The days after

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So much effort is put into anticipating and preparing for special holidays, that you are often surprised by the days after it is all over. Thanksgiving and Christmas have already come and gone. Those special days you have come to dread without your loved one are finally finished. You have survived. Perhaps you enjoyed those harder days a bit more than you thought you would. The opportunity to laugh and smile came into play and you grasped those, filling your mind with new and different memories. Or perhaps you merely scraped by each day, putting forth the effort only for the sake of friends and loved ones still with you.

Many people feel sadness when the holidays are over. The much awaited excitement ends and a let-down from the process can occur. However, there is also a kind of relief that takes places for those on the grief journey. Now that the holidays are over, it is possible to let down your guard a little more. You do not find it necessary to brace for those waves of sadness and nostalgia that hit at the most inopportune times when others around you are laughing and enjoying the celebrations.

Along with the relief can come a bit of satisfaction that you really did make it through the holidays. Not only that, but hopefully you can find one or two truly golden moments to remember with fondness. Look back at the past month that has been full of activities, parties and gatherings, and demands. Celebrate and applaud yourself for accomplishing what you doubted you could live through. You survived the holidays!

As each year passes, the holidays will get better too. You will face them with less dread, you will find more joy, and you will create new traditions. Take a moment to breathe and realize that your future can look bright. Set your sights on what you want to accomplish now that the world around you is returning to “post-holiday normal” and decide what you will do next.

The grieving are not the only people facing a sort of depression and sadness the days after the holidays are over. Many people encounter quite a let-down after all their planning and celebrating. However, you and I have already learned to adjust to newness and changing times. You have an advantage on the rest of the world. You know you can face loss and life that is different from before. Take that knowledge and run with it. Plan new adventures for the upcoming new year. Revel in the fact that God has seen you through this past difficult month.

As you face the future of the days after, know that it can be a blank slate upon which you write your own possibilities, hopes, and dreams. Move forward with as much joy as you can muster and be open to blessings that are in store for you.

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!

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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.

Today I choose to

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What would life be like if we could always choose? Today you choose to get that job you have always wanted, drive a brand new car, sleep all morning, or take a walk in the woods. It sounds like a wonderful thing. To be able to do whatever you want whenever you want is a daydream many people have. But what would life really be like if that came true? Do you have the wisdom to always choose well?

There are plenty of choices we make beginning very early in life. As our kids were growing up, we would teach them to make choices starting as toddlers with the clothes they would wear. Those safe decisions led to bigger ones. What friends to make, whether or not to respect the house rules, being home in time to make curfew, and choosing a spouse. Looking at the ability to choose and make decisions seems a natural progression in life.

What happens though, when you do not get a choice? What about the circumstances that just seem to occur without your permission? You did not choose to break an arm playing sports as a child. Your intention was not to get up, drive to work, and have an accident on the way. When you decided to pick up the phone, you did not intend to hear tragic news that would rock your world. Yet, these things happen. Events come into your life without invitation and dare to change who you are. How dare they!

So how do you handle those moments that alter the direction of your life? How do you manage to recover and continue when everything seems lost and you feel alone? It is in those very moments that you will make critical choices, whether you intend to or not. Realize that you can choose to fight and continue on with life, making the most of every day. Giving up does not need to happen, even when you feel that things are hopeless. Life is never hopeless if you focus on the right things.

So today, even though you face pain and sadness, you say:

Today I choose to pray, for God knows better than I.

Today I choose to give, for that causes me to look outside myself and focus on others.

Today I choose to trust that the God who created the universe is bigger and more capable than I am.

Today I choose to love and treasure people still around me because they deserve attention and I still have much to give.

Today I choose to wait and hope because I believe there is a purpose in my life. I will embrace the promise of scripture. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prospers you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

While you would not have chosen to face the losses you have endured in your life, recognize that those events have shaped you. They have made you who you are today. While life may not be how you pictured it years ago, it is what you have now. There is no turning back the clock. Do-overs are not available. When I realized all this, I decided that I would not waste the death of my husband. I wanted to learn and grow from the experience. While it was not something I chose for my life, it happened. So I had a choice to make. You do too.

