Standing together


As the holidays approach I decided to do something totally new and different from old family traditions. I began decorating the house for Christmas before Thanksgiving Day. In our family, putting up Christmas decorations had always begun the weekend following Thanksgiving and each of us pitched in, standing together, to turn our home into a festive holiday retreat.

I have struggled these past five years with decorating for Christmas. The first two years the home remained bare of any decoration reflecting Christmas and the holiday was spent away from the house. However, this year my home will be filled with my boys and their wives. Suddenly, I feel there is reason to rejoice again. There once again seems to be a purpose in creating the look and feel of Christmas in the house.

Standing together is the only way anyone can journey through grief well. Knowing that you are not alone is important. Feeling support from both family and friends can give you hope to replace despair; laughter instead of tears; resolve instead of defeat.

As I worked in my home the past few days, I found energy in putting out some favorite decorations. Penguins and nativity sets are two things I enjoy collecting and placing about my home. This picture of four penguins on a Christmas stocking helps me envision those who stand near, cheering me forward.

Who do you have in your corner? What names come to mind when you realize life would be harder without them in this stage of your life? How do you remind yourself that you truly are not alone in mourning your old life, missing your loved one, and facing another year of tough holidays?

Perhaps this is your first year missing your loved one. Trying to picture celebrating anything seems impossible for you. If this is your situation, I am so sorry. No one else gets to determine or judge what you do or don’t do this year. It is important to realize that you do have choices. Decide what it is that will allow you to have a reason to get up in the morning. Is it your kids or your family? Knowing that your loved one would want you to live each day and learn to smile again? All these reasons helped motivate me throughout those first few years.

Find people who can help by standing together with you. Allowing them to be nearby in this difficult time may be just the blessing and open door you need to face this next month.

Until next time –


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!


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 Little Things


Many people know that I collect penguins. This picture shows  just a few I own. However, I am not sure many realize why I chose this odd little bird. Years ago I attended a Women of Faith conference. One of the speakers, Lucy Swindoll, shared her story of going on a cruise south in the Antarctica area. Her dream was to see a whale. This desire consumed her thoughts on that trip. She kept watch day after day to catch a glimpse of this giant, water mammal. Yet, time after time she was disappointed. Nearing the end of the cruise she desperately searched the horizon, hoping to finally see the spray of water and swish of tail. It did not happen.

However, as she turned in the other direction to see what others were commenting on, she saw a gathering of little penguins! The cute little guys were  jumping off some ice in the distance to play in the water. Lucy shared the wisdom she gained from that experience. My paraphrase of it is this: “Do not be so consumed looking for the big, exciting things in life that you miss the little blessings along the way.”

After that conference, I decided that I did not want to be so focused and set on my own goals and big dreams that I would miss the simple, daily pleasures that God placed in my life. Little did I know all those years ago that my penguins would be so significant in reminding me of God’s presence, especially in hard times.

As I look at my collection spread through a room in my house and in my office at work, I can smile with confidence.   Even though the big dreams I had with my husband have changed since his death, I am reminded and assured that God still has good plans for me. Each day has little blessings just waiting to be realized and appreciated.

Recently, my pastor shared a verse with us mentioning little things. “Who despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10 NIV) These Old Testament people were working to rebuild the temple and some mistakenly thought it insignificant. Just because something is small does not mean it is unimportant. Do not be afraid to celebrate the small things in life.

Surviving the holidays after grief is really no small feat! Finding ways to laugh and enjoy those special days may not seem like much – but to the grieving, we know better. So this next week, allow yourself permission to smile and feel victorious even if a few tears slide down your face as you grin. Be on the lookout for your little blessings as you live one day at a time.

Until next time –