The Multiplication and Division of Grief

We are at a point in our home where neither my husband nor I can help our son any longer in math. When he came home talking about quadratic equations, my eyes rolled into the back of my head. But even without being proficient in this level of math, there is some basic mathematics I am familiar with. I call it the multiplication and division of grief – the calculation resulting from death. 

Would you have ever imagined that grief has anything to do with math? Probably not, but since my daughter ran ahead to heaven, our lives have been significantly impacted. Plenty has been added, subtracted, multiplied, and finally divided in our lives due to her death.

From my elementary perspective, it goes something like this:
Addition: Getting pregnant and having a child; meeting your soul mate and getting married
Child/spouse dies
Increase in anxiety, fear, loneliness, sadness, insecurities
Loss of friends, family, and finances; differing opinions on how we are handling our grief and where we should/shouldn’t be by a specific time

Life is a series of equations, and we don’t need to be master mathematicians to see how all the calculations meter out. As grievers, we miss our certainty and assuredness of who we once were. We miss the person we used to be. This can leave us feeling lost and unanchored.

Often our friendships change because our part of the circle has been altered, and we are no longer the same as we once were. It’s sad because we lost not only our loved one but also those friends who were part of our life.

But there is hope – even if we don’t feel it today, life is not over.

Many who are much further ahead of me on this journey have gently shared that there does come the point when a sense of peace begins to enter. Perhaps it’s when we can start to release the “old” me and embrace the “new” me. We begin to accept that our lives are different now, and perhaps we can go back to the beginning of the equation and start with addition again. Maybe we begin by adding new friends, interests, and ministries – ways to help others. I can see how God can use this to make beauty for the ashes. 

Although we cannot change others, we can do all possible to seek comfort and solace from those who understand. Perhaps it’s a Grief Share group, a private counselor, or joining a small group from church. It helps to connect with those who have walked in our shoes and gone before us. It’s not an easy road, but there is always hope during loss and we must always remember that we are never alone. 

Grief and Gratitude

When putting these two words together – grief and gratitude – it seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yet, as I continue learning more about the grieving process, it’s a term I’ve often heard used. There is a season when grief and gratitude can begin to co-exist sometime down the road.

Gratitude during grief means choosing to celebrate the positive memories of a loved one’s life rather than focusing on the negative emotions of their loss.

Someone recently commented on a blog post I had written a couple of years ago, In part, it said:

“I know it’s easy to focus on the death of our loved ones. After all, we miss everything about them: their voice, laughter, touch, smile and most of all, their unique presence in our lives. Each person fills a unique role and it’s a place no one else can fill. We will never stop missing them, but for me it’s important that I continue to live. I’m not saying it’s easy, but our time here on this earth is not done. I want to honor my daughter in a positive way and am trusting God to show me what that looks like. I have other family members who love and need me. Just as we miss our loved one our family probably misses us, too because let’s face it – this grief journey has stolen moments, hours, days, months and for some even years of the lives we have.

I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will take each day and live it the best I can, for the Lord and for Melanie. I know she would not want me living a life steeped in overwhelming grief and heaviness. It doesn’t mean I won’t have moments of sadness, and it doesn’t mean I won’t miss her. I will miss her every single day of my life until I meet her again in heaven. But I’m choosing to live for her each day and instead of focusing on her death, I will focus on her life.”

These words are still true today. It’s so easy to remember the loss as it’s something I feel every day, but I’m continually working on the gratitude part of this journey. When experiencing anxiety or grief, we may have trouble remembering things to feel grateful for. But practicing gratitude can help deal with our emotions, improving our mental health.

Throughout all the ups and downs, I have discovered that sorrow is not a sin and that gratitude does not cancel out grief.

Living in grief and gratitude is not about being grateful when someone we love dies. The concept is more deeply rooted in being grateful for our time with our loved ones while being thankful for the memories that remain with us after their death.

How to be thankful during grief – is it possible? Maybe we just have to start with the elementary things:

• Remember how far you’ve come. Acknowledging small accomplishments can comfort us as we walk this grief journey.
• Start a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a valuable tool when getting into a positive mindset.
• Get outside. Go for a walk, go out into your backyard, and look up into the sky. See the natural beauty God has placed at our doorstep and simply breathe in.

When we begin to practice living in gratitude it allows us to begin healing from our pain and suffering and is a transformative way of dealing with loss. 

