Gnawing away at grief

Decorating for fall in our front yard, we placed a hay bale, a little scarecrow and a nice, large, orange pumpkin. We thought it was the perfect display. It was easy to put up and easy to maintain. However, as the weeks have gone by, we have watched our poor pumpkin transformed by the deeds of a rather large rabbit population living in our neighborhood. Little by little, we’ve watched our pumpkin shrink and change due to the gnawing away that those little critters have done.

You may find that you feel life gnawing away at you too, as you do your best to journey through your grief. The loss you have suffered has changed you. It is rare that anyone faces death and loss and not be changed. While you may feel you have little control over this transformation, you can have some say in what your life will look like as you move forward.

Stopping grief from entering your life may be out of your control, but allowing it to be gnawing away at you is something that you can stop. Unlike our beautiful, helpless pumpkin with those rabbits sneaking up and taking bites of food away with them, you can decide to embrace your grief and face it. Once grief arrives, determine to do the work it takes to face your loss and choose how it will shape you for the future.

Some people make the unfortunate decision to live as a victim for years. They choose to be stuck in their grief. Allowing themselves to grow into a bigger, better person isn’t on their radar. Instead, gnawing away in their mind and heart is bitterness and sadness, shrinking their world into a sad existence. They don’t realize they have a choice for something more – something better.

Instead of letting grief gnaw away at you, determine how you want to change and then take steps to move in that direction. You can have a say in what you do with your life as you travel through your grief journey. Do you want to feel better? Then begin each day with a purpose in mind. Even something as simple as, “I’m going to shower and go to the grocery store today” is helpful.

I began to journal years ago when my loss was fresh. Putting my thoughts and feelings down on paper was therapeutic. Eventually I used those writings to be the foundation for my book, Grief Letters. I determined that I wasn’t going to waste what I had been through. Instead, I decided that I would begin the gnawing away myself in a positive manner. I chose to allow God to shape my life instead of letting my loss do so.

Does that mean that every day is easy for me now? Of course not. There are still difficult days that I have to maneuver through. But they don’t last long and they don’t get to gnaw away so much that I don’t recognize myself. I have discovered who I am and what I can do. I acknowledge that I haven’t reached this point alone. I have had people by my side, been blessed by the support of others walking through grief, and most importantly have relied upon my relationship with Jesus Christ to give me strength.

You can do this too. You can choose to stop the gnawing away that occurs in grief. You can be intentional about what changes your life, what it looks like and what direction your life will take. Don’t let grief distort you like that poor, pumpkin. Face your loss, be courageous, and work to shape the journey you are walking.

Until next time –

Karen

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.

Finding Good Grief Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Finding-Good-Grief-289425764887980/

New Things

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When you are walking a grief journey, there will be situations that come your way causing you to pause and contemplate, “Is this for real?” It seems that many days you must try new things and be brave as you branch out and expand your knowledge and skills now that you are walking through life without your loved one. Sometimes these moments of contemplation are spoken in confusion and other times you voice that statement in wonderment and are amazed at how blessed you can be, even while dealing with great sadness.

The journey I have been on for the past 16 months has been the latter case. After nearly 7 years of journeying through my life without my first husband, I now have been blessed with sharing my life with another amazing man. My wonderment enters the picture because this relationship was not anything I had been seeking or desiring. With that being said, I am absolutely thrilled that I have it and cannot picture my life moving forward without my second husband.

New things may enter your life when you least expect them. I am not speaking only of new relationships. Perhaps your new thing is finding the courage and excitement to take a vacation to a destination you have always wanted to see. Maybe you are ready to venture out and try a new, fun career that will brighten your days as it provides for those necessary financial obligations we all face. New hobbies can certainly add dimension and happiness to your life as well. What new things do you long for?

Meeting Gary and developing this new life has given us a passion for sharing what we have learned about grief and loss with others. Our Finding Good Grief Seminar is a new thing we have developed using creativity and dreaming of how we can continue to touch hurting lives by paying forward what we have received ourselves. We have been there – facing the loss of a loved one, both of us having lost our first spouses to death. However, we are seeing that life doesn’t need to stop there. And more than that, the things we have gleaned from our own journeys are now being combined into something beautiful and educational – the Finding Good Grief Seminar.

New things can be exciting. What is it you long for? Do you have dreams that you hold close to your heart? Begin to put on paper how you might truly be able to accomplish these adventures and then begin to move toward those goals. Share your dreams with a close friend, using them as a sounding board for your new ideas as you reach out and move forward in your own adventures.

