Shealing's Story - Gratitude Will Open the Heart

"...when this happened, I ended up getting a flashback of my childhood, to the time when my mother died when I was 12 years old..."

Illustration of a smiling red heart

Shealing: I'll start with where I was when I started to look for gratitude. I am married and I have two kids but in 2019, I felt like I became a single mom, with three kids, because my husband got diagnosed with a disability. He basically has spinal cord damage on the back and as a result of this damage, he was losing connection to his body.

So he was losing his ability to walk to run, he couldn't feel his hands, he was in a lot of pain. It got really scary at the end because we were worried that he would not be able to walk anymore because walking was not something automatic. It was something he had to think about every time. He had to tell his right leg to move forward.

It was a very trying time in our lives. And I remember that it took six months of testing before we even figured out what was wrong. So when I finally found out, I felt like my whole world had fallen apart because what they said was, "Surgery will stop the deterioration. But, will he get better? We cannot promise you. He may just stay where he's at right now. And that will be how he lives. Or he may recover, he may get stuff back."

So we're like, "Oh my gosh!" And, I knew that this wasn't something that's going to fix itself in a week or month. This is something that we're gonna have to deal with for a couple of years, this is gonna be years. And I'm like, how am I going to do this? How am I going to do this? How am I going to be there for my husband, be there for my kids find strength every day to do this?

So when this happened, I ended up getting a flashback of my childhood, to the time when my mother died when I was 12 years old. And before she died, there were a couple of things that happened. One of them was, we were in an abusive home. My father was an abusive man.

And by the time I was nine years old, I had already been to two shelters with my mother. So by the third time, she was like, "Your father's not changing. We have to leave for our own safety. We have to get out of this house and away from your father."

But because of his violent nature, and because as a woman working from home, there are all these things working against you, my mom said, "We have to do this in silence. I'm going to be working overtime. I'm going to be seeing lawyers. I'm telling you this so that you can support me and I need you to cover for me. I need you to wash your sister and brother. I need you to pick them up from school. I need you to make dinner for them. While I go out and do this."

So I did. I did. I did all these things. And then she got sick. She got diagnosed with breast cancer and then passed away. And we never left. We never left. We didn't get to. And then I had to deal with my father for four years. She died when I was 12 and I put up with his stuff until I was 16. And then at 16 years old, I left home because I'd had enough.

So when I got the news about my husband, I remembered my mom. I finally understood why she got sick. She took on too much. She was trying to do all of this. She was trying to work. She was trying to take care of the family. She was trying to save us. She was doing all of this. But she didn't take care of herself. She put everything, into her family into everyone around her. She didn't put anything into herself.

And I understand now, that's why she got sick. She took on too much. And her body gave up like, there's only so much one person can handle, right? And so I remembered that, and what came to me was, if I'm going to make it through this with my husband and my kids, if I don't want to end up like my mother, I have to do things differently. I must take care of myself first if I'm going to do this.

So I was meditating at the time, and in my meditation practice, I asked for guidance. I asked, "What can I do to help me? While I go through this with my husband, with my children? How do I stay strong? How do I get the strength? How do I do this?" And, the Universe said - Gratitude.

And at first, I was like, "What? Gratitude? No. Are you mocking me, Universe? My whole world is falling apart. And you're telling me to do gratitude." And I initially said, "No, thanks." But the thing is, I love how the universe is persistent. And it kept showing me gratitude.

It was showing up in my books, it was showing up in my conversations, it was showing up when I read my social media posts, it was just gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So finally, I thought, okay, I will give gratitude a try. So I went looking for something, and that's when I found the Gratitude app. And then I started doing the gratitude.

But, I took it one step further. Because in the beginning, when you start something new, like taking take care of my husband, for the first few months, I was okay, because I knew what was happening, I expected it. But when you have to do something for a long period of time, it wears on you.

And I found that once I hit about the three, four months mark of his recovery journey, I felt the pressure. I felt like the negativity started coming in, the doubts started coming in, like, is he ever going to get better? How long do I have to live like this? It's been three months, it's been four months, it's been six months.