Practicing the 3 C’s of Grief: Choose, Connect, Communicate

The grief journey isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Like sprint runners, we will not get through our grief in 1 minute 20 seconds. Several friends have run the Boston Marathon, which takes months of rigorous training and preparation. They need to practice running short intervals, then slowly, they begin increasing the time of their runs and adding various road conditions. They don’t start running up a steep hill at full speed in 30-degree weather. No, it takes time and practice. Learning how to train and run properly doesn’t come overnight. For those who are on this road called grief, there are some things we can begin doing to help ourselves. We can start practicing the 3 C’s of Grief: Choose, Connect, and Communicate.

Choose – we get to choose what is best for us. Often when we have lost a loved one, grief brings a sense of loss of control. We may feel as if we have to accept all that life has thrown at us and with no choice of our own. This is far from the truth. Even when our hearts are heavy and burdened, and we can barely shower, we still possess the dignity of choice. Grief brain is a real thing, and if you find that your brain is muddied and cloudy and you really can’t think clearly, engage the help of a close friend or family member. It’s okay to gain insight from someone who cares about you and has your best interest in mind. You still have the final say and can choose what is best for you as you navigate this journey. 

Connect – Grief in and of itself can be very isolating and exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Whether you are a total introvert and usually enjoy your own company, remaining connected with people during this challenging time is crucial to our mind and well-being. As you walk the grief journey, staying connected to those who love you and supporting the place you’re in right now is essential. Although no one can fix your grief, just having another person present, without saying a word, can help immeasurably. We are not meant to do this life alone.  

Communicate – Communicating and sharing openly and honestly about your needs and what works best for you right now will help your friends and family know how best to come alongside you. During those moments when we break down and the tears, fears, and anger come communicating with your support system will help you begin to heal.

Although it’s not only natural during the grieving process and relatively normal, one of the worst things we can do is isolate ourselves or wear a mask, acting like everything is fine. We must try our best to communicate and be transparent about our feelings. 

Grief is hard. Just because you’re grieving doesn’t mean you’re a burden to those around you. If we don’t communicate how we feel and what we need, our family and friends won’t know what is best for us. We all handle grief differently – in our own time and in our own way.

We are navigating a road that doesn’t have GPS guidance. We must find our way and do what’s best for us. We just don’t have to do it alone.   

Anxiety & Grief – The Companion No One Wants

There seems to be much talk about anxiety lately. Everywhere I turn, there’s another post, article, or reel popping up. My pastor, Louie Giglio, who suffered from anxiety and depression, has been leading a great discussion about it ( I couldn’t be happier that a topic that affects thousands is gaining so much attention. Anxiety and grief – the companion no one would want is a typical response to those who have lost a loved one and are grieving. 

A few months ago, I attended a conference, and the speaker’s main topic was anxiety and depression in children. The world has seen a rise in anxiety in kids since 2012, and they believe the main culprit is social media. Kids as young as 10 are dealing with such anxiety and depression they don’t know what to do, so they are harming themselves. It’s an unfortunate turn in our society. 

Anxiety can also come as a result of control as we try to control all that is surrounding us. Joining anxiety is also our cousin worry. We tend to worry about all the possible things that could happen. Most of which we have no control over and which rarely occur. A study was done, and did you know that almost 91% of the things we worry about never come to pass? Amazing, isn’t it? 

Even though anxiety and depression are typical responses to grief, it’s not something we long to have in our lives, yet they can walk with us daily. So, what can we do to help abate these intense feelings that can come upon us? Below are some suggestions:

Some others include praying, watching funny videos, journaling how you feel, squeezing a stress ball, spending time in therapy, and using aromatherapy oils.

Anxiety means different things to each of us, but a few of the most helpful things for me have been:

• Prayer – if you are a person of faith, spending time at the feet of Jesus sharing your fears, thoughts, cares, and troubles with him can make all the difference between continuing to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders or releasing it. 1 Peter 5:7
• Deep breathing – the more anxious I am, the shallower my breaths are, so I have to consciously sit in a quiet place and breathe in through my nose, hold it to the count of 4, and very slowly release the breath through my lips.
• Listen to music – preferably softer, quieter, like worship music, or perhaps you like instrumentals or jazz. For me, worship music invites God into the center of everything around me, and soon I feel his peace surrounding me.
• Journaling – writing it all down and getting the words out on paper has been a beneficial exercise to help battle what’s going on within.

Friends, I’m neither a professional nor a psychologist/psychiatrist nor do I have a degree in counseling. These are just some helpful tools that have worked for me as I’ve walked this road. I hope they might help you, too. Wishing each of you much love and peace.

A Firm Foundation Instead of a Slippery Slope

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been waking up with a song in my heart – the same song and the exact words, over and over. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that music is one of the ways that God gives me hope and encouragement as I navigate this road littered with pieces of my broken heart. He’s been giving me songs in the night (Job 35:10) to encourage me.

