Thanksgiving Day

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It’s here again. Thanksgiving Day. A season of the year when we take some extra time to realize we have much for which to be thankful. A feeling of gratitude grows as you spend time with friends and family, eat some favorite foods, and take time to rest and relax.

Walking through grief can add a bit of a challenge to enjoying the holidays. Perhaps there is an empty chair at your table that reminds you of earlier times. Eating a certain food has the ability to bring both a smile to your face and tears to your eyes. Traditions carried out are held closely and treasured while new habits are also formed out of necessity.

The holiday approaches even though you may wish to slow down time and put off its arrival. Experiencing the pain of missing loved ones can overshadow the joy that the world associates with Thanksgiving Day. Even in the midst of your difficulty, however, there are some encouraging thoughts to be shared.

You miss your loved one because you loved them. Realize that the converse is true as well. Remember the love they had for you too. Because of that love, they would want you to enjoy not only this approaching holiday, but also the whole life you have ahead of you. People who care do not wish sadness upon one another. Do your best to keep that in mind as time moves forward and you find it hard to find joy and happiness again.

Anticipating and dreading a certain day or event can often times be worse than the actual experience the day brings. As time draws near, you guess how you will feel and gauge the way you will manage to face your grief accordingly. Oftentimes, your imagination is much worse than what will really present itself. Upon the day’s arrival, you see that the sun will still shine, there will still be reason to smile, and you really do have much for which to be thankful.

I wish I could say that the holidays will stop bringing pain into your life. I am facing my fifth set of such days this year as my husband’s death anniversary approaches. The days are still hard; the pain very much real. However, I do see differences from past years. While tears still make their appearance often while I am alone at home, I am far better in public. Being able to appreciate the distraction of life and welcome the friendship and companionship of others is much easier and truly enjoyable. Five years ago, I could not say that. So while the hurt is still there, it does change. It is less sharp now; a dull ache instead of striking pain. There is hope in that fact.

As you face this approaching Thanksgiving Day, take time to list those things you still have. Cherish the people – both friends and family – close to you. Use your time well so that when you look back, you will have no regrets of missed opportunities with loved ones still with you. May the day truly be a blessing to you as you seek to find hope, help, and healing on your journey of grief.

Until next time –

Karen

(photo taken in 2012 at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in NYC)

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.

Not a victim

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“He’s touching me!” “She’s breathing my air!” “Make her stop looking at me!” If you had siblings or are raising little ones, you have probably heard some version of these remarks. It seems natural for us to want to defend ourselves, act selfishly, and throw a little rant at times. We are wired to constantly evaluate how we are doing and how life is affecting us. Often times our evaluation tells us that we are being harmed or slighted in some way. While that may really be true at times, I want to encourage you to have the attitude that you are not a victim of life’s circumstances. Instead, God can use the events in your life to shape and teach you.

For months following Alan’s death, I felt I wore a big sign around my neck that pointed out all the wrong things about me. Not just that I was now a widow, but that I did not know how to pay the bills, I had no idea how to change a furnace filter, I had never mowed the lawn, and how in the world was I going to see that our youngest son finish college? When I look back now, I see I have conquered these fears, doubts, and inabilities and every one of these issues has been addressed and checked off as successful.

Beyond that, who would have thought I’d write a book? Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought  Grief Letters would become a reality. But God did just that. He can bring good things out of tough times. The attitude of not a victim can open unimaginable doors.

Let me stop here to say that if you are indeed a victim of a crime and are being harmed – that is different and you should seek help immediately. I am speaking more of determining you are not a victim of your situation in dealing with loss and grief. I would never suggest you stay in a dangerous situation and I urge you to seek help today if you find yourself in one.

These past four years in walking my grief journey have taught me so much. First and foremost I have determined that you and I do not have to be a victim and feel overwhelmed with life. What do you do when you feel there are too many decisions to be made and you just cannot handle one more incident? Here are a couple of tips I have found helpful.

Positive self-talk is vital. What you tell yourself counts. Yours is the voice you hear the most and listen to day in and day out. Your thoughts are with you constantly so it is paramount that what you say is uplifting and loving. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with grace, gentleness, and honesty.

Have an arsenal at your disposal. This particular arsenal is filled with ammunition to stop the enemy’s lies of defeat. The best ammunition I have found is scripture. God’s Word is alive and real. It can give strength when nothing else helps. Spend time reading your bible and writing out note cards of certain verses that point to truth. You are not a victim. Instead you are an overcomer and can be victorious!

