Why I’m Still Grateful When Life Sucks

Posted by on November 20, 2013 in True Self | 5 comments

TGThanksgiving can be a tricky holiday for those of us who are going through tough times. It’s hard to muster up feelings of appreciation when there doesn’t seem much to be grateful for.

My dad died in May, and a few weeks later my beloved cat Izzy was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease.  We lost his brother Ollie to cancer the year before.  I was devastated.  How much back-to-back loss can one woman take?  And yet, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Ollie_9661Growing up I had to fend for myself most of the time.  This coping strategy got me through a challenging graduate program at Princeton and some pretty gnarly jobs over the years, but it also began to take its toll on my social life.  Because I thought I had to do everything myself, I became an island.

After my cat Ollie passed away in 2012, I quit a job I’d never liked and sold my house to simplify my life. When my dad died this summer, I walled myself off from the world. I was heartbroken and lost.  I couldn’t let people see me this fragile.  I was embarrassed. I thought I had to go it alone until I got my shit back together. That’s what strong people do, right?

meanddaddyI didn’t get to disappear for long, though, because shortly after losing my father my cat Izzy became very sick. I had to start administering subcutaneous fluids to keep him alive.  This, my friends, is a two-person job—one to hold him down while the other brave soul inserts the needle—and I am a single woman.  Izzy’s needs forced me to ask for help, something I’d hardly ever done in my life.  I was used to giving, not taking. I felt very uncomfortable.  In fact, I had anxiety attacks about it.  But I had no choice.  I would do anything for my boy.

At first I hesitatingly called close friends to assist me. I didn’t want to become a burden, so I started contacting other friends I hadn’t seen for a while too. Then I reached out to acquaintances for aid. Soon I found myself putting up a post on Facebook asking friends of friends if they could drop by my house. Although I felt exposed and vulnerable, people were kind and understanding.  I was floored by their generosity.

IMG_1276I learned a big lesson. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it’s a sign of strength. I now accept where I am in life, honor my limits, and recognize when I need a helping hand.  I don’t try to do everything myself anymore.  And my cat Izzy loves all the extra attention. Every cloud has a silver lining, if you choose to see it.

After I lost Ollie, and then my father, it really sunk in: Life is precious. If I’m ever going to follow my dreams, the time to do it is now.  As a friend puts it, “Make the ‘Fuck Yes’ decisions. Life is too short for anything else.”

So I’m thankful for the wake up call.  Every day brings another opportunity to love, learn, and grow. Izzy’s sweet presence reminds me that even my difficulties are gifts. I’m grateful for the valleys as well as the peaks, because together they make up the landscape of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope you have a peaceful and loving Thanksgiving.



  1. Great blog, Michelle! Thanks for sharing this at this time of need. I especially love the part about being grateful for the valleys and the peaks, “because together they make up the landscape of my life.” So true and so profoundly put.

    • Thank you Bill. I’m glad it spoke to you. I felt strongly that I needed to put this out there this Thanksgiving. Have a beautiful holiday.

  2. As with the last blog, most of the comments were made on Facebook. For the reader who didn’t see them there, I’ve included them here for your interest.

    Stuart Monley Reaching out is what it should be all about

    Louise Just Sometimes it does take a village.

    Ann Sullivan Beautiful, Michelle.

    Denise Sunseri van Breen Michelle, that’s what a loving, supportive community does, help each other.

    Karin McClay And on the flip side, there are those of us who never gave of themselves to ‘strangers’. Understand that sometimes the pain is in our lives is there to help others.

    Michelle Millis Chappel Ann I’m so glad you read this, I wrote it for people like us.

    Ann Sullivan I shared this post on my wall, too. It has a message most should be able to relate to.

    Feed Mysheep Good reading material and one more reason to be thankful. I lost my only daughter and son-in-law in May 2012, and my nephew in August 2012. It is difficult sometimes to bounce back, so I have to pick myself up by the boot straps and give myself a hard lesson on being thankful for the breath of life itself!! Thanks Michelle for writing the article.

    Michelle Millis Chappel Thank you Feed Mysheep, for reading it. I am so sorry for your loss, and hope it helped a little. Big hug to you.

    Michelle Millis Chappel Thank you for sharing it Ann Sullivan –I’d really like to get this one out there as I think it will help.

    Feed Mysheep Thanks!

    Ginger Van Wagoner Thanksgiving was the last holiday we spent with Denny…2 days later, he was gone. Makes the holiday hard, but we will have friends and family together.

    Lorinda Farfan Michelle! I loved this blog! It really touched me to hear your story and also to reflect on how this is occurring in my life too, in many lives.

    Subhra Gupta Tough time does not last, it is only a test , thank God for it.

    Michelle Millis Chappel Yes, I agree. It passes, like the change of seasons. After Winter there is always Spring.

  3. Powerful reminder and beautiful insights–about what’s really important and what is not. I love the picture of Izzy smiling at the end.

  4. Thank you Diane. Me too–I love seeing Izzy smile every day.

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