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    Cultivating Gratitude, Even After Loss


    I grew up in New England where glorious autumn colors and crisp clear days filled me with joy and gratitude for all the people and things in my life. It has always been my favorite time of year. Even now, many miles and years away from those early days of my childhood, the fall remains a special time of the year for me. Just the other morning, as I drove past the palm trees on Cesar Chavez Street on the way to my office, I couldn’t help but laugh and smile (palm trees in San Francisco often have that effect on me) and thought, how much I love this city I live in, the people I know, love and work with, and the work that I do.

    How lucky am I and how grateful I am for all that I have. This feeling of gratitude, a deep experience of joy and appreciation for my life, stayed with me and nurtured me across the arc of my day.

    There have been a few times in my life when I have lost the capacity for experiencing gratitude—the death of my late partner more than a decade ago was one of those times. Initially, grief disrupted my natural balance. Finding my sense of gratitude and the joy of being alive was essential to my recovery and healing from loss. In time, my recovery provided me with a sustaining sense of the strength of my own resiliency, and reaffirmed my belief in the interconnectedness of all things. It isn’t easy staying open to painful losses or challenging experiences. You can do it, but you have to choose it.

    This holiday season, remember to take time to reflect on and appreciate the good in your life. Gratitude opens us up to the best in ourselves and each other. If you feel you are sliding into a depression or suffering from a loss, you are not alone.

    If you live in the Bay Area and need to speak with someone immediately, call Suicide Prevention’s 24-hour crisis counseling phone line, 415-781-0500.

    If you are over the age of 60, call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour Friendship phone line, 415-752-3778. And, if you or a loved one are in crisis and need immediate attention, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

    For a referral and/or to make an appointment for counseling, call any of the following numbers:

    Institute on Aging provides short-term individual and group mental health services for people aged 60 plus, call 415-750-4111

    API Wellness Transgender Mental Health Services, 415-292-3400

    Lyon-Martin Health Services for women, lesbian and transgender people of all ages, call 415-565-7667,

    Gaylesta, LGBT mental health practitioners’ online referral service,

    Openhouse provides a variety of support groups that are LGBT senior specific, 415-296-8995

    Family Service Agency provides individual psychotherapy and counseling for all ages and caregiver support groups, 415-474-7310

    For referral and assistance in the East Bay:

    Pacific Center for Human Growth is the East Bay’s LGBTQ mental health service agency, 510-548-8283

    The Woman’s Therapy Center provides individual and group mental health services for all women, 510-524-8288,

    And lastly, a heartfelt thank you to you. It takes community to age well and the spirit, generosity, strength and wisdom of our community is a constant source of inspiration to me. May your holidays be filled with grace and love.

    Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, is co-founder of the non-profit organization Openhouse and was a leading member of the San Francisco LGBT Aging Policy Task Force.

    SF Suicide Prevention Hotline (415) 781-0500

    Institute on Aging Friendship Line  (415) 752-3778