How Living in Gratitude Saved My Life


Raised by a single mother who constantly told us to be grateful for what we had, I internalized that message; and, to this day, it is a mantra that sings in my brain. I am forever smelling the roses – in every situation.

It’s a long story. Making it concise; my former husband, father of my two sons, disowned our oldest son because he had refused to do something he was asked to do. (It was not unreasonable given his father’s request was.) Later, my son made a choice to stay with his father over the summer to heal their relationship; and, when Fall came, my Ex told him if he went home to live with me, he would be disowned for good.

This son, one of the lights of my life, chose his father with his money over us – and our loving, close relationship. It was devastating to me, and I refused to put him in a loyalty struggle, so I lovingly supported his choice. I know how important it is for boys to have their father in their lives. However, I had no idea his father’s control had such far reaches into the rest of my own life.

Consistently over the years of my huge loss, I chose not to hate my Ex. (Hate destroys the soul.) He is ignorant of what he did psychologically to our son. And, though I sometimes allow myself to feel despair that my son – as a grownup – didn’t assert himself and connect with me, I remember he is working for his father. His father has a great deal of control over him. He pays him. Again, I choose to smell the roses.

In my heart, I continually send love to my grown son, and am deeply grateful that he has a wonderful wife and three healthy children. When I think of him, I am thankful to know he is okay.

I could have lived these many years suffering and hating. That would have destroyed the quality of my own life. The “roses” in this situation was my learning how to live in the present moment, in gratitude for what I do have rather than in the mourning for what I don’t. And, I’m grateful for his wonderful brother who continues to be a joy to me.
David, had the courage to tell his father if he ever spoke poorly about me, he would not have a relationship with him. Today he maintains a connection with his father and sees his brother at family functions. I am so proud of the man he is in the world. He is a fine human being of integrity, and humor that reaches inside me and tickles the spots that hurt.

I am grateful for my “emotionally” adopted daughter who has brought such happiness to my life. I’m sad for the passing of Puppy – my granddog, and welcome Blue into our lives.

I question the concept of “justice” when I think of the injustices I have suffered. Yet, I am thankful that I am not a bitter woman. I have not let them cripple my soul.

I am grateful that my sister has come through her open heart surgery so well. Her friends have been a cradle of love and support. I am grateful that we can look forward to a sister’s trip this coming year.

I’ve made some very poor choices in my life, and some of the results have been horrific for me. I continue to be thankful. I am here with a wealth of accumulated experiences which add to my ability to empathize and help others.
I am thankful for the many, many people who have crossed my path, and for those who have journeyed with me. Some were not good people, and yet even they taught me something about the complexity of humanity.

I am grateful that I live here in the United States, although I am not always proud of the choices we are forced to make and accept.

I am thankful that I am here for another year of living – with gratitude.
When my heart breaks, I am grateful that I have one. I take the next step to understand the possible whys and move on.
I am thankful for Roseann who has given me and others a forum for writing.
It is all about knowing how to love what is, rather than to live in grief for what isn’t.
My list goes on and on. What does your list look and feel like?

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on

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