable depths” of our existence, the more the power of gratitude becomes a song we daily sing.

With what do you struggle today? What might lie beneath that struggle for which you can give thanks?” Join the discussion below…