Gratitude is a Distraction | The Daily Vulnerable

By Nathan B.

My wife and I decided we wanted to have another baby. We’d talked about it for years, going back and forth on whether to stay with two kids or grow our family.

At the first appointment, the baby was slightly smaller than expected, but everything else was good.

At the next appointment, there was no longer a heartbeat. At nearly 12 weeks we had lost our baby.

The month since then has been a series of complications—ending in last Friday spent in the hospital (she is doing well now).

In difficult times I take one of two paths:

In most cases, I push through the pain, stress, or grief and focus on the positives in life. I have so much to be grateful for that is easily overlooked in hard times. By writing a daily gratitude list my mood changes and I stay strong.

My other pattern is the opposite: in trying times I lose hope and slip into depression.

This time gratitude worked for the first week, then it wasn’t enough. I felt angry, sad, depressed, and alone. My wife and I fought over things that didn’t even matter.

In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday makes the case that you shouldn’t try to go around the obstacle, but instead that many times the best course is to confront it head-on.

That reminded me of the time I spent last spring at a leadership training event hosted by Reboot. They emphasized taking the time to feel each emotion. To feel the pain that it brought on and to sit with it. To observe it. Even noticing if it manifests in a certain part of your body.

What is it that you feel?

Where do you feel it?

When I took the time to sit with my emotions I started to strip them back. I felt each one individually. I quickly realized most of them were surface level and not the core issue.

I kept digging.

And then I found grief.

With everything going on that was the one emotion I had pushed past and distracted myself from. Grief was at the root of everything.

I had thought I shouldn’t be this upset. People had said, “you can have another” or “usually a miscarriage means there was something wrong with the pregnancy.” Throw in statistics for how common miscarriages are and I felt like it should hurt less to lose a child I hadn’t met.

But the truth is I lost a child and I hadn’t taken the time to truly grieve. Instead, I tried to distract myself with gratitude.

Now rather than reaching for distraction—even with something positive like gratitude—I choose to sit and feel. Working to fully experience and seek to understand my emotions.

Gratitude is a core part of my life, but I won’t let it become a distraction.

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