People enjoy standing on soapboxes and preaching to us about thankfulness, especially this time of year. They say to count your blessings and appreciate the little things. The best attitude is gratitude, right?
I’m here to let you in on a little secret, though: you don’t always have to be grateful.
You don’t have to be thankful for the nightmares that haunt you in your sleep. Those terrifying moments and memories that flash before your eyes are never something deserving of gratitude regardless of what you learned on the other side. Just because we grow doesn’t mean we are grateful for the growing pains.
People will use phrases like, “This too shall pass,” but a brighter future doesn’t mean that you can’t feel pain in the present. Others will urge you to “forgive and forget,” but forgiveness and acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to be appreciative or condone. Your feelings are always valid; please remember that.
You don’t have to be thankful for illness and disease. The pain and battles, the loss and the grief: none of those are circumstances are worthy of gratitude at all. Although the dark moments may only be temporary, that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel the sorrow in those times.
People will tell you, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or similar positive bullshit. And even if it is entirely true and you are incredibly strong, that doesn’t mean you have to be thankful every single day for those experiences or the hand that you were dealt. You are allowed to curse when you wake up in pain or when your anxiety makes leaving the house impossible. You are allowed to question your faith when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or when you lose a child. And when someone tells you, “Everything happens for a reason,” I’ll gladly come punch them for you and set things straight.
You don’t have to be thankful for the rejections or those who leave. Whether a lover abandons us or a job offer slips through our fingers, it often takes time to regroup and persevere. Everything may happen for a reason, and better things may come along; that doesn’t make those moments of heartache less intense or worthy of our gratitude.
People will try to say, “There’s always more fish in the sea,” or “It wasn’t meant to be,” but that doesn’t detract from your heartache in the heat of the moment. Others have no right to try to make you feel gratitude towards something before you are ready to move forward; allow yourself the time to cope and heal, and process all of your feelings instead of casting them aside.
Eventually the sun will shine again. You’ll climb out of the hole and smell the roses again, giving thanks for all that is good in your life. But, in those moments that are less joyous, don’t feel obligated to push away the pain and try to falsely replace it with gratitude. Allow yourself the space to feel everything and embrace all that you are. Never let anyone tell you how to feel. Your emotions are always valid, and you don’t always have to be grateful to make the most of life.