Q: My mother moved in with us a few years ago when my father passed away. My two adult children have returned home having both lost their jobs due to the pandemic. My daughter and son are not dealing well with all the changes in their lives, and my elderly mom is frustrated with their attitude and complaints. She feels we all need a lesson on expressing gratitude. I don’t have a clue as to how to approach this. Any ideas?
A: It can seem daunting to see the good when there is so much sadness, fear and negativity around us. A grateful perspective can be critical to sustain a positive attitude and to hold onto hope. Author Deepak Chopra, M.D., says “practicing gratitude is a way to counteract stress and stay healthy.”
You, your spouse and your mother may agree this is important during an incredibly challenging time, but your children may not be on board immediately. It will be important for the three of you to model behavior that will set the stage for an improved outlook.
One suggestion is keeping a gratitude journal to recognize the goodness in your lives. Ask each member of the family to make a daily entry about something they are grateful for. Don’t force anyone to participate, just encourage them to join in. This comes easy for some while others may take a while to express themselves.
In addition to a journal, there are lots of ways to show gratitude. Make a sign thanking those who have made a difference for you, your family or the community (ex. health-care workers). Send a card or note to essential workers such as grocery store staff, postal employees, or those at your favorite restaurant – anyone who has made it possible to continue to function as normally as possible.
One creative family decorated a tree with lights in their front yard and asked neighbors to hang gratitude notes on the tree during this month. Deliver home-baked cookies to anyone who has had an impact on your life.
If you are financially capable, donate to area shelters, food banks or other organizations serving those in need. Simply give a thumbs up when you pass someone that is working to keep services or the economy moving forward.
As much as our everyday life has been interrupted, we can’t lose sight that we may have suffered other devastating losses in our lives and somehow survived. Hold on to the faith that this too will pass.
Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.