If you’re in the pit of despair and can’t climb out of that dark hole of grief, I hope you will take a moment to let the words and music wash over you. My sincere hope is that it will bring peace, hope, and encouragement to you, even momentarily. God knows we need a firm foundation as we navigate the slippery slope of grief.

Christ is my firm foundation
The Rock on which I stand
When everything around me is shaken
I’ve never been more glad
That I put my faith in Jesus
‘Cause He’s never let me down

He’s faithful through generations
So why would He fail now?
He won’t

I’ve still got joy in chaos
I’ve got peace that makes no sense
So I won’t be going under
I’m not held by my own strength
‘Cause I’ve built my life on Jesus
He’s never let me down
He’s faithful in every season
So why would He fail now?
He won’t

No matter where you are in your grief journey, whether early days or years, there will always be times when you struggle with your grief.

How many of us have felt unsafe since grief knocked on our door? Who knew that grief felt so much like fear? But we are not alone and don’t have to suffer by ourselves.

Rain came and wind blew
But my house was built on You
I’m safe with You
I’m gonna make it through

Some days are better than others, and I’m ever grateful for those days. As I listened to the words of this song, I realized that even when the winds of life knock us down, if we build our lives on our firm foundation, Jesus, we won’t go under. We can hang on tight and reach out to the one holding us.

Remembering My Girl

Three years … 1095 days … 26,280 hours ago, you ran ahead to Heaven. It still seems like only yesterday and an eternity, all at the same time.

Many have asked if it’s become any more manageable over time – the grief, the missing of you. I hesitate, but only for a moment because, indeed, does it ever get any easier when you lose a child? No, not really. There will always be a gaping hole in my heart that can only be filled by my girl. 

But, gratefully, because of my Heavenly Father and the great love He has for his children, my heart is no longer torn wide open in the same way it was 3 years ago when it felt as if a grenade had exploded within my chest. 

Without my faith and knowing Melanie is happy and safe in Heaven and that I will see her again one day, I would never have made it this far. But God … He is the reason. He is my hope, my rock, my strength, and my cornerstone during the worst battle I’ve ever been in.

My heart has changed in so many ways, and I will never be the person I was before. But that’s okay – this is grief and it has become folded into the tapestry of my life. 

Melanie, as the day unfolds, I will do my best to remember how you lived and not how you died. I feel you with me each and every day and carry you with me in my heart. Your life will not be in vain, my sweet girl. I will share your story and know that God will use it to touch hearts and make a difference in the lives of others. No matter that Heaven and Earth separate us, you will always be my girl, and I will always be your Momma.

As the song, Scars in Heaven goes, There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see you. You live on in all the better parts of me. Until I’m standing with you in the sun, I’ll fight this fight and this race I’ll run. Until I finally see what you can see.

Broken People With Hurting Hearts

Today as people gather to celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s take a moment to remember that there are broken people with hurting hearts all around us. Although this day is traditionally one for many to share an expression of love with the special people in their lives, this may not be a day of celebration for everyone.

If you’re hurting today, missing your loved one, please know you are seen and not alone. There is a God who loves us unconditionally and is holding tight to our loved ones who have run ahead to heaven before us.

Love is more than hearts and flowers. Though we may be broken people with hurting hearts, grief is a natural form of love. Grief is just love with no place to go. My hope today is to remember the love more than the loss. I will reflect on a well-known scripture that says: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

When I woke this morning, the words to the song, I Will Carry You, were playing in my heart. As I listened to the song closer, they became words of comfort from my Heavenly Father.

As the day unfolds, I hope you will hold on to the hope that we will see our loved ones again one day, and until then, God will carry us through. Please take a moment to listen and let God’s love wash over you. With His Everlasting Love, Pat

I know you’re tired, I see it in your eyes
All that anxiety that rules your mind
I’ll be your shield when you don’t feel
Like you’ve got strength enough to fight
I’ll stand by your side

I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you

Grief, Grit and Grace

Grief, grit, and grace are three different words and meanings, but in some ways complimentary of one another. Not long ago, someone told me I had a lot of grit while grieving Melanie’s death. I was aware that the definition of grief is sorrow, misery, anguish, pain, distress, and agony  all facets of grief I keenly possessed. But grit? It was an interesting term that got me thinking – what does having grit really mean? 

After looking up the definition, grit means having courage, resolve, and character strength. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a courageous person, but when child loss becomes woven into the fabric of the tapestry of your life, do you really have a choice to be anything different?

