Anniversary date

DSC_0029

On this 6th anniversary date of Alan’s passing, I thought I’d share my post from last year – 2015. My prayer is that others will be helped and encouraged as they journey through their own grief.

Dear Alan,

Tomorrow marks five years since I last saw you and got to speak with you. The morning I left for work you did not feel well, battling what we thought was the flu. I am so sorry we did not know better. We actually talked on the phone just minutes before you apparently departed this world saying we should go to the hospital to check you out when I got home from work.

It is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” of grief. What if I had left work earlier that day? What if you had gone to the doctor that morning? What if… However I have learned a lot of things during these last five years. I think you would be proud of me, Alan. I wanted to share some of my revelations in an open letter so others might see and be encouraged as they face their own sadness, fear, and grief in saying good-bye to a loved one.

I have learned that even though something hurts so much that you think you might not survive – you can. Those first few hours are still very much of a blur: the wonderful EMTs; the compassionate police, the neighbor who closed up the house, my friends who met me at the hospital and held me through the night when I cried. I remember just enough to still have nightmares and flashbacks at times. So I have stopped trying to relive those hours in order to figure everything out. It does not matter the exactness of my memories. It is enough to know that I did all I could for you and that friends stepped in and were there for me when it counted.

I have learned that while time does not heal all wounds, it does lessen the sharpness of the pain. The moments when I cannot breathe because the agony is too great have passed for the most part. Yet, the tears still flow – maybe more often than others think they should. But that is also something I have learned. No one else gets to tell you how to grieve. The way you mourn and face your sorrow and loss is your own. Be kind and offer grace to yourself as you learn how to live life a new way.

There are no formulas for getting through the death of a loved one. I remember a friend told me that it would take x amount of months to achieve wholeness again because we were married 26 years. I have long since passed that time limit. But I have learned that it is important to give yourself permission to handle grief your own way. As long as progress is being made on your grief journey, you are doing well. Just because someone else may have already moved on to dating and remarriage does not mean that you are failing a task. It simply means your journey is taking a different route.

I learned that I have strength. I also acknowledge that it does not come from within myself, but from God above. Calling and telling our sons of your death was probably the single worse task I have ever had to face. I had others with me at the time who offered to share the words in my place. But those were moments that we would all remember for a lifetime and they needed to come from me. So I did it. The next day it was incredibly difficult to look at pictures of caskets and choose one. Setting up your service was unbelievably hard since we had not once discussed what you would want. You were only 49 years old. Who thinks of those things at that age?

It was ridiculous the amount of time I spent in conversations and engaging in battle for my rights with your former employer to get what was rightfully mine from HR. But through all those conversations I learned that words matter. The way things are said make a difference. Kindness and compassion are missing from this world far too often. I have learned that if you can share these aspects with others, you must do so. You never truly know the path others are walking.

I have learned that having faith before your death, Alan, kept me from despair. While I still cried, was scared beyond comprehension, and required an incredible amount of help and guidance in those first few months, I knew that God was there for me, carrying me when I was too weak to continue on. He allowed me rest from exhaustion after nights of sleeplessness and comfort in the presence of darkness and continual nightmares.

Five years ago tomorrow marks a day that I have come to dread each year. It may be that way for the rest of my life. However, knowing ahead of time that it will be a hard day allows me to prepare for it. Writing an open letter this year has helped me process a little more. Taking the day off work tomorrow is my gift to myself. Sharing my journey with others not only helps me, but I pray provides a source of hope, help, and the beginning to healing that is needed in journeying through grief.

How do you close an open letter written to someone no longer here? I suppose by simply saying I love you still and miss you daily.

Until next time –

Karen

With the holidays approaching, Grief Letters makes the perfect gift for those walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Loneliness in the holidays

img_6918

With this week being Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips in dealing with the holidays while walking through grief. Facing every-day life without your loved one is difficult. Facing the holidays without your loved one can seem overwhelming. Loneliness and holidays tend to go hand-in-hand, especially during the early years of loss.

If you are facing your first holiday season on your own, it can help you to remember several things I have found to be true. The first is to know that anticipation is usually worse than realization. Anticipating the holiday may stir up extra feelings of loss, apprehension, and loneliness. You may find yourself dreading the holiday. Fear can be a very real emotion as you wonder how that particular day will feel and what you will do to fill the hours until you can go to bed and wake up in a new day.

