Childhoods come in all shapes and sizes. City childhoods, suburban childhoods, free-range childhoods, tightly managed childhoods, nurtured childhoods, neglected childhoods, innocent childhoods, worried childhoods – just like adult lifestyles, they vary depending on so many many different things.
When I was younger, I had no idea how many different kinds of childhoods a kid could have; I thought they were all basically the same. I assumed all kids had a pair of loving parents and a bunch of brothers and sisters. I assumed everyone had dolls to dress and games to play. I figured all kids knew the thrill of swinging high without fear of crashing to the ground.
My mother succeeded in insulating her children in a bubble of innocence and safety and within its parameters we were free to create, learn, make mistakes, and roam. I was vaguely aware of differences, but not necessarily disparity. I knew of sadness, but could hardly fathom suffering.We didn’t have it all by any stretch, but she gave us everything we needed. For this, I am immensely grateful.
As an adult, the color and wonder of life can, at times, grow dim. Sometimes I lose sight of happiness and sometimes I forget what innocence looks like. Before she died, my mother was always able to remind me of these things. She was my home and my anchor.
I can no longer rely on her now that she’s gone. Like her memory, all I can do is try to carry these things in my heart and my mind. It’s up to me to keep remembering what happiness, innocence, and hope look like; which I guess was why she worked so hard to provide us these things in the first place. So I can teach them to my children and they can hopefully do the same for theirs. This is how it is supposed to go, and in the end we will all be grateful but still a little sad.
Finding gratitude in grief can be challenging. For some it seems impossible and for others it seems pointless, we get it. However, we also feel that finding gratitude – big and small – can help you keep sight of hope, no matter how dark things seem.
Studies have shown that keeping daily gratitude journals, where you write down as few as 5 things you’re grateful for every day, can increase things like well-being and optimism. It’s such a simple (free, universal, quick) exercise, we feel it’s worth it to at least give it a try; especially when you’re feeling particularly pessimistic and negative. And before you think that this exercise is only for glass-half-full type of people, I want to assure you we are the kind of people who are regularly in need of a refill.
Gratitude is a always PhotoGrief category, but starting today and for the next two weeks we are going to be doing a gratitude challenge. Yesterday we announced on What’s Your Grief a challenge to write down 5 things you are grateful for each night for the next two weeks.
However, here at PhotoGrief we want to add an additional element to the challenge. For the next two weeks, whenever possible, we want you to take a photograph of something you are grateful for. If you’re comfortable with it, share these images with us on the PhotoGrief Facebook page or over on Instagram and hashtag them #whatsyourgratitude. For the next two Fridays (if we have submissions), we will choose one to feature in our Facebook banner. If you take a photo and feel especially inspired, you should also consider submitting something to be featured here on the PhotoGrief site.
For a little inspiration, here are a few examples of photo-gratitudes we have shared in the past:
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