When someone you love dies, it would be easy to fold like a deck of cards and never get up again. Or we can pick ourselves up and begin walking forward, no matter the road’s conditions. This road called the grief journey has more hazardous situations than any construction site I’ve seen and more ups and downs than any rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. But, if we look at this from a different angle, because of what we’ve lived through, we can share the lessons we’ve learned along the way and positively uplift and encourage others who find themselves here. 

As a woman of faith, I yearn to continually have the quality of grace, which means to honor, enhance, distinguish, and extend courtesy. Giving grace not just to myself but extending to others. Hindsight is always 20/20, and we often experience many of life’s greatest lessons when we can look at things through a different lens. Giving grace has been one of those lessons Melanie’s death has taught me. It has made me view people and their circumstances differently. 

The things I once thought were so important are not so much anymore. The more important things have become people, and I treasure the time and relationships with those God has placed in my life. 

A friend of Melanie’s passed away unexpectedly last week. It was shocking and so sad for those close to her. One of her friends commented online that as she sat on her front porch watching the cars and people pass by, everyone else’s life was just moving on. That’s one of the hard things about grief and loss. Unless you are directly affected or have walked this road, life just “goes on.” 

During those times, we can extend grace to those without understanding because their life hasn’t been impacted by a loss. As a result of having experienced loss, I have a better understanding of grief, grit, and grace. Let us be thankful to God that he has provided us with these qualities so we can touch others who are hurting. 

Scars: A Double-Edged Sword

After having surgery a few months ago there is still a telltale sign reminding me of what happened. Even after several months, a tiny pink scar remains as an outward sign of what was. After all, as we go through life, most of us will end up with scars – some visible and others that may be hidden. Consequently, as I’ve thought about it, scars can be a double-edged sword. They can remind us of life and that we lived to talk about it. Or they can be a sign of hurt and loss, and those scars are not always seen with the naked eye. 

If I could look inside my heart, I would see a deep, jagged scar from the day my heart was torn open upon being told my daughter had died. It wouldn’t look like the same carefully scalpel-cut scar from surgery. No, when your heart is ripped open due to death, it’s ugly and raw. Although it can’t be seen, the scar remains today even though it may not be a throbbing, crimson-red, bloody mess like it was in the beginning. But as I walk further down this road, the scar on my heart reminds me I am still living. Somehow I’ve survived one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. 

What about the scars Jesus took on his body as a living sacrifice for us? It brought to mind the song, Scars in Heaven, which has been viewed over 13 million times on YouTube! Those scars depict the greatest love of all. God could have chosen to remove Jesus’ scars; instead, he kept them as an outward sign that he lived and died for us. As I ponder this, it’s given me a different perspective on my scars. We will all go through things, whether seen or unseen, but one day these wounds will be gone forever. 

While we remain on this side of heaven, we will each bear our own scars as a sign we lived – through good times and bad. One day, we will join our loved ones in heaven, and the wounds we carry will no longer be. Until then, I will hold my love deep in my heart for my girl with the remembrance that she lived. She is no longer suffering, and the hurt she carried in this life is gone. 

If I had only known the last time would be the last time
I would’ve put off all the things I had to do
I would’ve stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter
Now what I’d give for one more day with you
‘Cause there’s a wound here in my heart where something’s missing
And they tell me that it’s gonna heal with time
But I know you’re in a place where all your wounds have been erased
And knowing yours are healed is healing mine

The only scars in heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in heaven are on the hands that hold you now

Worry and Anxiety: A Consequence of Grief

Currently, I’m reading Winning the War on Worry by Louie Giglio with our small group. Although it’s a concise book (only 100 pages), it’s powerful and has made me stop and think long and hard about some of the things I’ve experienced since Melanie ran ahead to heaven. While examining my heart, it’s brought me to the realization that worry and anxiety is a consequence of grief.

Not long after Melanie died, I began experiencing panic attacks. Out of nowhere my heart would start beating out of my chest, and my insides would begin shaking as if I were standing outside in sub-zero-degree temperatures with no clothes on. I wasn’t sleeping well, and if I did manage to go to sleep, I always woke up around 2:00a.m. During this time, I’d lie awake for hours reliving all that brought me to this place.

While reading Winning the War on Worry, I’ve learned a couple of essential things:

  1. The heart of worry is the need to be in control.
  2. 97% of what we worry about never comes to pass.
  3. The ultimate root of worry is fear.

Does this resonate with you, too? I can go through a long list in my mind of “What if’s” in 30 seconds or less and then proceed to turn myself inside-out worrying about these scenarios. This book has reminded me that winning the war on worry is knowing you can’t do it alone. It’s only as we rely on the power of God that we can then stand firm and win this fight.

