Thanksgiving Day

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It’s here again. Thanksgiving Day. A season of the year when we take some extra time to realize we have much for which to be thankful. A feeling of gratitude grows as you spend time with friends and family, eat some favorite foods, and take time to rest and relax.

Walking through grief can add a bit of a challenge to enjoying the holidays. Perhaps there is an empty chair at your table that reminds you of earlier times. Eating a certain food has the ability to bring both a smile to your face and tears to your eyes. Traditions carried out are held closely and treasured while new habits are also formed out of necessity.

The holiday approaches even though you may wish to slow down time and put off its arrival. Experiencing the pain of missing loved ones can overshadow the joy that the world associates with Thanksgiving Day. Even in the midst of your difficulty, however, there are some encouraging thoughts to be shared.

You miss your loved one because you loved them. Realize that the converse is true as well. Remember the love they had for you too. Because of that love, they would want you to enjoy not only this approaching holiday, but also the whole life you have ahead of you. People who care do not wish sadness upon one another. Do your best to keep that in mind as time moves forward and you find it hard to find joy and happiness again.

Anticipating and dreading a certain day or event can often times be worse than the actual experience the day brings. As time draws near, you guess how you will feel and gauge the way you will manage to face your grief accordingly. Oftentimes, your imagination is much worse than what will really present itself. Upon the day’s arrival, you see that the sun will still shine, there will still be reason to smile, and you really do have much for which to be thankful.

I wish I could say that the holidays will stop bringing pain into your life. I am facing my fifth set of such days this year as my husband’s death anniversary approaches. The days are still hard; the pain very much real. However, I do see differences from past years. While tears still make their appearance often while I am alone at home, I am far better in public. Being able to appreciate the distraction of life and welcome the friendship and companionship of others is much easier and truly enjoyable. Five years ago, I could not say that. So while the hurt is still there, it does change. It is less sharp now; a dull ache instead of striking pain. There is hope in that fact.

As you face this approaching Thanksgiving Day, take time to list those things you still have. Cherish the people – both friends and family – close to you. Use your time well so that when you look back, you will have no regrets of missed opportunities with loved ones still with you. May the day truly be a blessing to you as you seek to find hope, help, and healing on your journey of grief.

Until next time –

Karen

(photo taken in 2012 at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in NYC)

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.

Happily Ever After

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When you walk with grief you know sadness. You have experienced a heavy heart and are familiar with sorrow. The pain is more than just emotions though. It can manifest itself in physical aches and pains. Headaches, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness can all be signs of a happily ever after gone awry. You are not alone in this. Jesus Christ knew sorrow and pain. He knows how you feel in your sadness and can identify with your grief today. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) His time on earth assures that you can have hope in all you are experiencing today.

It is easy in the midst of your grief journey to stop and wonder about the future. What lies ahead and how will you maneuver the unknown? What about the happily ever after you had planned on and dreamed of? Will that come to fruition in the midst of what life looks like today?

This summer our youngest son got married. It was a beautiful, fairy-tale-like wedding. The bride was lovely and glowing. The groom stood with tears in his eyes seeing his bride walk down the aisle of the church at the beginning of the ceremony. Their happily ever after as man and wife was finally beginning. May their future be blessed and full of love, peace, and blessings beyond their wildest dreams.

What happens though, when this dream fails to come true? How do you deal with the loss of the loved one you planned on being with forever? No one wants to think that a shortened journey together will happen. Yet, on occasion it does. What do you do when your happily ever after ends early?

Change your perspective. Realize that there really is no such thing as a happily ever after on earth because life is not forever here. This is not your final destination; not the final stop on your journey. When you know Jesus Christ personally, you need to remember that this is not your forever home. Someday you may find yourself mourning and personally realizing life’s brevity. Nothing points to how fragile life is like death.

