Dear friends,   I just heard about another suicide of a high school student today. It happened to be the fourth suicide in that school in a year! It brought back some of the earth shattering shock and pain of my dear brother-in-law’s suicide 34 years ago. Every single death is a shock to us—probably because God created us to live eternally. Yet there is something about a self-inflicted death that wreaks havoc in survivors’ lives. As painfully hard as this subject is, I want to share some thoughts with you:

Every Life is Precious

God is close to the broken-hearted and you must admit that someone has to be extremely broken to take their own life. If only we would have the eyes of Christ to spot the broken hearted and share eternal hope more readily on a daily basis. Yet often, the person hides it well from those they love. They must truly believe there is no other way at that particular moment in time and they act in that hopeless-appearing state. God knows each person and loves them even more than we are capable of.  He alone knows their heart and is with them—yet as always, He allows free choice. If you are dealing with the suicide of one you love, rest assured the Lord knows them, sees their heart, and it is His desire that not even one should perish but have eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Nothing is Beyond Healing and Renewal for the Lord

There are times the death happens in front of others, and other times, the person did it alone. Either way, it traumatizes those left behind. The trauma has to work its’ course yet survivors must do their part to hold up this unimaginable pain before the Lord. Counselors can help, but only the Lord can truly heal and make all things new. Only God can take such a devastating death and make something good come from it. Just as each person is unique, so is each grief after a suicide. Yet God is the One who can heal anything. The scars will always be there, but the goodness of the Lord can shine through even the deep scars of suicide.

Grieving After a Suicide

This is a very simplistic sounding blog, but hopefully it will let you know that you can and need to work through your grief, no matter how painful it is. There will be many questions: “Why?” “How could they do this to me?” “Why couldn’t I stop it?” “Why couldn’t God stop it?” “Where are they now?” There may not be answers to some of those questions here in this life (as my mother-in-law said about 6 months after her son’s self-inflicted death.) Yet as in any death, it is critical to work through your grief.  The best thought I can share in this short blog is to continually pour out all your honest thoughts, hurts, fears and pain to the Lord in a journal. Hold it all up to Him. He can and will heal what no one else can.

Helping a Survivor of Suicide

Be willing to listen quietly and without too much advice. Let them get their anger, fear and pain out…then quietly pray with them. Keep praying for them. Gently point them to the Lord who can help them. Share good memories of the one who took their life. Their whole life was not that one moment of action. Watch for hopelessness in those left behind (other family members and students) for survivors can fall into the temptation to feel hopeless enough to consider suicide. Keep checking on them through short tests, calls, messages and visits. Invite them to do something fun as a break from grief. Be gentle as they grieve.

Not even suicide is impossible for God to make something good from. I think of my brother-in-law’s death 34 years ago, and I know the Lord has used that in many ways in my family and in strangers since that time.

Love and prayers,

Eva

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“Jesus looked at them at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”  Mark 10:27

For more indepth help grieving a suicide or any death, MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU was written with love to help you work through your personal grief with God’s help.

Dear Friends,

               For some of you, this is the first new year you are facing without your loved one with you; others can barely believe it’s been 4 years or 25 years since they last touched their loved one. You always feel the absence of their physical presence but joy does come again- Joy in the Lord. As people around you make resolutions, you may just want time to stop. Yet as if you didn’t already know, life keeps going.

               If I can, I would like to encourage you as you write the new year on checks, documents, and hopefully your prayer journal. (Prayer journaling is my number one suggestion for going through grief. I will write more on that again soon!) Don’t stay stuck in the deep hold of grief too long. Life is for living. Your loved one is living more fully than you can imagine in their new life with the Lord. They have a new life we can only imagine. It’s true that we have to do the work of grief—review our lives together, realize the deep impact they had on our lives, forgive them and ourselves for any unfinished business, thank God for the gift He gave you in your loved one, and decide what are the best things we received in our loved ones that we can carry on in our own lives (their compassion, humor, strength, service…).

               Years ago, a lady in my grief group told me of a dream she had about her dear brother who had just died. They were climbing a difficult mountain together. Her brother was up ahead of her in his favorite red flannel shirt. The climb was steep and the rocks were loose. They had to periodically rest to catch their breath. She kept climbing, always keeping his flannel shirt in view. He reached the top and was out of sight. She began to panic when she lost him. Then she heard him call out though she could no longer see him, “Keep climbing! I made it and you will, too!”

               As you face this new year with your loved one out of your sight, I urge you to keep climbing. Keep living! Jesus is still on the trail with you. He will never ever leave you even if your loved ones do. He is waiting for you to trust Him/lean on Him/accept Him as the One who came to save you from your sinful end. He may not be seen. But He is softly calling, waiting for you to take His hand and go through life and whatever is up ahead in this new year and beyond. He is waiting to lead you Home!

