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!

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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.

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.

 

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