Anniversaries

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Some days are better than others. That is a fact of life. There are days that you look forward to, long for, and treasure when finally they arrive. Others you dread with fear and trepidation, wishing you could skip over them and avoid the pain and unpleasantness they are bound to present. The calendar dates that mark anniversaries can certainly fall in this latter category.

Types of anniversaries vary. Some mark great days, others signify days you wished had never happened. This upcoming week marks what would have been my thirty-first wedding anniversary. Contemplating all the life that has been packed into these last thirty-one years, I have come to believe the day is not all bad. While it will certainly hold sadness for me as I am denied the chance to celebrate it with my deceased husband, there are many precious memories surrounding the date that I will always cherish.

As Tuesday approaches, mixed emotions begin to churn and whirl in my mind. I no longer dread the day quite as much as I used to when my grief was fresh. It is now possible to sift out the pleasant memories of our years together and enjoy the happy moments without quite as much influence from the more recent, sadder events of the past four years following his death.

How can you handle anniversaries that are still painful? What can be done to help you through a difficult day full of sometimes bittersweet and whirling emotions? One helpful tip is to realize that often times, the dreading and anticipation of the day is usually the worse part. The pain you actually feel on the anniversary day is often times less than what you expect.

Think back to when you were younger. Was there something you feared and wished to avoid as a child? Perhaps it was a shot at the doctor’s office. Maybe it was sitting through that exam at school or reading out loud in class. Not looking forward to certain events is normal. As humans, death and grief often top the list of dreaded occasions.

Yet, when the anniversaries come and go following your loss, they seem to get a bit easier to handle with each passing year. It is not that they become less important to you. You do not forget their significance in any way. The day is just as treasured and special as before. However, you find that as much as you dreaded the day’s arrival, waking that morning is not a painful as you thought it might be. Pleasant memories mix with your sadness and you find you are able to smile and enjoy some of the memories that have always made that day special.

Another tip that you may find helpful is to plan ahead to treat yourself and do something pleasant on those anniversaries. Making provision to not be alone is wise, especially if your loss is very recent. Allowing others to share your company is a distraction that can serve you and bless them.

What is it you can do to turn your dreaded days into cherished ones? Your anniversaries do not have to be unpleasant. While they will certainly not be what they used to be, it is possible to turn sadness into joy.

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. “ Psalm 30:11 (NIV)

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.

Leapfrog

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Traveling from Denver to Topeka this week I had to smile each time I encountered trucks along the way. While I would not describe myself as being competitive, I do find satisfaction when I pass a truck and see it disappear in my rear-view mirror as I pull away – going the proper speed limit, of course.

However, the moment of victory with each truck was easily forfeited if I chose to pull off the road for gas or a short break. Even though it is necessary to stop and take care of business occasionally, I found it frustrating to realize that those same trucks gained on me during my interludes. How dare they!

As I had to work again to catch up and fight for my position on the road, I realized that the grief journey is a lot like playing leapfrog. It seems that as we walk this difficult path, we jockey for position with pain, sadness, and progress.

You will have days when you feel great. Your attitude is good and your hopes are high. When you look behind, you can see the advancement you have made and your forward progress is steady. Until one morning, for some unforeseen reason, life seems dismal. Depression attacks with a vengeance and you struggle to even get out of bed and accomplish the simplest tasks.

What happened? How did grief catch up to you so quickly and unexpectedly? Just as I had to drive hard and keep focused to overtake the trucks on the highway, when you walk through grief, determination is necessary.

Knowing ahead of time that you will experience set backs and disappointments will help prepare you for those surprise encounters. When the sun shines outside yet all you are able to see is a gloomy future, know that you just need to play a little leapfrog and spring into action. You have not really lost the ground you have worked so hard to gain. Regressing periodically is part of the journey. Stay focused, think positive thoughts, and rely upon God’s strength in your life to hop over the seemingly large obstacles in your path. When you continue to try, healing is within your grasp.

