So big

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This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend our church’s family camp near Grand Lake, Colorado. It is a beautiful setting that backs up into the Rocky Mountain National Park. I was hoping to see some wildlife on this trip and I was not disappointed. The picture shown here is of a huge moose chowing down in someone’s front yard. The picture is not enlarged. We were really that close to him as we pulled the car to the side of the road. He was so big I was actually nervous to be as close as we were.

Seeing the enormity of this beauty reminds me how easy it is to be overwhelmed by grief at times. The journey is so big and life can get very difficult as you learn to maneuver your way along a new trail. How is it possible to keep your footing and make headway when the task before you seems so daunting at times?

Perhaps we can learn something from our large friend here. Moose tend to be one of the least social hoofed animals according to Animal Diversity Web. They keep to themselves for the most part, being active mainly at sunset and sunrise. I smile as I see several similarities to the grief journey here.

As you find yourself alone and processing through your grief, it is easy to isolate yourself and pull away from people. Perhaps the conversations are too difficult to manage. Your energy level is low and your mind runs a little slower, which makes it challenging to talk to others at times. Your train of thought takes sudden turns and is easily lost in mid-sentence. You find it frustrating to keep up with those around you. It is tempting to pull away and take the easier route of just being alone most of the time.

Sleep is also fleeting for some people experiencing grief. As the sun sets, you find yourself wide-awake and wandering around the house trying to find something to occupy your time. While you desire to sleep late when your calendar allows, your body refuses to relax and stay put and you find you are up at sunrise despite your best efforts to catch a few more minutes sleep. The grief journey can certainly be an exhausting one.

Moose have thin legs in proportion to the rest of their body. It seems unlikely that they can stand upright not to mention able move at a startling speed in excess of 50 miles per hour. As you find yourself walking through grief, your legs may tremble at times and it can seem you are unable to move forward. Trust though, that you can indeed take your journey one step at a time. There is no need to hurry and rush as you process your loss. Making your way along this path is not a race to the end. It is more like a marathon. Slow and steady will serve you better as you manage your way over the obstacles you are bound to encounter.

You may look ahead and comment that the grief is so big you fear you cannot continue. At those times, set your sights closer. Instead of looking ahead to next month or next year, think about tonight, tomorrow, or next week. Giving yourself permission to see life in smaller bits will be less overwhelming and allow you to experience small doses of success, giving you hope for the days ahead.

Yes, the grief journey can look so big that you can feel lost and alone. However, realize that there are people around who can help; friends and family who love you and care about you. There is a God who can meet your needs as well if you will allow Him to do so. You can do this. Nothing is so big that in time, you cannot relearn how to enjoy life again.

Until next time –

Karen

Moose facts from animaldiversity.org

Let me encourage you to 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.

Fire Alarm

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On a recent stay at a hotel, my sister and I were awakened shortly after midnight to the piercing sound of the fire alarm. I stirred first and stumbled to get my shoes on while telling my sister we needed to evacuate the building. Having worked with children all these years, I am well aware of the procedure to quickly leave the premises before the fire trucks come to check on things. However, to our wonderment, we were the only people who evacuated the building. The fire alarm turned off after a minute or two and no one else stirred. Besides the night clerk running down the hall and entering an “Employee Only” room, the halls were once again quiet.

Calling the front desk, we were told it was a false alarm. As I was settling back into bed, I tried to calm down and still my mind from the adrenalin rush it had just experienced. I began to ponder and question why some of us moved into action at the fire alarm and others chose to ignore the warning. Is it that they just slept through the danger call? Was it a conscious choice to stay put and possibly be in harm’s way? Do we, on our grief journeys, ever act similarly?

What alarms might we encounter foretelling of the bumps in our journey? How might we handle these situations better? Is there a way we can help others we know who are struggling with grief as we watch from the outside?

One of my biggest struggles was with food. I failed to eat well for a few months and therefore lacked energy and strength to deal with the necessary responsibilities of grief. The difficulty for those grieving can fluctuate between eating too much, not eating at all, and not taking in the right kind of food that would provide healthy calories and nutrition. The results of poor eating habits can definitely sound an alarm in our lives.

Sleep was another difficulty I encountered. I did not sleep a full night for over a year and fought the results of exhaustion and stress-related fatigue for quite a while. Others walking through grief and loss fight with the desire to do nothing but sleep, spending hours a day in bed in order to ignore the life they must now live without a loved one. Both of these situations can be alarming if they continue for too long. If you have a loved one in your life struggling with either too little or too much sleep, gently encourage them to seek help from a professional. Self-medicating is not the answer for them.

As you walk through grief, or watch a loved one maneuver this journey, be patient while providing them with a voice of reason. While those in grief do not need you to criticize, you might be able to ask if they are willing to hear your opinion of what you see. Then give them choices in how they might proceed. So much has been taken from their control, it is a gift in allowing them a voice in their own health decisions while you are trying to come to their aid.

Bless you as your deal with the “fire alarms” in life.

Until next time –

Karen

Let Me Off This Ride!

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Have you ever been on a ride and found you had made a mistake? What were you thinking getting on that? I admit, I can handle just about any roller coaster you place before me. Fast, upside down, loops, turns – I love them! However, I abhor anything that goes around in a continuous circle. I cannot stand the movement and tend to feel sick to my stomach quickly. I recall one Tilt-a-World ride as a kid and how I immediately threw up the moment the ride ended. Since that time, I have avoided those spiny rides at all costs!

There are three stages of experiencing one of these park rides: standing in line, the ride itself and the effects on your body. Keeping these stages in mind, we can compare our grief journey to an outing at an amusement park.

This summer I enjoyed Disneyland for the very first time. I was amazed at the work and effort they placed in making the cue line for the ride part of the actual experience. My favorite was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. As we waited nearly an hour to get on the ride, time passed quickly. We wove in and of the jungle and ventured into caves tunnels. Before we knew it, we were at the front of the line!

As we journey through grief, we too can lose track of time. Unfortunately, the time in grief is not as pleasant as the cue lines at the park. A day may fly by without our accomplishing anything. Where did the time go? How did the day get away from us like that? The weight of loss can affect how we view the passing of time. Some days will fly by and we honestly will not remember what we did. Others tend to drag along so slowly, that we question whether we will even survive.

Waiting for grief to pass, is really the ride, or experience, for those who have lost a loved one. We wait for the hurt to go away. Each day holds its own challenge as we struggle to finish our grieving.  We desire to get off this ride we have been strapped on to without our permission.

Just as a roller coaster can make us dizzy and raise our heart rate, grief also takes a toll on the body. Those in grief often have no appetite and forget to eat. Sleep seems impossible and the idea of resting and ever feeling refreshed again can be a long-lost dream for the bereaved. Perhaps sleep is all you want to do. Finding the energy to get up and out of the house is difficult at best.

Getting proper nutrition and rest is vital to stay well and journey successfully through your grief. Being aware of challenges you may have in these areas is the beginning to getting help. Seek the advice of a nutritionist or doctor. Find what works for you to wind down in a healthy way at night so you can get the rest your body demands. Turn off the television and read a book. Drink some hot tea and allow your body to relax and mind to slow down.

Going through your grief is like entering an amusement park for which you did not purchase a ticket. Yet, you find yourself strapped in and trapped, unable to get away. Remember, the only way off the ride of grief is to go through it and finish it up. While it will be longer than you desire, realize that only by accepting your journey, will it be shortened. While we may scream “Let me off this ride” the only way off is by going through it.

Until next time –

Karen