The Sounds of Grief

 

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During my recent trip to New York City, I was bombarded with many sounds. The constant noise of that city amazes me and wears me out. While lying in bed late one night and listening to the busyness of life going on around me, I began thinking about all the sounds of grief. Just as with other sounds, individuals will hear different things along their journey. Some sounds will be tuned out while others appear amplified for the listener. However, the sounds I have listed below are likely to be heard by many people who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Comfort has a distinct sound. Perhaps it is the hushed murmurs of well-wishers. The sound of opening sympathy cards and realizing you truly are thought of by others. Listening to music holding special memories can bring comfort to some. The thoughts and reflections created by hearing these sounds take you back to a time you enjoyed and often long for once again.

Accolades are given at times to the grieving as a way of encouragement. “You are so brave.” “I can’t believe you are handling this so well.” If only people truly knew how you felt on the inside while you put on a brave outward front, they would be less likely to voice these praises as quickly or so frequently. The sound of accolades cascading over your heavy shoulders can be a soothing balm to your aching and weary soul though. Be grateful for them.

The sounds of grief can also include the whispers of defeat and hopelessness. Facing your new life can seem overwhelming and all you hear in your head are the constant and insistent whispers telling you there will never again be joy in your life. You cannot see, feel, nor hear an end to the small voices as your mind refuses to be tamed and turned down. Whispers can be torturous.

Along with these whispers can come an echo of the past. The sound of days gone by bounce off the corners of your mind as if you sit in a canyon. Try as you may, quieting the echo is impossible. It insists on returning at the most inopportune time, bringing you deeper into the grief journey, often accompanied by tears.

Snickers of fear can be a terrifying sound. No one enjoys being laughed at. The imaginary snickers of possible failure and the fear that accompanies those twitters are miserable for someone who is journeying through grief. It is not your fault that you fail to know what needs to be done. Who would have thought you needed to be so prepared and informed. Yet, telling yourself these truths fails to silence the snickers that ring out deep inside your heart and mind.

As you listen to the sounds of grief, strive to make room to hear the sounds of truth and hope. Do not spend so much time listening to the wrong voices that you miss the most important ones! The truth is you are still an important person. You do matter. You are loved and thought of. It may not seem like it. Death has a way of isolating and driving others away. People fail to know what to say so the sounds you hear fail to be the ones that should be said.

On the days you feel you have heard all you can take, open up a favorite book, put on some quiet, peaceful music, or read out-loud from the Bible. Nothing soothes like the hearing of God’s Word. You are His beloved. Let that be the last thing you hear before placing your head on your pillow tonight.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…..” Song of Songs 6:3 (NIV)

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!

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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.

I never used to

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Before I experienced death and grief in my family, I never used to dread coming home from work and the long, quiet hours that accompanied the evening. I recall phone calls on the drive home talking about possibilities for dinner and plans for spending the night together. At times that involved household chores. Other days held the promise of a special movie, concert, or just sweet conversation together.

I never used to struggle with figuring out what to eat and how to fill my body with the proteins and nutrients needed to stay healthy when I have no desire to cook. Having an appetite has become a thing of the past. Caring about eating the right foods at acceptable times of the day has become a puzzle that oftentimes seems to be missing a piece.

Lying awake for hours is a nightly ritual. Dreading the routine of bedtime even when the body is fatigued makes no sense, but is a common battle these days. Restful sleep is elusive, causing mornings to be filled with exhaustion and a lack of energy. I never used to toss and turn in bed. I have heard it said, “Just close your eyes.” However, that only opens the door for the memories of times gone by, accentuating the reality of what is missing today.

While there is plenty to be done in the home to fill up hours, finding the motivation to accomplish these tasks is difficult. Doing the work of two people in keeping a house in shape demands organization and work. I never used to lack the desire to get busy and finish the to-do-lists. But now when I see those lists, I feel overwhelmed and experience despair. How will I ever get it all done? Why even try? It really does not matter anyway, does it?

I never used to cry so much. Even though the tears fall less often than when grief first struck our family, the intensity of the sobs has not lessened when they do break through the stoic front I have learned to put forth for the public. The force with which the tears flow at times is still paralyzing. The only comfort is that these episodes occur less often as when the journey first began.

