Living With Loss Archives 2007

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  • Being a Friend Indeed When You're the One in Need by Cindy Granke
  • Grief and Its Energy Drain by Shirley Ottman
  • When the clouds are lifted...(Poem) by Jerry Ham
  • If Tomorrow Doesn't Come by Cindy Granke
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
  • Supporting Our Children Living Through Grief by Joanne Beckley
  • Lovingly Sabotaged by Joanne Beckley
  • Facing Loss Head On by Cindy Granke
  • If Tomorrow Never Comes (poem) by Norma Burnett
  • Harsh Words Spoken (poem)

  • Our Compassionate God  by Cindy Granke
  • Mourning the Loss of a Spouse
  • A Lesson From Loss (One Year Later) by Cindy Granke
  • Mourning the Loss of a Spouse
  • A Lesson from Loss (One Year Later) by Cindy Granke
  • Living with Loss During the Holidays by Cindy Granke
  • Tips for Handling the Holidays


Being A Friend Indeed When You're The One In Need
By Cindy Granke

Rather than an exposition of Hebrews 10:25, this is but a few brief thoughts about a Christian, a faithful saint. It is not about what “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” means, or what day the Hebrew writer had in mind that his readers might see approaching, but about a disciple who wouldn’t be absent any time the brethren came together, if he had the ability to be there. And it’s about the quiet encouragement a faithful Christian can be to others. Some members make excuses, and some make up accommodating interpretations of Scriptures, but brother Fred Gosnell makes an example which those of us who want to go to heaven would do well to mark. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. Philippians 3:17

Thirty-one years ago, Fred and Dot Gosnell obeyed the Gospel, here in Sumter, South Carolina. After three years, the United States Air Force sent them to Germany, where they lived, between 1979-82. While there, they taught the Gospel and established a faithful congregation of the Lord’s church, before returning to Sumter, where they have been faithful members of the Woodland church of Christ, ever since. Their faithfulness and teaching of others has been an encouragement to Christians in Germany, here, and other places.

Since May of 1996, Dot has struggled with cancer, diabetes, and finally kidney failure. Around noon, on Wednesday, March 28th, She finally went to be with the Lord. Fred and their daughter Melissa were both by her side when she took her last breath.

Would you believe that Fred was at Wednesday Bible study, that same night? I think he had a strong need to be with all of us, that evening. After the initial hugs and tears, he did amazingly well, too. When we arrived and I hugged him, he actually asked ME if I was okay. Our earlier conversations during that day had been pretty emotional. His voice got quivery a few times, but we continued with our study of Joshua, and he participated in the discussion and reading of passages of Scripture. His being there and being his usual self, as much as he could, helped the rest of us get through the service much more calmly than we would have, otherwise. That is a simple illustration of Fred's commitment to God.

It seems that we needed to be around him at that time, too. I realize that not everyone is physically or emotionally able to do what Fred did that night, within hours after the death of a loved one. But the man has an amazing resource of inner strength. While devoting himself to being Dot’s fulltime caregiver, over the past year, or so, he has lost a good bit of weight, and his clothes are slightly loose on him. He is physically and emotionally exhausted, but spiritually, his confidence in God’s promises is clearly what is sustaining him.

A couple of years ago, Dot bought a little Shitz-zu dog. At the time, I thought it was going to be primarily her little ball of fluff. Fred says that when they brought Sashi home, Dot said the puppy was for him, because she knew he would need her after Dot was gone. And he and Sashi have become very close companions. In recent weeks, while Dot has been sleeping more and more, during the day, Fred and Sashi have walked around their large back yard, and Fred has spent much of that time talking to God. The last week before Dot’s death, he said he kept singing, All The Way, My Savior Leads Me. He knew the Lord was with him as he watched Dot in the last stages of her sojourn here. I assumed he sang it silently, in his heart. It’s hard to imagine one being emotionally able to actually sing aloud, in the midst of the anguish of those last days.

But you know, even as I wrote that last sentence, I remembered sitting by my daddy's bedside the night before he died, singing, God Will Take Care of You. My sister had to leave to take Momma home, and get her fed and in bed, so I stayed for two or three hours, until she came back to get me. Funny, but I just realized that I was able to sing the words, softly and without crying, that night. A couple of days earlier, I had tried to read to Daddy from the Psalms, but I couldn't do it.

Hmmmm. Isn't it interesting – and calming – how the Lord provides strength when we need it most?


Grief and it's Energy Drain

It is surprising to me that much bereavement literature omits mention of the huge energy drain which comes with grief. If you are newly bereaved and have yet to realize that nearly all of your energy is required just to deal with these many emotions you are confronting, then let me assure you that this is the case. Don’t expect yourself to complete projects within the same time frame as you were once able to, nor expect yourself to be able to dazzle customers or clients with pizzazz or gust.

It simply takes too much energy just to dress in the morning, to make the simple decision to eat, to stifle tears in public, to keep your anger from inappropriately erupting. There is very little energy for anything else. Every thing will take longer than you think, including grief recovery. You will, however, gradually rediscover yourself and build a new life. Your life will be a rich and full one where the memories of your child will no longer produce pain. In fact, those memories will enrich your life. And that’s the truth!

Meanwhile, conserve your energy when and where you can, and allow yourself time to grieve. Those people who deny their grief simply delay the process. The quicker way to recovery is straight through the grief, not around it.

By: Shirley Ottman
Bereaved Mother ~ Denton, TX


When the clouds are lifted, and the shadows flee,
My dear sweet mother will at last be free.
Once again, she will call me by name,
Though nothing will ever again be the same.
No, not the same, but much better by far,
She will be whole, body, mind, and heart.
She'll look at me and know I'm her son,
We'll both rejoice at what God has done.
When the clouds are lifted, and the shadows flee,
We'll see God was there for my wife, and for me.
God gave us the strength to do what was right,
To care for my mother through this terrible night.
"I would not tell you as to what lay ahead,
"I wanted to see you trust me instead."
Though I often failed, His mercy is great,
This didn't just happen by chance or by fate.
Someday I will see this was part of His plan,
And He held us safe in the palm of His hand.
One day all His beauty and glory I'll see,
When the clouds are lifted, and the shadows flee.

© 2001, Jerry Ham Used by permission


If Tomorrow Doesn't Come
by Cindy Granke

Some of our readers are probably familiar with the death of 43 year old Susan Colvin this past month. She was the wife of Kevin Colvin, mother of Christine, Kevy, and Katie, and she had waged a valiant battle with cancer for several months. I’ve never met the Colvin family, but like many of you who participate in prayer request groups, I’ve felt close to them through prayer and through our relationship in the Lord’s body. I wept for her family when I learned that on Saturday, January 23, her battle was over – and as Kevin said, “She won!” But I rejoiced for Susan because she was released from her pain ravaged body and went to her Savior where there is no more pain, and no more tears.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain. .
~ Revelation 21:4

Like me, many of you have watched loved ones struggle through the long dying process. We know it is difficult, at best, to say goodbye. Yet we realize the blessing of having time to share words of love and memories with them. We also appreciate the time spent with them as they speak to us of love, leaving, and their hopes and wishes for their children or other family members.