Perhaps you have been invited to spend the day with friends. You want to go, but you may be unsure how to excuse yourself in the case that you need some time alone to process your feelings. Remember that your friends care about you and desire the best for you. While they may not completely understand your loss, they want to see you smile and be happy. Do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself and with them. If you feel like crying – then cry. If you feel like laughing – do so with gusto and without guilt. Your loved one would want you to experience joy again. If you find yourself needing time alone – simply state that fact and retreat to a quiet room for a while. Pretending your loneliness does not exist will only keep you from healing.

Loneliness in the holidays is not necessarily a bad thing. It is something you need to experience in order to grow and take a step forward toward healing. Be courageous, take a deep breath, and give yourself grace as you learn to maneuver through Thanksgiving Day. In doing so, you will find yourself better equipped to look toward the other upcoming holidays. Allow yourself to feel and fully experience those emotions that will roll over you this week. As you do, picture your loved one cheering you on and being proud of you for facing what may be a hard day.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. With the holidays just around the corner, this may be just the gift your friends and family need to help them. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Read the Road Signs

no-regrets

I recently attended an event where the car was parked in an unfamiliar area away from the action. While this normally would not be a problem, this particular evening one very important detail was skipped. I did not read the road signs. The road signs went unnoticed so that upon returning for the car, it couldn’t be found for quite a while. When the vehicle was finally occupied and headed toward the safety of home, I thought through the actions of the evening that caused the dilemma and had several revelations.

Upon initially parking, I was preoccupied and failed to remember the road signs near the car. I allowed unnecessary thoughts and conversations to take place to the point of distraction. While I didn’t realize it at the time, the enemy was setting me up for what he hoped to be catastrophe later in the evening. Instead of noticing where the parking lot was located, I blindly walked, following the crowd, to the event.

Which leads me to my second revelation. When leaving the event to find the car, I found that blindly following the crowd was not to my advantage. Often times when moving through grief, we see how others walk and where they are going and make the assumption that we are all going to the same location. That could not be further from the truth. While many face loss and grief, your journey is yours and is not the same as the people you watch and are inclined to follow. While they may be able to give direction and advice at times, their path is not necessarily your path.

Another lesson learned from failing to read the road signs is that when you are truly lost and have no clue as to where you are, recall what is familiar and go from there. What is it that worked for you in the past? Where have you found safety and comfort previously? Is it possible to back-up just a bit so that you can begin to retrace your steps and find something you recognize as a landmark in order to gain your bearings again? If so, take action and move in that direction. Be proactive in order to once again find your way.

The final revelation I will relate to you today is that lashing out at others will not help your situation. While you may be frustrated and perhaps even a bit frightened, try to remain kind and patient with yourself and with those around you. Getting upset will not help you find your way any faster. If you have failed to read the road signs, choose to problem solve and figure things out instead of allowing the enemy and the situation to get the better of you. Breathe a quiet prayer and ask for guidance and direction. You will be able to analyze and think clearer when you remain composed.

Just as the car was eventually located and my journey home begun because of persistence, you too can eventually find your way along your path. When you refuse to give in to defeat and hopelessness, you will gain confidence and realize that the lesson to read the road signs can apply to all of life. Pay attention to where you are and you will be able to look forward toward your destination with hope and excitement. Remembering to read the road signs will save you from frustration and wasted time and gain you confidence and joy as you walk your journey.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. With the holidays just around the corner, this may be just the gift your friends and family need to help them. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Don’t Go There

img_6918

In my early months of grief, I would find myself allowing my mind to wander to unhealthy places. For instance, I would have a few decent days and instead of rejoicing in those, I would be bracing myself, convinced that a hard, sad day was just around the corner. Part of this may have been dealing with unnecessary guilt. There are times during the early days of grief when you might feel badly for smiling or laughing, thinking it is disloyal to your loved one. While this is natural, it is not a place to park and stay. It is important to realize that you deserve to find some joy even in your difficult days.

There are other times when your imagination may take off and you allow your mind to rest on unpleasant thoughts and scary possibilities for your future. These are situations that are very unlikely to happen and are not worth your worry, time, or energy. Expecting the worst is a very unhealthy place to go. Don’t go there. Do not set yourself up for more hardship than you already face in journeying through grief.

Realize that when your mind roams off course and you may think, “What if this…… happens” you are robbing yourself of the actual day you have been given. I have found myself worrying about something happening to someone else I love, or wondering what the next year might look like. These are things that I cannot control. So why invest time worrying about them. Tell yourself, “Don’t go there.” Do not ruin the perfectly good day you have by fretting over something that is likely to never happen.