Admittingly, since something terrible has already happened, I try to control every other aspect to ensure nothing wrong can occur. But, is that really possible? Absolutely not! We may like to think we are in control, but ultimately we are not!

It’s taken a lot of time, energy, effort, and tears to work through the worry and anxiety my grief has caused me. These are just a few things I found helpful:

·      Speaking with a grief counselor – it’s so important to find the right person you can talk to and share your broken heart with. Seeking out a professional in this field or attending Grief Share can help you manage the consequences of your grief.

·      Journaling – writing down all my thoughts, feelings, and prayers (requested and answered) has helped me tremendously. When I’m feeling scared, worried, sad, angry – all the feels … I just let it all come tumbling out on my journal pages. Verbalizing it, even in writing, brings those worries and fears into the light, and it doesn’t seem so dark anymore.

·      Music – listening to worship music is a significant source that brings a sense of calm to my soul. Music has its own universal love language. Where our words sometimes fail, music speaks. On the days I’ve felt incredibly anxious, the music stays in the background throughout the day. Often I then realize I actually feel calmer and steadier.

·      Prayer – reading the Bible and letting the word of God seep into my spirit helps me to remember I’m not alone on this grief journey. The worry and fear the enemy tries to lay on my heart and mind are lies. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to walk around fearing that death will come knocking on my door at any moment. We will all die one day, but I don’t have to sit back and worry about this daily.

Let’s try and focus on today. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow. Wishing you a peaceful day!

Walking the Never-ending Grief Journey with the Healer of My Heart

No matter how many days, months, or years go by, there will always be a piece of my heart that will remain on this never-ending grief journey. Yet, I’m so grateful there is also the Healer of my heart in the midst of the grief. We walk this journey side-by-side.

When Melanie first ran ahead to Heaven, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to survive. Child loss is a loss like no other. It’s hard to believe that next month 3 years will have gone by. I still miss my girl just as much today as I ever have. This is part of the never-ending grief journey.

But God … in all His magnificence, has covered, comforted, and carried me when I didn’t think I would make it another day. He is the Healer of my heart. Though I will never understand why she had to go to Heaven so young, I do know because of her loss, God has used it to touch and impact others. Only God can make beauty from ashes. 

Recently someone asked me if I believed our hearts could be healed after suffering loss. I absolutely do. Since the day Mel died, I’ve been standing on God’s promise, He will heal the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18). Granted, it takes time, along with a lot of grief work which might entail professional help, medication, prayer, and many other things. 

While I’m no expert, just another person walking the grief journey, I don’t believe time heals all wounds. However, time does lessen the overwhelming, sharp, tsunami-like feelings early grief brings.

If you’re hurting today and missing your loved one, I encourage you to hold on. Don’t give up, and keep running to the Father. God isn’t a man that he would lie (Numbers 23:19). On this never-ending grief journey, He can also be the Healer of your heart.  

Famous Last Words: It Will Never Happen to Me

We will all suffer loss at some point in our lives. While each situation may differ, the loss has one thing in common – heartache. Loss is loss, and grief is grief, no matter the circumstance surrounding the loss. Before you began walking your grief journey, let me ask you, did you ever think it will never happen to me

If you suffered child loss like me, I’m sure when your child was born, you never thought it would happen to you. When Melanie was a little girl, I never thought she would have Substance Use Disorder. During all the special moments and milestones in life, I had many dreams of what her life might be like – not one of them included disease or dying before me. No, I never thought it would happen to me. 

Maybe your loved one passed away unexpectedly in a car accident like my father did when I was still a young girl. This was something that happened to other families. I never thought it would happen to me.

Today, many are grieving the loss of a family member still on this earth. I’m sure in your wildest dreams, you never imagined your child wouldn’t be speaking to you. You never thought this would happen to you.

Maybe you’re a parent or spouse whose loved one took their own life. When others hear about your loss, suicide, like addiction, carries shame and judgment. As a parent who has lost a child to the disease of addiction, I’ve encountered the look; this happens when they discover why your loved one died. You can clearly see judgment cross their face and practically hear their thoughts: What happened to your daughter will never happen to mine. We live in a friendly, affluent neighborhood, and that will never happen to my child. My daughter was raised in the church. My son plays sports. My child is in college.” Yes, they definitely think it will never happen to them. Famous last words. 

If you have found yourself in the position of receiving the look, I am deeply sorry. Please know you have no reason to feel ashamed and should never be judged. Sadly, bad things happen to good people, even if we do not understand them. 

I hope and pray that everyone would consider walking in compassion, with less judgment, and extending grace toward those suffering. We never know what life holds for us. I never thought it would happen to my family or me, either. 