If you or someone you know needs encouragement in order to see new things as a positive in their lives, share with them my book, Grief Letters, as well as our Finding Good Grief Seminar information. In future posts, you will be able to find our Finding Good Grief Facebook page and the website we are working on. In the meantime, know that you can comment to this post, and we can be in touch.

Until next time –

Karen (Bransgrove) Cadwallader

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.

Finding Good Grief Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Finding-Good-Grief-289425764887980/

 

Anniversary date

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On this 6th anniversary date of Alan’s passing, I thought I’d share my post from last year – 2015. My prayer is that others will be helped and encouraged as they journey through their own grief.

Dear Alan,

Tomorrow marks five years since I last saw you and got to speak with you. The morning I left for work you did not feel well, battling what we thought was the flu. I am so sorry we did not know better. We actually talked on the phone just minutes before you apparently departed this world saying we should go to the hospital to check you out when I got home from work.

It is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” of grief. What if I had left work earlier that day? What if you had gone to the doctor that morning? What if… However I have learned a lot of things during these last five years. I think you would be proud of me, Alan. I wanted to share some of my revelations in an open letter so others might see and be encouraged as they face their own sadness, fear, and grief in saying good-bye to a loved one.

I have learned that even though something hurts so much that you think you might not survive – you can. Those first few hours are still very much of a blur: the wonderful EMTs; the compassionate police, the neighbor who closed up the house, my friends who met me at the hospital and held me through the night when I cried. I remember just enough to still have nightmares and flashbacks at times. So I have stopped trying to relive those hours in order to figure everything out. It does not matter the exactness of my memories. It is enough to know that I did all I could for you and that friends stepped in and were there for me when it counted.

I have learned that while time does not heal all wounds, it does lessen the sharpness of the pain. The moments when I cannot breathe because the agony is too great have passed for the most part. Yet, the tears still flow – maybe more often than others think they should. But that is also something I have learned. No one else gets to tell you how to grieve. The way you mourn and face your sorrow and loss is your own. Be kind and offer grace to yourself as you learn how to live life a new way.

There are no formulas for getting through the death of a loved one. I remember a friend told me that it would take x amount of months to achieve wholeness again because we were married 26 years. I have long since passed that time limit. But I have learned that it is important to give yourself permission to handle grief your own way. As long as progress is being made on your grief journey, you are doing well. Just because someone else may have already moved on to dating and remarriage does not mean that you are failing a task. It simply means your journey is taking a different route.

I learned that I have strength. I also acknowledge that it does not come from within myself, but from God above. Calling and telling our sons of your death was probably the single worse task I have ever had to face. I had others with me at the time who offered to share the words in my place. But those were moments that we would all remember for a lifetime and they needed to come from me. So I did it. The next day it was incredibly difficult to look at pictures of caskets and choose one. Setting up your service was unbelievably hard since we had not once discussed what you would want. You were only 49 years old. Who thinks of those things at that age?

It was ridiculous the amount of time I spent in conversations and engaging in battle for my rights with your former employer to get what was rightfully mine from HR. But through all those conversations I learned that words matter. The way things are said make a difference. Kindness and compassion are missing from this world far too often. I have learned that if you can share these aspects with others, you must do so. You never truly know the path others are walking.

I have learned that having faith before your death, Alan, kept me from despair. While I still cried, was scared beyond comprehension, and required an incredible amount of help and guidance in those first few months, I knew that God was there for me, carrying me when I was too weak to continue on. He allowed me rest from exhaustion after nights of sleeplessness and comfort in the presence of darkness and continual nightmares.

Five years ago tomorrow marks a day that I have come to dread each year. It may be that way for the rest of my life. However, knowing ahead of time that it will be a hard day allows me to prepare for it. Writing an open letter this year has helped me process a little more. Taking the day off work tomorrow is my gift to myself. Sharing my journey with others not only helps me, but I pray provides a source of hope, help, and the beginning to healing that is needed in journeying through grief.

How do you close an open letter written to someone no longer here? I suppose by simply saying I love you still and miss you daily.

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.

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.