Like me, some of you have also known the shock of losing a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly. We know how important our last conversations were with that person. And it is that communication with our family and loved ones that I want to impress upon you this month.

When my daughter was killed in an automobile accident, I was so thankful that we had spoken on the phone the night before she died. We had laughed and enjoyed each other’s news. And as our calls and emails always did, that call ended with both of us saying, “I love you.” Her husband told us that when he left for work that morning that she and their child were standing at the door, waving goodbye to him, as they always did.

Some of the saddest conversations I have experienced are those with a parent, child, wife, or husband whose last words to their loved one were spoken in anger or impatience. All of us realize the likelihood of such conversations in the daily stresses of life. If you think it’s hard to forgive others sometimes, wait until you have to try to forgive yourself after such comments. Grief is painful enough as it is, but where there are harsh words spoken, or loving words left unspoken, the anguish of loss is multiplied.

This month I’m devoting this page to reminding you, pleading with you to hold your loved one close before you leave each other in the mornings, and before you go to sleep at night. I urge you to never say, “Goodbye,” at the door, or over the phone, or in a letter to your loved one, without telling them that you love them.

If you seldom, or never say, “I love you,” shame on you. Some of us may have grown up without hearing those three words spoken out loud in our homes. Therefore we may neglect to say them to our spouses or our children. I know two sisters who grew up that way. They both made up their minds that their husbands and their children would never go through a day without being told they were loved. No, just saying the words are not enough. Your loved ones should know by your attitude and your actions that you truly do love them. But the words are important.

As children, how many of us learned the retort, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? Unfortunately, the truth is that words can cause profound and lasting hurt. Likewise, unsaid words can also be a source of lasting disappointment and sadness. (See the paragraph below about Elizabeth Barrett Browning).

In this time of hectic schedules, with families going off in all directions during the day – it is even more important that we do not waste any opportunity to say those words to each other. Consider the thousands who said goodbye on the morning of September 11, 2001, before going off to work or to catch planes. They did not know that that would be their last words to their loved ones. I imagine that all of us know people who have had a similar experience, though maybe not on such a large scale as 9/11. A husband leaves for work, a child leaves for school or a football game, never suspecting that would be the last time they would see each other in this life. An accident, a heart attack or stroke prevented them from saying, “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me,” or “I love you, Honey.”

If you knew that morning at the door, or that quick telephone conversation you are having with your husband, your child, or your parent would be the last words you would ever be able to say to them, what would you tell them?

“I told you to hang up your clothes before you left the house this morning!”

“You forgot to…..”

“Why can’t you quit nagging me?”

If it’s the last words you get to say to them, wouldn’t it have been worth it to tell them you love them? Let’s all express our love to those near and dear to our hearts. – OFTEN

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
Proverbs 25:11


Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)       
 ~ Elizabeth wrote some of the best loved sonnets which are famous the world over ~ 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

   A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism.  A fall from a horse caused damage to her spine.  She married poet and playwright, Robert Browning in 1846.

    There’s more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father’s disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her father had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship.  Her letters, written with tears to entreat his pardon, were never answered.  Among them was one she had written, in the prospect of danger, before the birth of her child.

   After ten years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Imagine what her father missed because of his stubbornness.  He never knew his grandson.  Imagine Elizabeth's sadness for those ten years.  How she must have longed to share her love and her child with her father.   Had he only read a few of them, his relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored.

   This is something to think about when we decide to disown our child because he/she chooses the wrong path, or lifestyle.  If we refuse any communication with the child, how can we hope to influence or restore our relationship?  Like Elizabeth's father, how will we know if our son or daughter changes or wants to reconcile?  cg

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others  
  Philippians 2:4


Supporting Our Children
Living Through Grief
by Joanne Beckley

 Every day there are traumatic events that involve our children and losses they experience. The intensity of their losses vary according to events and the ages of our children. Helping them to face and recover, living through their grief, should be the concern of every parent. Loved ones die and so do pets. Relocation to a new home can be very challenging and a loss of identity during their adolescent years may have to be faced. Friendships change, and perhaps they will experience the loss of romantic relationships. Dreams may die when our teenagers realize they may not become the actor or athlete they hoped to be. Children and teens also have to face illnesses and disabilities. Parents may be separated, divorced, or in prison. Children sometimes have to face being placed in foster care or be sent away to different institutions. Our children are not strangers to loss and grief.         

he burning questions is – how can we help our children? How can we prepare and support children and teenagers as they cope with loss?   

Love is not enough:
y husband and I learned that love is simply not enough. Love needs to be educated! It is to the Bible we should go to find the way to the heart of God and to one another. In the Old Testament, we read of God's presence and comfort as we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4). We learn in the Word of God how we can be strengthened both through our own grief and while we offer support to our grieving children. We read of the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” ~ surely our griefs.  He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried" (Isaiah 53:3). It is Jesus Christ who changed the meaning of grieving – He gave us hope (John 11:25-26). We must convey this hope to our children. For Christians death and pain in this world is not the reason for existence.          

Life can hand out painful surprises and we parents may hand our children a few of them ourselves. For example, when our children were young, we uprooted them from their homes, their grandparents, and their friends – and brought them to
Africa to live. The years went by and they had to face the reverse process of losses and adaptation when they returned to the United States to attend college. Each son faced his grieving process differently, and more or less painfully – and they needed certain and various ways of support from their parents and other loving adults – who were not adequately prepared.      

     When our second son was studying for his matriculation exams in order to qualify for a university pass, his best friend committed suicide by gassing himself.  The note he left behind stated he couldn't cope with the intense expectations of others. Our son had to carry his friend's casket at the funeral, and then returned home to grieve – and His parents were not prepared.    

     These two examples are given to emphasize how our children need their parents to be aware that grief is also a part of their lives. Sometimes we parents like to think of childhood as "the kingdom where nobody dies" (Robert Kastenbaum, 1972). We continually seek ways to protect our children from being exposed to dying, death, loss and grief – but we can't. We don't have this power. The truth of the matter is, if we continue our futile attempts, we actually create children who grow up to be weak adults.