Love and prayers,

Eva

PS. Just a reminder that the MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU book will help you work through your own personal grief in ways that go deeper than this amazing group.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

My dear friends,

You are on my heart right now. I know you are hurting and missing your loved one- especially as Christmas draws near. I feel your pain because I have been there. I used to say I wish I could take your pain away, but I know I can’t—and I know now that I don’t want to. It is not my pain to take away.

*The pain of grief is the result of loving deeply and missing your dear one’s physical presence

*The pain of grief has to be gone through not run away from

*The pain of grief can be shared but it also must be gone through alone

*Yet the pain of grief is a time you discover you are never ever alone

*The pain of grief draws You to the Lord who created us to love deeply like He does

*The pain of grief helps you realize what an immeasurable gift you were given in your loved one

*The pain of grief lets you discover the huge impact they had on your life

*The pain of grief allows you to forgive yourself and your loved one for any hurts caused

*The pain of grief births in you a desire to carry on the best of your loved one from this day forward

The pain of grief eventually gives way to a new way to live life fully- cherishing ordinary moments, loving others more deeply, forgiving more quickly, growing in the certainty of your faith in God and in His promise of eternal life that is so evident this time of year. Jesus was born as God in the flesh yet a frail human baby like one of us in the midst of a lost and grieving world. He came for one purpose-to live as one of us yet without sin so He could die for our sins to insure we can live for all eternity with the Lord. So as you go through the pain of your grief this Christmas, may joy be born in a new way in your hearts as you worship and adore Jesus- the man acquainted with sorrow and grief so we could have eternal joy.

Love and prayers,

Eva

 

“I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  John 16:20-22

Dear Friends,

What gift can you give someone who is grieving the death of a loved one? They may not feel very festive this year, and you want to take that into consideration. Even if it’s been a year or more, often the grief revisits in a stronger way through the Christmas season. They are missing their loved one even more as all the memories and traditions of past Christmas seasons shared loom strong in front of them. Here are a few ideas of gifts that will encourage them this Christmas:

  • Christmas card– include a short written memory of their loved one/let them know you are thinking of them
  • Dinner- invite them to dinner, party or play, but be understanding if they can’t make it. Grief does not have a schedule. You can also drop dinner off to them
  • Phone call/Text- Keep it short unless they want to talk. It will mean more than you know to realize you are thinking of them
  • Goody tray- Even if they don’t feel like eating it, they will have something to offer guests
  • Photo or Video- If you happen to have a photo of their loved one, you have no idea how precious that would be to them
  • Christmas ornament- a frame or personalized ornament that will be a remembrance each Christmas
  • Children and Teens- a snuggable stuffed animal with a soft picture frame around the neck. What a comfort when they are missing their loved one. Some adults might like this, as well.
  • Handmade item- from loved one’s clothes- T-shirt pillow, quilt, throw…
  • My Forever Memories of You memory book for children/youth lets them draw, write or put photos in a memory book that has pages with memory starters (I enjoyed doing this with you…)
  • My Forever Memories of You adult version- Like a grief support group in a book between them, me and the Lord. It has excerpts from my journal during grief, places for them to write their memories and is full of practical help, encouragement and eternal hope. It will help long after Christmas is past this year.
  • You can also add someone to the My Forever Memories Grief Group on Facebook which will give them hope through their grief.

 

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give the griever is to keep praying for them.

Love and prayers,

Eva

Dear Friends,

By now you have probably already had more than one grief burst triggered by the holidays. The sights, sounds, smells can set off a memory in an instant when you least expect it. You made it through Thanksgiving (Congratulations) and Christmas is everywhere! A Christmas song played innocently in a grocery store can take you to your knees. The sight of Christmas lights may make you pull over til you can safely drive again. The thought of putting up a tree or shopping may even make you sick at your stomach. Who knew the joy-filled holidays could hurt so much?

It can be incredibly painful to see everyone else look so happy when you’re world has been torn apart. Can’t they see you do not want to celebrate having Christmas without your loved one? Doesn’t anyone realize how immensely lonely you are—sometimes even in a large crowded room or even when you are gathered with dear friends and family. You’re loved one is not with you and the vacancy is so empty. It may be your first time to go through the holidays without them or your third. There’s just so much about Christmas that makes you miss them even more. Even twenty years later, you will find your heart filled with precious holiday memories from the past.

There’s a lot you can do to prepare for facing the holidays when you are still grieving so actively.