Worrying about things will not change your circumstances. It may change you. Worry can make you a hesitant person; someone who is afraid of trying new things. A person who spends their time scared of what might happen is a person who is unable to see what is right before them in the here and now. By living that way, you fail to receive the blessing that today holds for you and you lack the peace that can be yours.

Sure there will be challenges in the future. You have already faced difficult times in dealing with the loss of a loved one. However, look what you have accomplished! You got up this morning. You are able to continue living even in the midst of deep sorrow and pain. Each day you choose to live to the best of your ability is a day you tell yourself, “Don’t go there.” Do not allow yourself to sink into the pit of despair, fear, and unnecessary thoughts.

The Bible tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. (NIV) Let God take care of the things out of your control. Ask Him to keep your family safe and to continue to meet your needs. Seek Him when your imagination runs wild and you panic, thinking something bad is going to happen again. Don’t go there with your thoughts. Instead, allow Him to handle those things that scare you and steal your peace and joy.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

A Dark Place

IMG_3789_2

Walking through grief and loss can be a dark place. Whether your journey has just begun or you have been acquainted with loss and sorrow for a while now, there will be times when you find yourself back in a dark place due to circumstances in life. Perhaps someone says something that brings up a painful memory. Maybe you just wake up sad and lonely and the day is a real struggle for you. Whatever the cause for finding yourself in a dark place, try to remember a few things.

First, when you encounter darkness, try to keep in mind that life is still the same as it was in the light. The goodness you know to be true is just hidden for a moment. There is still a familiar pathway you can find to get your bearings and work your way out of a dark place. Have the courage to take one step forward and then another and then another. You will find that a dark place does not have to hold you captive for long. Instead, it can propel you forward and teach you as you journey through it.

That leads to the next reminder. A dark place will not last forever. There will be an end to your darkness, your sadness, your trial, and your pain. The Bible says: “There is a time for everything, a time to be born and a time to die, ……a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 (NIV) The hard, unpleasant season you may find yourself facing will not last forever. While it may hurt to be in a dark place, that very place can serve a powerful purpose in making you work harder at healing in order to move forward with life. Your journey can also give you empathy to share with others who will one day face similar dark days. What you learn from walking your own path can help others as they struggle to walk and find light again.

Darkness has its own sort of beauty. Have you ever toured a cave? Some of them are so deep and cavernous that no light can be found in them except that which man has placed in them. Yet, people pay money and plan vacations to tour such caves. Why? Because there is beauty and wonder found within them. Realizing that beneath the surface lies great beauty can be the same with your journey. As you learn to deal with and walk through your sadness and grief, it is possible to find and experience joy, beauty, and light again if you look hard enough. Use the light of others’ experiences and God’s Word to shine into your dark place when you are unable to provide your own source of brightness. No one needs to walk a dark place alone.

The next time you experience a dark place, do not lose hope. Instead, embrace the darkness – not in order to stay there – but in order to beat it. Being proactive in dealing with your pain and sadness will help you have the upper hand in difficult situations. Life will be less likely to catch you by surprise and you will be able to find real beauty and joy in life – no matter your circumstances. Tell yourself that the darkness will fade and light will return, then focus on seeing that light before you as you courageously and steadily move forward through your grief and dark places. Be proud and rejoice that you can move forward into light again from a dark place.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Share Your Story

GEDC0318

When you are journeying through grief, the last thing you may want to do is to share your story. There are days when you can barely manage to get out of bed and go about your daily tasks, much less think of baring your soul and being vulnerable to others with your very real and painful heartache. However, as you find yourself healing and gaining confidence and strength in your new way of life, you may see some opportunities to help others with their own grief journey.

When you share your story, you bless others by showing them there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They are encouraged to see that you are surviving great loss and pain, therefore there is a chance that they too will be able to do the same. Each time you share your story, you will also find that you heal a bit more. When you are courageous enough to tell others about your journey, you will propel yourself forward in your own healing. You will feel better about your life. Soon you will be able to look back and see how far you have truly come from those early days of loss and sorrow.

How wonderful to be able to see that you are not stuck in your grief, but that you are once again learning to live well and find joy. Life will not seem quite so overwhelming or impossible. The cloudy fog of early grief will lift and clarity will take its place. Let the vision of your recovery and growth propel you forward to share your story with those still working through the incredibly difficult days of early loss.

I look back and shake my head in wonderment at how I survived those first few weeks. I actually have very little memory of those early, grieving days. The only way I was surviving was on auto-pilot. God does that for you. He allows you to be numb enough to manage the tasks demanded of you in very difficult times. However, as that numbness begins to wear off, the pain and discouragement can set in with surprising strength and depth. It is in those times that people find themselves sinking in their grief. It is because of those times that you need to be willing to share your story as a sort of life-preserver to the drowning.