And so on those days, I actually took gratitude a step further. I would actually sit with gratitude until I felt something shift in my heart. What I learned during that time was there's gratitude up here (pointing to her head). You can say I'm grateful for my home, for example, right? But do you really mean it? And how do you get to here (pointing to her heart) so that you can feel it?

So I developed a couple of techniques, and I call them 5 Mantras. And basically, these mantras help you shift. And they're all gratitude-based mantras. So for instance, one of them is '8 to go Deep'. And that is if you really want to be grateful, pick something and find at least 8 things to be grateful for about that one thing. And what I found is, the magic number is five.

The first four that you do, for instance: a home. I'm grateful for my home because it provides shelter because it provides this and it provides this and it provides this. But I find that once you get to the fifth entry, you find yourself going, what else am I grateful about this one thing. And the last three of your entries are the magic entries because they force you to go deep. It's easy to find a bunch of things, but when you really need to find more, that's when you can feel gratitude.

So that was one of them. The other one that I would tell myself is the other one that I created - 'Just Like Me'. And this one is to remind you that you're not alone. Sometimes we get so stuck in our pain, we feel like the universe is punishing us. We feel like no one else knows my pain, I'm all alone and you want to connect.

And if you just remember the mantra, Just Like Me, then you'll remember that you're not alone, that whatever you're going through, there is somebody out there who is experiencing something very similar to you, or maybe the exact same thing. I'm not the only one who's lost a mother, tons of people have been diagnosed with cancer, lots of people have disabilities.

So I've learned to rely on these. And I've used these for the last two years to help me get through this time with my husband. But the beautiful, beautiful thing about gratitude? As a result of all the trauma that I experienced in childhood, my mom, my dad, the abuse, the broken family, I've been living with bitterness and resentment for so long in my life.

And the thing is, I've done therapy, I've done the self-help books. I've really tried to work on my past and release and let everything go. But the one thing that's always stuck in this bitterness. Why did this happen? Why is the world so mean to me? How come I lost so much?

I've never been able to kind of let go and release and they've always haunted me. They've always been following me all these years. And after doing gratitude for two years, consistently, what I've noticed is this bitterness is gone now. I just woke up one day, and I'm like, I don't have that thing in my chest anymore. I don't feel like life is unfair. I don't.

I'm okay with everything that happened to me when I was 16. To finally be able to say that...wow, I didn't know gratitude can heal. That's when I made the decision that gratitude needs to be shared. We need to tell we need to educate people on this tool. So many people are paying therapists, psychiatrists, taking these drugs, and I know the answer is right here, in gratitude.

You just need to learn how to use it, too. That's my mission. My mission is to teach others how to use gratitude. And to remind them of the power of gratitude through my story. Gratitude will give you strength when you're going through a challenging time. But gratitude will also heal. And those are my two messages. So hence, I made my own gratitude course (see website) So, that is my gratitude journey.

Aarushi: Firstly, I am grateful that I could listen to your story. And there were a lot of things, how did you find the strength in yourself to keep going on and just keep pushing yourself when it was hard to feel grateful?

Shealing: I have to credit my meditation practice. My three pillars are meditation, gratitude, and affirmations. I've created a self-care practice for myself. Every day, I get up early, and I do these three things. I fill my cup every day. I've learned to do that. For the longest time, I never understood why my mother had to pass away. At 12 years old, your understanding of the world is limited. I thought it was my fault that she died. I didn't understand the disease. I didn't understand all that kind of stuff.

I just knew that she was supposed to do something. And then she got sick and died. And then there's like, "Oh, my God, she left this big mess."

When I finally understood what happened, the energies and the circumstances made me realize that self-care was a very important factor. Self-care is something that everybody needs to do. It doesn't matter if you're trying to heal yourself from trauma or not because we all have stress, we all have challenges. And it's not fair to say your stress is worse than mine, it doesn't matter. It's all relative, right?

