Thanksgiving Special 2019: Can I Be Thankful When I’ve Been Through So Much?

My clients are, for the most part, people who have gone through something traumatic in their lives. By that, I mean things that are unexpected, scary, and sometimes life-threatening. The most common types of trauma impact combat veterans and survivors of crime (including child abuse). But I’ve seen that the effects of trauma (lingering sadness, worry, distrust, anger, and poor sleep) also show up after medical emergencies, for families in conflict, for those who experience discrimination, and whenever a loved one dies. These are all incredibly challenging situations to go through and process.

I find that that people with trauma in their lives are often very grateful and generous people. Over the years, the perspective shared with me as people work through their pain has been enlightening. As the holidays are difficult for many of us, I’d like to list some of the themes that I find most encouraging during this time. These are not direct quotes, but they are the types of thoughts clients share with me regularly.

  1. I seriously doubted I could be this strong, but here I am.
  2. I have so much more love and understanding for people who’ve been through what I’ve been through.
  3. I can use this lesson to make a change in my life, so my children don’t have to feel as bad as I did when I was young.
  4. Even though I wish my loved one was here, I can keep their memory close by doing things to make them proud. And I’m making their famous stuffing this year just like they taught me.
  5. I am so grateful for everyone who tried to help when I needed it. I may have felt alone, but I wasn’t really alone.
  6. As hard as it is now, I’m thankful I showed up in that situation to keep things from getting worse; I know I helped protect someone else. 
  7. This time last year, I couldn’t even talk about what happened. Now I can share my story, the way I want to, and if feels good to have some control back.

Sometimes our brains can get stuck thinking about what’s missing, or who’s missing, during times that are supposed to be happy. Simply refocusing on what we are grateful for, regularly, is a huge part in recovering some of our happiness. But if you can’t do that for yourself right now, feel free to borrow any of the life lessons above from a group of people who also get how hard life can be. And if you’re looking for a therapist to talk to, here’s how to find one. Reach out to me for a consultation as well if you’re in my neck of the woods. I’d love to help.

Mrs. Andreana Mabry, M.S., LMFT, is a Black licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Southern California. Aspiring home chef. Pronouns She/Her. Say hi to your dog for her.

Veterans and Active Duty Military Crisis Line 800-273-8255

Rape Abuse & Incest National Network 800-656-HOPE

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255

The Trevor Project 866-488-7386

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