You can certainly make a difference! Take the time to truly think about being a catalyst to someone else’s healing. Begin to make notes of what it was that helped you along the way. What did you find encouraging when you were at your lowest point? What was said that didn’t help you at all? Is it possible then to share your story and impart hope and knowledge to people who are in great pain? Because you are a survivor and have a similar experience, you can be instrumental in walking through grief with someone else.

Consider how you can share your story to impact others and make a difference to those who so desperately need a lifeline of hope.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Being Blessed

1459664_10153808959988766_4161362331527740504_n

What does it mean to be blessed? When you hear this expression do you picture someone whose life is easy, full of fun and laughter? Perhaps you think of a life that has never faced hardship or sadness as you have. You cannot imagine how a blessed life can be filled with hurt and difficulties.

Unless you face some sort of challenges in life, you fail to realize just how much you appreciate the easier, happier times you have been given. Those people who go through life seemingly without any difficulties can easily misunderstand what being blessed means. I would like to present to you the possibility that you can certainly experience a blessed life even in the midst of sorrow, great pain, and grief.

Being blessed does not mean you will be kept from sadness. Being blessed is not a promise that tears will never be experienced and your heart will never ache. Without experiencing those things at times, it is impossible to truly appreciate the better part of life. But being blessed is even more than being able to understand that life has its ups and downs.

Being blessed means that you do not have to walk the rough patches of life alone. It means that no matter how rocky your road may seem, you have company beside you cheering you on and encouraging you to take another step….and then another….and then another. Being blessed is knowing that someone has your back no matter what comes your way.

When my husband passed away, I had good people surround me and hold me up when I couldn’t gather the strength to even stand by myself. One friend in particular promised to have my back and committed to walk this journey with me for as long as it lasted. Nearly six years later, she is still my sounding board and listens carefully, giving wise advice when needed.

Being blessed does not point to the absence of hardship and sadness. Instead it means that you do not have to face your life alone. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help when you feel your sadness carrying you away into a dark place. Accept the blessing of friendship and help. No one needs to walk this grief journey by themselves.

Remember that no matter the number people who are in your life, your best friend can truly be found in Jesus Christ. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends….” John 15:15 (NIV) He alone will be with you in the dark of night and can understand the depth of your pain.

Being blessed is knowing who your friends really are and recognizing that you never have to do life on your own.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Just Saying

IMG_3101

Just Saying

As I have fostered a new relationship over the last few months, I have discovered the value of just saying what is on your mind. This does not mean carelessly blurting out thoughts without using any kind of filter. However, just saying what is on your mind and in your heart is beneficial in letting another person get to know you and truly experience who you are.

Oftentimes when we journey through grief, the tendency can be to either sugar-coat how life is going for you, or deny – even to yourself – some of the hardships you are facing today instead of admitting there are some wounds that you have nursed and buried for far too long.

Speaking from experience, I can honestly say that the trauma of sudden loss can alter how you see the world. No longer do you feel safe and carefree. Instead, you may deem it necessary to protect yourself from further harm by pulling your heart and mind away from others and tucking yourself into a sort of shell; somewhat like a turtle when it feels threatened.

Eventually though, you will find it necessary to acknowledge your pain, admit you have struggles and fears, and face life with courage. Believe that God has good things in store for you. Blessings await you – blessings that you will miss if you continue to live tucked away and on guard to everything and everyone around you.

Are you willing to take a chance to feel again? Do you believe that the risk of future joy can overshadow your current fear of once again being hurt? If you find yourself hesitant and doubtful, I understand. I have been there. However, let me encourage you to explore what God may be bringing into your life. Keep your eyes open and your heart tender. Pray and seek God with each step you take on your grief journey.

Good things await you. Having patience and trusting God’s timing will be key in turning your mourning into joy. Look around you and begin to explore. Then open up by speaking and just saying your dreams of hope for the future out loud.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Push your buttons

11006397_10153087269708766_5418492422722932139_n

There are times in life when people do their best to push your buttons. They say things just to egg you on and get you to react. They may do this just to see what you are made of. Perhaps they feel this is a way to have some fun with you, hoping that your reaction will be one of joking right back with them. If you have siblings, you have probably experienced them pushing your buttons as you grew up. Doing so is a form of communication that is not necessarily bad.

