‘I Am Grateful For My Grief’

Thanksgiving carries new meaning for me in the wake of unspeakable loss.

Gillian Doherty is a member of Washington-Liberty’s senior class. She plans to study computer science in college. The following is drawn from a speech she gave at a school assembly, after the recent deaths of fellow W-L senior Braylon Mead and Yorktown alum Alexander Gil.


W-L senior Gillian Doherty (Courtesy photo)

I want to dedicate this speech to Braylon and Alexander Gil, two wonderful people who will forever be in our hearts.

I used to think that gratitude was only for positive aspects of life. I was always grateful for things like my education, my opportunities, my friends and family, the resources I have access to, the food on my table and more. And not that I’m not still incredibly thankful for all of those things, but I have a very different idea of what gratitude is now.

It can be difficult to be thankful in times of grief. That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s taken me some time to realize that anything that I or anyone else is feeling is completely valid, whatever that may be. I’m not really sure how to be positive and think about how lucky I am amid all of this tragedy.

But I don’t have to think about that. There are other things to be grateful for right now. I am grateful for my grief. I am grateful for my sadness. I am grateful for my pain. I am grateful for my anger.

I am grateful for any emotion I am feeling right now, as I hope you all are, too.

These thoughts and feelings remind me that what I’ve lost is very important to me, or else I wouldn’t be feeling what I am right now.

A few days before Braylon passed away, my uncle also passed away from a heart attack. Naturally, these past couple weeks have been really challenging, with every day bringing new sadness. But as I allowed myself to feel more and more of my grief, I realized how much I appreciated the time I had with both people.

With my uncle, we shared many wonderful memories over holidays and vacations with our entire family together.

With Braylon, we shared many classes and projects, as well as random moments, like running into each other or doing the Oratorical Contest together.

A lot of us are experiencing immense sadness and pain, and it’s hard to find comfort and to feel some sort of happiness. But I hope as many of us continue processing our grief, we take a moment to be grateful for the time that we’ve had with the people we love.

I hope we can all be grateful for our shared pain, as a reminder that not only did the people we’ve lost impact our lives for the better, but they also will always be with us through stories, tears, laughter, pain and memories. Those we’ve lost never truly leave us, and all we can do is stand with one another, support one another, and love one another.

Whether you knew Braylon and AG, or whether you didn’t, I hope you all take time to tell your family and friends that you love them. We all need to be grateful for both the people we’ve lost, and also the many people we still have left with us.

Every day we have with our loved ones is a gift that should be treasured.

Categories: Community