We can help our children and teens if we recognize that they do grieve and we need to support them as they mourn. Yet there may be limits to our ability to support them. We may ourselves be faced with coping with loss, which limits our own energy and ability to help. It is at these times that other Christians, supportive adults, can assist the family as they cope with loss. Yes, there will be those who lack sensitivity and empathy, and might discourage us and our children from reaching for support. Instead of pushing away their sincere attempts, we need to encourage one another to greater effort in how to comfort one another. e can help our children and teens if we recognize that they do grieve and we need to support them as they mourn. Yet there may be limits to our ability to support them. We may ourselves be faced with coping with loss, which limits our own energy and ability to help. It is at these times that other Christians, supportive adults, can assist the family as they cope with loss. Yes, there will be those who lack sensitivity and empathy, and might discourage us and our children from reaching for support. Instead of pushing away their sincere attempts, we need to encourage one another to greater effort in how to comfort one another.

Children grieve: 
     Changes and losses which children experience, especially the death of a loved one or the fallout from divorce, creates confusion, vulnerability, and terror in the mind and hearts of our children. These two events mark a child's entry into the realm of calamity and grief. Adult protection has failed. The grown-ups can't even protect themselves. The reality has shattered the make-believe world of childhood.           

     Yet children are resourceful in their attempts to understand the mysteries of loss, absence, and death. If we watch our children's efforts to understand death we are given the opportunity to witness creativity and courage that will enhance our own spirits. Remember, young children often have a "short feeling span." They are unable to sustain strong feelings for long periods of time. Mood shifts are frequent. They look at any loss through a very personal lens and they are unable to empathize with another's grief.     

     Down through time our children have played games that involve death and separation, just as they also play and mimic other experiences in their lives. The games change but death continues to have its place. A child may be seen to suffocate and bury her doll, yet with a low-key conversation it might be discovered that the child has heard something on TV about a person suffocating, and the burial of the doll to prove that the dead can return if one knows the right things to say and do. A boy plays a noisy game of repeatedly crashing toy cars into each other and when asked why, he says shyly, "Nobody gets killed bad." The more we understand how our children understand traumatic events, the more prepared we are to provide guidance and comfort.  

ivorce is a different set of circumstances, yet it carries a deeper pain for children and the pain can last a lifetime. It is almost like a living death to see the one whom they continue to love turning his or her back away from them. Children often react with anger directed toward one or both of the parents, guilt over the part they worry they played in the divorce, feelings of rejection, and sometimes fear of being left alone or forsaken. They will often act out their insecurities with misbehavior. The misbehavior becomes an unconscious testing to see if there really are limits and some lines of stability.          

lder children will feel responsible for the separation/divorce/death. Now and again they will insist that it was all their fault, therefore feeling they don't have the right to enjoy happiness. Some have suicidal thoughts and impulses, saying they deserved to die, mulling over and over the nasty things they had thought, felt, or said that could have caused the separation or death. They have a heightened sense that something bad is going to happen to them at any time, perhaps a slight illness might prove fatal, becoming fearful of hospitals. If the remaining parent must be absent for a short time, the anxiety of separation might become extreme. Parents will also notice the presence of sleep disturbances and outbursts of anger.

Teenagers grieve:
eenagers' expressions of grief are similar to those of children, although influenced by their additional life experiences, better communication skills, and personal situations of previous "betrayals" in their lives. Yet, the way they express their grief is still different from adults. They have not learned and perfected the inhibitions our society has placed on us as adults. Our teenagers will also try to pick up the reins that have been dropped by the absent parent. While some new responsibilities may be unavoidable, all too often we parents unnecessarily add to the pressures on bereaved children by telling them, "Now you are the big man of the family," or, "You need to be strong for your father."            

eens, like young children, will limit their exposure to grief or only permit themselves small "doses" of that experience before turning back to something more pleasurable or a safer arena. 

arents must maintain our family limits, rules and fences that provide our children stability. We need to reassure them and place no blame on them. They will need to be reminded even years later after the fact. 

       Evasive answers to their questions heighten our children's fears. In the absence of accurate knowledge (both of this world and God's dealings toward His creation) they will create their own "facts" which have no basis, and will surprise us with their reasoning. They may even seek a fantasy world where the good guys always win, unwilling to accept the real world that contains such terrible emotional pain. 

     It is important to remember that the expression of grief in children and adolescents is inevitably influenced over time by new challenges that may prompt renewed grief and new ways of expressing it. Coping with grief seeks to manage a stressful situation. It involves efforts to find ways to live with grief in one's life. When such coping is successful and produces good fruit, it means our children can go on with healthy living and loving.  

ur children will make a great effort to maintain a connection of some type to one who died or the parent who has left. Life does not return to "normal" but they try very hard to bring their lives back to "normal." Instead, we as parents and loved ones need to help our children develop "new normals" in their lives. Building stronger character takes effort and pain and we must not cheat our children of this blessing. Let us help our children to understand they are not alone, that others have faced and successfully managed similar challenges.            

elping our children to grieve and mourn is only a part of the entire picture of good parenting. Learning to listen without judgement when our children express their feelings and thoughts, from babyhood onward, will stand us in good stead when the time comes and we seek to understand our grieving children, encouraging them to talk to us.            

emember, sometimes silence and just "being there" is all our children can manage.  C.S. Lewis wrote: "There is sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me."

A brief summary:         
     We will be better able to understand and help our children and teenagers better if we:

  • Live godly lives.
  •  Accept that our children do grieve and that it can be a difficult and long-term process of healing.
  • Pray together, and for one another.
  • Seek Bible passages that provide strength and confidence.
  •  Pay close attention to how our children experience grief by how they react to their loss.
  • Seek advice from good literature that supports your understanding of parenting.
  • Give our children the facts they seek concerning death and divorce.
  • Be a receptive, careful listener. Make your whole body present and attentive.
  • Concerning divorce, be honest. Don't put your spouse down in front of your children.  Help them keep the good memories of your past marriage alive.
  • Be aware of emotional responses at special times: birthday, Christmas, etc.
  • Remain open to the many lessons that children and teenagers have to teach all of us about bereavement, grief, and mourning.
  • Be watchful for unhealthy grieving: increasing conviction that they are no longer valuable as a person – threats of self-destruction – antisocial behavior – excessive hostility, moodiness, or guilt –stoic refusal to show emotion or to appear affected by the loss.
  • A good friend gave this wise suggestion to loving parents, that in summation it is: "Wordless love. I think that is the answer. Our children need to know without any words at all that we love them. Knowing this, there is a ‘wall of support' that is there, not to be spoken about, because it does not NEED to be spoken. By ‘bracing themselves against and with that wall, they gain and use the strength of their own faith and being to go to new heights and places that by our love we have always wished and wanted them to go. It is a matter of long years of constant care, which constitute a proof and evidence of such a love."  

