The Subtle Art of Turning Grief into Gratitude

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“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” – C.S. Lewis

Bad things happen to good and bad people alike. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, Indonesian or European, religious or not religious. The world is never fair, the world is just is…

Sufferings happened to the best and the worst of us. We lose things all the time: our time, money, loved ones and possessions.

So if bad days will come, and you know there’s nothing you can do to change it, you might as well prepare for it. The Ancient Stoics have recommended few ways we can steel our heart against grief. Here’s some that I feel is the most helpful:

On top of negative visualization, Seneca recommended us to do retrospective negative visualization. In negative visualization we imagine losing something we currently possess to make us appreciate its value and prepare our heart just in case we really lose it. 

In retrospective negative visualization, we imagine never having had something that we have lost. By doing such visualization, we can replace the feelings of regret at having lost something with feelings of thanks for once having it

The Stoics, who are probably the most rational ancient people who ever walked this earth concluded that reason is the best weapon against grief. Grieving doesn’t change anything so you might as well channel those time and energy into something productive. 

Lastly, Epictetus warned us against catching the “Grief Bug” from another person. Emotions are infectious and spending time with a grieving person will usually leads you to feel grief as well. Thus, the solution is to show signs of grief without allowing ourselves to experience it. Express sympathy, shed some tears if you need; but never let grief sets in your heart.

I hope that you find this article useful and if you wanted to delve deeper into this topic, do read the book “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” By William B. Irvine that greatly inspires this article. You can get it here or anywhere else you get your E-book.

Lastly, if you wanted to get my next article earlier, leave your email on the subscribe box below. By subscribing to this blog, you will get my latest Ebook- Threesome (It’s still in Indonesian) and one bonus article every month.


Magnus lives in Semarang, Indonesia. He is currently managing the family's business together with his dad and his elder brother. Magnus enjoys reading and recently he started writing his personal reflections.

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