As you begin a new day, make the choice. This can be a better day if you will set your heart and mind on the hope and promises available to God’s children.

Until next time –

Karen

Choose to give hope to someone in your life today. Share Grief Letters with those you know 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.

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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.

You should be fine by now

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Expectations. Those things we anticipate and at times take for granted. They are things we put upon ourselves as well as those pressures placed upon us by others. They can be a long time in coming or a pleasant surprise when they arrive suddenly. One unpleasant expectation forced upon those grieving a loved one is summed up with the statement: You should be fine by now.

Why is it that time has to be dictated? Formulas are calculated and those looking at grief from the outside figure that after a while your sadness should be gone. Tears are no longer accepted as an appropriate expression of emotion. Time has passed and life goes on. Therefore, you should be fine by now.

However, this is a misconception. Missing a loved one never really goes away. You will always miss them to a degree. That degree also changes and fluctuates within the grief journey. You will experience days when you really do feel fine, strong, and happy. Time goes by with fewer and fewer moments that remind you of your loss. Then, when you least expect it, dark times hit for seemingly no reason at all. Tears flow freely and your breath catches as you gasp and fight to regain composure. After all, aren’t you supposed to be past the grief and sorrow? You should be fine by now people tell you.

When you travel a grief journey though, no one gets to dictate when you should be fine. Only you can gauge how you are really managing. While you may put on a brave front, deep inside you hurt and ache to once again see your loved one. If only you could have one more day with them. Facing the realization that this is impossible, you do what you can to cope. At times, that includes taking the opportunity to cry, setting free the pent-up tears and sadness you manage to keep from the world on your good days.

As you learn to maneuver your grief, give yourself permission to say, “I am not okay today.” Admitting your sorrow and accepting that you don’t always have it together is part of learning to lean upon the One who does. When you feel that you can’t take it any longer, let Jesus carry your sorrow. He is an expert at that because He experienced sadness and sorrow while living on earth.

There is a Bible verse that holds great promise. In Heaven we will have no more sorrow, no more tears. While we fight to survive the days when we fall apart, cry, and grieve deeply, we also have the hope of a future without pain and sadness. “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NASB)

Be encouraged when you feel pressured to accept the myth that you should be fine by now. Remember that you hurt much because you love much. Then ask Jesus to help you cope with the freshness of the pain you experience from time to time as you continue to journey toward healing.

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.

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.

Good-byes

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Until I experienced grief, I failed to truly see the significance in and feel the effects of good-byes. In our mobile world today, life is full of them. Employees get transferred, friends move off, and eventually people pass away. Some of our farewells are planned and celebrated. Others bring with them a pain and sadness that burrow down deep inside the heart.

Little babies are cheered and praised as they learn to open and close their little hands, waving their good-byes to people as they pass by. Smiles spread at the new skill that they so proudly exhibit for anyone willing to watch. Good-byes are a fun way for these little ones to show off. Yet, as you grow up and get older, you tend to lose the ability to joyously say your good-byes. Perhaps it is because you realize that certain farewells are for keeps on this side of Heaven.

The early days of grief can knock you backwards and zap your strength and assurance in what you know. The certainty with which you have lived has been shaken. Life seems to stop while your emotions rage on. Questions assault your mind, causing you to wonder if you will ever have the ability to function again.

There are some positive types of good-byes, however. Saying so long to fear is a victory. Speaking farewell to failure is a true win. Have the confidence in knowing that even when your heart is heavy, joy is possible.

As time moves on, you do find a way to understand the good-byes. The assurance of Heaven for those who know Jesus Christ is a promise that cannot be taken away. Good-byes are for life on earth, not for eternity. Seeing them as temporary gives hope. There will come a day when you will not have to face sorrow and farewells.

Until then, be encouraged. As you are faced with your recent good-byes or you dread upcoming ones, look for the positives in the situation. Even though life will be different it can be good. Although your journey may not be easy to walk, it is maneuverable. Hold your head high, eyes forward, lift your hand, and bravely wave good-bye. Doing so will help you move forward in your grief.

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.