    Christian counseling – Jay Adams
    Good Grief – Granger Westberg
    Living With Grief – Kenneth Doka 


    I am honored that Joanne Beckley chose to share the following letter, which was written to her friends and loved ones after her mother died in 1996.  She sent it to me as an explanation to go with the verse which is further down on this page.  Her letter is so poignant that I chose to include it along with the paper she found near her mother’s chair as she and her father were going through her mother’s things.  I think you will find it touching and may be able to identify with some of her emotions.  Cindy


    Dear loved ones

         Its now a month since Mother died and a week since I returned home. Your cards and calls have eased my heart, and your spoken words have helped us understand my need to write the following. I thank you. Truly. For caring. For showing me you care. For reaching out with perhaps a little fear of not knowing what to do or say. It was good.

         On April 4th, I received word that Mother's heart catheterization was not going well and they were preparing her for a by-pass operation. Within an half-hour I was out of the house and on the road. Two hours later David received word that she didn't survive the effort and tried to reach me via the Highway Patrol. They didn't find me, but two huge rigs must have for they blew their horns at me. I briefly wondered why they couldn't leave me alone...and so I missed returning to pick up my family.

         David told me when I phoned him that night from a motel. I decided to continue on, rather than wait all day for him to arrive. But, unknown to both of us, I hit a late snow storm near Abilene which halted my travel. After following in the "footsteps" of a big semi for five miles I started sliding and promptly chickened out. I turned off the interstate into what I soon learned was the last motel available before the road was completely blocked (Whew!). When I arrived in Lubbock the next day around noon, David met me with a "where have you been?" and it was then that I learned he had been driving all night, watching to see if my car had been one of the many he had seen in the ditches along the way. I regret being the cause of additional worry and concern. If only I had thought to phone the family, never dreaming they would be traveling straight through. Of course, several days later I retraced that same route and there was no snow -- just wreckers working over ditched cars and trucks.

         David delivered a really lovely eulogy and I'm sorry it was not taped. Brother Fritz' short talk made mention of proof of Mother's efforts in mothering as he counted four gospel preachers in our two rows. I was glad everyone stayed behind so we could talk with them a while before leaving. The Raifs' loaned their van for my father, brother and I to drive the next day with Mother's body back to Tennessee for burial in a country cemetery near her aunt, grandparents, etc. It was a blessing to visit with relatives who came out to the graveside having read her obituary in the local papers. I had never met most of them -- or even knew of their existence! We had a lovely time hugging and talking. Daddy and I were able to attend Bible class the evening before and several Christians also arrived and honored us with their personal care. I enjoy recalling this and the many other instances of being held throughout this past month.

         We returned to Lubbock and my father and I began sharing Mother's life as I went through her things. Her interests were many and varied and she seemed to have enjoyed stashing sayings, poems, letters, cards, etc in the most unusual, unexpected places. So we were constantly getting "caught" yet again. Through our laughter and tears we truly felt her love of life, family and God as we went from box to drawer to closet. Truly life holds many surprising blessings amidst pain.

         Near Mother's chair was a paper Mother had kept with the following words which must have helped her, and now helps my father and I. Perhaps it will prove timely for you also.


    For Today Only

    There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

    One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.

    All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.

    The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow with its possible adversaries, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow's sun will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.

    This leaves only one day -- today. Any man can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities -- yesterday and tomorrow -- that we break down.

    It is not the experience of today that drives men mad -- it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time.  ~Author Unknown 



    The following letter was written in 1996, but the words I had written still calm my longing today for the special love only a mother has for children. I am nearing 60 years old now and I can’t help but wonder what kind of legacy I will leave with my own children and grandchildren. Will my love for them give them strength in return, just as my mother did for me? Will my puny attempts to please God bring them courage and confidence to ever strive toward the same goal. . . My prayers for them continue. My prayers continue for each one of you reading this letter. Joanne


    Joanne Beckley

         Mother died four years ago this month, and then yesterday – "She’s done it again!” – I was sabotaged by my own mother.

    Many years ago my mother chose to give up her chance for a college degree and a career in order to be a wife to her “preacher-man” and a good mother for her one, two, three, four! children. Only after I was grown, and began a family of my own did I begin to understand the truly fine mind she had and the joy she gained in using it to create a smooth-running home. Yet she battled (and what a battle!) bipolar depression (manic-depression) her entire life.

    Mother enjoyed poetry and "sayings." She collected them with a passion, sharing them with us as we grew up, and even after we left home, married, and began rearing our own families. After my husband and I chose to spread the gospel in South Africa, she would even send her sayings through the mail, or tucked in between a toy and a blouse in each parcel she posted.

    Mother died on April 4th while I fought to reach her through a freak blizzard. I stayed on after the funeral to help our father, who had suffered a stroke four months before, still unable to speak much, and was often disoriented.  He and I went through Mother's sewing do-dads, filing cabinets, bookcases, and boxes and more boxes of magazines and fabric. All the while, even as we faced her hope chest, wardrobes and keepsake boxes – well, she kept sabotaging us. Just as we would get our tears under control, yet another comic strip, or "saying," or verse of scripture would turn up between items we were handling. It was as if she had deliberately, carefully, enclosed each paper for us to discover after her death. What a week!  What a gift! Crying and laughing and talking together, she truly eased our hearts. She gave us the ability to share our pain with each other.

    Yesterday, while preparing to sit down and sew, I pulled out the contents of a baby pattern I still have of Mother’s – and the following "saying" fluttered out and down onto the table. All thoughts of sewing went by the way, and I sat down to type up this description of my mother. And now, through my tears of love for a dear mother, I copy the following:

    "Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort,
    of feeling safe with a person;

    having neither to weigh thoughts
    nor measure words,

    but to pour them all out just as they are,
    chaff and grain together,

    knowing that a faithful hand
    will take and sift them,
    keep what is worth keeping,

    and then, with the breath of kindness,
    blow the rest away."

    George Eliot

    That “saying” shook me with the weight of its words. It caused me to remember back during the last few months of Mother's life how paranoia had set in, and she was fearful of many things. She and I would sit together while she trusted me to hold her tight. During those times she spoke of her embattled years, desperate to find acceptance in God, never knowing whether it was the mental disease that stole her confidence or whether it was her own soul living each thought and action throughout her life. As I held her, Mother spoke of her hope of heaven and of her deep grief that she could never forget the pain she had caused her family. While we talked, I was able to reassure her that our loving forgiveness would provide faulty memories, and she began to gather hope around her like a comforting blanket. Calm acceptance and quiet joy were rediscovered.

    Throughout Mother’s life, that same joy in living, evidenced in her love of “sayings,” would peek out now and again, and it would contain such a wealth of love for her husband and for each of her children. The love she and my father shared may have wavered when she was in deep depression, but to my knowledge her quiet support for his work as an evangelist never faltered. There were indeed rough days – I know – but love erases them, and hope shines through. Those last days with Mother were precious days for Mother and I. I treasure them now. Is she gone? No, she lives in my heart for she gave me confidence that I too can put away sinful thoughts and lift up my head.