  1. Make a list of how you usually celebrate (Decorate, bake, shop, parties, dinner, etc)
  2. Decide what you can pare down to make it manageable in your vulnerable state.
  3. Ask others to help you if it is important to keep up a tradition
  4. Start a new tradition that honors your loved one (an ornament with their photo, candle…)
  5. Accept invitations, but let it be known you have no idea how you will feel that day.
  6. Leave yourself room to leave a party if you need to
  7. Talk about your loved one. Others are often afraid to cause you pain (You just want to hear their name again)
  8. Get a gift for your loved one and give it to someone who it will mean a lot to
  9. GO EASY on yourself. Don’t try to do everything you did before
  10. Celebrate JESUS who was born to bring true hope and eternal life to the broken-hearted. He will never ever leave you or forsake you. His presence will begin to heal and bring joy again.

 

***I’m hosting one more SURVIVING GRIEF THROUGH THE HOLIDAY sessions on Wednesday, Dec 12 from 1-2PM at North Side Christian Church, 2526 NW 122, Oklahoma City, OK (It goes far more in-depth than the above helps.)

 

***Give yourself or someone you know who is grieving a true gift that will help them write down their story, memories and find true hope in the adult or children’s versions of MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU. If you see me, you can get one from me. It will help them work through grief long after the holidays are over.

Love and prayers,

Eva

 

“He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”  Isaiah 61:1

 

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10 (This news of Jesus is especially good for the brokenhearted.)

Gracious Heavenly Father,

I often think of Ola when I start to feel sorry for myself. She taught us how to truly count our blessings. She was a very frail little old lady, confined to a wheelchair and oxygen. That didn’t keep her from coming to the grief support group I attended after my first husband died twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a Christian grief group so the mood could often be bitter and depressing. Then Ms. Ola was wheeled into light up the room. She had so many tragedies in her life- her husband was alcoholic most of his life, then was severely injured in an explosion, then died years later. She had a little daughter die at an early age. Two of her sons had recently died. She also had terminal cancer and heart problems. As we all were feeling sorry for ourselves, Ola would say, “There’s always something to be thankful for. Just count your blessings and name them. It completely changes how you see life!” I took her advice when it seemed I had lost so much—I was amazed to discover how blessed I began to feel as I listed what I was thankful for.

So here is my very tiny short list of just a few things I am incredibly grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day: Father, first of all, I can never thank You enough for creating me, giving me life, loving me when I did not deserve it, for forgiving me, for sending Jesus to take the death penalty for my sins so I can live with You for all eternity, for never ever leaving me alone, for sending the Holy Spirit to live with me and in me, for Your guidance, protection, wisdom and all the delightful ways You give me abundant life when I stop and count my blessings. There are so many that the more I list them, the more I feel I might burst from gratitude. I am fully aware that every single blessing in my life flows from You to me. I need to stop and say thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

So here are a few more: Relationships have to be at the top of the list. You have surrounded me with the most incredible people to love. It seems the more I think about how thankful for them I am, the more I love them—my husband (my best friend), each of my precious grown children (by birth and otherwise) and their dear spouses, my grandchildren (each with their unique personality and gifts that are so fun to watch unfold), my cherished brothers and sisters-in-Christ around the world (how I love seeing Jesus in them!),  our parents who mean so much to us, our neighbors and friends, my leaders (at work, in government, and in the church who You have placed for such a time as this for Your good purposes), for the precious children and families I work with…even for those who might hurt me or persecute me (it gives me a chance to love like You!)

Lord, there is so much more to be thankful for! I have just begun to list my blessings. Ola was so right. When we thank You for our blessings, we discover we have so many more than we could ever dream of. I will be thanking You for all eternity and it still will not be enough time!

 

*****

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”   Colossians 2:6-7

 

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever, to Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.”        Psalm 136:3-4

 

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Dear friends,

“How can I move forward?” was the simple lone post by someone grieving his other half.  Since it wasn’t posted on this group and I don’t have permission to say his name, I will use it as a question almost every griever asks at some point. Before answering this question, let me just say that I am not an expert on YOUR grief. Every single person has to go through this lonely journey on their own, in their own way—yet I hope you discover, like I did, that you are never ever truly alone. I’m also fully aware everyone is at a different place on their journey. Some reading this are at the very beginning. I am praying for my dear friend who is having a service today for her 46 year old daughter. I’m also praying for the brokenhearted husband and children. Another friend just rang the bell completing chemo. She was diagnosed less than a month after her husband’s death and is coming up on the year anniversary of his passing.

Now back to the question, “How can I move forward?” The answer: one day at a time…sometimes one moment at a time…one step at a time. Any griever knows that it is definitely not a straight smooth path. One moment you can be smiling at a precious memory, another minute might bring overwhelming sobs that make you feel like you are literally drowning. Another moment you may be laughing at the silliest thing that might not even be that funny. Anger can can in an instant over some simple thing some well-meaning person says. The next moment might bring panic over a bill, trial or the thought of facing something that you always did together with your loved one. Grief can involve the craziest, most emotional roller coaster ride of your life. It won’t always be so hard. It is a part of your earthly journey that you have to go through—one step at a time.

