The Carousel Never Stops

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I received a phone call from my older brother Friday morning informing me that my mother had been taken to the hospital by ambulance the night before. My dad had just called him to say she could not catch her breath. Neighbors had come over in the middle of the night and ended up calling 911 to get them the help she needed. Upon hearing the craziness of the night they had endured, I realized that the carousel never stops.

Just when you think things are settling down and life is calm, you are thrown by a phone call, email, or surprise visit. You find that there really is no way to control the speed and direction of life’s circumstances. As much as you may want to slow down and get off, the carousel keeps turning and your horse of choice keeps bobbing up and down with you aboard.

How do you handle the sudden change of direction that those days take? Is there a way to keep from being thrown off as the spinning seems to accelerate and you experience more than your fair share of stress and responsibility?

Being prepared ahead of time for those occasions along your path is important. No matter how hard you try, there will be instances when you just wish the spinning would stop and you could get off the ride for a while. Since that is not a possibility, equipping yourself for the journey is vital.

One thing you can do for your health in coping with unexpected things is to realize from where your strength comes. I know that I am unable to do everything by myself. I have a network of friends and family who offer encouragement and help when I need it.

Knowing that you have a safety net in place, you can feel more comfortable trying new things and stretching the bounds of your abilities. On those days when the carousel never stops, look back and see that your foundation is still in place and a little spinning is not going to destroy you. While you may be shaken a bit, you can survive, pick yourself up, brush off, and continue forward on you journey.

While this network of support is important, the key to coping with life is knowing the One who gives life. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121: 1, 2 (NIV) God wants to be your help – so let Him! Although life surprises us, it never surprises God. Take encouragement in that fact. God has your back. While you are riding the carousel that never stops, God has a harness upon you, holding you safely through the spinning and the dizziness that can follow. When you feel your grip loosen on Him, know that He will never let go of you.

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.

Celebrate the victories

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After dealing with difficulties, sadness, and the numerous challenges of the grief journey, it is important to take time to reflect and see how far you have come. Perhaps your journey is fairly new and you feel it is impossible to see progress or discover anything good. Keep looking. No matter how far along you are in your grief, it helps to celebrate the victories as they happen.

Did you get up this morning? Then you may count that as a victory. There are some mornings that are just hard to face. I understand. Perhaps you were not able to get up today. Then there is tomorrow and you can strive to do better.

Set your sights on a goal and then work for it. Be prepared for setbacks and disappointments. Do not let the occasional difficulty derail you from your plans and your purpose. Use those hardships to shape and sharpen your determination instead.

One of my favorite Bible verses reminds me that God has a purpose for each of us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

While I do not always like the direction that His plans take me, I trust in the path God has set out for me. Embracing that and moving forward in my grief has been my way of coping with loss. Admittedly, I have not done this well and with grace every single day. Yet, not giving up on the hard days makes the next ones easier.

Begin a list of the little triumphs in your life. Then go celebrate those victories. There will be hard days here and there, but you will see that you still have much to be thankful for and to rejoice about. I have shared a few pictures here from my first book signing party. Grief Letters is certainly one of my victories on this long and arduous grief journey. May you soon see pictures of victory in your own life’s travels.

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.

Not Automatic

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I had to laugh at myself today as I was out to lunch with a friend. Excusing myself, I went to wash my hands. I pressed the soap dispenser, receiving a little stream of liquid, rubbed my hands together, and placed them under the faucet to rinse the soap away. However, as I held out my hands expecting the water to flow, nothing happened. I remember muttering, “Come on,” and moved them around a little trying to activate the sensor. Then my eyes moved up and to the right a bit and I laughed, noticing the handle with which to turn on the water manually. The sink was not automatic. I looked around, checking to see if my mistake had been witnessed and was relieved to see I was alone.

Walking through life, we often take for granted some very important facts. One of those is that recovering from loss and grief is not automatic. Work is required in order to move from mourning to joy. Intentionality is necessary to set our minds on things other than the sadness that can accompany loss.

There are those who have never experienced a loss who fail to understand that grieving takes time and involves work. It is not automatic. You do not wake up one morning and say, “Oh good! I feel all better now.” Improvement and relief come in stages as the grieving put real effort into moving forward and learning to live life again without a loved one.