    “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far way ... then you could lift up your would be steadfast and not fear ... you would forget your trouble as waters that have passed by ... and your life would be brighter than noonday; Darkness would be like the morning. Then you would trust, because there is hope and you would look around and rest securely” (Job 11:14

    Our Hope July/Aug. 2007




    By Cindy Granke

    When we think of grief, we usually think of death, but, in fact, any loss which drastically alters one’s life necessarily involves the process of grief, until the victim and his family can accept and deal with their loss. For example, cancer or an injury may involve losing a body part, or may seriously handicap its victim. At the onset of a chronic illness like Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Multiple Sclerosis, there is even a certain amount of grief one is likely to feel. Losing the ability to do the things one has enjoyed doing all of his life often causes intense disappointment. Christians feel genuine grief when a spouse or teenage or adult child turns away from the Lord, rejects the spiritual and moral values he has been taught, perhaps leaving home to pursue a life of sin. You see, physical death and dying are not the only losses we mourn.

    What many of us may not realize is, that grief, as painful as it may be, is actually a healing process, and nearly everyone goes through the same emotional stages whenever he experiences a major loss. The amount of time spent in each reaction may vary, but once we understand what these stages are, we can readily recognize them in the lives of others, or in ourselves.

    According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief:

    (1) Denial and Isolation: At first we cannot believe this horrible thing is really happening to us, and we may feel alone in our misery, thinking, “No one could possibly understand how I feel.”

    (2) Anger: This emotion may be directed at the person who we perceive inflicted the hurt, even if that person is dead. We may be angry with ourselves for not being able to control or prevent the loss, even if nothing could have been done to avoid it. And sometimes we feel unreasonable anger toward strangers who may simply say, “Have a nice day,” or “How are you, today?” Our anger may even be directed against God. We may not blame Him for causing our loss, per se, but it is not unusual for faithful Christians to question why He permitted something to happen. Do you remember that Job questioned why God allowed Satan to test him so sorely, and even our Lord, in His agony asked God, “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

    (3) Bargaining: When we no longer can deny what is happening, we try to bargain with God. “I will do this, if you will only let me walk again,” or “…only let her live.”

    (4) Depression: Once we realize there are no other alternatives, depression is sure to follow. Yes, even Christians suffer depression. Some brethren regard it to be a sin, and there may be circumstances when that is the case. However, we would do well not to be too quick in judging others who face the kind of losses we are talking about, until we have “walked a mile in their shoes.” They need our compassion (1 Peter 3:8), not our criticism.

    (5) Acceptance: When the anger and sadness taper off, we realize there is nothing left, but to accept the loss.

    ~ When Death Comes Slowly and is Expected ~

    When all possible treatments to reverse or prevent an impending loss have been exhausted, the family must reconcile themselves to the inevitable. We are not so surprised when terminal illnesses strike the very aged, but sometimes the stricken loved one may be a spouse, a sibling, or a child. Consider the mother of young children who must wrestle with her fear of whatever pain and unpleasant treatment will be associated with her illness. She must also cope with anxiety for her family. How will her children grow up without their mother? How will her husband manage caring for them alone? Besides that, there is the sorrow she knows they will surely suffer when she is gone.

    The same concerns afflict her husband and children. They dread the suffering which they expect she will have to endure, and are also anxious as they face the future without her.

    What of her parents, who face the death of their child, and grieve for their grandchildren and their surviving son-in-law? It is a dreadful time for them all. Their mourning will probably be spread out over a period of time before death actually occurs, and will likely be an emotional roller coaster ride. At the same time, they will try to be strong and brave for the other family members. They need the love and support of friends and family. They need prayers for their courage, strength, and wisdom in the unpleasant decisions that will have to be made.

    The family will surely need help with day to day necessities, like preparing meals, doing laundry, housekeeping, babysitting, and numerous other chores. And they will need our gentle encouragement and hugs. Send cards or notes of encouragement to the family members, as well as the one who is sick is helpful. May I offer a word of caution about cards we may send to the one who is terminally ill? Read them carefully and avoid those which clearly are meant for someone who will get well. Such messages would probably not be very comforting to a person who obviously knows he/she will not be getting well. There are many cards available which express friendly and helpful sentiments. We need to choose our greeting cards with care.

    As death from Alzheimer’s Disease drew near, my Daddy’s kidney’s had shut down, and he no longer could swallow. Watching him suffer was difficult for us all. Once, when a family member tried to give him water with a spoon, he choked. His words were mostly just frantic sounds, and he spoke loudly, trying to compensate for his difficulty in communicating. I wanted so badly to console him, so I raised his head a little to give him some relief, kissed his forehead, and murmured, “It’s okay, Daddy. It’s okay.” Between gasps, he stammered out, “No, it’s not okay, either!” I had said the wrong thing, and I felt as hurt as he did. After he was calmer, I slipped out in the hall, and cried. I chose my words very carefully, after that. Daddy died within the week. He became more, and more distant, but when we were with him, we talked to him and sang hymns to him. I wondered if he knew he was dying, and if he was afraid. He seemed at peace in those last hours we were with him. I like to think that hearing our voices soothed him.

    Sometimes those who have not struggled with the prospect of death thoughtlessly are critical of others who express their fear of death. They may tell them that a child of God has nothing to fear from death, if his soul is right with God. In a way, they are right – most faithful Christians do not fear death, but nearly everyone fears dying. As human beings, we fear the unknown, and the passage between life and death is a foreign land to us, and as such, is frightening even to most Christians. David used the ominous expression, “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalms. 23:4). Even the Son of God asked if it were possible for that cup to be taken away (Matthew. 26:39-44), acknowledging that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. And so it is.

    With that in mind, let us show compassion for the fears and feelings of others, even if we think that we ourselves would not have such feelings.



    If Tomorrow Never Comes 

    If I knew it would be the last time
    That I'd see you fall asleep,
    I would tuck you in more tightly
    And pray the Lord, your soul to keep.  

    If I knew it would be the last time
    That I see you walk out the door,
    I would give you a hug and kiss
    And call you back for one more. 

    If I knew it would be the last time
    I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
    I would video tape each action and word,  
    So I could play them back day after day.  

    If I knew it would be the last time,
    I could spare an extra minute or two
    To stop and say "I love you,"  
    Instead of assuming you would know I do.  

    If I knew it would be the last time
    I would be there to share your day,
    Well I'm sure you'll have so many more,
    So I can let just this one slip away.  

    For surely there's always tomorrow
    To make up for an oversight,
    And we always get a second chance
    To make everything right.  

