Can Parents in Pain be Thankful?

Thanksgiving Doesn't Have to be Horrible

photo cred. Joshua Earle

photo cred. Joshua Earle

Are you a parent in pain? Be honest. Do you feel thankful? On my darkest days, I didn’t.

Does the mention of the word thankful make you want to run and hide? When your heart’s been broken by your beloved son or daughter, the last thing you feel like doing is being thankful. The truth is, it feels like Thanksgiving Day will be horrible.

If they’re incarcerated, have AIDS, are slowly killing themselves with alcohol or drugs (or maybe an eating disorder), suffer with mental illness, threaten suicide repeatedly or self-injure continually but refuse help, you want the world to go away.

I felt that way when my daughter wasn’t doing well close to Thanksgiving.

But wait – there’s so much to be grateful for, even when you’re in pain. You may say, as  I once did, “Shut up and don’t talk to me. It’s just not happening. How can I? There’s nothing to be thankful for! ”

I know,  I know . . . it’s so easy to get stuckfocusing on the negative, especially when there’s a lot of it.

One thing that helped me get unstuck was making myself look for something to be thankful for every day. Sometimes I had to get down to the basics – I was able to go to work; my daughter was still alive. Developing this habit protected me from self-pity. It prevented me from falling deeper into depression.

One Thanksgiving, when my daughter was in bad shape, I struggled with deep907 sadness. But God directed my thought to Jesus and what he had done for sinful humanity. That included me. My heavenly Father pointed me to the cross, to what it represented for me as a Christ follower. Thoughts of his selfless sacrifice pulled me out of the pit I’d sunk into. The cross gradually moved me to gratitude. Maybe you need to focus somewhere outside yourself?

Today I’m grateful for the many blessings God has given.


A few big ones are my loving family, my daughter restored to us and in recovery, a supportive community, the Scriptures, God’s enduring presence and other encouraging books that provide comfort, wisdom, and guidance. I’m also grateful that my book, You are Not Alone, has been published and is available to encourage you.

A Bible verse that helps me be thankful is Colossians 2:7,

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives  be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

With the passing years my gratitude has grown and deepened. Today I’ve come to be thankful for the purpose I’ve found in my painful journey, like when I share my experiences with hurting parents like you.

I’m thankful that in the midst of brokenness and uncertainty God gave (and continues to give) His unspeakable peace.

I’m thankful that when I thought my daughter wouldn’t survive, God was with me – He never left.

I’m thankful that when everything was chaotic, out of control, and hopeless, He was in control. His light broke through.

Thank you, God. Thank you.

Heavenly Father, when times are hard help us choose to give thanks instead of grumbling, complaining or feeling sorry for ourselves. Help us get unstuck. There’s always something we can be thankful for. Make us willing to find it!


**Have you read my book yet? You can take a look at the first chapter here. Parents who’ve read it have said it was comforting and helpful. One mom wrote “it changed my life.” I hope you will order a copy for yourself. It’s available through our website, Amazon or where ever fine books are sold.

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