Picture yourself placing your hands on that roadblock and pushing off the ground with your legs planted firmly. Before you know it, you will find yourself propelled upward out of the depths toward your goal ahead. Play a little leapfrog and find yourself once again moving along your grief journey with success and victory in sight.

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.

Indulgences

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On a recent trip south, I made a stop for a special little treat. Since there is no Braum’s in the state of Colorado, stopping for a yummy scoop of ice cream from this establishment is one of the little indulgences I allow myself from time to time. It is fun to remember family outings to this place and enjoy the flavors that always caused discussions and debates as we tried to determine whose choice was the best. Alan’s favorite was always pumpkin. Mine had to involve some sort of chocolate.

As you journey through loss and deal with grief, it is acceptable to allow yourself some indulgences once in a while. Here are some suggestions you might try if you are having trouble thinking of how to treat yourself as you travel through these difficult days.

First of all, allow yourself to enjoy life. During the early days of grief, it can be hard to smile or laugh without feeling guilty. For some reason, you feel regret if you have fun with friends. When you awaken feeling rested and smiling at the sunshine streaming in your window an uncomfortable weight can bother your conscience. How could you possibly have the audacity to find joy when you have just suffered an inconceivable loss? Believe me, I understand. I have been there and I now say, “Allow yourself the indulgence of embracing a little laughter and joy when the opportunity comes along!” Your loved one would want you to be happy. Do not force yourself to remain gloomy when the chance for a little relief comes along.

Another indulgence you need to permit into your life is the flow of tears that will fall periodically along your journey. There is nothing wrong with crying. Tears can be a cleansing agent for a hurting soul. Holding back the salty floodwaters can literally rob you of the relief you experience when allowing that dam to break and flow. If you are not comfortable sharing your tears in public, then be sure to seek out some private time when you can cry alone. Admitting your loss and pain in this manner will feel like a healing balm placed upon an open wound.

One last indulgence I encourage you to take is time. Healing does not happen overnight. You hurt much because you love much. Give yourself permission to grieve at your own pace. No one else gets to set a timetable for your journey. When friends and family suggest you should be further along in your grief, they speak either because they care or they are uncomfortable with your sadness. Either way, they want you “better.” However, in order to progress in your journey through loss, you must travel on your clock, not theirs. Grief cannot be scheduled – it just happens.

Indulgences are the gifts that we give ourselves as we process our grief. May you find ways to be kind and true to yourself and your loved one as you walk the road before 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.

Repurposed

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The creativity of some people amazes me. I find it fun to see how items meant for one purpose can be used in a completely new and different way. Scripture addresses this type of idea in Genesis 50:20. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (NIV) In this verse, Joseph is giving testimony to the fact that the difficulties he faced in life did not destroy him because God used them to shape Joseph into a man He could use. The tragedies that Joseph endured were repurposed for the good of many. Not because Joseph was a great man – but because God is a great God.

You too, can see your life experiences repurposed if you allow God to shape, to mold, and to grow you through the most difficult of times of life. While the world may think you should be defeated and beaten down, you can know otherwise. Think back through your life. Can you remember a time when you had given up hope? Things hurt too badly and you were ready wanted to quit trying. Those times are when you must remember an important truth. When you are at your weakest, God strength is most evident. God desires to take your pain and hurt and repurpose them. Doing so, He proves His faithfulness on behalf of His people.

If God intends to turn things around for the better, why do difficulties and pain need to exist at all? We live in an imperfect world. Until you reach Heaven you will struggle with the hardship of living in a flawed environment. Take heart though! The tears you shed today can be transformed into happiness and understanding in the future. Your sorrow can be reshaped – repurposed – into a life that points others toward the source of all that is good. Jesus Christ longs to direct your steps as you journey through grieve and the hard days ahead.

Let Him determine the direction of your life. Give your sorrow over to the only One who can turn it into something productive, something beautiful, something good. Embrace your hard days, knowing they will not last forever and that they can be repurposed and made into something that will make you smile and know joy once again.

