Switchboard skills


One of the jobs I held during my early college days was as a clerk in the utility/payment office at Ed Marlings in Topeka, Kansas. I did a lot of data entry on computer and took payments at the window as people came to pay bills. I was also trained on their old-fashioned switchboard to relieve the regular phone operator for her daily breaks as well as her vacation times. While the switchboard skills were not difficult to learn, there were a few things that were important to remember in this position.

First, it was necessary to answer the calls in a certain manner. Besides the rehearsed greeting we were to say, our attitude and tone of voice was important. Appearing pleasant was required.

When you walk through grief, you often do your best to put on a strong “front” to show others you are doing just fine, when in truth you are hurting terribly. Knowing when to be strong and knowing when to release your pent-up emotions makes your journey easier. Having the freedom to be “real” with certain people is certainly helpful and something every grieving person needs.

Another of the switchboard skills that transfers to walking through grief is testing the waters. When we were connecting an incoming call to their requested party, we were to lightly touch the end of the plug to the correctly numbered slot to see if the person being called was on the phone. The only way to tell if that line was already busy was to hear the static that occurred when we touched the slot.

When traveling through loss, it is natural to want to test the reactions of others. You may offer only a little of your story while watching their face for telling signs. You may also test yourself by trying to get back into the flow of life’s activities. Are you ready to venture out to eat alone? Perhaps it is safe for you to attend a show or movie without feeling conspicuous. It is also possible to go overboard the other way. Are you compensating for your loss by staying too busy?

There were a few times when I was substituting as the switchboard operator that I failed and plugged in to a busy line at times, causing terrible static and a momentary ear-splitting noise. Oops! Quickly grabbing the cord and pulling it back out was all I could do to remedy my mistake. The same is true in grief.

If you try something and fail, then take a step back and gather your thoughts. Evaluate the situation. What happened and why? Is there a better way to try it next time? Would a friend give you constructive advise to help you see a different point of view? Chances are what you perceive as a failure probably is not all that bad. Your feelings can be tender as you journey toward healing. Be encouraged to keep trying and keep honing your own switchboard skills as you walk through grief.

Until next time –



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

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This Necessary Skill


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 –


Find more help in learning to practice this necessary skill with Grief Letters.