Some people tend to avoid the pain of grieving and assume if they just place attention on others things, never facing their loss, everything will soon be improved and “back to normal” again. This is a false assumption. Journeying through grief is not automatic and avoidance of facing that fact will only slow down the healing.

Be encouraged. Even though making your way through the grief journey is not automatic, it is possible. You will get to the other side of grief. Give yourself permission to take the time to travel it thoroughly in order to deal with the many aspects and circumstances of loss.

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.

A Little Messy

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A couple of weeks ago at work, it was discovered that someone had failed to push the coffee pot all the way back on the hot plate while brewing a fresh pot. As a result, the coffee flowed from the top spout and down the outside of the pot, instead of inside as intended. By the time the mistake was caught, hot coffee had made its way all along the counter, under the microwave, even pouring into the cabinet drawers on the other side of the counter space. The kitchen was certainly a little messy.

Journeying through life is a little like that coffee station. When we are not positioned correctly, things can get a little messy. What is a correct posture of grief? While each journey is unique and will look differently for everyone, there are some common points to consider.

One posture of grief that you should be prepared for is change. Upon the death of a loved one, life is bound to look differently. The hole left by the absence of a person is real and gaping. Whether your loss is sudden or you have seen its approach for a while now, it changes your life and you face the challenge of learning to discover and live a new “normal” life. Their loss tends to make your life a little messy while taking you on a different, undesired path.

Another helpful posture is to appreciate that we ache much because we love much. Even though it hurts to say good-bye, even if for a little while, your life has been shaped by the relationship you had with your loved one. Trust that their impact on your life served a purpose. Be willing to step into the mess of the pain. Dealing with the sting of loss now will aid you in advancing in your grief journey.

Being willing to move forward leads to a final point. Your grief is a passage, not a place to stay. It is vital that you not stop the flow of grief as you process and maneuver the messiness of your difficult path. As you move onward, you will see progress. Be assured and encouraged that you still have a very real purpose in life. You may not understand what that is at the moment. At those times of doubt, it must be enough to trust and believe that there is indeed a purpose and continue to seek it.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV) Even when things get a little messy, embrace your journey. There are times we need a little mess to appreciate the beauty on the other side.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order at link below:

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

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.

 

Hope whispers

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The world in which we live can be exhausting, bewildering, and discouraging at times. It is important to remember that as we journey through grief, loss, and sadness, we can find a way to experience joy. Living just to survive is not enough for me. I want to do more than exist – I want to thrive and find real pleasure again. I believe this is possible when I keep holding onto hope.

Remember that when the world says to give up, hope whispers, “Try one more time.” Hope is something that no one can fully take away from you. You may feel like the wind has been knocked out of your sails or that you have no strength to keep going. Listen closely though. In the midst of the noisy battle of daily life, behind all the distractions that try to steer you off course, there is a sweet murmur of encouragement. Not everyone will hear it right away.

Some people will refuse to move forward because the pain is too great. Missing a loved one hurts. However, choosing to sit and wallow in your grief will not remove the pain. Journeying through the hurt and doing the hard work of processing the pain in grieving is the only way to allow your wounds to heal. When you feel you cannot possibly withstand another blow or injury, stop and listen. Hope whispers, “Try one more time.”

Perhaps you have made the choice to rush through the grief journey, running as quickly as possible through the experience in order to get to the other side of the pain and sadness. Instead of giving up, you have resolved to get rid of your grief immediately, ignoring some important steps of remembering and going slow enough to let the scab of pain heal. Your decision to place life on top of an open wound may end up bringing you more harm and pain later on. You have set your goal and nothing is going to stop you from achieving it. Take a moment, and listen carefully. Do not be so busy running from life that you miss the hush. Hope whispers.

There is a balance to walking the grief journey. No one desires to ache for a long time. However, some pain is inevitable as we cross over to the other side of grief. Envision yourself walking across the beautiful bridge I have pictured here for you today. There – just on the other side – if you listen closely you can hear it! Hope whispers, “Try one more time.”

You can do this! There is a scripture that reminds us that God often chooses to talk to us quietly. “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”     1 Kings 19:12 (NIV) Choose to listen to His whisper hidden within the chaos and mess of grief. You will find your strength and hope there.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order at link below:

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

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.