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 Renovating Life

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Lately, I have been spending a little time watching HGTV shows such as Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict. I find it inspiring to see how these experts take a mess and make it better. There is hope is seeing the possibilities of turning bleakness and disaster into actual beauty. These people show others how to have a renovating life – turning old and ugly into something new and desired.

Living with grief can certainly fill your world with gloom. Days seem dreary and nighttime threatens to suffocate with its darkness. Just as those Do-It-Yourself stars teach how to improve your home, you can be guided to see hope and potential in your now, changed life.

Turning something broken into an item with purpose is a gift. Our DIY experts certainly have the ability to do amazing things with ruined homes, torn-up yards, and seemingly hopeless real estate. Having the ability to move forward in your grief is also a gift. It takes practice and persistence to see progress in your journey. Hard work is required in order to one day find yourself on the other side of your difficult, long journey of mourning and sadness.

There is a verse in the Bible that addresses turning a life of hardship and despair into one of joy and happiness. “…provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair….” (Isaiah 61:3 NIV)

God wants to provide a way to give us a renovating life. Notice I did not write renovated life. I chose renovating because making your way through the difficulties that everyone encounters at one time or another is an ongoing process. While there is sadness in this world, we can persist to hunt for gladness. We can experience joy; trading in the sorrows and mourning that accompany death and loss.

As you work on your renovating life, realize you may need to stop and start over a few times. Perhaps what you thought would be helpful and work is not doing the job. Be willing to try another route. Pray and seek new direction. Remember that even the DIY experts mess up occasionally and are forced to tear something out and try again. A renovating life is full of possibilities. Just as the home projects cause you to marvel at the final pictures, you can also find wonderment and hope in the life that is awaiting you.

Here is to elbow grease, flexing a few muscles, and exposing your needs and desires as you work on your journey ahead.

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.

Embrace Your Tunnel Vision

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Ever feel like you can’t see beyond the end of your nose? Or that you are blinded to everything that goes on around you? That feeling of darkness and isolation can be frightening. When vision is obscured, your impulse may be to stop and shield your heart and head until light peaks through again. The problem with hiding is that we may be missing the very light that is waiting for us far ahead in the distance. Tunnel vision can strike and deem us incapable of movement. However, I would like to present the possibility that tunnel vision does not have to be a disability in grief. Instead, I suggest you embrace your tunnel vision.

Looking up the definition for this malady, I found the following: medical : a condition in which you can see things that are straight ahead of you but not to the side; a tendency to think only about one thing and to ignore everything else. (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary)

Upon reading this definition, I decided I wanted to have a form of tunnel vision as I journey through my grief. Not the type of tunnel vision that renders you useless and scared. I seek the type of tunnel vision that keeps you focused and moving forward, successfully working your way through the grief journey. As you embrace your tunnel vision, here are a couple of advantages you may find.

Healthy tunnel vision can help propel you forward along your journey, where you find yourself closer to the end than the beginning. Knowing your purpose and what you desire can help you arrive at that destination sooner rather than later. Embracing instead of avoiding will drive you further along on your journey.

Another advantage you gain when you embrace your tunnel vision is the realization that you do not have to wait until “the end” of grief to feel joy. While the grief journey will not really end to the point that things will return the way they once had been, you will arrive to a point in time when the struggle is lessened and your smiles occur more often. However, how sad if you believe that you cannot feel joy now, in the midst of grief. Allow yourself permission to smile at the little pleasures along the way as you keep your eyes focused on the light at the end of your tunnel.

Even if that light periodically blinks and seems to disappear for a while, keep looking! The tunnel of loss does have light for you to find and you can arrive on the other side of grief having learned to function and enjoy life again because you chose to embrace your tunnel vision.

I truly struggle at times to choose what picture to place with my posts. I have chosen this picture because I believe it shows me choosing joy, and being silly, as I embrace my journey. I hope it is evidence that tunnel vision does not have to be harmful – it can be functional and play a huge part in handling grief.

