Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it’s always been a special time for our family. We’re grateful to be able to spend it with our parents and our children. It’s definitely a time to concentrate on everything we have to be thankful for. But putting the spotlight on being grateful for a month or for one holiday has just never been enough, especially in our little autism world. Daily gratitude has changed the focus of our family. Even in the struggles, we are aware of how blessed we are. Actually, it is how we get through the hard times.
To that end, I’ve found that finding the positive in everything has helped. There are times when you wonder what possible good can be found in an experience. Some days, it’s much harder to find than others. But if we work to find what we’re thankful for in the moment, the angst fades.
I’ve been a glass half full girl for most of my life. So over the years, I’ve tried to stay optimistic in the tough times. But sometimes life just crushes you with sadness and despair. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when you’re sitting in the dark, with no light in sight. In those times, I feel like time is the only thing that has helped.
Given some time to process things, you are eventually able to see what good has come from the experience. They say time wounds all heals, but it really does heal all wounds. There’s always a scar there that hurts from time to time, but time does have a way of giving you perspective. A lot of times the good that comes from giving yourself time, is ironically that you are more grateful for everything.
When you go through hard things, you can decide how it will shape you. I know we’ve all had struggles.
I’ve experience a lot of loss in my life and I feel like it has allowed me to approach challenges with a grateful heart. Loss has a way of doing that. Autism is a kind of loss that is hard to explain if you haven’t lived with it. But it can feel like a loss of certain hopes or dreams. It’s a loss of what you thought would be or what you had planned. Gratitude for what is and faith in His plan and not ours has got me through the darkest of times.
Over a span of more than twenty years, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal. I started it after a really difficult time in my life. Then I stopped again when things in my life were going smoothly. Then one day I picked it up again realizing that I needed to be more cognizant of everything I had to be grateful for.
Less than a year later, my father died and at the same time I had a miscarriage. In my mind, there was absolutely nothing to be grateful for. The years following I would make a few entries, but my gratitude wasn’t always a priority. After our daughter’s diagnosis, it became hard again for me to see the good in things. Those early years I wasn’t as grateful as I should of been and that made navigating autism that much harder. I acted like it was our entire life and like my cup wasn’t overflowing with blessings. Believe me, it was.
These days I write down ten things I’m grateful for every single day. It’s amazing how coming from a place of gratitude regularly changes your outlook on things. Daily gratitude has literally crushed autism struggles for us. When you’re focused on all your blessed with, there’s no room for ungratefulness. It’s hard to be bitter when you don’t have the space for it.
We try our best to have our children focus on daily gratitude. Our hope is that one day their faith and grateful hearts will get them through life’s toughest times. It’s guaranteed that they will have them.
What we have control of is how they will deal with them and if they will always see their glass as half full.
For our daughter, we know how much she struggles and how hard she works to overcome things. It may seem easy to outsiders, but what she has accomplished has happened because of a lot of hard work and a lot of heartbreak. We remind her and ourselves how grateful we are for it all, even what most may think is just small stuff and even the really tough stuff. She has learned how important her faith and daily gratitude has been in everything she goes through and grows through.
One day our daughter will be an adult. Struggles will be a part of her life, but I hope she will live in joy and never be bitter about them. More than that, I hope she will remember how much daily gratitude can help her get through the hard times and crush those struggles.
I hope she remembers what a blessing she is and how grateful we all are for her.