There is one ‘I never used to’ that must be added to this list. Perhaps it is the most important one of all. For without knowing grief and loss personally, I am not sure if a person can honestly know this quality. It is the attribute of I never used to have such a close, minute-by-minute walk with Jesus. While I have known my Savior personally since the age of nine, the relationship I have with Him has been shaped and sharpened by the tragedy and sadness that invaded my family five years ago.

I never used to spend so much time with Him in prayer and Bible study. I never used to be so totally dependent upon Him for my every need. I never used to see His absolute care and provision for my life. I never used to be so bold as to speak out to other hurting people, telling them how they too, can receive help and comfort in their own grief journeys.

As you face your own list of ‘I never used to’, may you discover a new closeness to the only One who can truly make a difference in what your life is now. There is hope. There is healing. There are possibilities that will astound you as your new life – your new normal – takes shape. Be encouraged when you realize how greatly your life has changed. While it is difficult and not what you might have chosen, it can still be a good, productive, and blessed life.

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!

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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.

Calming Yourself

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Have you ever seen an upset child settle down as a parent speaks in hushed whispers and lightly strokes their back? What about watching a startled adult place a hand to their chest as they gasp and struggle to catch their breath, working to recover from whatever had frightened them? Calming yourself is a technique that you share with young children and learn to do yourself as you age. Do you recall how nice it was as a child to have someone embrace you and tell you that everything would be all right? I know that I have occasionally longed for that experience of comfort even as an adult since I have been journeying through grief. Trying to handle everything on your own can be taxing and exhausting. Calming yourself in the midst of loss and pain is a valuable skill.

I recall the first night of Alan’s death, just hours after leaving the hospital a final time. I lay in bed trying to sleep. Apparently I dozed off because suddenly I was in the midst of a nightmare as I sat straight up in bed and found myself crying aloud, tears flowing down my cheeks, rocking back and forth in an effort to calm down. A friend who was spending that first night with me heard my cries and immediately came in to rub my back, hug me, and allow me to rest my head on her shoulder. Calming yourself sometimes takes the aid of another.

When you find yourself in the midst of great stress and anxiety, what do you do? Sitting and crying for a while can be therapeutic. Perhaps reading a book pulls you to another world and relieves your pain for a while. Running a hot bath after a long, tiring day can bring relaxation to tight muscles and aching limbs. Calming yourself with Epsom salts and bubbles can work wonders in improving the view of your next few hours. And when you are aching, scared, and feeling alone, that may be all the further ahead you can look. Venturing forward into tomorrow’s plans can seem too harsh and too much of a herculean effort. If you find yourself in this situation, know that you need look no further than what you are able. The future – at least tomorrow – will take care of itself, so concentrate on making it through just today.

Calming yourself with bright hope and promises of better days can truly be a gift. Realize that you will not always feel lost and alone. Encourage yourself by singing that famous song from Annie, “The sun will come out tomorrow…..” Even though tomorrow may seem daunting, it can give you the incentive you need to make it through your present day.

Allow the tears to flow, the rocking to proceed, and the healing to resume as you find ways of calming yourself along your grief journey. Embracing your fears and hurts will actually help propel you forward along your grief journey.

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.

Mixed-up words

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A friend of mine shared that her three-year old son had somehow confused two words in his rather large vocabulary this past week. He has a toy piranha fish that he enjoys along with a small play turtle. He became distraught when he misplaced the fish and came running to his mom saying, “I can’t find my parmesan!” He has continued to use these mixed-up words – parmesan instead of piranha – giving his family cause to grin and laugh as he tries to figure it all out.

I, myself, have a very embarrassing case of mixed-up words that occurred in my college days. Yes, even adults can misunderstand and confuse words. Instead of calling the famous musical Porgy and Bess, I was saying Porky and Bess. Much to my embarrassment, I was called out on it and was subject to some good ribbing for a while. The words I spoke to myself after this experience was that I should just keep my mouth shut.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings and mixed-up words occur while processing and dealing with grief as well. The pain experienced by such instances is real and can be long-lasting and not nearly as cute as exchanging parmesan for piranha. The grief journey can deeply associate feelings and emotions with the words we hear from others as well as from ourselves. Not all of those emotions can be trusted.

Here are some examples of how you can confuse feelings and words while on your grief journey. It is important to treat yourself with grace while traveling a difficult and often obscured path, realizing that misunderstandings happen – both for you and for others.

Examples of the confusion that can occur for those grieving are often words you speak to yourself:

“I’m alone and cannot survive without my loved one.”

“I am afraid and have nothing to live for now.”

When you hear these expression counter them with:

“I have not had to do life on my own before. But I will survive this because I choose to. God promises to never leave me and I will cling to Him.” (Romans 8:38, 39)

Perhaps there are people who use mixed-up words when they communicate with you. They may be trying to show they care, yet their statements are less than accurate.

“I know just how you feel.”

I call these mixed-up words because they are not totally correct. The person speaking to you cannot possibly know exactly how you feel. They have not had to say good-bye to your loved one. Even if they have experienced grief and loss, their situation is not identical to yours.

“God needed him in Heaven.”

I also believe this last comment is inaccurate as God needs nothing and no one. He is self-sustaining and self-sufficient. To state that God needed Alan in Heaven is false. God loves Alan and yes, I believe Heaven is where he now resides. But God does not cause loved ones to die because they are “needed” elsewhere. While I do not claim to understand everything about death and loss, I do believe and trust that God numbers our days and has a reason and a purpose in all things.

So what do you do when you encounter mixed-up words? Give grace to yourself and to those around you. Realize that most people just are not comfortable around the grieving and lack the knowledge of what to say and how to say it. Hear their heart and embrace the love with which they speak while sifting out the mixed-up words they may express. And perhaps – just perhaps – the words of a small three-year old boy can make you smile. “I can’t find my parmesan!”

Until next time –

Karen

(picture used with parent permission)

Let me encourage you to share Grief Letters with those you know walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with stories of my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief.

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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.

Rejoicing and loss

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This past weekend has been monumental for my family as we celebrated the marriage of my youngest son. The wedding was greatly anticipated and lovingly planned. Many friends and family from both the bride and groom’s side were in attendance and enjoyed the festivities of the day. As I now sit in a quiet, empty house, I reflect upon what this new phase of life will hold. It is becoming evident that both rejoicing and loss intermingle in my heart and mind at times like this.

There is so much to rejoice in: young love built upon years of dating and relying upon the strong support of Christ as the cornerstone of their relationship; two families coming together and becoming one couple; the promise of a positive future and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams. At the same time, there are moments when loss is felt even in the happy times: nothing will be the same; the unknown territory rears its ugly head again; the absence of someone to whom you have spent a lifetime watching grow and mature. Even in happy events such as this, rejoicing and loss are both experienced.

Those who journey through grief learn to both process rejoicing and loss as well. The loss part is easier to comprehend. Your loved one is no longer by your side. Concern for your future and handling all the details encountered by death can be taxing and bring about a loss of energy and hope. Heaviness of heart, mind, and spirit can descend upon you quickly and suddenly cause a momentary loss of joy and happiness. Loss is very real and very pungent at times as you walk with grief.

However, let us explore how rejoicing can enter into your grief journey. Perhaps your loved one was very ill and suffering terribly. I recently watched as a relative dealt with the decline of health in a loved one as cancer viciously attacked. Dealing with the actual pain of the disease and seeing the toll it took on the body was difficult. Relief was one emotion felt by the family as this woman finally passed away, leaving the agony of her physical battle behind. While rejoicing may be a strong word here, her loved ones were certainly glad that she was no longer suffering in her hospital bed.

When you know your loved one had a personal relationship with Jesus, there can be assurance in knowing that leaving life here on earth means immediately entering a life in Heaven. That is cause for rejoicing and comfort. While you miss them terribly and long for just one more day, the gift of knowing where they now reside can help you in the daily journey of grief.

I am thrilled with the marriage of my son to my beautiful, new daughter-in-law. There is gladness in my heart, a smile on my face, and a light in my eyes as I recall how they looked at each other in the ceremony. That emotion is coupled with just a tiny bit of loss and a few tears as I realize my journey is taking yet another little jog and turn. I am confident though, that I will learn to maneuver this part of the journey as well. There is comfort in truly understanding that it is natural for rejoicing and loss to go hand-in-hand at times.

Until next time –

Karen

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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.