Loneliness in the holidays

img_6918

With this week being Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips in dealing with the holidays while walking through grief. Facing every-day life without your loved one is difficult. Facing the holidays without your loved one can seem overwhelming. Loneliness and holidays tend to go hand-in-hand, especially during the early years of loss.

If you are facing your first holiday season on your own, it can help you to remember several things I have found to be true. The first is to know that anticipation is usually worse than realization. Anticipating the holiday may stir up extra feelings of loss, apprehension, and loneliness. You may find yourself dreading the holiday. Fear can be a very real emotion as you wonder how that particular day will feel and what you will do to fill the hours until you can go to bed and wake up in a new day.

Perhaps you have been invited to spend the day with friends. You want to go, but you may be unsure how to excuse yourself in the case that you need some time alone to process your feelings. Remember that your friends care about you and desire the best for you. While they may not completely understand your loss, they want to see you smile and be happy. Do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself and with them. If you feel like crying – then cry. If you feel like laughing – do so with gusto and without guilt. Your loved one would want you to experience joy again. If you find yourself needing time alone – simply state that fact and retreat to a quiet room for a while. Pretending your loneliness does not exist will only keep you from healing.

Loneliness in the holidays is not necessarily a bad thing. It is something you need to experience in order to grow and take a step forward toward healing. Be courageous, take a deep breath, and give yourself grace as you learn to maneuver through Thanksgiving Day. In doing so, you will find yourself better equipped to look toward the other upcoming holidays. Allow yourself to feel and fully experience those emotions that will roll over you this week. As you do, picture your loved one cheering you on and being proud of you for facing what may be a hard day.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. With the holidays just around the corner, this may be just the gift your friends and family need to help them. 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.

Don’t Go There

img_6918

In my early months of grief, I would find myself allowing my mind to wander to unhealthy places. For instance, I would have a few decent days and instead of rejoicing in those, I would be bracing myself, convinced that a hard, sad day was just around the corner. Part of this may have been dealing with unnecessary guilt. There are times during the early days of grief when you might feel badly for smiling or laughing, thinking it is disloyal to your loved one. While this is natural, it is not a place to park and stay. It is important to realize that you deserve to find some joy even in your difficult days.

There are other times when your imagination may take off and you allow your mind to rest on unpleasant thoughts and scary possibilities for your future. These are situations that are very unlikely to happen and are not worth your worry, time, or energy. Expecting the worst is a very unhealthy place to go. Don’t go there. Do not set yourself up for more hardship than you already face in journeying through grief.

Realize that when your mind roams off course and you may think, “What if this…… happens” you are robbing yourself of the actual day you have been given. I have found myself worrying about something happening to someone else I love, or wondering what the next year might look like. These are things that I cannot control. So why invest time worrying about them. Tell yourself, “Don’t go there.” Do not ruin the perfectly good day you have by fretting over something that is likely to never happen.

Worrying about things will not change your circumstances. It may change you. Worry can make you a hesitant person; someone who is afraid of trying new things. A person who spends their time scared of what might happen is a person who is unable to see what is right before them in the here and now. By living that way, you fail to receive the blessing that today holds for you and you lack the peace that can be yours.

Sure there will be challenges in the future. You have already faced difficult times in dealing with the loss of a loved one. However, look what you have accomplished! You got up this morning. You are able to continue living even in the midst of deep sorrow and pain. Each day you choose to live to the best of your ability is a day you tell yourself, “Don’t go there.” Do not allow yourself to sink into the pit of despair, fear, and unnecessary thoughts.

The Bible tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. (NIV) Let God take care of the things out of your control. Ask Him to keep your family safe and to continue to meet your needs. Seek Him when your imagination runs wild and you panic, thinking something bad is going to happen again. Don’t go there with your thoughts. Instead, allow Him to handle those things that scare you and steal your peace and joy.

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.

The Sounds of Grief

 

IMG_5688

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!

