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.

Space and Grace

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As I was thinking and praying for a family member going through a very recent loss, I used these two words, “Lord, surround him with people willing to give space and grace.” Reflecting upon those words I realized that is exactly what people going through grief need.

There are times we need people around us even though we would rather be alone. Isolation, while desirable at times, is not always the best thing for us as we learn how to navigate a new world that is missing a loved one. Having people come near and take part in our lives is something we need to allow.

However, people dealing with recent loss do need space to grieve. Alone time can be healing and therapeutic if used well. This doesn’t necessarily advise one to sit alone in front of the TV for hours every day, waiting for the sun to set and for sleep to invade and end the day. Space to grieve means having time to reflect, cry, plan, and eventually learn to dream again. Giving the gift of space may mean sitting silently with a grieving friend, just reminding them you care by your very presence. Words are not always required. Providing space is to let the bereaved set the course for the time you spend together.

It may be difficult to gauge how much space you should give. Be sensitive to signs and signals given by the grieving and do your best to accommodate. Do not be afraid to ask questions, letting them hear your heart and see your willingness to help.

Both space and grace are needed in loving a grieving person. Having grace with someone is to give something not deserved. This can be described as “cutting them some slack” or “giving someone a break” in certain situations that would normally call for some form of correction or redirection. While this grace may not be necessary after a while, the first few days and months of grief certainly call for such measures.

As we walk through the grief journey, we do not always think clearly and remember everything that needs to be said and done. Realizing this can keep those affected by our unintentional slights from being wounded or becoming angry. Giving the gift of grace is huge as the grieving often deal with some form of sadness as well as misplaced guilt. Let a certain comment or mistake roll off your shoulders and use your heart to feel for your friend or family member who is struggling on their grief journey.

Your understanding and unconditional love for them during a very difficult part of their lives will provide unimaginable relief which they may never be able to fully express. Space and grace – two gifts we can definitely give to one another while traveling through grief.

Until next time –

Karen

More and more

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I find that the world in which we live tends to entice us in wanting more and more. The status quo is rarely enough. We must have more and more of: time, clothing, toys, friends, bling, food…the list could continue. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it would be easy to want more and more of things that we, on the journey of grief, feel we can no longer have. Yet, I would like to put a different twist on what we can possess.

Even though we feel set apart from those around us who use this holiday to show love to one another, we too can convey and receive love. Grieving a friend or loved one proves that we have known love. We grieve and miss them because we loved them. While it may be painful, it is actually a gift in having been part of such a meaningful relationship. Some people never realize and experience this type of bond.

So while you may feel you are missing out on a special day, February 14, your persistent, ever-present pain at this time allows you to remember that every day should be special and distinct. Experiencing grief tends to make us appreciate and value our days and our loved ones more.

Emotions can be difficult. People have the inability to keep their feeling stagnant and the same. Being sad one moment and happy the next tends to be the way of life. Human emotions have the tendency to change and fluctuate like the wind. Knowing this, we can make choices to guard against such emotional swings as we walk through grief.

We can choose to grow more and more bitter, isolated, and sullen in our grief journey or we can choose the opposite. Having more and more grace and love for ourselves and those around us reflects what Christ has done for us. Nothing we do or fail to do can make His feelings for us decrease or increase. God’s love is perfect and sufficient. That is the example we can follow.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of bemoaning the fact that we cannot celebrate the day like others do, we can make sure that those we still have in our lives know that they are loved and appreciated. Spend time with friends, send emails or letters to family. Go have dinner out or watch a fun movie in. Focus on what you do possess with all the gratitude, grace and love you can muster. God can fill in the gaps where you may fall short.

May your day be filled with more and more patience, grace, love, freedom, joy, and beauty.

Until next time –

Karen