As you walk through grief, it is possible for others to push your buttons unintentionally. Unknowingly, people may say things that remind you of your loved one and the loss you have suffered. Innocent comments inquiring as to your well-being can push you towards painful remembrances and lead you down a path you would rather avoid. Unfortunately avoidance can hold you back and keep you in your grief longer. There comes a time when you need to face your memories.

It is also possible for you to push your own buttons. In other words, you set yourself up for pain and ache by placing yourself in a position that reminds you of your grief. This can actually be a healing procedure. In order to get through your pain and to move along on your grief journey, you need to be able to face the path you have been forced to walk. Avoidance will only prolong your pain and slow down your journey through grief. The ability to live a full life again and learn to find joy instead of mourning your loss will be discovered as you have the courage to push your buttons to remember and embrace your loss.

When you are able to do this, you will see what you are truly made of. You may surprise yourself and discover that you can indeed endure and survive much more than you thought possible. Learning to move forward and feel better about life does not take the significance or the value away from the relationship you have seen come to an end. Learning to place one foot in front of the other does allow you to take the love and experience you have had in the past and put it toward healthy relationships now before you.

Do not fear it when you push your buttons. Realize that your courage is to be commended and others will be cheering for you along the way. Give yourself time and be patient. There is no need to push all of your buttons at the same time. Little by little you will make progress. Have a little grace with yourself and choose a button or two to approach and push. When you feel you have a handle on those items, then you will find it easier to push another button and continue your grief journey further. The progress you will make will please and amaze you.

So go ahead. Get ready, get set, and push your buttons. Watch your journey unfold as the fear and pain that hold you captive dissipate and you move forward along your path.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The balance beam

IMG_6016

I spent some time watching gymnastics on television last night. This is a sport that I enjoy viewing, admiring how the gymnasts do amazing jumps, flips, and turns. Watching as they dance along the balance beam and exhaling in relief when they stick the landing can be exhilarating. Having no talent whatsoever myself in any form of gymnastics, I marvel at the skills these young people have.

I watched, despairing as several of the young ladies bobbled a turn and failed to stay on top of the balance beam. As I sympathized with them, I began to see similarities between what these talented people strive to do and what those in grief must learn to maneuver on their own type of balance beam.

Being a gymnast competing for a place on the Olympic team takes years of practice and dedication. They have devoted themselves daily to hours of grueling drills and repetition of required skills. Commitment is evident in the success these athletes achieve. Even when they experience an unexpected tumble to the floor from that 4-inch beam, you see them take a breath, recover, and remount the beam quickly in order to follow through and finish their routine. They do not quit or give up.

The beautiful routines are filled with dancing, graceful moves, and difficult skills meant to thrill the audience and satisfy the judges. Focusing on fulfilling the required movements helps to assure that success is within reach. Working with a trainer and having these moves choreographed results in an art admired by many.

Walking through grief can be compared in ways to walking the balance beam. It takes great commitment and work to learn to place one foot in front of the other after suffering a loss. Courage must be summoned to manage even getting out of bed some days and facing your changed world. Some of the jumps and back flips on the balance beam require a blind landing. As you make your way through your loss, you may feel that you are required to move blindly, uncertain of what is ahead and how can you land well into the future when you cannot quite picture what it looks like.

There are also some great differences between walking the balance beam and walking your grief journey. These athletes train for years with some of the best coaches available. Most of the time you enter your grief with little notice or warning. Even if the loss has been anticipated due to an illness, it seems impossible to properly prepare for the complete separation that death brings. How does one truly practice for that?

Talented choreographers work with these gymnasts to provide cute and appropriate movements while fulfilling requirements of the judges. Walking through grief, you are forced to make up your own routine. No one can tell you how you should feel or what you should do. While there are people who have survived the grief journey and are willing to encourage you, no two journeys are the same. Therefore, it is up to you to find what works best in your own life.

Millions of people will be watching the Olympic trials and envying the talents of these athletes. No one will be envying you as you face loss and learn to journey through grief. In fact, you may find that some people will avoid you, fearing and doubting what they should say or how they should act around you. It will be necessary to not take these slights personally. Remember, unless you have actually experienced the loss of a loved one, you fail to know how to communicate clearly with those who have been forced to say good-bye to someone.

As you watch the Olympic trials and later the actual Olympic Games, be encouraged when you see athletes braving the balance beam. They are doing something that few people can do. You, my friend, can say the very same thing. You are walking a journey that no one else can tell you how to walk. Take courage, be confident, and step forward into your new life with gusto. Picture walking your grief journey well. Fight to keep your balance and work to stick your landing. You can certainly do this.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief. Place your order today!

ResizeImageHandler.ashx

Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.