However, when you have heaven to look forward to, you realize that your happily ever after truly has not even begun! While life may at times be good now, it will be incredible later on and that life will never end. Find comfort in knowing that if life here is not so good right now, you have the hope and assurance for better things later. This life is full of ups and downs, joy and sorrows, life and death. But there will come a day when all that stops and only the best remains. Your fairy-tale ending is yet to come when you meet Jesus face to face.

Focus on that hope. Set your eyes on that goal. You are here for a reason. Hold fast to that and keep on living and moving toward what will one day truly be even better than a fairy-tale-like life. Your happily ever after will come!

Until next time –

Karen

*photo taken by Click & Pedal Photography – Denver, Colorado

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.

 

“I don’t know how to be this”

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People go through life learning how to do many things. It begins early with a baby learning to crawl, walk, and run. Children are educated to read, write, and work with numbers. Teenagers learn to drive as they gain independence and earn responsibility.

You are often times defined by what you can do. Artists draw and paint; athletics run and work out; teachers educate and share knowledge. There are times though, when we are defined not by what we do, but by what we have become. It is at these moments of definition that we on the grief journey might say, “I don’t know how to be this.”

When Alan died and I was taken back one final time in the emergency room to collect his belongings and leave the hospital, I looked at my friends surrounding me and thought those very words. “I don’t know how to be this.” I don’t know how to be a widow, a single parent, or the sole provider for my family. Suddenly I found myself in a new and frightening position for which there is no real training. Death has a way of leveling the playing field. Mortality stares you in the face and life is deemed short and time fleeting.

Where do you go to learn how to walk through death and sorrow? How do you find a way to deal with the sudden demands of a new way of life? What can you find to hold on to as you feel yourself reeling with shock, fear, and numbness? When you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this” do not give up. Cling to what you know and strive to fight your way to the top as you gasp for air and relief.

You can know that regardless of your loss, you are loved. It may not feel like it in the midst of great pain. Sorrow has a way of momentarily blocking out other emotions. However, hold on to the fact – the truth – that even if no one else is in the room with you, you are never truly alone. God promises to be by your side through thick and thin; in joy or sorrow; today and for all your tomorrows.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39 (NIV)

So how do you get to the point when you can stop saying, “I don’t know how to be this?” Begin learning and walking forward on your grief journey. Join a support group. GriefShare was of great help to me in the early months of facing my loss. Go online and search for a group in your community.

Give yourself permission to realize you are still you and are not just defined by what has happened in your life. Open up and allow others to minister to and care for you. Refuse to give in to the desire to isolate and hide behind closed doors. While time of reflection can be healing, too much time alone can bring detachment and make the loneliness more severe.

It takes work to journey through grief. So when you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this,” do not despair. Education does not happen overnight. Just as you have learned so many skills early on in life, have faith and be assured you can also figure out how to live life a new way and be who you are today.

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.

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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.

Walk on

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Coming home after a long day, I read an email from my mother telling me that the father of a family I had known from church back in my hometown had just passed away. That seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I sat down and cried. Sometimes there is nothing we can do but to just walk on and keep doing life the best we know how. At times that may mean we stop and release our pain with a few tears.

In the past fifteen weeks, I have either experienced the death of a friend or family member or watched friends say good-bye to someone they loved eight times. That averages out to more than one every two weeks. Seeing and feeling that much fresh pain and sorrow again has a way of taking a toll on a person.

While you may want to escape the ache of death, this world does not afford that luxury. It is inevitable that everyone will leave this world at some point in time. Until Jesus comes again, that way of departure is through the body taking one final breath and the soul crossing over into eternity. Until then, we need to walk on and do life the best we know how.

As I cried my tears, I got busy doing my dishes and folding laundry,while listening to a new album by Josh Groban. The song You’ll Never Walk Alone from the 1945 musical Carousel began playing and I stopped what I was doing to really drink in the words. They are beautiful and I have placed them below hoping they may bless you too.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high                                                                                        And don’t be afraid of the dark                                                                                                                                      At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky                                                                                                             And the sweet, silver song of a lark                                                                                                                              Walk on through the wind                                                                                                                                          Walk on through the rain                                                                                                                                       Though your dreams be tossed and blown                                                                                                             Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart                                                                                                               And you’ll never walk alone                                                                                                                                        You’ll never walk alone

There are two lines of this song that really speak to me. The first is “You’ll never walk alone.” While your grief journey is yours – you do not have to travel it by yourself. Hopefully there is someone who is walking with you. Perhaps you have family members, friends, a pastor or church family, neighbors, or a support group like Grief Share who can encourage you as you walk on.

