10 Steps Toward Gratitude During Difficult Times

It’s easy to feel grateful when life is going well, and certainly it’s desirable to acknowledge life at its best with appropriate gratitude. What’s not easy is finding gratitude when life hard. Is it even realistic to try? Yes. Discovering gratitude during difficult times can be a giant step toward peace.

Couple hugging


Acceptance doesn’t mean that you like the situation. It means that you accept what is true at this time. Acceptance can give us hope even when circumstances don’t change.

Woman smiling at a cafe


Changing our attitude from “poor me” to “everyone has challenges and this is mine for now” makes a big difference. I’m not suggesting that we can’t have a time of self-pity, however wallowing in self-pity too long keeps us stuck in negativity.

Seniors at the beach

Find the silver lining

For elders who often face physical and cognitive disorders, it can be hard to see anything good about life. They have pain. They have memory loss. Their friends are ill or dying. Yet, I’ve known many who do find gratitude, and when they find gratitude life seems better even if circumstances don’t change or even deteriorate.

Senior and daughter gardening


Caregivers help a person whom they love go through difficult physical and mental changes. They also must cope with their own sense of being torn between love for the other person and exhaustion from caregiving. Caregivers not only give up time for themselves, they often give up careers, friends and hobbies. Yet, as with elders, caregivers can find things to be grateful for.

Hiking up a staircase

View life as a journey

Caregivers and loved ones who need care can, if nothing else, grab on to the fact that this journey is teaching them more about life. People with diseases can learn to live in the moment so that they can enjoy what life they have left. Caregivers can recognize that they are developing new character and strength by accompanying someone on his or her last journey.

Woman writing a list in a notebook.

Make lists

Writing out a gratitude list can help caregivers cope. Even if, on the first try, the result is “zero,” write down “zero” or “nothing.” The next day, you are likely to realize that you were able to eat breakfast. You had food. Write that down. Gradually your list will grow until one day you can write down “I’m grateful I can be there for my loved one even though it’s hard.” With practice, more will come.

Senior mother and daughter hugging

The takeaway

Don’t expect too much from yourself as you write your first gratitude list. As mentioned, start with nothing if you must, but write it down. Step by step you may find that you are grateful for the journey you are on because you appreciate each breath you take, you are able to help your loved one, and that you are becoming a stronger person. Increased serenity can be your reward.

Carol Bradley Bursack
Meet Our Writer
Carol Bradley Bursack

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. This experience provided her with her foundation upon which she built her reputation as a columnist, author, blogger, and consultant. Carol is as passionate about supporting caregivers work through the diverse challenges in their often confusing role as she is about preserving the dignity of the person needing care. Find out much more about Carol at mindingourelders.com.