This Necessary Skill

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Living life requires that each of us develop certain abilities. As young children we learn to move from crawling to walking and eventually to running. We go to school in order to improve in reading, writing and arithmetic so we can function through the daily requirements of adulthood. Eventually we discover and practice our social skills as we begin to date and form lasting relationships.

Looking back through life, we realize that we have learned much and were taught to accomplish many things. However, what about this necessary skill of saying good-bye? When is that explained? Who can equip us for such a task? How do we manage to handle such an overwhelming requirement?

Saying good-bye to a loved one – whether friend or family – is this necessary skill that we often fail to grasp a need for and learn. What is involved as we are forced to say farewell to a person who has added so much to our life?

Tears are a great place in which to begin saying good-bye. Crying allows our emotions to have a voice. While we may be unable to form words to show the depth of our feelings, tears manage to shout louder and clearer than any verbal language. No matter where you live on this earth, tears are understood as conveying sadness, passion, and perhaps regret. While everyone may not necessarily appreciate the streams of water upon our faces, as they make some people uncomfortable, tears provide a voice for the sorrow deep within.

Allowing yourself the grace to forget timetables is another worthwhile component of this necessary skill of saying good-bye. Each person’s grief journey is unique. No one gets to demand when you should smile, how you should feel, or what you should “get over.” Some people will take longer to conquer this difficult task of good-bye. Do not compare yourself with others who are also going through a loss.

Realizing that there are better days ahead is part of learning this necessary skill. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then you have the tools to eventually overcome your sorrow and grief. Dig into the Bible and read the promises of God. Meet with a person on a similar journey and hear how they have managed to move forward. Trust that you are not alone, even on your darkest days.

Is there something special you can do to honor your loved one as you say good-bye? The picture on today’s post is a special brick that a dear friend purchased and had placed at the Estes Park Observatory as a surprise for me. I found this to be a wonderful aid in saying farewell.

Death is a certainty here on earth. Therefore, saying good-bye is this necessary skill each of us will need to put into practice at some point. Knowing that there is a God who wants to carry you through those hard times can make the actuality of saying good-bye bearable.

Keep practicing on your skills. You can move forward and you will one day feel better.

Until next time –

Karen

Find more help in learning to practice this necessary skill with Grief Letters.

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

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Make Tracks

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When we are doing something unpleasant we tend to want to hurry and finish the task so we can get on to more pleasurable things. While looking at some old pictures, I found this one from a church ski trip years ago and could see similarities with my grief journey. Just as we soar down the mountain with the urge to make tracks in the snow and reach the bottom of the mountain in good time, we may be eager to hurry along and leave the pain of grief behind us.

To make tracks means to move out of a place fast or to move rapidly toward something or some place. You might have heard the expression before. “Let’s make tracks….” You may fill in any number of endings.

“Let’s make tracks and go get ice cream.”

“Let’s make tracks and get on the road for vacation.”

Perhaps you would like to be able to say, “Let’s make tracks and get over this sadness and grief that accompanies loss.” Desiring this is understandable. After all, who wants to stay in a place of discomfort?

To make tracks, it is helpful to know where you will be going. The destination of a grief journey, though, can be hard to visualize. What does the future look like now? How can you travel there without a loved one? How long will it take to reach the end? These are all great questions for which there are not always answers.

Nevertheless, moving forward is an important part of the grief journey. You may not feel as if you are moving quickly, as is suggested with the saying make tracks. That is just fine. There really is no need to hurry through grief. In fact, I recommend taking your time. Why would you want to take your time? Who wants to hold onto all the crazy aspects of grief; the pain; the confusion; the sleeplessness; the tears; the unknowns?

I am not suggesting that you drag your feet and wallow in self-pity as you grieve. What I am proposing is that you take enough time to process the memories and details of life so you make wise decisions. There will be hidden blessings tucked into each day of your grief journey. The challenge is discovering those along the way and safely placing them in your heart to treasure as you make tracks toward your future.

If you look at the picture once again, you will notice that there are many tracks going off in different directions. No one direction will fit all people. There will be beneficial detours on the grief journey that one person might make which another need not take. Your grief journey does not need to look like someone else’s. It is as unique as you are. Even though there are similarities in grief, each journey will look a bit differently. While all the tracks in the picture eventually get to the bottom of the hill, each skier cuts his own path.