    There will always be another day
    To say our "I love you's",
    And certainly there's another chance
    To say our "Anything I can do's?" 

    But just in case I might be wrong,  
    And today is all I get,
    I'd like to say how much I love you
    And I hope we never forget,  

    Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
    Young or old alike,
    And today may be the last chance
    You get to hold your loved one tight.  

    So if you're waiting for tomorrow,
    Why not do it today?
    For if tomorrow never comes,
    You'll surely regret the day,  

    That you didn't take that extra time
    Or a smile, a hug, or a kiss
    And you were too busy to grant someone,
    What turned out to be their one last wish.  

    So hold your loved ones close today. 
    Whisper in their ear.
    Tell them how much you love them 
    And that you'll always hold them dear,  

    Take time to say "I'm sorry,"
    "Please forgive me,"  "Thank you"
    or "It's okay".
    And if tomorrow never comes,
    You'll have no regrets about today. 

    Poem by Norma Burnett


    But let everyone be quick to hear,
    slow to speak and slow to anger,
    for the anger of man does not
    the righteousness of God.
    James 1:19-20


    Harsh Words Spoken 

    I ran into a stranger as he passed by.
    "Oh excuse me please," was my reply.

    He said, "Please excuse me too;
    I wasn't watching for you."

    We were very polite, this stranger and I.
    We went on our way and we said good-bye.
    But at home a different story is told,
    How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

    Later that day, cooking the evening meal,
    My son stood beside me very still.
    When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.
    "Move out of the way," I said with a frown.

    He walked away, his little heart broken.
    I didn't realize how harshly I'd spoken.
    While I lay awake in bed,
    God’s still small voice came to me and said,

    "While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,
    But the children you love, you seem to abuse.
    Go look on the kitchen floor,
    You'll find some flowers there by the door."

    "Those are the flowers he brought for you.
    He picked them himself; pink, yellow and blue.
    He stood very quietly not to spoil the surprise,
    And you never saw the tears that filled his little eyes."

    By this time, I felt very small,
    And now my tears began to fall.
    I quietly went and knelt by his bed;
    "Wake up, little one, wake up," I said.

    "Are these the flowers you picked for me?"
    He smiled, "I found 'em out by the tree."
    "I picked 'em because they're pretty like you.
    I knew you'd like 'em, especially the blue."

    I said, "Son, I'm very sorry for the way I acted today;
    I shouldn't have yelled at you that way."
    He said, "Oh, Mom, that's okay.
    I love you anyway.

    I said, "Son, I love you too,
    And I do like the flowers, especially the blue."

    ~ Author Unknown

    Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger,
    and clamour, and
    evil speaking,
    be put away from you, with all malice:
    And be ye kind
    one to another,
    tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
    even as God for Christ's sake
    hath forgiven you.
    Ephesians 4:31-32


    ~ Our Compassionate God ~
    by Cindy Granke

    What a wonderful blessing the child of God has in the assurance that the Father thoroughly understands his grief and afflictions (Hebrews
    4:14-16). The fact is that God created, and designed us.  We are His children.  Compare that relationship to that of an earthly father to his child.  As parents, we love our children, and would give our lives to save theirs.  So it is with our heavenly Father.  He loves us so much that He sent His Son to save us from our own sinful selves (John. 3:16; Romans 5:6-8). His love is present tense, not just past tense.  

    If He loves us that much, He surely suffers when we suffer.  It could not have been easy to watch His Son go through all that He suffered.  Just as we are brokenhearted when our own children turn away from us, ignore our love and sacrifice for them, so God surely agonizes when a child of His ignores His great sacrifice, and turns away from Him.  We see this as Jesus wept for Jerusalem, saying, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not”  (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41).  

    When we are mourning over the death of those who are so dear to us, our Lord is not without compassion. Consider the poignant account of His response to the death of Lazarus, in John 11:32-36.   Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus to live again, but when He saw Mary weeping, “He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.”   He asked, “Where have ye laid him?”  And when they told him, He wept.  Then, “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.”

    There are times when our grief, or pain is such that we are unable to do more than cry, because mere words cannot express our despair. Our Lord understands our needs and our pain, because He listens to our hearts, not just our words (Romans
    8:26-27). He knows the depth of sorrow which causes a man to pray, “with strong crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7), because He has experienced it Himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44-46).  

    We have a wonderful Savior who is touched with our grief.  He does not withhold the storms of disease, death, disappointment, or persecution from our lives, but He provides a rainbow to remind us of His mercy and His glory.  What an extraordinary thing, to look forward to being with Him for all eternity.  The glories we will know there will be of far greater worth than all of the suffering we might be called upon to endure in this present life (Romans 8:18).

    September 2006

    Should you go first and I remain
    to walk the road alone,
    I'll live in memories garden dear,
    with happy days we've known.

    In spring I'll wait for roses red,
    when faded, the lilacs blue.
    In early fall when brown leaves fall,
    I'll catch a glimpse of you.

    Should you go first and I remain,
    for battle to be fought.
    Each thing you've touched along the way
    will be a hallowed spot.

    I'll hear your voice, I'll see your smile,
    though blindly I may grope,
    The memory of your helping hand
    will buoy me on with hope.

    Should you go first and I remain,
    one thing I'll have you do:
    Walk slowly down that long long path,
    for soon I'll follow you.

    I want to know each step you take,
    so I may take the same.
    For someday down that lonely road
    you'll hear me call your name.


    Mourning The Loss Of A Spouse

    When Your Spouse Dies
          When your spouse dies, your world changes. You are in mourning—feeling grief and sorrow at the loss. You may feel numb, shocked, and fearful. You may feel guilty for being the one who is still alive. If your spouse died in a nursing home, you may wish that you had been able to care for him or her at home. At some point, you may even feel angry at your spouse for leaving you. All these feelings are normal. There are no rules about how you should feel. There is no right or wrong way to mourn.

         When you grieve, you can feel both physical and emotional pain. People who are grieving often cry easily and can have:

         ♦  trouble sleeping

         ♦  little interest in food 
    problems with concentration

         ♦ a hard time making decisions

         If you are grieving, in addition to dealing with feelings of loss, you may also need to put your own life back together. This can be hard work. During this time, you may be surprised by some of your feelings, but they are a part of mourning. Some people may feel better sooner than they expect. Others may take longer. As time passes, you may still miss your spouse, but for most people the intense pain will lessen. There will be good and bad days. You will know that you are feeling better when the good days begin to outnumber the bad. 

         For some people, mourning can go on so long that it becomes unhealthy. This can be a sign of serious depression and anxiety. If your sadness stays with you and keeps you from carrying on with your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor.

    What Can You Do?

         At the start of your grieving, you may find that taking care of details and keeping busy helps. For a while, family and friends may be around. But there comes a time when you will have to face your new life alone.

    Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

         1.  Take care of yourself. Grief can be hard on your health. Try to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Avoid bad habits such as drinking alcohol or smoking that can put your health at risk. Be sure to take your medicines as your doctor ordered. Remember to see the doctor for your usual visits.

         2.  Talk to caring friends. Let your family and friends know when you want to talk about your husband or wife. It may help to be with people who let you say what you're feeling.

         3. Join a grief support group. Sometimes it helps to talk to people who are also grieving. Check with hospitals, religious groups, and local government agencies to find out about support groups.

         4.  Try not to make any major changes right away. It's a good idea to wait for a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs.

    See your doctor. If you're having trouble taking care of your everyday activities, like getting dressed or fixing meals, talk to your doctor.

         5.  Don't think you have to handle your grief alone. Sometimes short-term talk therapy with a counselor can help.

         6.  Remember your children are grieving, too. You may find that your relationship with your children has changed. It will take time for the whole family to adjust to life without your spouse.

         7.  Remembermourning takes time. It's common to have rollercoaster emotions for a while.  

    Do Men and Women
    Feel the Same Way?

         Andrew, age 73, felt like the wind had been knocked out of him when his wife died. He began sleeping all day and staying up at night watching TV. Meals were mostly snacks like cookies and chips. He knew it wasn't healthy, but he didn't know what to do. Across town, Alice woke up in a panic. It had been 5 weeks since Jeff, her husband of 41 years, died. She cared for him during his long illness. How was she going to cope with the loneliness?

          Men and women share many of the same feelings when their spouse dies. Both may deal with the pain of loss and both may worry about the future. But because many couples divide their household chores, there can also be differences. For example, one person may pay bills, clean house, and handle car repairs. The other person may cook meals, file income taxes, and mow the lawn. This splitting up of jobs works well until there is one person who has to do it all.

    Some men are at a loss when it comes to doing household chores. But these jobs can be learned over time. Men are sometimes surprised when they're widowed. For those men who are both widowed and retired, grief may cause depression. If you or any family member is having this problem, see your doctor. Treatment can help.

         Facing the future without a husband can be scary for some women. Many have never lived alone. Some women will worry about money. Women who have never paid bills or balanced a checkbook will need to learn about managing money.

         Women may also worry about feeling safe. It's a good idea to make sure there are working locks on the doors and windows. If you need help, ask your family or friends. You'll need to get in the habit of taking care of your house and car. It takes time, but it can be done.

    Taking Charge of Your Life

         After years of being part of a couple, it can be upsetting to be alone. Many people find it helps to have things to do every day. Write down your weekly plans. You might:

         ♦ Take a walk with a friend.

         ♦ Go to the library to check out books.

         ♦ Volunteer at a local school as a tutor or playground aide.

         ♦ Join a community exercise class or a senior swim group.

         ♦ Be part of a chorus.

         ♦ Meet with old friends.

         ♦ Think about a part-time job.

         ♦ Join a bowling league or a sewing group.

         ♦ Offer to watch your grandchildren or a neighbor's child.

         ♦ Consider adopting a pet.


         Some widowed people lose interest in cooking and eating. It may help to have a noon meal at a senior center, cafeteria, or with friends. When home, some people find that turning on a radio or TV during meals helps with loneliness. For information on nutrition and cooking for one, see the General Nutrition Resource List for Seniors at or look for helpful books at your local library or bookstore.

    When you feel stronger, you may need to think about:

         ◊ Writing a new will.

         ◊ Looking into a durable power of attorney for legal matters and a power of attorney for health care in case you are unable to make your own medical decisions.

         ◊ Putting any joint assets (such as a house or car) in your name.

         ◊ Checking on your health insurance as well as your current life, car, and homeowner's insurance.

         ◊ Signing up for Medicare by your 65th birthday.

         ◊ Paying state and federal taxes.

         When you are ready, go through your husband's or wife's clothes and other personal items. It may be hard to give away these belongings. Instead of parting with everything at once, you might make three piles: one to keep, one to give away, and one "not sure." Ask your children to help. Think about setting aside items like clothing, a watch, favorite book, or picture to give to your children or grandchildren as personal reminders of your spouse.

    What About Going Out?

         Lillian felt lost. Widowed at age 71, she kept seeing the same couples that she and her husband, Ray, had always liked. But without Ray she felt out of place. How could she enjoy going out when she felt like a "fifth-wheel"?

    Having a social life can be hard. It may be scary to think about going to parties alone. It can be hard to think about coming home alone. It may be even harder to think about dating. Some people miss the feeling of closeness and affection that marriage brings.

         Here are some things to remember:

         ◊ Go slowly. There's no rush.

         ◊ It's okay to make the first move when it comes to planning things to do.

         ◊ Try group activities. Invite friends for a pot luck dinner or go to a senior center.

         ◊ With married friends, think about informal outings like walks or movies rather then "couples" events that remind you of the past.

         ◊ Find an activity you like. You may have fun and meet people who like to do the same thing.

         ◊ Remember that friendship can come in many forms.

    Don't Forget

    Take care of yourself. Get help from your family or professionals if you need it. Be open to new experiences. Don't feel guilty if you laugh at a joke or enjoy a visit with a friend. You are adjusting to life without your spouse.


    Fear thou not; for I am with thee:  
    be not dismayed; for I am thy God:

    I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
    yea, I will uphold thee
    with the
    right hand of my righteousness.

    (Isaiah 41:10)

    A Lesson From Loss
    (One Year Later)
    By Cindy Granke

    I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I was a year ago, although most days I felt as emotionally weak as a rag doll.  I thought I would never get through another day without crying.  When our daughter died I thought, “I cannot bear this pain,” and with tears, said as much to friends, and to God.  But God’s word told me, “Yes, you can” (Philippians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13).  My dearest friends and sisters in Christ listened to me, prayed and cried with me, as they showed me that I could endure my grief and sorrow by taking one day at a time.  One of them wrote the following paragraph and I have read it every day.  Doing so helped me keep my eyes focused on what lies ahead, and believing that I will, indeed endure each day.  I pass these words on to all who are mourning the loss of someone they loved.

         “You don't have to be super woman, you just have to endure. If you watch people in a long distance race, it is not pretty. They are worn out, they are in pain, they are sweaty, but most of them cross the finish line. That is what is important. We don't expect them to prance through with not a hair out of place and fresh as a daisy. Every night, pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I made it through another day’."

    This, Too, Will Pass Away

    If I can endure for this minute

    Whatever is happening to me,

    No matter how heavy my heart is

    Or how dark the moment may be…

    If I can remain calm and quiet

    With all the world crashing about me,

    Secure in the knowledge God loves me

    When everyone else seems to doubt me...

