The days after

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So much effort is put into anticipating and preparing for special holidays, that you are often surprised by the days after it is all over. Thanksgiving and Christmas have already come and gone. Those special days you have come to dread without your loved one are finally finished. You have survived. Perhaps you enjoyed those harder days a bit more than you thought you would. The opportunity to laugh and smile came into play and you grasped those, filling your mind with new and different memories. Or perhaps you merely scraped by each day, putting forth the effort only for the sake of friends and loved ones still with you.

Many people feel sadness when the holidays are over. The much awaited excitement ends and a let-down from the process can occur. However, there is also a kind of relief that takes places for those on the grief journey. Now that the holidays are over, it is possible to let down your guard a little more. You do not find it necessary to brace for those waves of sadness and nostalgia that hit at the most inopportune times when others around you are laughing and enjoying the celebrations.

Along with the relief can come a bit of satisfaction that you really did make it through the holidays. Not only that, but hopefully you can find one or two truly golden moments to remember with fondness. Look back at the past month that has been full of activities, parties and gatherings, and demands. Celebrate and applaud yourself for accomplishing what you doubted you could live through. You survived the holidays!

As each year passes, the holidays will get better too. You will face them with less dread, you will find more joy, and you will create new traditions. Take a moment to breathe and realize that your future can look bright. Set your sights on what you want to accomplish now that the world around you is returning to “post-holiday normal” and decide what you will do next.

The grieving are not the only people facing a sort of depression and sadness the days after the holidays are over. Many people encounter quite a let-down after all their planning and celebrating. However, you and I have already learned to adjust to newness and changing times. You have an advantage on the rest of the world. You know you can face loss and life that is different from before. Take that knowledge and run with it. Plan new adventures for the upcoming new year. Revel in the fact that God has seen you through this past difficult month.

As you face the future of the days after, know that it can be a blank slate upon which you write your own possibilities, hopes, and dreams. Move forward with as much joy as you can muster and be open to blessings that are in store for you.

Until next time –

Karen

With a new year upon us, consider buying Grief Letters for a loved one or for yourself. Begin the year with hope and purpose. 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!

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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.

Standing together

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As the holidays approach I decided to do something totally new and different from old family traditions. I began decorating the house for Christmas before Thanksgiving Day. In our family, putting up Christmas decorations had always begun the weekend following Thanksgiving and each of us pitched in, standing together, to turn our home into a festive holiday retreat.

I have struggled these past five years with decorating for Christmas. The first two years the home remained bare of any decoration reflecting Christmas and the holiday was spent away from the house. However, this year my home will be filled with my boys and their wives. Suddenly, I feel there is reason to rejoice again. There once again seems to be a purpose in creating the look and feel of Christmas in the house.

Standing together is the only way anyone can journey through grief well. Knowing that you are not alone is important. Feeling support from both family and friends can give you hope to replace despair; laughter instead of tears; resolve instead of defeat.

As I worked in my home the past few days, I found energy in putting out some favorite decorations. Penguins and nativity sets are two things I enjoy collecting and placing about my home. This picture of four penguins on a Christmas stocking helps me envision those who stand near, cheering me forward.

Who do you have in your corner? What names come to mind when you realize life would be harder without them in this stage of your life? How do you remind yourself that you truly are not alone in mourning your old life, missing your loved one, and facing another year of tough holidays?

Perhaps this is your first year missing your loved one. Trying to picture celebrating anything seems impossible for you. If this is your situation, I am so sorry. No one else gets to determine or judge what you do or don’t do this year. It is important to realize that you do have choices. Decide what it is that will allow you to have a reason to get up in the morning. Is it your kids or your family? Knowing that your loved one would want you to live each day and learn to smile again? All these reasons helped motivate me throughout those first few years.

Find people who can help by standing together with you. Allowing them to be nearby in this difficult time may be just the blessing and open door you need to face this next month.

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.

Furby

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Years ago, when the Furby phenomenon was new, our family had traveled over the Christmas break to visit my mother-in-law. Upon entering town, we ran by the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries. We were curious about the new, hot item of the season, the Furby, and headed to the toy department to see one for ourselves. We had no plans to purchase one as we were on a tight budget and had already spent our limit for Christmas gifts.