A New Year: Time to Look in the Rearview Mirror

Have you heard this saying before? For those who are grieving, it takes on a whole new meaning. As a parent who has lost a child, nothing is more important than who has been left behind. Granted, since Melanie ran ahead to heaven, looking back has been challenging. But, on the flip side of the loss and hurt, as we enter a new year, we can also use this as a time of reflection. By looking back, we can see how far we’ve come and how God brought us through our dark times.

Typically, my husband and I will begin to plan for the new year while also taking time to look back over the previous year. In the middle of all the tumultuous feelings loss brings, I know there is still so much we have to be thankful for. As we talk, it brings balance, and I can see how God has touched our lives while continuing to walk this grief journey.

A person’s love doesn’t end just because their loved one is no longer on this earth. Love remains forever. Grief is love and this is just part of our story and journey now. So, when I look in the rearview mirror, I try to remember the love more than the loss. There are days it’s a battle, but I strive to do it daily.

Do I wish things were different? Yes. Every.Single.Day. Unfortunately, that’s not within my power to change. I’m grateful to serve a God who has covered me with this unfailing love and protected me like the fiercest of lions in the land. 

As the calendar page turns to another year, I’m already experiencing pangs of uneasiness. It’s like my heart can tell time. It knows that in a mere 47 more days, I will have to face my daughter’s angelversary once again. Since I can’t escape it, I will do my best to face it – head-on, with tears streaming down my face, re-living every moment of that awful day. For now, I’m going to do my best to chase away the anticipation and anguish of that day by holding on tightly to The One who continues to hold me.

Give Yourself a Little Credit

Here we are, a couple of days after Christmas and moving toward a new year. As we wake up we can look back and say, “Whew, we made it! We made it through another holiday when we didn’t think we could. We survived.”

For some, it may have been barely. Granted, it may not have been easy, but give yourself a little credit. Although there may have been sad moments longing for what used to be, you did make it through the day … One step, one breath at a time.

As 2022 is coming to an end I’m sure there were days throughout the year you never thought you’d make it through. There are some reading this today who will soon be approaching the one-year angelversary when your loved one ran ahead to heaven. You are sitting here wondering, “How could a year have gone by already?” When you think about it time seems so warped – it’s like years in one moment, and a day in the next.

As you reflect back on what may have been the toughest year of your life please give yourself a little credit. Look at how far you’ve come. Even if you don’t feel it – you have done amazing!

This road of grief isn’t managed alone. It takes a village with all of us pulling one another up, encouraging, lifting, and loving. I’m so grateful for each of you following me, commenting, and lifting me up on those hard days. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You!

I will be lifting each of you up as we get ready to say goodbye to 2022 and move forward into 2023. Yes, we will enter a new year without our loved one and it can be scary and sad. Let’s try to remember, whether you have seen or felt the hand of God, He has been lovingly guiding us along this rocky path. We have never been alone, not for one moment.

“For He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” Hebrews 13:5 AMP

I will tell of your wonders, sing of your grace. The God of creation knows me by name. The Lord is faithful, yesterday, now, and always ~ Always, Chris Tomlin

Christmas Joy and Sorrow

The closer the days move toward Christmas the stronger my grieving heart begins to roar. I’ve been able to keep it subdued and quiet as the weeks have approached. Not intentionally, but it’s been there, bubbling just below the surface. This year I’ve been able to joyfully celebrate the reason for this season – the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, in the midst of the sweet celebrations there it remains – the sorrow, the ache, the missing of my girl.

You would think after all this time I would know what to expect. However, as time stretches on I am still a student learning at the Father’s knee. He has shown me there is both joy and sorrow at Christmas, and it’s OK to have both. We shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling either one.

This week I had a beautiful visit with my niece. She lost her husband in a tragic motorcycle accident 5 years ago. Though we always keep in touch it was the first time we had any real quality time together. We laughed and we cried. We were both able to share our hearts, our stories, and our memories. It was an amazing time of healing and sharing. What we felt most was God. He was in the middle of it all, sweetly touching each of us as He continues to heal our hearts.

Before she arrived the Lord had given me a song in the night (Job 35:10). Last week when I was awakened with this particular song on my heart I thought I knew the reason why. But as usual God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

After my niece left the Lord reminded me again of the words to the song. They weren’t just meant for the young girls I visited in a recovery home this week, but they were meant for me, too. I would like to share them with you today.

God is in this story
God is in the details
Even in the broken parts
He holds my heart, He never fails
When I’m at my weakest
I will trust in Jesus
Always in the highs and lows
The One who goes before me
God is in this story

I hope your heart is touched by the words from, God is in the Story by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave. As Christmas approaches may you hold them close to your heart if you too are experiencing both joy and sorrow. He’s the One who holds your sorrow. He won’t leave you here alone.

