My Life, the Greatest Gift of All


BY: Kathryn Harrison Brown, MA, LPC

​Grieving the death of a loved one may dampen the normal joy of the upcoming holidays, but many people want to continue with their usual traditions because they still bring comfort and enjoyment. Thoughts may turn to special gifts for loved ones. Much time and energy is spent choosing the gift, shopping, wrapping and finally, giving the present. While this is rewarding, consider the best gift ever given…the gift of your life.

Parents bring children into the world with hopes and dreams for them as they watch them grow into the adults they will eventually become. Hopefully the parent-child relationship has been healthy, loving and respectful throughout the years. That is the ideal but, unfortunately, not always the reality. However, as long as there is life, there is the potential for forgiveness and reconciliation. This is especially important to remember.

If a person has a terminal illness, there may still be opportunities for closing old wounds and finding reconciliation. Miscommunication is often the source of parent-child conflicts and, if there is a willingness to work through the problems, resolution is still possible. If there has been a history of abuse or abandonment this can be harder to do.  For some adult children, it may be necessary to work through these lasting effects with a professional counselor. Or there may be a need to acknowledge the loss of a relationship that never was as well as to grieve over the actual death.

We do not get to choose our parents, but, as adults, we can choose how we think and react to them: Do we allow negative situations to color our perception of the world and leave scars for life? Or do we challenge our self-destructive thinking and make efforts to succeed, despite our history?

Sadly, not all role models are positive but even those that are not can be powerfully effective in changing how someone reacts to their parents or children. Treating someone with respect and dignity, and being willing to forgive can help to reduce guilt and regret should that loved one die.
If the relationship has been good and loving, it is easier to be grateful for those who provided life and to reciprocate the love that was given. If the relationship has been difficult and damaging, there is still the capacity to learn and grow from life circumstances, and to recognize that perhaps the person did the best she/he could do, based on their own experience.

Since there is the potential for change in each of us, there not only can be gratitude for those who provided life but also for the lessons learned from their example. Who will you treasure this holiday season? What gifts did they provide you? What legacy did they leave you? What gifts will you pass on?

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