    If I can but keep on believing

    What I know in my heart to be true,

    That darkness will fade with the morning

    And that "this will pass away, too!"...

    Then nothing in life can defeat me

    For as long as this knowledge remains

    I can suffer whatever is happening

    For I know God will break all the chains

    That are binding me tight in "the darkness"

    And trying to fill me with fear...

    For there is "no night without dawning"

    And I know that "my morning" is near.

    ~ Helen Steiner Rice ~


    Living With Loss
    During The Holidays

    By Cindy Granke

         If you have lost a loved one recently, you have probably already discovered that walking into stores at this time of year can cause heartache, and possibly unexpected tears.  

         Our daughter was killed in early September, 2000.  In just a little over a month later she would have celebrated her 31st birthday.   As Thanksgiving Day approached, my heart felt so empty and I couldn’t imagine celebrating that special time for our family as usual.   Our son and his family invited us to come to their home for Thanksgiving that year.  We gratefully accepted and enjoyed being with them.  Afterward, we returned to our home where our children were raised, and spent a very quiet evening remembering past Thanksgivings, and talked a lot about our daughter during those years gone by.  

         My grief was still raw and painful and I couldn’t bear thinking about the holidays in December.  The first time I walked into Wal-Mart and noticed the Christmas displays and cards, I immediately had tears in my eyes and fled to my car where I could try to get control of my emotions.  No, I hadn’t turned into an ogre who hated the thought of holidays.  There was just such an emptiness inside me and I wasn’t yet able to deal with my churning emotions.  I avoided shopping as much as I could. I couldn’t address greeting cards without crying.  I felt obligations, but I was overwhelmed with sadness and couldn’t seem to manage much of anything without dissolving into tears.

         I suggested to my husband that we go camping over the Christmas holidays.   I wanted to be away from all the lights and decorations in town, and not open presents or bake cookies for friends and loved ones, which I had always enjoyed before.  Although I think my husband would have liked to escape, too, he reminded me that we couldn’t hide from the world during those times when family and friends usually come together. The house would still hold the same memories of all our children growing up, and of the last time we saw our daughter when she had visited us, just six months earlier.  And of course, he was right.  We did stay home and it was without a doubt, the sadest holiday we have ever spent.

         I’m not proud of my wanting to withdraw myself from the world around me.  I admire those who are able to maintain those routine tasks that come with holidays and gatherings.  We no longer had children living at home so it was probably easier for us to do things differently, if we wanted.  Since then, I’ve talked to mothers who lost teen-age children and still had younger children at home.  It was important to find an appropriate way to continue traditions and somehow incorporate their loved one’s memory into those activities.  It’s just very difficult sometimes. 

         For those of you who are trying to work your way through your sorrow as this year ends and a new one begins, I want to tell you, in all honesty, that what you are feeling is normal.  You are not alone.  But the grief does begin to get easier as time passes.  Honest!  I didn’t believe those who told me that.  But I know now that they were speaking from experience, as I am writing to you from my own experience. 

         Many of the special days during the first year or two after losing a loved one will be very painful.  It’s not like being sick for a little while and then getting out and going about your work or routine.  The healing will take much longer than that.  And most certainly if you do not allow yourself time to grieve, your grief will come out at some time or another, and possibly at the worst possible moment. 

         Think of it like this.  A woman is seriously injured and loses her arm in an accident.  Besides the physical shock of the injury, the emotional trauma of such a horrible accident cannot be erased from her memory.  Both require time to heal.   The wound remains raw and sore, even after surgery has closed the gaping hole where her arm was.   The physical injury takes time to heal but she also has to learn how to live in every day circumstances without the missing limb.  While she is learning how to do every day tasks without that arm, she is constantly aware of the empty place where that arm used to be, and she mourns for what she no longer has.  However, over time the wound does heal, and she learns how to manage daily tasks without the presence of the arm she depended on so much.  Healing the emotional part is harder.  She will always regret having lost that part of her but she likely will learn to smile again and eventually to cope. 

         A person who loses an arm or a leg will tell you that he feels that missing limb, as if it were there.  Even though my daughter was gone, I would often feel that she was just a telephone call away.  I’d think of something I wanted to tell her and pick up the phone before reality made me remember that I wouldn’t hear her voice over the phone anymore.

         People told me to give myself a year and things would be better.  Well, every-day life does normalize as the months pass by, but there is no set time for the grief to come to an end.  Each person grieves in her own way and in her own time.  Grief support groups are a marvelous help.  For me, the holidays and my daughter’s birthday and the anniversary of the day she died took a little longer.   But with each year that has passed I have found it easier to concentrate on my wonderful memories, rather than my loss, although I have to admit that occasionally a moment of sadness will come over me when I least expect it, and I miss her terribly.  Talking about her to close friends and crying when I needed to helped me immensely.  Tears are cleansing and after having a good cry I was able to go back to being about my daily activities with a smile on my face. 

         I didn’t know how to manage during the holidays, so soon after our daughter died.  Over the years I’ve learned a lot from my own experiences and from those of others.  And if you are living with the recent loss of a loved one, I hope that the suggestions and tips listed below will be helpful to you.


    Tips for Handling the Holidays

    1.   Decide what you can handle comfortably and let family and friends know:   Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc. or shall I ask someone else to do it? Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?

    2.   Make some changes if they feel comfortable for you: 
    Open presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning. Vary the timing of gift giving. Have dinner at a different time or place. Let the children take over decorating the house, the tree, baking and food preparation, etc.

    3.   Re-examine your priorities:  Greeting cards, holiday baking. decorating, putting up a tree, family dinner, etc: 
    Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this a task that can be shared?

    4.   Consider doing something special for someone else: 
    Donate a gift in the memory of your loved one. Donate money you would have spent on your loved one as a gift to charity. Adopt a needy family for the holidays. Invite a guest (foreign student, senior citizen) to share festivities.

    5.   Recognize your loved one’s presence in the family: 
    Burn a special candle to quietly include your loved one. Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings. Listen to music especially liked by the deceased. Look at photographs.

    6.   If you decide to do holiday shopping, make a list ahead of time and keep it handy for a good day, or shop through a catalogue.

    7.   Observe the holidays in ways which are comfortable for you: 
    There is no right or wrong way of handling holidays. Once you've decided how to observe the time, let others know.

    8.   Try to get enough rest – holidays can be emotionally and physically draining.

    9.   Allow yourself to express your feelings: 
    Holidays often magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to feel sadness. Share concerns, apprehensions, feelings with a friend. The need for support is often greater during holidays.

    10.  Keep in mind that the experience of many bereaved persons is that they do come to enjoy holidays again.  There will be other holiday seasons to celebrate.

    11.  Don’t be afraid to have fun: 
    Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holidays.

    November 2017