Wounded Souls Hurt More at Christmas

The impact of grief appears in many different ways. Yet it’s the state of our heart that suffers most. No matter how long we’ve been walking this grief journey, it seems that wounded souls hurt more at Christmas.

When a heart is hurting, even the twinkling lights, pretty colors, and beautiful songs don’t seem to ease the deep ache within. I’ve talked with fellow grievers who freely admit that these things exacerbate and magnify the hurt.

Even though the state of my heart isn’t like the tsunami it has been in years past, there are still moments when it hurts so much. Oh, the missing of my girl. I wish things were different and I could roll back time. If only.

Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. During this time of year, friends will ask, “What are you doing for Christmas? Are you getting together with your family?” During these times, we may learn someone is grieving due to the estrangement of a family member. Perhaps you’ve never thought of this as grief, but some have not spoken with their family members in years. It’s more common than one imagines. The relationship is so broken, and the chasm so wide they can’t find a way back to one another. The heart wounds from fractured family relationships can be as deep and hurtful as physical death.

As holiday songs play on the radio, they may bring back memories of past events. We cannot help but remember happier moments when we were all together.

When the world portrays “all is merry and bright,” we should consider that may not be the case with everyone. We may not know what is going on in someone’s life.

This is a good time of year to apply the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated. If your heart is hurting this holiday season, be mindful of those you encounter. Extend love, kindness, and care to those around you, knowing their heart may be breaking like yours.

Someone posted this recently, and I wanted to share it with you. I hope it touches your heart as it did my own.

the wounds in our hearts seem to
ache a little deeper during the holidays

don’t feel like you need to cover your wounded
heart in wrapping paper this Christmas

you don’t have to tie the corners
of your lips with garland to force a smile

you don’t have to keep whistling
“Silent Night” to keep people from
Noticing your bottom lip is trembling

you don’t have to blame an allergy
to nutmeg for why you are walking
around with tears in your eyes

for this Christmas give yourself permission
to feel whatever you need to

last night I was visited by the ghost of
yuletide heartbreak and she told me this:

it’s okay to not be okay on Christmas

it’s okay to be melancholy under the mistletoe

it’s okay to come apart while they are caroling

it’s okay to trace your scars with your fingers
while others are humming ‘Holy Night’

it’s okay to miss the presence of your beloved
amid the sound of opening presents

it’s okay, my love, to hurt during the holidays

don’t stuff your stockings with your suffering

don’t hide your healing during the holidays

give yourself the gift of being
authentic to yourself

it’s okay to not be okay during Christmas

it’s okay to let the broken pieces inside of you
be the only jingle bells you hear
because, my love, because,

it means you are still fighting to stay alive
and I can’t think of anything more to celebrate than that
~ john roedel

An Uncomplicated Christmas

Here we are in December, the month deemed the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  We know this isn’t true for everyone, especially those who are missing loved ones. This month tends to bring a host of feelings other than wonder and joy.

For some this will be your first year without your loved one and you’re dreading Christmas. For others this may not be the first, but you’re still having a lot of feelings about celebrating a holiday without your loved one. If anyone hasn’t told you – this is all perfectly normal. Please don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

This year I’m aiming for an uncomplicated Christmas. What does that mean exactly? Personally, it means I’m going to do what feels good and right to me. I’m definitely a work in progress but I’m hopeful it’s possible. 

I decorated the inside of our house this year, which was a first for me since Melanie ran ahead to heaven. I started early so it wouldn’t feel like a burden. Melanie loved Christmas and I’m trying to bring back some of our old traditions which brought joy to our family. This is a first time I’ve felt a freedom within my heart to do so.

Strangely, now that Christmas is looming large in front of me I’ve begun to feel that old familiar heaviness creeping back in. The missing … the longing … the sadness, which all equals grief.

As I felt the stirrings within my heart I knew what I had to do. In my quiet time I took all those cares to feet of my Heavenly Father, my rock and the only One who can truly continue to heal my heart. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4. He already knows how I’m feeling so who am I kidding if I try to keep it all bottled up. There are many things we can do with all those feelings – we can ignore them, act on them in a negative way or try to make something good from the bad.

Each Christmas since Melanie has been gone the one thing I’ve found to bring me comfort and joy is to serve others, especially those who had the same struggles that she did. This year I am partnering with my women’s bible study group, and we are visiting a local women’s recovery home. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it’s one where Melanie went many years ago. I’m sure as I walk through the doors of that home it may be a mix of emotions. Yet, I cannot wait to love on these girls because it will be just as if I am loving on my own daughter.