Life Happens

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As life happens you may find yourself overwhelmed with the details of grief. The first few days after a significant loss can be especially traumatic. I actually have very few clear memories of the first days following my husband’s death. Short recollections play in my mind like small video pieces, convincing me that death did occur and I really did live through it. Here are a few of the memories that still play back from time to time:

Sitting at the table choosing a casket; rifling through papers finding necessary policy numbers and contact information for various companies; having a plate of toast placed in front of me as someone begged me to eat; shopping for a black skirt and breaking down crying as I was paying the cashier; lying in bed for hours unable to sleep; sitting in my living room as good friends and family members visited but not really remembering conversations.

What allows a person to go on autopilot and survive the difficulties of grief and loss? I believe it is grace and mercy that allows the body to be numbed by shock and enables you to carry on without thinking. Some people make the comments, “You are so strong.” “I would never be able to handle what you are going through.” Yet, it is not like you have a choice. Life does not stop for you to get off the rollercoaster of grief. Dealing with those first days after your loved one has died can easily be the hardest thing you will do. There is little to be done in preparing yourself for when life happens. Even if you and your loved one have walked through the difficulty of illness instead of facing a sudden loss, the journey is hard. While you may have had a chance to plan and think about a future without them, when the moment arrives for their departure from this world, you still face the overwhelming loss and demands of many decisions while juggling your feelings and emotions.

I like to think of it as “life happens” instead of “death happens.” Doing this allows a more positive slant on something all of us will experience from time to time. Some losses will be harder than others. Even so, losing loved ones and beginning a journey of grief is part of living. Life continues for you. There is something more to be experienced and enjoyed. Even though it may not feel like it at the moment, you have a purpose and God has a plan. If we focus on the fact that death will transpire at some point, it puts a pessimistic spin on life and you tend to dread the coming days, distracted from what you have right now. Instead of hope and a future, you see an end and possible despair. Therefore, I choose the fact that life happens and I find a way to move forward in the journey of grief.

You can do this too. Treasure the memories of the life you had with your loved one. Work through the heartache that is sure to accompany your loss. Realize that even though your path is filled with ups and downs, you can survive the ride ahead. Face what is before you so that you can eventually see those days in your past as you move forward toward brighter and easier days.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. 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!

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.

The Empty Room

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I recently attended a funeral. While I didn’t personally know the deceased, I am very close to several of his family members. We arrived early to make sure all the details were being handled for the music and media that would be used during the service. At one point, everyone left that family holding room leaving me to myself. I stood and looked around realizing the significance of the moment in that empty room. Having experienced an incredibly difficult loss myself five years ago, I took a few minutes to think back over time to see the empty room for what it stood for in my own life.

When all the friends and family go home after the service and the obligatory condolences are said, you are left with the empty room. There comes a time all too soon after your loss when you find yourself alone and trying to figure out what is next. One moment you have more than enough people around you and then the next you would give almost anything for the diversion and company of someone sitting with you again.

The empty room conveys a closure to your loss that you may not be prepared for. Seeing the vacancy that loss brings is stark and painful. No longer can you hide behind the need to play host or hostess to a room full of people. Keeping busy meeting others’ needs and concentrating on anything but your own hurt and loss is no longer an option. Now the empty room looms over your days and nights.

Now that you see the barrenness that grief can bring, how do you handle it? What can you do to move forward on your journey and not feel locked away and trapped by the empty room? Recognizing the posture of being alone is the first step. When you find yourself dreading to return to your own empty room, be intentional to change your position. Make plans to go out with friends. Invite someone over, asking them to pick up dinner on the way. It is within your power to alter the emptiness.

For those times when the empty room persists, embrace the quiet. Set aside time to mourn, remember, cry, and be thankful for what you once had. Realize that your daily schedule may not give you the time you need to heal. So take advantage of the empty room to do just that – begin to heal and face the reality of your loss. This will be the beginning of learning how to live again with the great change that has been brought into your life.

Be encouraged when you see the empty room. Don’t feel that you need to run from it, but also don’t feel trapped by its existence. It’s just a room. What you do with it will make the difference in your own grief journey.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. 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!

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.

Please Remember

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I recently attended the funeral of a lovely, kind-hearted, young man. While I did not know him personally, I listened and learned as his family recalled stories of their life with this brother, son, uncle, and friend. He was much-loved even though he may not have realized it. Happiness seemed to escape him. And this made me sad. So I want to say please remember some very important truths.

Please remember that even though you still have sad days, they do not define you as a sad person. When you walk through grief, it is easy to be seen as untouchable and unapproachable. This is not because others lack caring for your circumstances, but because people just do not know what to say or how to help. As you move forward in your grief journey, that sadness will lessen allowing joy and happiness to move in and be experienced more and more.