As we searched the various shelves full of toys and stuffed animals, we were unable to locate a single Furby. I finally asked an employee in that department and he explained they were sold out but expected a shipment to arrive later that day. I thanked him for his time, wished him a good day, and we headed over to the grocery aisle to fulfill our short list of needs.

Suddenly an announcement was made over the loud-speaker. “Will the lady asking about a certain toy please return to that department.” Puzzled, we looked at each other, unable to imagine what could be the cause of such an odd page. However, we figured we would check it out and headed back to the other side of the store. Since the boys were still quite young, I hurried ahead, telling them to catch up to me there.

Upon entering the toy area, I stopped short. There was the employee I had spoken to fifteen minutes earlier standing in front of a shelf with his arms stretched out, holding back a crowd of people. Upon seeing me, he smiled and said, “The shipment arrived as you left and I wanted you to have first pick of a Furby!” I was stunned.

I slowly moved forward, not sure how to approach the situation. We really had no intention of buying a Furby. However, could I disappoint this young gentleman after he had literally placed himself in harm’s way? He was virtually holding back the impatient shoppers waiting for their coveted Furby so I could choose mine first.

Then it happened. I heard a lady shout, “Look, there is a black one!” That did it. I am ashamed to say my arm moved with lightening speed and clutched that black Furby tightly as I turned around and exited the crowded area, meeting my family who had finally caught up to me.

I laugh now each time I think of that crazy shopping excursion.  Running across my Furby as I cleaned my office today, I realized that I have experienced the same emotion on my grief journey. I only grabbed that black Furby because of peer pressure. Someone made him seem the best and right thing to own.

As we walk through grief, there will be people who put pressure on us to act and think certain ways. Experiencing peer pressure while grieving can cause us to be totally unlike ourselves. “Don’t you want to go rest?” “Why aren’t you getting out more?” You should really redo the house and make it your own.”

It is important to take the time to know what you want and what is best for you at this time in your life. It is okay to be sad. There is nothing wrong with changing things, but only if you want to. You may need to spend some time alone in order to be ready to face others later. No one should pressure you to be someone you are not ready to be.

I was not ready to be a Furby owner, but we did purchase it. I did not have the courage nor the heart to disappoint that young man. He thought he had done such a great thing. You will find that others will think they are helping you by making suggestions or taking over for a while. Feel free to speak up for yourself and let others know if you need time and space to figure out what is next in life. After all, it is your journey.

Until next time –

Karen

 

Decoration Dilemma

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As Christmas approaches there is an expectation to spruce up the house for the holidays. People work hard to make their homes look festive and cheerful by hanging up stockings and putting up trees with colorful lights, ornaments and ribbons. However, living through the grief of death and loss during this season can cause decoration dilemma for some of us. Let me explain.

For the past three weeks, I have intended to decorate our home for Christmas. I even went so far as to pull out boxes in hopes of beginning the task that I used to enjoy. However, most of the items are still in the boxes and the house is barely whispering “Merry Christmas.”

I have learned to give myself permission to tackle these difficult tasks at my own pace. The world will not be knocked off its course or the sun fail to shine because all my decorations are not yet up. I trust that by the time we have friends over for Christmas dinner, things will be sufficiently placed about, beautifying my home.

Why is it so hard to unpack and get this job finished? Facing the memories from years past just seems overwhelming at times. At least that is what I experience. I am sure there are some people who look forward to placing out their holiday collections and find great joy and comfort in seeing them. I admire their abilities and hope to someday be able to do the same thing.

Until then, I will be content with doing what I can. If that means digging into a box for one or two items every few days, then that is what I will do. My decoration dilemma will not stop me from living each day to the best of my ability. I know the real reason for the Christmas season – the gift of Jesus Christ given to redeem mankind. The packaging and decorations are just fluff.

If you struggle with your own decoration dilemma, remember to keep your focus on what is truly important – family, friends and most of all, your faith.

Until next time –

Karen