Loneliness in the holidays

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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!

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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 days after

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So much effort is put into anticipating and preparing for special holidays, that you are often surprised by the days after it is all over. Thanksgiving and Christmas have already come and gone. Those special days you have come to dread without your loved one are finally finished. You have survived. Perhaps you enjoyed those harder days a bit more than you thought you would. The opportunity to laugh and smile came into play and you grasped those, filling your mind with new and different memories. Or perhaps you merely scraped by each day, putting forth the effort only for the sake of friends and loved ones still with you.

Many people feel sadness when the holidays are over. The much awaited excitement ends and a let-down from the process can occur. However, there is also a kind of relief that takes places for those on the grief journey. Now that the holidays are over, it is possible to let down your guard a little more. You do not find it necessary to brace for those waves of sadness and nostalgia that hit at the most inopportune times when others around you are laughing and enjoying the celebrations.

Along with the relief can come a bit of satisfaction that you really did make it through the holidays. Not only that, but hopefully you can find one or two truly golden moments to remember with fondness. Look back at the past month that has been full of activities, parties and gatherings, and demands. Celebrate and applaud yourself for accomplishing what you doubted you could live through. You survived the holidays!

As each year passes, the holidays will get better too. You will face them with less dread, you will find more joy, and you will create new traditions. Take a moment to breathe and realize that your future can look bright. Set your sights on what you want to accomplish now that the world around you is returning to “post-holiday normal” and decide what you will do next.

The grieving are not the only people facing a sort of depression and sadness the days after the holidays are over. Many people encounter quite a let-down after all their planning and celebrating. However, you and I have already learned to adjust to newness and changing times. You have an advantage on the rest of the world. You know you can face loss and life that is different from before. Take that knowledge and run with it. Plan new adventures for the upcoming new year. Revel in the fact that God has seen you through this past difficult month.

As you face the future of the days after, know that it can be a blank slate upon which you write your own possibilities, hopes, and dreams. Move forward with as much joy as you can muster and be open to blessings that are in store for you.

Until next time –

Karen

With a new year upon us, consider buying Grief Letters for a loved one or for yourself. Begin the year with hope and purpose. 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.

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!

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.

Gift of remembering

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As the holiday season approaches much too quickly, it is easy for me to feel anxious and to begin dreading the upcoming days. With the arrival of the holidays also comes the memory of Alan’s death since it occurred between Thanksgiving and Christmas and 11 days before his birthday. I was listening to a book on CD in my car this week. My commute to and from work gives me the opportunity to listen to, enjoy, and learn from some good authors. Karen Kingsbury is this week’s choice. While I have not read (or listened) to her before, I must say she has a way of writing that makes me stop, think, and realize how blessed I really am.

There is a certain gift in remembering. You are reminded of doing life with someone; the way they sounded when they laughed or the look on their face when surprised. I have learned that you have a choice how to respond to your memories of loved ones. Recalling special moments together can be a blessing. They can also be painful and looked upon as something to be avoided. You may choose to bury those memories down deep in order to keep from hurting. However, I want to propose that you receive the gift of remembering and treasure those special times instead.

Being able to recall happy occasions with your loved one is something that death cannot take from you. Those memories are treasures that you can hold in your heart and mind forever. Reliving those happier times can bring relief in the midst of deep sorrow and hope in the depths of dark nights. The gift of remembering can confirm the special relationship you had with your loved one. Knowing that they cared enough to do life with you is a blessing. Embrace that knowledge and allow it to be a healing salve placed upon your hurting soul.

What if some of those memories are less pleasant? There are spats you had, the disagreements that were difficult to navigate, and the challenges that life brings to everyone at times. Recalling how you made it through those hardships can encourage you that this present journey will not be impossible either. Because you made it through other hard times, you are better equipped to survive the challenge that death and grief bring.

Preparing for bed last night, I heard the song We Will Remember. It’s a beautiful tribute acknowledging all the times that God has been by your side and seen you through both the good and the rough times in life. It confirmed for me that there is definitely a gift in remembering.

As you approach the upcoming holidays, do so with an open mind and a willing heart. Embrace your memories realizing that the gift of remembering is proof that you loved well and lived hard. Continue to do so now. Move forward with no regrets. Do not miss those opportunities that are presented to you as you heal and learn to continue living life a new way.

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.

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!

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.

Creating a Legacy

Legacy

Listening to Mark Schultz’s song, A Different Kind of Christmas, is a wonderful reminder of the blessing in creating a legacy. While we face the holidays, it is okay to recognize the differences before us; an empty chair at the table, the sadness of missing a long-established tradition; forming and embracing new customs with new people.

The meaning I grasp from this beautiful, touching song is that even though the we face days without those we love, they are still with us because of the legacy left behind. There will always be a special place in our hearts and minds for these precious people because of the memories we hold close.

No matter how different the holiday season is for us after the death of a loved one, we do not need to be defeated and miserable. We can remember the ones we miss because of the investment and difference they made in our lives while they were still with us.

Knowing the value of these recollections, we must be intentional in making memories with those around us today. I have some friends who chose to forego buying numerous gifts for their four children this Christmas. Instead, they decided to invest their time and money in making memories by taking their family on a surprise cruise. I loved their ingenuity and determination. Toys and games break and can quickly lose their appeal. However, the time spent with family in building special memories together can never be replaced nor lost. What a clever idea!

Not all of us will be able to establish new traditions by taking a cruise or going on a trip with family. Fortunately, we can each get creative while experiencing new and lasting traditions, moments and events. Think outside the box and determine what it is that you can do in creating a legacy for your family.

What will my family remember about me when I, too, have gone to Heaven? Will they remember me for laughter, perseverance, a passion for life and love? Those are now my goals. I want my life to mean something. What I do today should make a difference not only in the present, but also for a lifetime. As people think of me years from now, will they gain strength and encouragement for their own journey through life? I hope so.

Let me urge you to take some time as this New Year approaches to determine how you might begin creating a legacy. Decide how you want to be remembered. Then move forward to help that dream and desire come to fruition.

Until next time –

Karen