You too will be cutting your own path through grief. The one similarity I wish for all of us to have is that we allow God to guide and comfort along our journey of grief. I know not everyone reading this will agree or understand that God cares and is able to help. I can still wish it for you though. May you find a way to make tracks on your grief journey that allows you peace, comfort, and healing.

Until next time –

Karen

Be sure to check out my new book Grief Letters at http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author/Default.aspx?BookworksSId=SKU-000980156

Grief Letters is a great resource for those who are navigating and desiring to make tracks on their own grief journey. Share it with someone you know!

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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

The Dog Park

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Today, my brother, nieces, and I took little Benny, the cocker spaniel, to the dog park. The weather today was beautiful, sunny, and warm. It was obvious that many other dog owners had the same idea, taking advantage of the day, for it was quite a popular and crowded place.

As Benny ran about excitedly exploring and investigating the park along with the other canines, I found it intriguing to see how the dog owners interacted. There seemed to be some regulars who frequented the park and easily conversed with one another. A couple of people even brought lawn chairs, making themselves comfortable while their pets played.

Others, like me, stood still at first taking it all in. There were some rather large dogs racing back and forth, frolicking with each other, oblivious to anything other than the fun to be had. Those pups played with wonderful abandon, totally carefree, and without a worry. The dogs also showed me two points I took home from the dog park today.

Enjoy and live in the moment – As we walk through grief, it can be difficult to allow ourselves pleasure and the freedom to “run and play.” However, I believe we can learn from the dogs I watched today. They didn’t worry about anything but playing in the sun with their new friends. It didn’t matter that the fun wouldn’t last long or that they would encounter the occasional dog that barked and played a bit roughly. They lived in the moment.

Branch out to meet others – Those of us walking the journey of grief can also benefit by reaching outside of ourselves and meeting new people. Not everyone we come in contact will be our new best friend or even someone whom we want to know better. Still, it is good for us to practice social skills and talk to others if only to forget our own sorrows for just a bit. The art of conversation gets a bit rusty if we allow ourselves to stay isolated for too long.

Little Benny enjoyed his day at the park, as did the four of us who took him. A little fresh air, exercise and socializing is beneficial to everyone – canines as well as humans. I do not have a dog, but I can take these same  concepts and apply them to my life at home. Here’s to meeting new friends and enjoying the journey along the way.

Until next time –

Karen

It’s a Marathon

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A good friend reminded last night that this journey of grief is a marathon, not a sprint. This is something I have heard several times over the last four years. As I am in the grip of grief again and watching my newly widowed brother take his first steps into this journey, I needed that reminder from my friend.  It’s a Marathon.

This means that the journey of grief will take a while. We cannot expect it to end quickly, no matter how hard we try to check off all the details and get everything right along the way. Our emotions take time to process and work through. While everyone will maneuver grief in their own way at their own pace, no route will get us to the other side quickly. Therefore, it is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.

When athletics train to run a marathon, they care for their bodies. They get plenty of rest, they take in good nutrition, and they workout and practice often. Going through the grief journey has  similarities. While we may not be able to rest well at first, we at least need to allow our body time to be still as we try to sleep. Taking a nap or two during the day at first will not break any rules either. Those first few days, you need to allow yourself time to rest when you can. Concentrate later on a more reasonable pattern of sleep in order to work or manage your daily schedule after the first weeks.

Appetite is one thing that may take a dive in the early days of grief. However, even if we do not feel hungry, we need to take in nourishment. Do your best to force-feed yourself if necessary. Even small amounts of protein can make a difference in your outlook and energy level. Consider the kind of calories you are taking in and make them count. Good choices will pay off as you try to fuel your body during these first incredibly tough, mind-numbing days.

Just as the athletics practice, those of us walking through grief do this as well. With this practice comes mistakes. We may not do everything perfectly, but at least we can try. Each day that you put behind you, is one day closer to the end of this painful, sorrow-filled journey. Have courage and do your best to move forward. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance. More than likely there are people just waiting in the wings for a chance to step in and help along the way.

Remind yourself that in the days ahead, it’s a marathon. Not a sprint. Give yourself grace and time as you venture forward on your journey of grief.

Until next time –

Karen