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Inspiration and Gratitude while Suffering? Is it Possible?

From Chapter 20 - Serious Illness,  Inspiration and Gratitude - book on Amazon

Millions of people suffer from chronic disease, disability, pain, cancer, and a wide range of challenges to living a healthy life. Yet even during a serious illness or health challenge, some express their appreciation of life and gratitude for all the things that they can still experience. When Johnny Depp made a surprise visit to a Children's hospital in Australia dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, it was not just a quick visit. Johnny Depp made an effort to visit each room and tried to meet all the kids, including those in isolation. "He took the time to engage with them and make them smile and laugh," one staff member said.

In the video (shown at the end of this post) that I have watched several times, one young patient was so deeply amazed and appreciative that seeing their joy and the surprise gift from Johnny Depp was inspiring. The video is an excellent example of the many acts of kindness and support that are provided to those that have serious challenges. 


There are many handicapped people who have a serious illness and yet also use gratitude to enhance their experience of their quality of life. These people are "gratitude warriors" in my perspective as they are focused on being grateful even amid terminal illness, loss of health, permanent or temporary disabilities. At first, it would seem unusual to have gratitude for anything during a serious illness or handicap. Yet it is not unusual at all for those who have various conditions and use it. 

At another children's hospital, gratitude is described as a part of a group's process to understand that we are much more than our suffering.

"It occurs to me that our drawing group was counting our blessings. It also occurs to me that our blessings were many. We talked about hospital stays, surgeries, and how needles really hurt; we also talked about the fun of soccer, the cuteness of cats, and the awesomeness of best friends. The things we love won't cure our illnesses: There still will be medications with rotten side effects and symptoms that make us feel lousy. But they can make our illnesses easier to bear. Even on horrible days when pain is unrelenting, and hope is dim, these "good things" we carry within us sustain us by reminding us that we are more than our suffering. "Psychology Today - "Cultivating Gratitude While Living with Chronic Illness" by Katie Willard Virant 

The drawing group was composed of children who are living with chronic illness. The drawings were reminders of everything there was that can be enjoyed in life; favorite games and toys, family, activities such as sports, TV, reading, and favorite foods. "…we are more than our suffering."

 This is the key takeaway from this article. Whatever the "more" is in our life that is separate from the suffering, we can have gratitude for that. Is it possible to have gratitude for the suffering also? It would not seem "normal" to have gratitude for suffering. However, one woman, Christina Tidwell, has gratitude for what her chronic illness has taught her. Her story is common for so many that have chronic illnesses. After years of suffering, she decided to change her story. 

"After years of confusion and suffering, I was finally able to take control of my life by becoming my own advocate, being mindful of what food I put into my body, and learning my own disease triggers and how to reduce flare-ups. I focused on decreasing stress, incorporating mindful movement and exercise back into my life, and gathering a supportive healthcare team." She has a Health and Nutrition Coaching practice called Live Well, is public about her chronic illness, as well as her gratitude for what it has taught her. In one of her blogs "On Gratitude for Illness" she writes: 

"What if today, instead of diagnosing, monitoring, analyzing, treating, and trying to fix your chronic illness, you took a moment to step back, do nothing and simply be thankful for its place in your life. Yes, thankful for the thing that causes you pain, fatigue, confusion, loss of control and at times suffering. If you're all "Yeah whatever lady, I didn't ask for this, you don't know what it's like," hear me out.

 Illness is our body telling us that something is out of balance. It's our body trying to get our attention so we can work towards fixing the imbalance. Having an illness in any form is not something anyone asks for, but if we can view illness as an opportunity to slow down, quiet down, and listen to what is going on internally it can be used as a great tool for healing and personal growth." 

 "Illness offers us a precious opportunity to investigate our lives without judgment, diagnose the root cause of what might be contributing to an illness, realign ourselves spiritually, and do what we can to make our bodies ripe for miracles." - Lissa Rankin, MD


Alternatives to traditional medicine have been increasing for years, yet respect for traditional methods also exists. A key takeaway from Christina Tidwell's story and work is the inspiration of gratitude that motivated her to make changes in her life after "years of confusion and suffering", and that changes can be made now if needed without having years of suffering. It does not mean that the disease may go away, but the attitude of gratitude and the idea of listening to what the body is saying is important wisdom. And this can be inspiring for those who are suffering, their caregivers and loved ones, and those who learn about their stories.

From Chapter 20 - Serious Illness

Brown, David Lawrence. Inspiration and Gratitude . David Lawrence Brown. Kindle Edition.

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