One verse I read this morning says just that. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, [the false teachings] because the one who is in you is great than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Put these verse cards on your refrigerator, paste them to your mirror, tuck them in your pocket or purse. Pull them out when you feel defeated and scared. Remind yourself often that Jesus has already overcome the world (John 16:33) so you have nothing to fear when you are in Him and He is in you. John 3:16 states the fact that you are precious to God and He has made the ultimate sacrifice to insure you will be with Him always, if you so choose.

Keep telling yourself that you are not a victim, especially on the harder days when the sadness closes in, the tears refuse to stop, and the enemy whispers lies in your ears. The only thing that can make you a victim of grief is when you give up and quit trying.

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.

 

Paddling hard

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One of the fun activities I get to do each summer is white-water rafting. I take the church preteens to a camp near Grand Lake, Colorado. During the week, we take a half-day trip down the Colorado River, making our way past Class 2 rapids and paddling hard, following the commands of the guide on each raft. Anticipating the river adventure this summer, I am reminded that the grief journey requires careful maneuvering as well.

The most important part of white-water rafting is listening to the commands of your guide. These skilled people know the river. They travel it daily for months and are familiar with the rapids, the ins and outs of the currents, and know what to expect around each bend of the river. You can trust they know their stuff.

As you walk through grief, there will be some people who want to give you instruction and direction. While people mean well, unless someone has walked through a similar loss, they can lack the ability to really understand your situation. Because each person’s loss is unique, what helps someone else will not necessarily be helpful to you. If you are not careful, you can find yourself paddling hard yet making little headway toward healing. Pray for wisdom as advice is given to you. Spending time in prayer and reading the Bible can give you peace and comfort as you find yourself paddling hard to keep your grief-filled raft afloat.

Taking advantage of the wind and current allows the rafter to grab a much-needed break in between bouts of strenuous work and paddling hard to make headway against the elements encountered on the river. Looking ahead and preparing for the upcoming rapids is key to staying in the boat as the waves begin to pound and you find your raft tossed on the water.

Having an idea of what to expect on your grief journey can be helpful. Recognizing and taking advantage of an easy day that presents itself amid the torrents of grief is vital. Those moments of relief can prepare you to endure the hard stretches you are sure to encounter when grief comes pounding and raging from time to time.

While paddling hard is necessary is making your way down the river, doing so correctly helps conserve your energy for the long haul. Leaning into each stroke allows for more power while reserving strength in your arms. Digging deep and working hard is essential to keep moving in the right direction.

Finding ways to lean into your loss will help you go the distance on your grief walk. Realize that fighting your sorrow will only prolong the journey. Instead, embrace the pain in order to move ahead and make progress on a difficult path.

Your grief journey requires the difficult work of paddling hard in order to move forward. Just as the raft steadily moves along, you can find yourself encouraged when you look back and see how far you have come. May you find the strength to continue as you focus and envision reaching your destination of healing and dealing with your grief in a healthy and safe manner.

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.

My Slurpee Adventure

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After attending a meeting and driving in the heat yesterday, I decided to treat myself and stopped for a drink at 7-Eleven to cool off before heading home. Little did I know that the detour would end up being my Slurpee adventure. As I stood in line to check out, I watched a young man give the manager money, asking for a pack of cigarettes. Before handing them over, she of course asked to see his license. His response surprised all of us. He complained that he did not have his billfold and proceeded to yell at her then stormed out the front door, kicking it open as he exited.

A moment later as I was paying for my drink, the other clerk announced, “He broke the door!” Sure enough, we looked and the lower section of the front door had shattered. After a call to 911, the manager pursed the man who had gone down the block trying again to buy his smokes. Police came, the young man ended up admitting what he did – still yelling – and I stuck around to encourage the upset manager and to be a witness in case they needed to take my statement.

Looking back on the experience, I realized that my Slurpee adventure has some similarities to a grief journey. While you may think you are doing well dealing with your loss, there are times you find you do not have things as controlled as your thought. Just when everything is going smoothly, you are told you can’t do something or you are missing a necessary tool to accomplish a certain task. Suddenly you face an unexpected difficulty that threatens your peaceful day.

How you handle these obstacles can vary. Being ready for challenges in your journey will prevent you from being surprised and reacting in a less than ideal way – such as the young man in my Slurpee Adventure. Anger has a way of rearing its ugly head and momentarily taking over.