But in order to get through life in a healthy way, you need to have self-care. And so I credit my self-care practice to this. At the time, I had meditation, and with meditation, you develop this skill of awareness. I've been meditating long enough that I was connected to my intuition. So I'm not alone. When I didn't know what to do, I went in, and I asked.

Aarushi: And at the beginning, you said that the universe told you that gratitude is the answer, what you should be involving in your life. How did you know that? Before the signs, when it was popping up in social media, how did you know that the universe is telling you this?

Shealing: It was a feeling, it was in meditation again. It's not concrete, when you are dealing with your intuition, it's an energy thing. It's an energy thing. I was able to hear my intuition because I've been practicing my intuition. In my meditation practice, I have different songs. I have songs for settling, I have songs to just try and get in stillness. And then at the end of my meditation, I leave a section for asking questions.

I will start the song, and I'll be open to receiving. Or if I have a question, I will ask the question inside the meditation, and then I just sit there and wait. Sometimes I get a sign or a symbol inside the meditation. Sometimes the answer comes later on in the day, or it comes the next day. It wasn't like, do gratitude right away. It was just the thought that there's gratitude. And then gratitude pops up again. And I'd think, is this the universe trying to talk to me? Are you trying to tell me something?

And then it was going back in meditation and saying, "I think you're trying to tell me gratitude. Give me some signs." So my site is a blue unicorn. This is how I communicate with the universe. If I'm looking for a very specific answer to a question, I will ask it, and I will say, "Show me my blue unicorn." And then I'll know for sure. So that's kind of how I have conversations with the universe.

Aarushi: Yeah. Tell me about this blue unicorn, you said that it's your symbol.

Shealing: That is something that I learned in one of my self-help books. It told me about ways to talk to the universe, ways to get confirmations. And one of them is to pick a symbol, something that really resonates with you, for some people might be an owl, or it might be a buffalo. Or it could be the numbers, I know one person who says that every time she sees 1111, she thinks there's something the universe is trying to tell me something.

So I needed to create a sign with the universe, to pick something that's not every day, like a stoplight. I've always had a fascination with uniforms. And I've specifically picked the blue one because unicorns were getting really popular, and a blue unicorn is pretty rare. So when I see a blue unicorn, then I know it's for me. It sounds silly, but it works.

Aarushi: I'm excited to find my own symbol, it's pretty cool. So it started happening? Do you remember instances when it showed up for you?

Shealing: Yeah, actually, there is a really cool one. So one of the Chinese traditions is, every April, we have this day called the Day of the Dead. And as part of the tradition is you need to go to the graveyard, and you need to honor the dead. And what you do is you put out food for them.

So I remember taking my daughter to this ritual ceremony, we do it for my mother. I remember introducing my daughter to my mom. I said, "Mummy, this is my daughter!" And then my daughter asked me, "How do you know that she really hears you?" And I said, well, we can ask for a sign. So together with my daughter, I said, "Mommy, we need confirmation that you heard us. So show me the unicorn, show us the unicorn. So we know that you've heard us."

This was in April. My daughter's birthday is in March. So after going to the cemetery, my sister, my brother and I, all went to eat lunch. And because my daughter's birthday was like a month ago, my sister had a present for her. When she opened that present, it was a blue unicorn! My daughter exclaimed, "Oh, she heard us!"

This is the amazing thing and as a result of all this, I've been really healing. I've been healing my past, I've been healing so many things. And as I heal, there's this power growing in me. I feel very strong. I feel very confident. And I'm at a place now where I'm like, I'm here to serve.

I'm here to show others how to find their light again. And I feel that's my calling. Now that I've cleared everything, now that everything is whole, I feel, now it's time to give. It's time to serve. I'm still trying to figure out how to show up in that way. I'm still playing with it. I've started the two courses. And let's see where it goes.

If you'd like to share your story too, send an email to stories@gratefulness.me, and we'll schedule a call.

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