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.

You can certainly do this

 

IMG_5161

While walking through grief, your emotions will freely flow and be quite unpredictable at times. One moment you are walking down the sidewalk and the next you are standing in tears. Perhaps you saw someone who looked just like your loved one. Maybe a familiar fragrance wafted through the air. A special song plays through the open window of a passing car taking you back to special memories that tug at your heartstrings and render you useless for a moment. As you try to recover, glancing over your shoulder to see if anyone is watching you fall apart, remember that you can certainly do this.

Dealing with the deep and lasting pain of grief and loss is hard. Unless it is experienced first-hand though, understanding the grief journey is difficult. Instead of living the life you had planned and dreamed of, you find yourself forging a new path, not quite sure of your destination. There is no clear map as to where to go, how to get there, and what your end goal actually is. Even with all those doubts and uncertainties cascading into your life, be encouraged and find hope. You can certainly do this.

One of my favorite lessons to teach and recite from the Bible is found in Numbers 13. It is the story of Moses sending a team to spy out the Promised Land for the Israelites. While the mission wasn’t exactly a success and doesn’t end the way you would expect, there are valuable lessons to learn. Moses sent out twelve men to sneak in and test the waters of a new country that God had promised His people. They were to check out the lay of the land. What food grew there? Who lived there? What were they like? Were the cities fortified?

When the spies returned from their mission, they brought with them evidence of the incredible crops that awaited them there. However, ten of the men were fearful, saying the people who lived there were too powerful for them to overtake. Never mind that God had promised them this land and victory over the inhabitants. They dug in their heels and refused to budge.

However, two of the spies spoke up and said let’s do this! We can win! God is on our side! There is nothing to fear! Unfortunately, because of the people’s doubts, they had to wait before experiencing victory over that land and the people there. Great blessings were missed and years of headship were ahead because of their stubbornness and fear.

The grief journey can be like the unknown territory that scared most of these spies into inaction and disobedience. It looks scary. Walking forward and moving into the unknown seems impossible and too big to handle. Be encouraged – you can certainly do this.

Though people and situations may render you unable to move forward at times, know that those are temporary bumps in the road. God promises that He has not brought you here to leave you helpless and hopeless. He wants to strengthen you, help you, and even carry you when you are unable to propel yourself forward.

Choose to let Him do this. Set your mind on the task ahead and move forward at your own pace. When you grow weary, stop and rest. When energy returns, continue on the journey. You can certainly do this. Hold tight to the promise that is given to Joshua, one of the spies who spoke up and believed the victory was theirs. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (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!

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.

Just Let Go

IMG_5307

Last week I made the decision to climb twenty-seven feet into the air with a friend, trying out The Cliff Hanger bounce house. My church had rented it for a Christmas tree lighting activity for our community. As I hung there three stories above the ground, I looked down the enormous slide wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. I have never been a fan of heights. In fact, I am terrified of them. Yet, I found myself in quite the dilemma. There was only way down and that was to just let go. So, I closed my eyes, released my death-grip on the rings holding me in place, and found myself speeding down the slide. I opened my eyes as I descended and realized that I actually enjoyed the slide and it was not nearly as bad as I had feared.

Reflecting upon that experience, I realize that the ride of the grief journey requires the same thing. You have to just let go as you discover your new life. While you may desire for things to return to normal, that is not possible. Death changes things. So how do you find the courage to just let go?

I braved the adventure of The Cliff Hanger with a friend. Jin Jo actually had the idea to climb and she encouraged me to come with her. I am not sure I would have ventured the climb and fall if it had not been for her going with me. As you walk through grief, look for friends along the way. Who is it that is willing share their courage and cheer you forward?

There will be times when you should admit you need help. Those who have never experienced death and loss may not realize how hard your journey is. So we who have lived through such pain may need to open up and share with others how they can help. It is not a weakness to admit a need. It actually takes great courage to do so. Just let go and take that first step. The path will likely not be as impossible as you fear.