While I am not disposed to angry fits, I admit I have had my moments when I have given in to frustration or fear, and have become upset and angry at times. Those are not proud moments for me and I hope and pray that I have not harmed my relationship with others with those times. Knowing that you can give your struggles over to God and seek His help and strength is certainly a wiser choice than melting down and screaming at someone.

Another similarity my Slurpee adventure has with the journey of grief is that you will find it helpful to allow others to stand with you in your loss. I physically stood beside the manager as she was being verbally assaulted. My presence was appreciated and helped ward off fear and possibly harm. Receiving her thanks as I departed, I realized how helpful and encouraging it is to have friends and family who stand by as you take each step toward healing.

As you deal with all that life brings your way, may the lesson from my Slurpee adventure be helpful to you. Be ready for challenges and allow others to journey with you providing support and encouragement along the way.

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.

Switchboard skills

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One of the jobs I held during my early college days was as a clerk in the utility/payment office at Ed Marlings in Topeka, Kansas. I did a lot of data entry on computer and took payments at the window as people came to pay bills. I was also trained on their old-fashioned switchboard to relieve the regular phone operator for her daily breaks as well as her vacation times. While the switchboard skills were not difficult to learn, there were a few things that were important to remember in this position.

First, it was necessary to answer the calls in a certain manner. Besides the rehearsed greeting we were to say, our attitude and tone of voice was important. Appearing pleasant was required.

When you walk through grief, you often do your best to put on a strong “front” to show others you are doing just fine, when in truth you are hurting terribly. Knowing when to be strong and knowing when to release your pent-up emotions makes your journey easier. Having the freedom to be “real” with certain people is certainly helpful and something every grieving person needs.

Another of the switchboard skills that transfers to walking through grief is testing the waters. When we were connecting an incoming call to their requested party, we were to lightly touch the end of the plug to the correctly numbered slot to see if the person being called was on the phone. The only way to tell if that line was already busy was to hear the static that occurred when we touched the slot.

When traveling through loss, it is natural to want to test the reactions of others. You may offer only a little of your story while watching their face for telling signs. You may also test yourself by trying to get back into the flow of life’s activities. Are you ready to venture out to eat alone? Perhaps it is safe for you to attend a show or movie without feeling conspicuous. It is also possible to go overboard the other way. Are you compensating for your loss by staying too busy?

There were a few times when I was substituting as the switchboard operator that I failed and plugged in to a busy line at times, causing terrible static and a momentary ear-splitting noise. Oops! Quickly grabbing the cord and pulling it back out was all I could do to remedy my mistake. The same is true in grief.

If you try something and fail, then take a step back and gather your thoughts. Evaluate the situation. What happened and why? Is there a better way to try it next time? Would a friend give you constructive advise to help you see a different point of view? Chances are what you perceive as a failure probably is not all that bad. Your feelings can be tender as you journey toward healing. Be encouraged to keep trying and keep honing your own switchboard skills as you walk through grief.

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.

That Tink Moment

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Tinkerbell. That cute little pixie who brings a smile to faces around the world. I love this picture from my trip last summer. We were told to pretend there was something in the hand and act surprised and thrilled. Upon seeing the final picture at the end of the day, after the photographer had added Tink, I saw my face displaying excitement and wonder. Those are two emotions that have been difficult to feel these past few years. However, that Tink Moment on vacation made me realize that I really can enjoy life again.

While Tinkerbell may not be real, I think Tink Moments are. They are “ah ha” opportunities which present you with sudden pleasure and sweet surprise as you once again experience happiness and joy.

In the early days of grief, it can seem as if nothing will ever be good or right again. I know. I have been there. Fortunately, I can also testify to the fact that the journey does get easier and joy will enter into your days, little by little. You may notice all of a sudden that the sun is shining and your favorite flower is blooming as if to say, “Hello there! Smile!” Perhaps you awaken to a swell of energy one day and cannot wait to get out and hit a few balls on the golf course or take a walk and breathe the fresh air.

Those better times will sneak up on you, so be looking for them. They are a gift: an encouragement from a loving, caring, all-sufficient God who also knows the ache of watching a loved one die. Just as suddenly as grief struck and stole the joy and confidence out from under you, it is possible to unexpectedly experience a smile, feeling a warmth from within that assures you of better days ahead. That is a Tink Moment.

May your days be full of these special times that remind you just how loved you really are. Look for your next Tink Moment amid the rough spots as you journey forward in grief.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief letters is now available for purchase.

http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author/Default.aspx?BookworksSId=SKU-000980156

or on Amazon – paperback, hardcover, and Kindle.