Most of my 26-year marriage was a wonderful, light-filled time. My husband, Tony, was my best friend, my partner, confidant, and just about everything else. We worked together, played together, and created a life full of family, friends, and good times.

I felt grateful for him, grateful for us, and I looked forward to growing old together.

Six years ago, that all changed when Tony was diagnosed with a progressive, tobacco-related illness. There was no cure and only prescription opioids to manage the debilitating pain. Unable to cope, he began to openly abuse alcohol and other substances.

Tony was self-destructing in front of me, and I was powerless to stop him. Our communication broke down. We were unable to console and support one another as our anger, frustration, and desperation kept getting the better of us. I felt trapped.

Disappearing Into Darkness

The decision to separate was a relief.

I was worn down and emotionally exhausted from giving so much of myself to a worsening and hopeless situation. From bearing witness to a dying marriage. From watching my husband destroy himself. From trying to show up in other areas of my life and pretend I was okay and everything was under control. From working not to collapse under the weight of it all. From feeling the darkness that had descended would never end.

In those days, I didn’t feel grateful for much.

I was numb. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I grew tired of crying; I just wanted to withdraw and be invisible. But the people who loved me wouldn’t let me do that. It wasn’t easy to talk about all of this, to share the details, to let people into the ugliness of it all. But I’m so glad I did. Their unconditional support kept me going and flooded my heart with feelings of gratitude.

God and gratitude are different for me now. My grateful feelings have healed and opened me to the blessings of divine energy and have placed me in the flow of it.

They granted me grace upon grace, blessing me with understanding if I came up short or needed more than I was capable of giving back. They gave me space but never let me feel alone. They refused to let me disappear within myself.

I had never been in a position of not being able to return kindnesses or pay back generous acts with generosity of my own. I struggled at first to accept the love, understanding, and patience that were coming my way, but once I did, I began to understand the power of gratitude in a new way.

Opening Up to the Light

I started to feel the presence of God in everyone who helped me. Each phone call, visit, and hug was a blessing, a way to feel God in action. In those many moments of darkness, God was the light—present in the encouraging words, listening ears, and patient bearing of those who sat with me as I cried and grieved.

In the past, I blocked this light by not feeling deserving of it, not wanting to put anyone out, thinking it must be better to give than to get. God and gratitude are different for me now. My grateful feelings have healed and opened me to the blessings of divine energy and have placed me in the flow of it.

Gratitude was my constant companion during everything else that was to come.

Several months after our separation, Tony lost his battle with his illness. I grieved his death with a clean and grateful heart. I am thankful for his life—for our life together—and for the memories that will always be a part of me.

I am grateful for my dear ones who gave me the space to be vulnerable and knew the depth of my strength and resilience before I did. I am grateful for every chance to use my loss to be a compassionate force in the world.

If the darkness descends again, I know God is with me and within me. And for that, I am most grateful.

About the Author

Deanna M. Neill is a project specialist in the Communications Department at Unity World Headquarters. She lives a life of gratitude near Kansas City, Missouri.


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