When we face the unknown it is common to be afraid and to hold on to what we have known. When I climbed up those three stories last week, I found myself clinging to the rings at the top, fearful of the unknown. While hanging there was scary, the fall downward was terrifying. It was new and unfamiliar. Tomorrow is also an unknown. It may seem to make sense to hang on to what you know, even if it keeps you stuck in grief and failing to move forward toward healing. However, continuing to grasp what you have known in the past will not allow you to grow and find the wonders of life that still await you.

As you find yourself facing new heights and the unknown summits of grief, remember that you need to just let go. Trust God and believe that the plummet into the unfamiliar can be full of joy and unexpected thrills.

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.

“It scares me”

IMG_4760

Since Sunday was the morning after Independence Day, it seemed natural that conversations would include discussions on local firework shows that people saw. As I greeted families at church, I would ask how their holiday was and would get tales of the sights and sounds they had enjoyed. However, one little 4-year old was less than excited as we discussed the past evening. While she had liked the colors, she was very hesitant to talk about it. When I bent down so we were face to face, her big brown eyes were wide as she leaned into me, hiding her face and said, “It scared me.”

I immediately reassured her that the loud noises often scare and startle people and there is nothing wrong with that. Her tender little ears and gentle spirit just did not appreciate all that noise. As I gave her a hug before she ran off to play, I thought how her honest assessment of the evening’s situation was much like life’s journey. “It scares me” is often how I feel when I think of facing the next 35 to 40 years on my own.

Will you continue to live where you do presently? Does your career stay the same or will God shape and change that too? Are the nights destined to always look the same? How will you manage to make ends meet now? What does God intend for you one year, five years, ten years in the future?

The grief journey can cause you to stop and evaluate often. Even if you, yourself, are not experiencing the loss of a loved one, it is most likely you know of someone who is. Watching that person deal with death and all that is involved can give cause to reflecting upon how you would handle such a situation. However, until you are truly in the midst of deep grief yourself, your imagining things will be is just that – imagined and not for real.

For those of you walking your own journey of loss and pain, saying the words, “It scares me” at times takes courage. For one thing, you are admitting you do not have all the answers. Pointing to and admitting your weakness is not an easy thing. It takes bravery to be so bluntly honest. However, how you proceed after admitting your fear is the real test of courage.

My little friend who admitted that the fireworks frightened her is hardly able to handle her fears alone. She has loving parents who care deeply for her, necessarily reassuring her when she is scared.

Those of you who are faced with walking through grief are not equipped to deal with your loss and fears alone either. As you say, “it scares me” you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting for you to turn to Him. He places caring people in your path who can encourage and help you as you honestly evaluate your future. Reading His Word, the Bible, guides you as well, as you find peace and direction in its words.

There is no weakness is admitting your needs. Unless you are willing to surrender and accept the help offered, you may spend more time than necessary frightened, feeling lost and alone, and questioning the next move forward in your grief journey. May you find hope and strength for the days ahead as you voice with honesty admitting that at times, “it scares me” to God above and to those around you.

Until next time –

Karen

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.

Looking Forward

The-road-forward

The other day I was headed home from having my teeth cleaned at the dentist. The elevator opened and I hopped in, pushing the button to descend to the lobby. I was busy placing my phone off silent since I had it quieted for my appointment. The elevator stopped and the doors opened. I walked off as a gentleman entered. Only then did I look up and realized that we had stopped on the level before the lobby to pick up this passenger. I laughed, admitted my mistake and hopped back on. He was very gracious and shared that he had done the same thing before.

That incident got me thinking that we should always look where we are going. It is important to be looking forward. I never would have exited onto the 3rd floor if I had been watching. What if the doors had opened between floors, malfunctioning and I stepped into thin air and fell and…… Okay. So I am being melodramatic.

