Gratitude in Difficult Times

I recently found this passage about gratitude among Dana Jennings’s reflections in the New York Times on his cancer journey:

When you have cancer, when you’re being cut open and radiated and who knows what else, it can take a great effort to be thankful for the gift of the one life that we have been blessed with. Believe me, I know.

And sometimes, in the amnesia of sickness, we forget to be grateful. But if we let our cancers consume our spirits in addition to our bodies, then we risk forgetting who we truly are, of contracting a kind of Alzheimer’s of the soul.

Gratitude is an antidote to the dark voice of illness that whispers to us, that insists that all we have become is our disease. Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude. I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor.

Whatever today has brought you, consider drawing a mandala of gratitude. Start with being thankful for your hands and the ability make marks. Remember, drawing is simply mark-making! Use color freely and expressively, seeing where it leads you.

Gratitude is gratitude, whether it’s for the largest, grandest thing you can muster up or for the seemingly most insignificant thing imaginable. Create your mandala and see what words it presents to you.


Today, I have gratitude for:

  • My hands
  • Vibrant colors
  • Nighttime stars
  • Courage
  • Blessings
  • Blurred lines
  • Softness
  • Insights, great and small
  • Worthiness
  • Boundaries
  • Lessons learned
  • Falling in love three times a day

What are you grateful for? Share your thoughts below.


  1. JeaneePaintsLive on August 30, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I enjoy being grateful for every improvement that our healing brings as we face this very difficult and painful disease. I like to show my thankfulness for these improvements in my art and writing. It is a fun way to feel better every day!

  2. Rev.Ivie on September 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Each breath I take and for every sunrise and sunset my heart is filled with gratitude. Living a life with cancer has heightened my level of gratefulness. I see with different eyes, hear with different ears, touch with more tenderness, love more deeply and live more freely than ever. Healing Icons has broadened my scope of my inner being and has helped me express myself with art and writing. I have used my gift of writing to help me and others find healing in writing, but had never thought of adding visuals to writing. I am most grateful for Healing Icons and the expression of art. I am more than a survivor I am a conqueror!
    Rev. Ivie Dennis

  3. Emily Walsh on November 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Hi there Heidi, I was actually just checking out a few of your posts and wanted to thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and experiences. I had a quick question about your blog. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance, thanks!


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