Is it possible to be grateful in the midst of tragedy and suffering?
The latest shooting in Parkland High School (#18th in the United States in 2018) brings this question as we individually and collectively deal with tragedy and trauma.
To find the answer to this questions we came across the study at the at the University of Southern California where neuroscientists conducted a research of Holocaust survivors’ memories to track how our brains processes gratitude. "Using multiple recordings of testimony from the vast archives of the USC Shoah Foundation, the team of researchers designed a brain-scan study to test and track gratitude in 23 study subjects, most of them in their 20s, who had no personal connections to the Holocaust. " (full article).
The results of the study led researches to map out specific "gratitude circuits" in our brain responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgements, fairness, economic decision-making and self-reference.
Holocaust survivors reported the acts of generosity provided to them (a stranger offering a bit of food or shelter to hide) helped them hold on their humanity.
To answer the question - is it possible to be grateful in the midst of tragedy and suffering? Our answer is: it is not only possible - it is necessary.
Gratitude is so much more than attitude of happiness or being thankful for good things in your life. Cultivating gratitude as daily practice is VITAL to build up our psychological immune system and help us cope during difficult times.
As individuals affected by tragedy and loss, it is not easy to reflect and see on the small acts of kindness surrounding us, but it is necessary. It may feel as though darkness and pain may never end, however taking one moment and a breath at a time is when we experience the healing power of gratitude.
Collectively as a society being more conscious and present with one another and showing up during this difficult time is a foundation to healing. Show up, be seen, be there.
Research study link: