Old and new things

 

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The last few days I was able to spend some time with my parents. While there, I experienced the end of something old and familiar. My slippers. Now, don’t laugh. Haven’t you ever had that special pair of slippers, socks, a favorite shirt, or special piece of jewelry that you just loved and grieved when it fell apart or finally disintegrated from overuse?

Well, that is exactly what happened this past week. I was innocently walking through their living room to get a drink of water from the kitchen. As I returned with my glass, I noticed something on the carpet. Thinking it was a spider, I grabbed a napkin to take care of it. Much to my surprise, the dark blob on the carpet was actually the sole of my slipper! As I turned my foot over to look, sure enough, there was a big hole in the bottom, exposing my foot to the air.

I knew the slippers were wearing out – but they were my favorite! They conformed to my feet and fit just right. They were easy to slip on and kick off. They provided the much-needed warmth that cool Colorado mornings and evenings demand. However, upon seeing the beginning of the end as my favorite slippers were literally falling to pieces, I realized it was time for a new pair. While facing the need for new slippers is not a real challenge, there are things in life that make you stop and contemplate the old and new things you must face in life.

The saying, “Out with the old, in with the new” makes the replacement of items in your life seem easy and carefree when actually this practice can be quite stressful and a source of much pain and anguish. As you journey through changes in life, you will face decisions. Your old car is demanding too many costly repairs; new paint is needed throughout the house; your clothes don’t fit quite right anymore or are falling apart from years of wear.

However, doing away with some items is easier said than done. One of my first big purchases was a new bed. While I tried my best to sleep in our old one, I couldn’t. Even though it was familiar and I felt a sense of closeness with Alan there, it was also the place where I found him that horrible afternoon. The bad outweighed the good. I had to make the decision that “out with the old, in with the new” applied and needed to be put into practice.

Are there things in your life that you need to release and say good-bye to in order to move forward in your journey? Change can be a healing factor in life. As I eventually repainted the bedroom a new color and rearranged the living room, I found that the house felt more my own. Walking in each day was no longer a constant reminder of the loss I felt and faced. Instead, I intentionally surrounded myself with items that brought me joy and healing. I moved plants into the front window area to remind myself that life is possible and growing is a choice. Crosses adorn the entryway as a reminder that I am never truly alone in life. God is always with me. I did not replace everything though. Some old and new things can exist together.

“Out with the old, in with the new” is not a betrayal to your loved one. It is simply a way of coping with the loss you have experienced as you learn to walk a very different path in life. Begin a list of those items that are wearing out. Decide on a budget that will work for your needs. Take your time. Nothing needs to be changed instantly. Make sure you are ready for the move forward, realizing that going back may not be possible.

For instance, selling your home immediately after your loss may be a decision you regret months down the road. Leave the huge decisions for later. Begin small and gradually move on to bigger changes as you gain confidence and experience healing in your grief journey. May you find joy as you experience newness in varying areas of your life.

Until next time –

Karen

Choose to give hope to someone in your life today. Share Grief Letters with those you know 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.

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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.

 

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

 

Resolutions

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Here we are at the last day of 2014. Congratulations! You have made it through this year! One popular tradition in beginning a new year is to set resolutions by which to live. These promises to ourselves can become daunting and overwhelming at times. While our intentions are good when we set these goals, we can easily feel defeated when we fail to keep them. The last thing people in grief need to take on are feelings of inadequacy and defeat.

I want to propose an alternative to setting resolutions for this coming year. I looked up synonyms for this word and thought it would be fun and more beneficial in our grief journeys if we did the following instead.

Let us be resolved to face life one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. When we look too far ahead while facing grief, we can easily become overwhelmed and lack the hope we need to maneuver through this difficult time in life.

We can live our lives with tenacity. Holding fast to what we do have and the things we know is necessary to keep us grounded during a dizzying, confusing journey. Scripture assures us we can know God’s faithfulness. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NKJV)

We have purpose in this life. We may not know what that purpose is at this time. However, just realizing that God does have a reason for us being here can be hope enough to cling to Him and search for our purpose in living.

The decisions we make in the coming days are up to us. We can decide to live each day the best we know how. Those days will not be filled with perfection for none of us are perfect. However, they can be filled with good times, laughter and joy amidst the tears we still shed at times along the way.

When asked in the next few days what resolutions you are setting for this coming year, you can answer in the following way:

“I resolve to live with tenacity realizing I have a purpose in life. I will make the best decisions possible to honor my grief, my loved ones and my Lord.” Happy New Year my friends.

Until next time –

Karen

“Winterizing” for Grief

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The upcoming winter months require us to plan and get our houses in order. As the daylight hours get shorter and the chill sets in, there are certain chores that are required. Furnace filters need to be inspected and cleaned. Hoses are rolled up and put away until spring. Leaf piles are raked, bagged and carted away. Warmer clothing unpacked, aired out and placed in closets. Winterizing our homes is a necessary chore. The same can be said in “Winterizing” for grief.

When we deal with grief, the days certainly seem darker as we face the loss of loved ones. Finding some form of light can be a challenge as we maneuver our way through uncharted waters and uncertain turns. Remembering that Jesus desires to be our source of light comforts me. No matter how dark my future may seem, Jesus can brighten my dimmed vision and provide hope.

There will be parts of life that need to be inspected and cleaned up as we figure out how to live differently. Inevitably there will be papers to sign, files to organize, and closets to clear out. Some tasks will require our immediate attention while others can mercifully wait until we are stronger and better able to handle the job. Not allowing yourself to be rushed and pressured into clearing out and cleaning up is important in order to avoid later regrets.

When we are allowed to tackle changes on our own time-table, chances are they will not seem so overwhelming. In fact, it is possible we may be able to make and cherish special memories while accomplishing our “winterizing” endeavors. I know going through and packing up my husband’s clothes was extremely difficult. It took me over two years before I could face going through his closet since doing so made everything seem final.

I dealt with conflicting guilt as I looked at his things. Giving them away seemed to say I was forgetting him and was ready to say good-bye forever. Hanging onto them longer felt like a waste of good items that I know others could use and benefit in receiving. Continually looking at his things was painful though. This war waged on until I was ready to truly accept the fact that his clothing was not what I remembered or held dear. The memories of the years we spent together are the precious things I will cherish.

Friends had offered to help with the daunting job of clearing out his closet. However, I finally chose to do it on my own one afternoon. By being alone, I was able to take my time, cry if I wanted to, and bury my nose in his shirts without feeling silly and self-conscious as I breathed in his scent. Looking back on it now, I am very grateful that I did not rush this final task. I handled it on my own terms, in my own way and made my own memories for a lifetime.

If you are struggling with difficult decisions that are seemingly pulling you in opposite directions, be encouraged. Only you can determine the right time to “winterize” your life in dealing with grief. As long as you are seeking to heal and striving to honor your loved one as you take care of yourself, you are on the right path.

May your find hope and strength for the days ahead as you tackle the job of “winterizing” for grief.

Until next time –

Karen

Rash Decisions

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Have you ever had a rash, chicken pox, or poison ivy? Perhaps your child suffered with diaper rash at one time or another. These skin conditions can be annoying, inconvenient, ugly and at times painful. The accompanying itching and burning is enough to drive one crazy. As we suffer, we tend to scratch, often times without thinking about it.

Thankfully, with medical advances, we have the advantage of ointments and treatments that relieve the painful symptoms since continual scratching can cause scarring. Eventually, we have the assurance that the rashes will run their course and soon enough, go away. Too bad we cannot deal with grief that easily and quickly.

As we move through our sad and difficult days, we may want to scratch to make the pain go away. The word “rash” now becomes something different. Instead of the affliction itself – as in chicken pox – it is the action with which we react to our situation. In order to avoid the annoying, inconvenient, ugly and painful moments in losing a loved one, we may act quickly and rashly to hurry through the difficulty of the journey. Through taking these actions, scarring can occur.

What might a rash decision look like? It could be as simple as hurriedly cleaning out a closet and giving away personal items to a charity. While this is commendable, there is value in relishing the memories as you take time to carefully go through drawers, closets and boxes. These items represent a last connection to your loved one. You have the right to proceed slowly as you process and clear out clothes and memorabilia.

Maybe your rash decision is a little bigger, like the sale of property or a house. While it may seem like a good idea in the beginning, be sure to take time and think through all the ramifications of no longer living where your last days were spent. Will you regret not having access to the familiar feelings of home? By having a new place to live, will you feel comfort and relief or sadness and regret?

There may be a time that selling things and clearing out possessions is unavoidable. If this is your situation, do what you can to hold onto precious memories and good times. Take pictures and choose just a few small items to keep and cherish. A scrapbook is a great way to commemorate a life now past. It is easy to store and is accessible when you feel the need to look and remember.

The important thing is do not live life making rash decisions that can wait. If you have the time, take it. Pray through things and seek wise advice. You may not be able to apply an ointment to make the hurt go away quickly. However, as you continue to learn how to make your way through the “ailment” of grief, you will find that the ugliness and pain you currently experience will lessen in time.

Until next time –

Karen