Realize that you matter as a person. Please remember that even though life has changed, there still is a life for you to live. Because you have the gift of life, there is a responsibility to live that life well. Not perfectly – no one can achieve that. Your path will be filled with plenty of missteps and wrong turns. However, use those errors as motivation and do better next time. Embrace those circumstances and learn from them. Resist from giving up on yourself and the life you are living.

Please remember from where your strength truly originates. When I feel sad, weak, or overwhelmed, I recall a promising verse from scripture. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                       2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) My strength is found in my relationship with Jesus Christ. When it seems impossible to move forward, surrender to and lean on Jesus. He will give you what you need for another day.

This recent funeral service touched me so deeply that I want to make sure that my friends and family know certain things about me too. Please remember that I know who I am. My identity is not just that of a widow, a mother, sister, aunt, or a friend. I am loved and treasured because I am a child of God. Even though I have rough days, I am never without hope. Assurance surrounds my life, not because I am a good or powerful person – but because I know and serve a good and powerful God. Please remember that I do not seek your pity. Instead, I desire for you to be inspired by how I live. And in those times that I fail to live well and make right choices, I ask you to forgive me. Please remember that I am an imperfect person who truly desires to point you to a perfect Creator who wants a relationship with you – His creation.

Until next time –

Karen

Won’t you 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!

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.

 

Little Things

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Journeying through grief is full of huge challenges. Whether you are saying goodbye to a loved one after a long illness, or find yourself suddenly dealing with a loss, there is no denying that change is part of your reality now. Facing the fact that life will be forever different is difficult and sad. While there are big hurdles to jump over as you learn to live without your loved one, you will find that the little things can also cause you to stop and catch your breath.

Finances can be tricky to maneuver when your loved one was the major breadwinner in your family. Perhaps you depended upon their transportation, not being a driver yourself. While these circumstances certainly demand immediate attention as you learn to adjust and survive the great pain of grief, what about the little things?

These are the everyday, rarely thought of items that occur in the background of life. The little things often taken for granted until they suddenly stop being part of your world. Things like the sound of fresh coffee brewing in the morning, dirty socks on the floor, and the aroma of soap and cologne drifting from the bathroom. Walking in the front door and seeing a bouquet of flowers on the table “just because” may be a sight you miss and remember fondly.

I recall coming home from various work trips to find that Alan would have repainted a kitchen wall as a surprise, rearranged the bedroom furniture to try something new, or he had built a fire in the fireplace with pillows and blankets placed on the floor, candlelight glowing and a favorite movie ready in the DVD player. The phone calls to ask what he could pick up from the store on the way home from work or choosing to let me sleep in a bit on a Saturday morning while he started a load of laundry for us were thoughtful tasks he performed. Washing the car and making sure it was full of gas and ready for the week were two things I could always count on him doing for me. Those little things are often overlooked and under appreciated until they are gone.

As you journey through grief, what are the little things that you miss? Recalling those and then finding a way to provide some of them for yourself can be comforting. I occasionally buy myself a little bouquet of flowers. Their aroma and pretty colors have a way of brightening my day. The little things can encourage you to move forward in grief, even in the midst of great loss and pain.

Take a look to determine if there is a something you can do to contribute to your happiness today. Perhaps making a list of the little things you miss the most will give you some creativity in moving forward toward health and healing as you journey through grief.

Until next time –

Karen

Won’t you 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!

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.

Be Watchful

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It is so easy to go about life, just focusing on what is happening today. You get caught up in the busyness of schedules and requests. Deadlines may loom and stresses can mount. If only you could stop and catch your breath amid the craziness of your world.

Or perhaps your hours are a little less full these days. The house is empty and a bit quieter and you wonder how you will fill your time. Without the demands you once knew it is easy to find yourself binge-watching episodes of a show on Netflix. The day has come and gone and you really cannot say exactly how you spent your hours. You have nothing to show for your day. Both these scenarios are examples of the importance to be watchful and aware of your time management.

I am a believer that everyone needs down time. Being free from stresses and the demands of life can refuel you to “charge your batteries” and allow you to move forward stronger and better prepared for what lies ahead. Finding a healthy balance between work and play is key to living a productive, healthy life.

