Dear Carolyn: You advised a reader recently that it’s okay for us not to have gratitude at a bad time and I want to respectfully disagree. Did you read “The Real Miami” by Udonis Haslem? I get that we should lighten up on ourselves in every way possible and I completely agree with that. I get that gratitude shouldn’t be just another obligation we’re expected to meet. However, I truly believe that if we see just how awful things are for others, we cannot help but feel gratitude for our own circumstances.

And, once our eyes are opened, doesn’t it alleviate just a wee bit of the stress? I’m a single grandmother with a full-time essential job, and a commute, with two grandchildren living with me for whom I also had to be a schoolteacher. I could have let that get to me. And sometimes I did — but OMG. They had food to eat. And so did I. They had a safe home. And so did I. We lived in a safe neighborhood. I could pay the mortgage. I was beyond stressed out, just like everyone else I know. But yes, I had gratitude to spare.

— Grateful

Grateful: Excellent piece, thank you.

Advising one reader to let herself off the gratitude-obligation hook, when it clearly wasn't working for her, is not the same thing as a vote against big-G Gratitude.

If I'm going to cast a “nay” vote here, then it's against taking your “I” and extracting a “we” from it:

“However, I truly believe that if we see just how awful things are for others, we cannot help but feel gratitude for our own circumstances”: That this works for you reflects well on your character, as does your commitment to holding so many things together under enormous stress. But please don't judge those who aren't there at any given time.

Re: Gratitude: My husband and I had a great talk this morning about how we were doing so well, we had so much to be thankful for, that we were able to buckle down and see it through. And then two hours later we found out one of our dearest friends is dead. Gratitude feels hollow and cruel, like we built ourselves up to be crushed. Now what?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I am so sorry about your friend.

I don't think you need to change anything about what you're doing emotionally, necessarily, except to step back a bit and allow yourself some grace.

You and your husband turned to gratitude this morning because it was available to you. That was not only appropriate, but, I think, profound.

With this news, what buckling down entails has changed for you, awfully — but the underlying task of doing what is necessary and available to you has not changed. Now, gratitude is not available. What you have instead is grief, and probably anger, and frustration. You would have felt these things just as acutely if you and your husband had skipped the gratitude talk today. One didn't bring the other — the other just shoved its way to the front.

So, rage at the circumstances, but not at yourselves, please, or each other — or at gratitude, which will be there for you when you’re ready for it again.