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I’ve been thinking and thinking about this. This time of year everyone is making their thankful lists. Generally at the top of the list is “Family and Friends.” They are always at the top of mine. Except this year, a piece of my family, a piece of me, is not with us. I will never, ever be able to express how thankful I am that Graysen came into my life. There is nothing I am more grateful for.

It is just very hard to balance the thankfulness for the love I have for this little warrior and the fact that she is not here.

I’m just going to say it …it’s hard to be thankful this year. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just saying that it could be so easy to give in, to embrace my pain and my rage, to wallow in jealousy and negativity.

Some days it feels like these ugly emotions are like drugs. They provide an escape from my journey to stay positive, hopeful, loving, and kind. They are an easy escape from reality because when one is deep in these feelings, the outside world ceases to exist. It’s an odd realization that my ongoing internal pain and grief hurts less than my struggles in the real world. My internal thoughts are familiar although painful. The outside world is the unpredictable, sobering, and therefore fear inducing.

The negative emotions are free, they take no effort to bring on, and they have no expectations. They also don’t know when its time to leave.

To rid myself of them, I am forced to look at them honestly, take them head on, and then use every fiber of my being to convince myself that there is an alternative. That there is a future full of positive emotion and experience.

Positive emotions are earned. The spoils from my battle with ugly emotions include happiness, contentment, and peacefulness.

I just have to work for it, if I want it. It’s not going to come easily, and it will involve an epic battle to fend off negativity.

Trust me, I WANT to work for it. I have had moments, even entire days full of positive emotion and experience. When this happens, I want to stop time and bathe in the feelings and cling to them and stockpile them away as ammunition against darker times.  This is truly a war I’m waging against myself. I want both sides to emerge victorious.

Last year we were happily preparing for our first family Thanksgiving and Graysen’s baptism. I was so honored to have so many family and friends in town for that beautiful week of celebration. Brock and I relished every single day with our Little Warrior, and these days were no different. Graysen was placed in the arms of pretty much every guest at our party for her. As each loved one had their turn, we truly felt the love of every person in that room spreading out to her, giving her strength, and teaching her what love feels like.

This year I’m fighting to remind myself what that kind of love feels like. The strength that that feeling can bring to a family. I’ve dug in and those of you who know me know that once that happens, I am unwavering in my resolve. We have been lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who are showering us with that kind of love. Every kind word, hug, look, and smile in our direction gives us that much more desire to fight.

I wish everyone peace, love, and kindness this Thanksgiving. I am thankful. Thankful that I am able to offer kind wishes to others, that I have the strength to honor the efforts of myself, Brock, and our family and friends. I am thankful that I continue to want to fight, to live a meaningful life, and support those around me.  I am thankful for those who model strength and resilience. Who continue to  mentor and counsel my family. We have all been doing such hard work and the holidays are exhausting when such work is required.

Remember that many more people than you think are putting on a brave face and may look peaceful, but are battling just like I am. Smiles, kind gestures, and compassion are the greatest gifts for both the giver and the receiver.

I just can’t say it enough …I am thankful for Graysen’s love. I feel her sending it to me everyday. The warmth starts deep inside my heart and extends out to every part of my being. She protects me with a suit of armor against the cold reality.

I am a warrior.