I never used to

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Before I experienced death and grief in my family, I never used to dread coming home from work and the long, quiet hours that accompanied the evening. I recall phone calls on the drive home talking about possibilities for dinner and plans for spending the night together. At times that involved household chores. Other days held the promise of a special movie, concert, or just sweet conversation together.

I never used to struggle with figuring out what to eat and how to fill my body with the proteins and nutrients needed to stay healthy when I have no desire to cook. Having an appetite has become a thing of the past. Caring about eating the right foods at acceptable times of the day has become a puzzle that oftentimes seems to be missing a piece.

Lying awake for hours is a nightly ritual. Dreading the routine of bedtime even when the body is fatigued makes no sense, but is a common battle these days. Restful sleep is elusive, causing mornings to be filled with exhaustion and a lack of energy. I never used to toss and turn in bed. I have heard it said, “Just close your eyes.” However, that only opens the door for the memories of times gone by, accentuating the reality of what is missing today.

While there is plenty to be done in the home to fill up hours, finding the motivation to accomplish these tasks is difficult. Doing the work of two people in keeping a house in shape demands organization and work. I never used to lack the desire to get busy and finish the to-do-lists. But now when I see those lists, I feel overwhelmed and experience despair. How will I ever get it all done? Why even try? It really does not matter anyway, does it?

I never used to cry so much. Even though the tears fall less often than when grief first struck our family, the intensity of the sobs has not lessened when they do break through the stoic front I have learned to put forth for the public. The force with which the tears flow at times is still paralyzing. The only comfort is that these episodes occur less often as when the journey first began.

There is one ‘I never used to’ that must be added to this list. Perhaps it is the most important one of all. For without knowing grief and loss personally, I am not sure if a person can honestly know this quality. It is the attribute of I never used to have such a close, minute-by-minute walk with Jesus. While I have known my Savior personally since the age of nine, the relationship I have with Him has been shaped and sharpened by the tragedy and sadness that invaded my family five years ago.

I never used to spend so much time with Him in prayer and Bible study. I never used to be so totally dependent upon Him for my every need. I never used to see His absolute care and provision for my life. I never used to be so bold as to speak out to other hurting people, telling them how they too, can receive help and comfort in their own grief journeys.

As you face your own list of ‘I never used to’, may you discover a new closeness to the only One who can truly make a difference in what your life is now. There is hope. There is healing. There are possibilities that will astound you as your new life – your new normal – takes shape. Be encouraged when you realize how greatly your life has changed. While it is difficult and not what you might have chosen, it can still be a good, productive, and blessed life.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. 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.

Calming Yourself

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Have you ever seen an upset child settle down as a parent speaks in hushed whispers and lightly strokes their back? What about watching a startled adult place a hand to their chest as they gasp and struggle to catch their breath, working to recover from whatever had frightened them? Calming yourself is a technique that you share with young children and learn to do yourself as you age. Do you recall how nice it was as a child to have someone embrace you and tell you that everything would be all right? I know that I have occasionally longed for that experience of comfort even as an adult since I have been journeying through grief. Trying to handle everything on your own can be taxing and exhausting. Calming yourself in the midst of loss and pain is a valuable skill.

I recall the first night of Alan’s death, just hours after leaving the hospital a final time. I lay in bed trying to sleep. Apparently I dozed off because suddenly I was in the midst of a nightmare as I sat straight up in bed and found myself crying aloud, tears flowing down my cheeks, rocking back and forth in an effort to calm down. A friend who was spending that first night with me heard my cries and immediately came in to rub my back, hug me, and allow me to rest my head on her shoulder. Calming yourself sometimes takes the aid of another.

When you find yourself in the midst of great stress and anxiety, what do you do? Sitting and crying for a while can be therapeutic. Perhaps reading a book pulls you to another world and relieves your pain for a while. Running a hot bath after a long, tiring day can bring relaxation to tight muscles and aching limbs. Calming yourself with Epsom salts and bubbles can work wonders in improving the view of your next few hours. And when you are aching, scared, and feeling alone, that may be all the further ahead you can look. Venturing forward into tomorrow’s plans can seem too harsh and too much of a herculean effort. If you find yourself in this situation, know that you need look no further than what you are able. The future – at least tomorrow – will take care of itself, so concentrate on making it through just today.