Even though I will continue to feel all those feelings of missing my girl, my goal hasn’t changed – I’m still aiming for an uncomplicated Christmas. I will enjoy the beautiful twinkling of the lights on the trees in our house. I will watch all the silly, predictable, and yes, uncomplicated Christmas movies I feel like watching and I will accept only the invitations where I am truly comfortable being myself.

Spending an uncomplicated Christmas may be different, but since I’m not the same person I was before Melanie died, different is OK. I hope you will consider joining me – step out and dare to be different, too. Be as uncomplicated as you’d like to be this Christmas.

One Holiday Down, One To Go

Although it may not seem like the most jolly way to begin the holidays, how many will admit this thought crossed your mind this past week? It’s pretty common among grievers to say if not out loud, at least to themselves, “Whew, we made it!” And that doesn’t mean we made it through Black Friday getting the top gifts on our list at a good price! It simply means we made it through another holiday.

For those walking the grief journey, this time of year adds an extra blanket of heaviness on already weary shoulders. As we approach December telling ourselves “one holiday down, one to go” it can be a means of survival. It may be a way of assuring ourselves we can make it, one (holi) day at a time.

There is nothing that will make me miss my daughter any less. But perhaps telling ourselves we just have to get through the next 27 days before we can be on the other side, may help a hurting heart get through this time without our precious loved one.

While Christmas music playing on the radio and in every store we enter we can expect our emotions to run amuck. Although I’m no expert, but just another mom missing her child there are a couple of things I’ve found that can help.

Continue reading the rest here: Surviving the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Empty Chair

As we approach Thanksgiving many of us will look upon the empty chair at the table. The hole deep within our heart will now be staring openly at us. Holidays are hard. If you are early on in your grief journey you may wonder how you’re going to get through the day.

The empty chair is a symbol of remembrance for a loved one who is no longer with us. Some families even leave a place setting on the table in their honor.

As you sit around the table perhaps you can exchange stories of past Thanksgivings when your loved one was still with you. Even if the stories stir up sadness, it’s okay if the tears are mixed with laughter and smiles as we reminisce about happier times.

The holidays may never quite be the same, but that’s because we are not the same. We are different now and that’s OK. This is the grief journey.

I will keep an empty chair at our table to remind me of the last Thanksgiving we shared together as a family before Melanie ran ahead to heaven. We will have some of her favorites, like cherry pie.  Last year it was just 3 of us and we ended up with 5 pies! 😊 Yes, one of them was cherry, and we all had a slice or two in her memory.

Thanksgiving is a time we are meant to reflect on all we are thankful for. As for me, I will forever be grateful for the years God gave me, however short, to be Melanie’s mama. I will choose to focus on the love and the laughter, not the loss.

A time of total joy and happiness is now a mixture of grief and gratitude. I have settled in my heart that I will forever have a mixture of feelings on the holidays and place no expectations on myself otherwise.

Strange as it seems, this is part of the grief journey. I will continue to lean on Jesus – my rock, my deliverer, the one who continues to carry me through. That alone is so much to be thankful.

Invite Grief and Gratitude to the Table

Here we are just a couple of short weeks away from celebrating Thanksgiving. If you’re grieving you may be feeling anything but thankful. Holidays are hard. As we get together with family you may feel pressured to smile and act like everything is fine when your heart is actually broken.

My friends, this year let’s do something different. Let’s invite grief and gratitude to the table.

It’s taken me a few Thanksgivings to realize that I do not have to act a certain way or be someone I am not during the holidays. I mean no disrespect, but I am not going to paste on a fake smile to appease others. It’s disingenuous and I’d be denying my own feelings just to make those around me feel more comfortable.

Everyone will go through grief at some point in life. Grieving is normal. What I think is abnormal is acting as if my loved one isn’t on my heart, and this is just another happy holiday.

When our loved ones run ahead to heaven we will forever miss them. Yet, there is something about holidays, anniversaries and all those special days when the sadness increases exponentially.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that grief and gratitude can co-exist. I can have both joy and sorrow in my heart.

Instead of acting as if everything is perfect and I’m not thinking of Melanie, I’m going to invite both grief and gratitude to the Thanksgiving Day table. If there is a memory I want to share about a past Thanksgiving I will do so without shame, and I encourage you to the do the same. I hope our family and friends will feel comfortable mentioning their name. May they realize it doesn’t bring us sadness but instead brings us joy to know they have not been forgotten.

Grief and gratitude are welcome here. We may shed a tear one moment and have a burst of laughter the next.  This is normal. This is grief.

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