Before death moved in to take your heart and mind captive, productivity may never have been a concern. You managed to multi-task and churn out projects, check items off your to-do-list, and still have time and energy for more. However, as you now face each day knowing loss is always in the back of your mind and in the forefront of your heart, accomplishing those tasks is not as easy. The energy just is not there nor is the desire to be in constant motion.

As you step into your grief journey, it will help to be aware and be watchful of where your time is going. While you may desire for the clock and life to halt and let your emotions catch up to the demands made upon you, that just does not happen. So how can you handle your new life and be assured to live it well? Be watchful.

What is it that God still wants you to see and do now that your world has been turned upside down? How can you know what path to walk in a new stage of life?

God still has plans for you. Even though your world has recently been rocked and nothing seems the same, you can hold on to the truth that there is still a reason for your presence in this world. One verse that I have clung to in my own grief journey is this: “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)

Be watchful. God has plans for you. Your life matters. What you say and do makes a difference in this world, not only to you, but also to those around you. As you learn to adjust and to heal, may you find hope as you look and seek out the path on which you are now traveling.

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!

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.

An Open Letter

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Dear Alan,

Tomorrow marks five years since I last saw you and got to speak with you. The morning I left for work you did not feel well, battling what we thought was the flu. I am so sorry we did not know better. We actually talked on the phone just minutes before you apparently departed this world saying we should go to the hospital to check you out when I got home from work.

It is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” of grief. What if I had left work earlier that day? What if you had gone to the doctor that morning? What if… However I have learned a lot of things during these last five years. I think you would be proud of me, Alan. I wanted to share some of my revelations in an open letter so others might see and be encouraged as they face their own sadness, fear, and grief in saying good-bye to a loved one.

I have learned that even though something hurts so much that you think you might not survive – you can. Those first few hours are still very much of a blur: the wonderful EMTs; the compassionate police, the neighbor who closed up the house, my friends who met me at the hospital and held me through the night when I cried. I remember just enough to still have nightmares and flashbacks at times. So I have stopped trying to relive those hours in order to figure everything out. It does not matter the exactness of my memories. It is enough to know that I did all I could for you and that friends stepped in and were there for me when it counted.

I have learned that while time does not heal all wounds, it does lessen the sharpness of the pain. The moments when I cannot breathe because the agony is too great have passed for the most part. Yet, the tears still flow – maybe more often than others think they should. But that is also something I have learned. No one else gets to tell you how to grieve. The way you mourn and face your sorrow and loss is your own. Be kind and offer grace to yourself as you learn how to live life a new way.

There are no formulas for getting through the death of a loved one. I remember a friend told me that it would take x amount of months to achieve wholeness again because we were married 26 years. I have long since passed that time limit. But I have learned that it is important to give yourself permission to handle grief your own way. As long as progress is being made on your grief journey, you are doing well. Just because someone else may have already moved on to dating and remarriage does not mean that you are failing a task. It simply means your journey is taking a different route.

I learned that I have strength. I also acknowledge that it does not come from within myself, but from God above. Calling and telling our sons of your death was probably the single worse task I have ever had to face. I had others with me at the time who offered to share the words in my place. But those were moments that we would all remember for a lifetime and they needed to come from me. So I did it. The next day it was incredibly difficult to look at pictures of caskets and choose one. Setting up your service was unbelievably hard since we had not once discussed what you would want. You were only 49 years old. Who thinks of those things at that age?

It was ridiculous the amount of time I spent in conversations and engaging in battle for my rights with your former employer to get what was rightfully mine from HR. But through all those conversations I learned that words matter. The way things are said make a difference. Kindness and compassion are missing from this world far too often. I have learned that if you can share these aspects with others, you must do so. You never truly know the path others are walking.

I have learned that having faith before your death, Alan, kept me from despair. While I still cried, was scared beyond comprehension, and required an incredible amount of help and guidance in those first few months, I knew that God was there for me, carrying me when I was too weak to continue on. He allowed me rest from exhaustion after nights of sleeplessness and comfort in the presence of darkness and continual nightmares.

Five years ago tomorrow marks a day that I have come to dread each year. It may be that way for the rest of my life. However, knowing ahead of time that it will be a hard day allows me to prepare for it. Writing an open letter this year has helped me process a little more. Taking the day off work tomorrow is my gift to myself. Sharing my journey with others not only helps me, but I pray provides a source of hope, help, and the beginning to healing that is needed in journeying through grief.

How do you close an open letter written to someone no longer here? I suppose by simply saying I love you still and miss you daily.

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.