Even if you have trouble naming a person you feel can understand and come alongside you in your journey, there is One who is always there for you. God promises to never leave or forsake you. That leads to my next favorite line of the song.

“Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart.” Without hope you have very little. Believing that you will make it through your grief is vital to your journey. You will have hard days – just like today has been hard for me. Tears and hurt will remind you that life has drastically changed. Watching others experience loss will bring yours to light again, causing fresh pain to appear unexpectedly. However, do not let those times stop you from continuing your journey. Walk on with the knowledge that hope and healing can be yours.

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.

This Necessary Skill

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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 –

Karen

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

http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author/Default.aspx?BookworksSId=SKU-000980156

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Give and Take

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Yesterday I spent several hours at Bonfils Blood Center giving platelets. This is quite the procedure. For those of you unfamiliar with the term apheresis it is the process that involves removal of whole blood from a patient or donor. Within an instrument that is essentially designed as a centrifuge, the components of whole blood are separated. One of the separated portions is then withdrawn and the remaining components are retransfused into the patient or donor. (library.med.utah.edu/WebPath/…/BBAPHER.html)

In short, the procedure takes whole blood from me, removes the precious platelets that other people for some reason are unable to produce on their own, and returns the rest of the blood to me. It is a give and take procedure. While it does take a while – anywhere from 2 to 3 hours depending upon counts and flows – it is one that I am willing to endure often in order to help other people.

A little give and take. When you hear that expression you might think of making a compromise or entering into a deal. As I have walked through hard times in my life, I know I have been tempted to bargain with God and beg for things to be different. Such as: “God, if you’ll do …….., then I’ll do…… Just please don’t let this happen.

What we need to realize is that God is already in our corner. He already wants the best for us. Our choices and attitudes will not always allow that to be possible. However, He never gives up on us or leaves us hanging out there in life alone. I believe that each painful bump along the way can be used to teach us and mold us into who we are meant to be.

My Bible study today addressed those times when we encounter great difficulties in life. When we despair and fight the darkness that invades our paths. As I read, I was reminded that God fights for us. We are shaped by the hard times in our lives. They can and will serve a purpose to make us stronger if we allow God to be our strength in those rough times.

I want to share what Beth Moore placed in this study that really struck me.

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Ephesians 6:10-13 The Message

God fights for me and He wants to fight for you! It is the give and take of battle in this world.

Let me share one more funny give and take story from yesterday. I went into a store to make a small purchase, giving the cashier a twenty-dollar bill and two quarters, remarking that I wanted to get rid of some change. He opened the drawer, found that he had no one-dollar bills and proceeded to give me twelve quarters back in change along with a ten-dollar bill. I looked at him and said, “Really?” He lamely shrugged his shoulders, indicating the situation was out of his control. I shook my head, took the money and laughed as I walked out the door. The give and take lesson struck me there. I gave a little and took a lot in that case!

May you find relief for your sadness and heartaches today realizing that God wants you to take peace and strength as you give him your sorrow.

Until next time –

Karen

Find more encouragement in my new book, Grief Letters. Share it with a friend who you knows needs a little giving up of hardship and taking of comfort today.

Available at http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author/Default.aspx?BookworksSId=SKU-000980156

Also available on Amazon.

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Dig in Your Heels

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I remember times throughout my life when I  faced things kicking and screaming. There were occasions I did not want to practice for my piano lessons. Doing chores growing up in a large family was often dreaded and deemed quite a drag. Being responsible for my younger siblings while my parents were out seemed unfair and like punishment – especially when no financial compensation was given me. Growing up I was inclined to dig in my heels and resist some of life’s events. However, now I see them as opportunities I was blessed to have experienced.

