“I don’t know how to be this”

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People go through life learning how to do many things. It begins early with a baby learning to crawl, walk, and run. Children are educated to read, write, and work with numbers. Teenagers learn to drive as they gain independence and earn responsibility.

You are often times defined by what you can do. Artists draw and paint; athletics run and work out; teachers educate and share knowledge. There are times though, when we are defined not by what we do, but by what we have become. It is at these moments of definition that we on the grief journey might say, “I don’t know how to be this.”

When Alan died and I was taken back one final time in the emergency room to collect his belongings and leave the hospital, I looked at my friends surrounding me and thought those very words. “I don’t know how to be this.” I don’t know how to be a widow, a single parent, or the sole provider for my family. Suddenly I found myself in a new and frightening position for which there is no real training. Death has a way of leveling the playing field. Mortality stares you in the face and life is deemed short and time fleeting.

Where do you go to learn how to walk through death and sorrow? How do you find a way to deal with the sudden demands of a new way of life? What can you find to hold on to as you feel yourself reeling with shock, fear, and numbness? When you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this” do not give up. Cling to what you know and strive to fight your way to the top as you gasp for air and relief.

You can know that regardless of your loss, you are loved. It may not feel like it in the midst of great pain. Sorrow has a way of momentarily blocking out other emotions. However, hold on to the fact – the truth – that even if no one else is in the room with you, you are never truly alone. God promises to be by your side through thick and thin; in joy or sorrow; today and for all your tomorrows.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39 (NIV)

So how do you get to the point when you can stop saying, “I don’t know how to be this?” Begin learning and walking forward on your grief journey. Join a support group. GriefShare was of great help to me in the early months of facing my loss. Go online and search for a group in your community.

Give yourself permission to realize you are still you and are not just defined by what has happened in your life. Open up and allow others to minister to and care for you. Refuse to give in to the desire to isolate and hide behind closed doors. While time of reflection can be healing, too much time alone can bring detachment and make the loneliness more severe.

It takes work to journey through grief. So when you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this,” do not despair. Education does not happen overnight. Just as you have learned so many skills early on in life, have faith and be assured you can also figure out how to live life a new way and be who you are today.

Until next time –

Karen

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.

The Inside Out lesson

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After work today I finally made time to go see the movie, Inside Out. I had heard it was good, but really knew nothing more than what I had seen on the pre-movie trailers. It was a cute show, providing funny lines causing the audience to laugh in unison throughout. However, I found the Inside Out lesson deeper than just the opportunity to relax and have fun.

Just in case you have not been able to see the movie yet, I will be careful not to give away the storyline and spoil it for you. I do encourage you to watch the movie with open eyes and a tender heart. There are lines of deeper messages for the discerning viewer from the beginning of the movie to the last scene shown.

My favorite thing about Inside Out was the lesson regarding the importance and value of being honest with your emotions. Often times on the grief journey, you may be unable to express how you really feel. Your tears and fears are real and you should not be ashamed or hesitant to show them. There are times you may feel the need to deny your true emotions because you do not want to make others uncomfortable. You are not responsible for how others will respond to you and your walk with grief.

Drawing attention to yourself can be another reason you choose to put on a happy face and pretend to have a cheery attitude. Blending in and stuffing your emotions may seem the easiest thing to do most days. Unfortunately this practice will eventually catch up with you. In order to move forward in your grief, you need to experience and deal with the effects of your loss.

One emotion that the grieving encounter yet want to deny is simply – laughter and happiness. I remember the early days of my grief journey. There would be a moment when something actually struck me as funny and I would laugh, only to be appalled with myself. How could I possibly find levity so early after saying good-bye to my loved one? However, since that time, I have come to see the wisdom and necessity of some light-heartedness on the deep, long, painful journey of grief.

The Inside Out lesson reminded me that true friends and loving family members will accept you right where you are on your journey. There is no need to pretend that everything is just fine. While you do have hope and assurance that God gives strength for the hard days you will encounter, admitting your sadness and grieving your loss does not mean you lack trust or faith. Being honest makes you a courageous, truthful person who recognizes a need for help.

Go watch this movie and see for yourself the Inside Out lesson that you can apply to your own grief journey. May you find yourself smiling, laughing, and yes – even crying as you watch with open eyes and a tender heart.

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.

Favorite things

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There is a comfort in taking time to remember what really brings you joy. What are the favorite things in your world that add pleasure to your life? Before you say, “But without my loved one…..” let us establish that yes, life is now different. And no, not everything can be the same. However, there are still some great things you can appreciate as you live out each day.

Making a list of your favorite things will not only be therapeutic, but can bring gratitude back into a life that has been battered and broken by grief. Recalling those things that you enjoy can remind you that there is still good in this world. Perhaps you are a creative or artistic person who takes pleasure in making things. Then give yourself the gift of filling a Favorite Things Box or making a collage of items that can still bring a smile to your face.

Is it the sound and smell of a gentle rain accompanied by jarring thunder? Maybe music touches your heart in a special way. Burning a CD of certain songs may release your sadness leaving room for joy to bloom. Perhaps you find relaxation in beginning the day slowing, savoring the sunshine streaming into your bedroom while catching up on some reading.

Reflect upon old hobbies you used to enjoy. Is it time to take part in those again? Sports, crocheting, cooking, playing an instrument, gardening, jogging, writing, singing,…. Do any of these resonate with you? Is it time to learn a new skill? There is a beauty and satisfaction in discovering new abilities. Just because you have never done something before does not mean it is impossible or too late to learn it now.

Shortly after Alan’s death, I realized that I was missing out on so much by sitting at home and doing nothing more than working and sleeping. Auditioning for a local choir met a need that I had. Singing with Voices West has been fulfilling and healing.

What is it that is causing you to hesitate? Do not let your fears and doubts stop you from trying something new. That thing you have always wanted to do may just be the thing that propels you forward on your journey.

When you lost your loved one you did not lose the ability to continue living and growing. Your days should have purpose. There is a reason that you are still here. Now – today –  is the time to discover things about yourself you may not have known. Be courageous and willing to branch out and reach upward. Dig deep within and be amazed at what you uncover. Marvel in the favorite things you still find in life. Embrace and enjoy them. Your loved one would want you to smile and be happy.

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.

 

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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