Gratitude and Grief

Gratitude and Grief

Gratitude and Grief
George Nichols III
Dec 16, 2021

My hometown, the place of my roots, where my feet have left, but my heart still resides, is in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I was in Bowling Green when the tornadoes descended. Like everyone, I hunkered down, unable to imagine the destruction that was ensuing. On Saturday morning, I saw with my own eyes the devastation and learned of the awful impact on my niece's neighborhood, where several of her neighbors lost their lives, including a child. Since then, I have been filled with immense gratitude. Gratitude that my niece was not harmed, that there was only minor damage to her property and that those I know and love survived.

However, my gratitude is a companion to grief. Grief over the loss of life and destruction of so many places engrained deep in childhood memories across the western part of the state. As I've explored these emotions over the past several days, I've learned that when gratitude accompanies grief, we have the resilience to overcome life's unexpected misfortunes. It is in the crossing of gratitude and grief where compassion lives.

Francis Well, a well-known author and psychotherapist, has said, "The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That's how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I'll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I'll become saccharine and won't develop much compassion for other people's suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible." 

As stories from the survivors continue to emerge, gratitude is pervasive. If you watch the interviews of people standing in front of their destroyed homes, you'll hear, "I'm lucky I'm still alive" or "Thank God, I was not home when the tree went through my house." 

The texts from my niece are the same, filled with gratitude even at not having power restored until all the missing people in her neighborhood were found. "I just wanted to let everyone know my power is restored. I can come back home, but I want to say, God knows what's best for us all! He knew "mentally" I couldn't come home every day riding past the area where people were still missing. The last little girl was found yesterday near the creek by my house. I don't always understand his ways, but I have to trust HIM!"

As Bowling Green and other communities contend with what they have lost over the days, weeks and months ahead, grief balanced with gratitude will sustain them and enable them to look ahead to the future. 

My intense feelings of gratitude extend to you this holiday season. I wish you a healthy, happy, and safe holiday with those you hold dear! Thank you for your continued support of The College, our mission, and our vision.

Here is a link to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund for those looking for a way to help those impacted by the tornadoes.