Until next time –

Karen

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Get your copy of Grief Letters today! Someone you know needs the encouragement it offers to those who are navigating the loss of a loved one. Available from WestBow Press at:

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

Also available on Amazon.

That Tink Moment

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Tinkerbell. That cute little pixie who brings a smile to faces around the world. I love this picture from my trip last summer. We were told to pretend there was something in the hand and act surprised and thrilled. Upon seeing the final picture at the end of the day, after the photographer had added Tink, I saw my face displaying excitement and wonder. Those are two emotions that have been difficult to feel these past few years. However, that Tink Moment on vacation made me realize that I really can enjoy life again.

While Tinkerbell may not be real, I think Tink Moments are. They are “ah ha” opportunities which present you with sudden pleasure and sweet surprise as you once again experience happiness and joy.

In the early days of grief, it can seem as if nothing will ever be good or right again. I know. I have been there. Fortunately, I can also testify to the fact that the journey does get easier and joy will enter into your days, little by little. You may notice all of a sudden that the sun is shining and your favorite flower is blooming as if to say, “Hello there! Smile!” Perhaps you awaken to a swell of energy one day and cannot wait to get out and hit a few balls on the golf course or take a walk and breathe the fresh air.

Those better times will sneak up on you, so be looking for them. They are a gift: an encouragement from a loving, caring, all-sufficient God who also knows the ache of watching a loved one die. Just as suddenly as grief struck and stole the joy and confidence out from under you, it is possible to unexpectedly experience a smile, feeling a warmth from within that assures you of better days ahead. That is a Tink Moment.

May your days be full of these special times that remind you just how loved you really are. Look for your next Tink Moment amid the rough spots as you journey forward in grief.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief letters is now available for purchase.

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

or on Amazon – paperback, hardcover, and Kindle.

A Dark Place

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Have you ever been stuck in the dark? Imagine a place so black that it is impossible to see your hand in front of your face. When the boys were young, we took them to explore an old mining shaft. The elevator we entered was small. As we descended, we could feel the dampness creep in around us. It became a dark place as we approached our destination in the cavern below. Gratefully, upon disembarking from our elevator car, we encountered the lights strewn about inside the tunnels, illuminating the path we were to follow. That kind of darkness is one without visual light.

There is another type of darkness as well. This kind dampens our spirits, steals our joy, and allows fear of the unknown to invade our daily lives. Meet the darkness that accompanies grief.

The darkness of death and loss comes in many forms. One is through the numerous questions and uncertainties which bombard our daily lives. What will tomorrow hold? How will we manage without them by our side? Who can I turn to for help? Will the bills get paid? As the questions race through our thoughts, the darkness moves in, squeezing out the light of certainty.

Fortunately, we do not have to dwell within this darkness. We can make the choice to believe there are brighter days coming. While we may not be as certain of things as we had been in the past, there is a way of seeing light while passing through a dark place.

Having faith can make a difference in how the world looks to you. Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness. It is knowing that even though the future seems obscured and unsure, you can move forward into it, trusting while moving through your days. Be careful in what and whom you place your trust though. Putting that faith in yourself or others will land you on less than solid ground. While people may have the best of intentions, remember that no one is infallible. Mistakes will happen, feelings will get hurt, and you will find yourself faltering in your journey.

Securing your faith in God is the sure way of having your path clarified and your questions answered. Perhaps these things won’t happen immediately, but speaking from experience, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know because I can see it now. That is why I chose a picture of light for this posting. We all see enough darkness walking through grief. I prefer gazing at and enjoying the light!

The beginning of a grief journey is a dark place. It does not have to stay that way though. Be aware that even when you have traveled forward a while, the darkness can seep back in, taking us by surprise and beating down the faith to which we have been clinging. Fight back! Do not allow the darkness to set up house again. Dig down deep and find your faith that will bring forth light.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope [faith] in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 (New International Version)

Until next time –

Karen

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Do you want more information on fighting the darkness of grief? Grief Letters can help!

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