Conflicting Emotions

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I love autumn. It has always been my favorite season. It signals the end of those hot summer days by bringing crispness into the air that promises cooler temperatures. Bright shades of green hanging from limbs on the trees turn to brilliant displays of gold, red, orange, and brown. The crunch when walking in the grass brings back memories of raking leaves and jumping into assembled piles, scattering them with the careless abandon of joy that children can know so well. Yet, autumn now brings with it an air of sadness and regret. Autumn and conflicting emotions go hand-in-hand as I deal with my grief.

The beauty in the description of autumn is lessened a bit by the reality that this season brings to my family. That reality begins with anticipating reliving the losses we faced nearly five years ago now. While only one person died at that time, his death brings numerous hurts to the forefront this time of year. We not only mourn the day he passed away in November and moved to his residence in Heaven; we also miss him terribly in the holidays so closely associated with this time of year. These include Thanksgiving, birthdays, and Christmas.

Perhaps you too face autumn and conflicting emotions. Knowing that celebrating the holidays will never be the same can seem an impossible wound to overcome. Yet, each day will still hold twenty-four hours. The sun will still rise, causing the countdown to continue, whether you want time to pass or not. So instead of living with the extra dread of approaching holidays and anniversary dates, what can you do?

Choose how you will celebrate the holidays. You get to decide whether you will keep the age-old traditions of your family or if you need to change it up for a year or two or three. Some people find security and safety in keeping things the same. To eat the same food, put out the same decorations, and sing the same songs is a comfort. For others, the pain intensifies as you face the familiar decorations and customs that make you miss your loved one even more.

I managed to get through the holidays by making new traditions. Traveling with friends and family got me out of the house and away from memories that were too painful to face those first three years of loss. I purchased a new decoration to place on the table signifying that autumn had arrived, which focused on the word “blessed.” Even though it does not always feel true, I know that I am blessed. I trust that I am loved by God and recall that my loved one cherished me. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and joy still resides in my heart.

As you see autumn and conflicting emotions cascade into your life just like this beautiful waterfall pictured today, remember that you are neither helpless nor hopeless. You do have choices you can make. Your past does not have to rule your future. Your loss does not have to control your today or tomorrow. Begin by writing down those things you can hold close and keep along with those memories you may need to pack away for a little while longer. The time will come when you can dig them out and allow them space in your heart and in your house. Until then, find courage to make new memories, knowing your loved one would want the best for you.

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.

The Right Tool

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I heard a car alarm going off early Friday morning, while staying at a hotel in Fort Worth, Texas last week. As it continued to honk, I walked to the window to observe an older gentleman walking around his vehicle. Assuming it was a rental car, I watched as he opened the back door, closed it, walked to the trunk to open it, and then shut that as well. This gentleman obviously did not realize he had the right tool in his hand to correct the problem and stop the noise.

As I watched him struggle to shut off the alarm, I felt sorry for him. Being on the third floor, I was unable advise him. I shook my head as he got into the car, started the engine and tried to drive it, probably thinking the maneuver might stop the noise. Are you aware that the alarm escalates to a higher pitch and accelerates in tempo when trying to move an alarmed car? The poor man immediately applied the brakes, jerked the car into park, and climbed out in frustration.

Watching this driver struggle with his very noisy challenge, I was reminded that even though we may possess the right tool we need for life, we often fail to realize that fact and therefore do not put it into use.

Walking through grief and difficult times can present unique situations which we have never experienced before. Putting aside for a moment the debilitating pain of grief, there are many practical issues we must learn to handle as well. These issues are often called secondary losses, as we have surely lost more than the person whom we loved.

For example, when my husband passed away, I found myself immediately in the position of having to pay all the bills myself, shovel snow from my sidewalks and driveway, change the furnace filter, care for service on the car, manage the upkeep on my house alone and face constant silence as I returned home from work each day to an empty house. I am sure there were many months that I looked just as dazed as this older gentleman trying to turn off the alarm on his rental car.

Fortunately, I had a network of friends and family who came to my rescue in some of the difficulties and hardships I listed above. While I still had to handle each of my new challenges, I was able to get instruction and tips on how to do so. I found that late nights and working long, hard hours at home after spending all day in the office enabled me to keep on top of my new duties. I admit I did not always tackle the jobs as soon as they needed addressing due to fatigue, but they did eventually get done.

Whatever happened to the hotel episode? I found myself smiling as eventually a lady walked up to this discouraged and desperate man, showing him how to press a button on his key fob to stop the noisy alarm. While the other hotel guests were surely grateful for an end to this early morning interruption, their gratitude could not compare to the relief written upon his face that morning.

If you find yourself struggling with the challenges and secondary losses now placed before you in grief, give yourself permission to ask for help. Then allow yourself time to adjust to your new schedule and new life. You can possess the knowledge and right tool to move forward. Do not be afraid to seek the help you need.

Until next time –

Karen