However, there is a point to be made. Where are we looking if we are not looking forward in the direction we are moving? Are we busy looking backward, concerned with where we have been? Is the past so wonderful that we cannot leave it behind to move forward into the great opportunities we face daily? How do we know the future will not be just as wonderful if we are not prepared and willing to see new things in front of us?

Perhaps your past is so painful that you fear it will catch up to you because of a mistake you made. Constantly glancing backward over your shoulder occurs out of anxiety. The dread you feel is not necessarily of the future, but of guilt that still has a grasp on you. Remember that if you possess a painful past, God can remove that. There is no shame in beginning new and fresh when you have sought forgiveness and freedom in Christ. Trust that you can try again without condemnation and go for it!

If your past holds memories that are bittersweet, you face the conflict of looking backward wishing for days gone by. Reliving your past joys can cause pain though. I fit into this category at times. I long for the life I had with my husband. While it was not perfect, it was ours. We enjoyed good times together and knew that when push came to shove – we had each other. Now those days are gone. When I find that I look back, I must be careful not to give up on the present and future that I know God has for me. The past is just that – past.

By looking forward and focusing on the opportunities presented us today, we can find joy. Moving our eyes and hearts to face forward, allows us to heal and learn to anticipate the good things still to come. As we move forward, we do not lose our old memories – we just learn how to incorporate them into our new lives ahead.

Until next time –

Karen

Tightrope Walker

tightrop-walker-brighton-daily-photo-beach-143-1024x682

As I watched the news this morning, I listened to the coverage of the recent tightrope walker in Chicago. Unable to see it first hand on television, I looked forward to hearing the interview. Being a person who hates heights, picturing myself in his position terrified me. His view from high above the streets was something I never hoped to experience. Yet, I was intrigued to see what attracted him to such a sport.

A reporter asked him if he had been nervous as he moved on the wire, free from tethers and safety nets. His reply was that there was no room for nerves or fear. They would only distract him from his objective – to walk the length of that wire safely, from one end to the other.

The wind during his walk seemed to be less than ideal for his circumstances. They played part of the commentary he gave while walking. At one point, it showed he had planned to stop to take a “selfie” photo. However, due to the wind and movement of the wire beneath his feet, he opted to keep going. It seemed the risk was not worth his planned picture. I smiled when he mentioned this since I saw the whole ordeal as a huge risk.

He made one final comment, informing the audience that he was from several generations of tightrope walkers. He seemed to be conveying the importance of continuing that tradition. He thought of that vocation as a gift that was enjoyable.

There are similarities and lessons we can learn from this man as we walk through our grief. In order to make it to the other side of our sadness and missing our loved ones, it is important that we never lose sight of the goal. Keeping our focus on the objective of slowly but surely feeling better and healing over the next weeks, months and years can be motivation to move us forward.

We do not want to feel lost and alone forever. Having the impression of falling and losing control is miserable. Remember that scripture tells us we can do anything we are called to do with the help of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 4:13) Fear will only slow us down. Make the choice not to give in to it.

While we move through our days, we may have one plan in mind only to find it necessary to change in order to continue our journey. Just like our Chicago walker chose not to risk the “selfie” photo to assure he remained safe, we too may need to re-evaluate to balance things in our lives. Not every idea we have is a good one or in our best interest. Be wise enough to know when to alter and adjust to the events life may blow your way.

Our Chicago walker came from a long line of tightrope walkers. He had learned the skill from a very early age, with people investing in him and teaching him along the way. I realize that I am blessed to have grown up with people telling me how much I am valued and loved. My hope is that you hear this too. The importance of having people in your corner offering wisdom and encouragement is enormous. No one should have to walk the journey of grief alone. If you are at a point when you feel isolated and by yourself, reach out for help. Contact a church, a friend, or the Grief Share organization.

If you feel yourself teetering a little today, take a moment, and focus your eyes on your goal. Be open to asking for and receiving help, so you can continue forward.

Until next time –

Karen