Calming yourself with bright hope and promises of better days can truly be a gift. Realize that you will not always feel lost and alone. Encourage yourself by singing that famous song from Annie, “The sun will come out tomorrow…..” Even though tomorrow may seem daunting, it can give you the incentive you need to make it through your present day.

Allow the tears to flow, the rocking to proceed, and the healing to resume as you find ways of calming yourself along your grief journey. Embracing your fears and hurts will actually help propel you forward along your grief journey.

Until next time –

Karen

Grief Letters is available for you to purchase. Having hope and purpose is not impossible when facing loss and pain. 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!

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.

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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“Don’t Block the Flow!”

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Until failed routes, slow moving lanes or things that refuse to change inconvenience us, we do not realize how dependent we are upon movement. This past week I have faced several challenges that have caused me to think, “Don’t block the flow!”

As I was driving a busy six-lane road on Monday, headed to a dinner, I witnessed what I can only assume was a person who had lost their way. However, instead of driving on to the next light and turning around to take another go at it, they decided to endanger lives. Without even bothering to pull onto the shoulder of the road, they stopped, threw their car in reverse, and began backing up in order to correct a missed turn. This immediately stopped traffic, forcing us all to quickly change lanes to avoid a collision. “Don’t block the flow!”

For the past week, I have battled with a clogged kitchen sink. Household difficulties are one of my greatest challenges in owning my home. I am just not very knowledge when it comes to fixing things. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I sought some advice before formulating a plan. I also remembered my father telling me about using Drano in the past. I bought a large bottle of it and watched the water still fail to move smoothly down the pipes. A third, desperate application finally resulted in the clog successfully breaking apart – thankfully before I had to resort to snaking out the pipes. “Don’t block the flow!” had a totally different meaning now, but one that was just as important to me.

This past month has been a difficult one for my family. Tears have been cried, sleep has been absent and headaches have been endured as we have faced more loss and hard decisions. From experience I know the importance of letting those tears run their course down my face. Letting them go and allowing them freedom to wet my cheeks and sooth my soul is a healing and therapeutic balm.

When it comes to expressing our sadness and grief over loss and the difficulties of life, we need to remember, “Don’t block the flow!” It is necessary to allow ourselves a healthy release of our feelings, frustrations, and concerns. This does not mean it is okay to give in to road rage when other drivers make foolish decisions. Throwing a tantrum about household challenges will not solve the problem. Denial of emotions and situations will not make them go away.

Being honest and truthful with ourselves is a great start. Can we fix what is blocking the flow in our lives? If not, is there someone who can help? I find my biggest help comes when I stop and pray about the things that bring me to a halt. That is another very important part of life we do not want to be obstructed. “Don’t block the flow!” of conversation with God. Spending time with Him daily will help keep our lives and attitudes on track and moving along in the right direction.

Until next time –

Karen

Let It Fall

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Recently, I heard a beautiful rendition of Let It Fall, sung in concert by artist, Lynne Rothrock. The words spoke so deeply to me, that I later hunted for the song and found it on Youtube recorded by Over the Rhine.

The lyrics state the fact that things fall. “Rain and leaves and snow and tears and stars – that’s not all my friend. They all fall with confidence and grace. So let it fall.”

Encouragement to let the loss we experience in our life to fall is the point of this ballad. Holding onto and worrying over what has happened or what will occur does no good. In our grief journey, we instinctively want to push away our sadness and the heaviness we encounter. However, it is necessary to embrace it and hold on tightly through the wild roller coaster ride that follows.

There is no stopping the rain and snow from falling from the sky. Clouds gather, skies turn gray, and moisture will fall. We cannot will the leaves to stay upon the trees in the autumn months. Their time to release and float to the ground on the wings of the blowing wind is inevitable.