Not everyone is given the opportunity to take music lessons. However, having to practicing and learn piano and voice has opened up doors for me to enjoy music and participate in some exceptional performing groups. While cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes and sweeping floors is hardly glamorous, those chores did prepare me for running my own household as an adult. Watching my brothers and sister gave me a love and knowledge of children that exists even today in my career and ministry. My mother would be the first one to tell you how stubborn I was as a child. I would dig in my heels and insist on doing life the hard way at times as I grew.

Now as an adult, I realize that stubbornness has served me well in some ways. While I can still be slow in seeing what God has for me in life, it has provided me the fortitude and God-given strength to survive some difficult days. The key though, is to rely upon His direction in those hard times and being willing to stop digging in when lead to do so.

Walking through grief can cause us to wallow in sorrow and dig in our heels, refusing to embrace our new realities. Crying tears and allowing time to grieve is not only acceptable, but can be healthy. However, there will come a point in your journey when you need to stop digging in your heels wishing for things past. You need to move forward with the new life God has provided. If you fight too long and hard, you will surely miss the good opportunities He has for you.

God desires to give you good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) God wants to bless you. The journey you are on now may not feel like a blessing. Trusting God with your sadness and hardship is vital though. He sees the whole picture of life while we easily get tunnel vision in our own little worlds.

When you find yourself ready to dig in your heels and resist what life is throwing at you, make a conscious effort to embrace it instead. Ask God what He has for you in the days ahead. There has been a picture recently on social media of Jesus standing before a young child holding a giant bear behind his back. The child is shaking her head refusing to let go of the tiny, worn bear she is holding in her hands, insisting she loves it and cannot live without it. In order to receive what Jesus desires to give, we must be willing to let go of our present situation in life.

If you must dig in your heels, do so with the determination to not give up on God. With Him, there is always hope for joy in your today as well as in your tomorrows.

Until next time –

Karen

Chosen

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As I awoke this morning, I found myself silently recalling the words of a song. Not just any song, but the one I sang to Alan at our wedding. “What an odd thing to remember,” I wondered. The more I contemplated those words, the more I realized I was not so much thinking about that wedding day as I was the promise that the words of that tune still hold for me even today.

Perhaps it will help if I quote a few lines to you from the song He Has Chosen You For Me by Pat Terry.

“We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.

Knowing this we’ll live above the world and all its sorrows.

I have prayed for all my life that we would be together.

Serving Him together seems so right.”

When I sang those words in our wedding over thirty years ago, I never would have guessed that they would hold such power and truth still today! This realization gives me encouragement and hope as I move forward to face each of my tomorrows.

None of us really know what the future holds. If we are honest, we would admit that even today is filled with a few surprises! We make plans for tomorrow, next week and a year from now. Dreams are formed, plans are built and hopes are hung – but all those are so temporary and dependent upon factors over which we have no control. For instance, what will the weather be like, what does the stock market do, how do the choices of other people affect us? In the midst of having dreams, plans and hopes, we must not lose sight of the fact that even though we look forward to the future, we cannot control it.

God alone knows what tomorrow will hold. He knew thirty years ago that I would be walking a difficult journey of grief today. He wasn’t surprised by the turn of events nearly four years ago. The same is true in your circumstance as well. God is not unaware. He cares what you are going through and knows what you need.

Realizing this truth and trusting Him, we can learn to live a good and happy life in spite of sadness, surprises and the unknowns that are continually placed in our way. As we journey through loss, we learn to discern and understand that smiling, laughing and finding joy is a gift that our loved ones would want us to accept and possess.

Just as God had chosen Alan for me all those years ago, He is showing me other gifts He has prepared and is giving me today. As you move forward in your journey, look and see all that you do still have in the midst of your pain and loss. Will you trust and take the new opportunities for joy and happiness He has chosen for you today?

Until next time –

Karen