In the same way, our tears must spill over and fall as we grieve. Those tears do not make us weak. Instead, they show our strength to let go and begin a journey of grief, healing through the tears that are an expression of our sadness. We are not admitting defeat to death if we cry. Rather, we are embracing the reality of the pain caused by saying good-bye for a while to loved ones. Life changes and we acknowledge that by the streams of tears that flow.

Let it fall my friend. Allow yourself confidence and grace so the tears of loneliness, sadness, and even doubt can be released and let loose. By doing so, you will be opening up space for healing to enter your life – slowly but surely.

Until next time –

Karen

 

Sorting Through Special Days

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Trying to make sense of emotions and memories on certain days of the year can be challenging. While the mind knows one thing and moves in that direction, the pendulum can quickly swing on an opposite course where the heart and spirit are concerned. We can logically reason that a date on the calendar is just that, another day like any other. Yet, our emotions are capable of causing anxiety for what that day may actually bring. Sorting through special days is necessary as we maneuver the journey of loss and grief.

Today is a special day for our family. It is my husband’s birthday. We’ve crossed four of these particular days since his passing in 2010. Birthdays were a big thing in our family. He loved to open presents first thing in the morning. There was no such thing as waiting until the evening to begin celebrating. While we would generally have a special dinner, and definitely his favorite Banana Nut Cake, the cards, presents and birthday serenading began upon rising in the morning.

As I realize the arrival of another birthday that won’t be celebrated, it strikes me that today is still special. I do not have to dread it. Each day we are given should be treated as a gift. Scripture reminds us, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 ESV)

Just because I will not be giving birthday presents and baking a cake does not mean there is no reason to celebrate. God gives each day to use for His glory. My purpose in life did not end four years ago. As I spend time sorting through special days like today, I learn to live with tears in my heart, if not on my face.

If you too have certain days that are harder than others, be encouraged. You are here for a reason and you are not alone. Allow yourself time in sorting through your special days. Give yourself permission to cry and grieve along the way. Then decide how you can still appreciate those days in a new way. You can gain strength and hope as you successfully maneuver through your own journey of loss and grief, one day at a time.

Until next time –

Karen

Positive Outlook

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Social media can be a good help in some ways. Keeping up with friends is fun. It is possible to achieve positive growth by gaining knowledge in reading about current events, or finding new recipes. I even learned how to fix my garbage disposal from a post several years ago. Laughing at new jokes and funny cartoons can lead to some levity in our busy lives. Some people choose to use social media to encourage others and try to bring cheer and a positive outlook on life to those in their social circles.

I read a post the other day that I am sure was written with good intentions. It went something like this – “We should all look at the positive side of life and stop being so negative.” While I may agree with the sentiment behind this statement, I believe when people are going through rough times – such as journeying through grief – staying positive is not a simple task. Here are a few tips to help you achieve a more positive outlook on life in the midst of mourning.

As you work your way through sad days, realize that you are not in a hopeless situation. There are things you can do to bring a positive view into a negative looking world. One of those is to give you permission to cry. Allowing the tears can relieve stress, pain and sorrow. The river of water coursing down your cheeks is similar to the concept of releasing pressure from an over-filled balloon. It is less damaging to you and those nearby when you intentionally let go in a positive, constructive way rather than finally coming to the point where you explode with anger and hurt.

Remind yourself that life will get better. You will not always hurt as intensely as you do today. I cannot promise you that the pain will go away completely. However, I do know from the experience of my last four years that it will lessen and seem more manageable in time.

You are not on this journey alone. First and foremost, God is with you. He wants to be your strength and sufficiency during this very difficult time of life. Allow Him to be that for you. Pray and tell God about your hurts, fears, hopes and dreams. He can handle anything you place upon Him.

As we journey through grief, it is helpful to also seek the support of others walking a similar path. I have found new friends and inspiration through attending a Grief Share group. Finding hope and encouragement reminds me there is still a purpose to my life.

A big part of maintaining a positive outlook on this difficult journey is to just keep working each day to move onward. Do not give up. Even in your most difficult moments, there is always hope for tomorrow. Place one foot in front of the other, my friend. Your positive outlook will move you forward as you do the hard work of grief today.

Until next time –

Karen