It can be the loneliest journey as it seems no one understands. Yet it can also be the time when You discover the greatest Comforter, Companion, Guide, Counselor, Friend—the One who understands you better than you understand yourself—the One who is always awake, ready to listen, holding you when you can’t take another step—the One who never ever leaves you. No one else can be there for every single step except the Lord.

After my young husband’s death, they used to sing an old song at my church about walking the lonesome valley by myself. It was so sad that I had to leave during the song. It wasn’t until later in my journey that I stayed for the second verse which told how Jesus walks it with me. There will be joy in the journey ahead. Take hold of His hand for each step. He will lead you through—and lead you all the way Home one step at a time.

Love and prayers,

Eva

 

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“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”   Psalm 23:4

 

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”   Isaiah 4029-31

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

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 My Forever Memories of You- adult and children’s versions available

 

Dear Friends,

One of my sweet relatives is moving to a new house this week, and it also happens to fall on the year anniversary of her young husband’s passing. She said she had not touched his clothes even once during the past year, but now she has to touch and move everything all at once. I’m so glad she has help from family and friends to move and to face this day.  It seemed like a good time to bring out the issues faced when dealing with clothes and personal items—each which carry such special memories.

Every single person faces how to handle this in a different way. There is not a right or wrong way—just what works best for you. Some people do not want to change the pillow cases for a long time because they want to smell their loved one’s lingering fragrance as long as possible. Some choose to sleep in an old shirt that they can barely bring themselves to wash. Others cannot bear to look at or move clothes or other important items for a long time. The toothbrush is still in the bathroom, stuffed animal still on the bed, robe hangs on the door, the book they were reading is still on the nightstand…

If you are the type of person that needs to remove their clothes and personal items as soon as possible, you may want to consider packing them up until later. I have seen more than one who later wished they hadn’t been so hasty in getting everything out of the house. They realize they or someone else in the family might have wanted to keep something. For some people, the photos, clothes, toiletries, their loved one’s personal stuff is simply too painful to deal with. They feel they can’t function with all the reminders right in front of them.

There can sometimes be friction or disagreements between surviving family and friends when there are differing styles of dealing with these items. Extra patience is required with each family member as they come to compromises about how to handle this touchy subject. It needs to be talked about and allowances made so it doesn’t cause hard feelings. It should not be assumed that because one wants to take down photos, give away clothes or other items that they did not love as much as one who wants to hold on to these things. It also should not be assumed that those who hold on to their loved one’s items are not working through their grief fast enough. These are very personal ways to grieve.

When it comes time to depart with clothes and other precious items, it often makes it easier to give them to someone who truly wants or needs them. This blog does not dare to tell you how to handle these important decisions. Making these choices are all part of your unique way of coming to terms with your loved one’s absence. Find more about this subject and some ideas for working through this issue in the book My Forever Memories of You: The Story of Our Relationship- Discovering Eternal Hope in the Midst of Grief.

Love and Prayers,

Eva

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raise imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” 

 1 Corinthians 15:42b-44

Dear friends,

I know this particular topic is not for everyone, but it is one that many people face at some point so I want to address it. I recall the first time someone brought it up to me, it made me so angry. It was the day after my first husband’s funeral. A well-meaning older gentleman who lived down the street happened to be walking by when I was getting the mail from my mailbox. He kindly gave me his condolences concerning Steve’s death, then said, “You’re young and attractive—you will get married again.” I am usually a very calm person, but I wanted so badly to punch him in the face. I restrained myself! I didn’t ever want to think about marrying again. No one could ever replace my 37 year old beloved husband. How dare he say that!

Now I can say that I have been happily remarried to an extremely good man for 22 years now. That’s a whole other story. I had to work through my grief before I could ever even entertain the idea of another man in my life. When that time came, it brought up all kinds of new grief and issues. I felt guilty for having feelings for another man. That was sweetly taken care of by my Steve when he told me before he died that I would marry a very good man. I didn’t want to hear it from him either, but I’m so glad he blessed my next marriage in several ways- making it easier to fall in love again. A lot of people don’t have that permission to go on.

Some people rush in way too fast into another relationship, trying to fill that horrible void. If you do not take time to review the special gift you had with your loved one and come to peace before rushing forward, it can place too much pressure on your next relationship. Some of the emotions to work through when dating again are feeling unfaithful, feeling guilty for enjoying life again, dealing with all the differences between your loved one who has gone on and this new person in your life, realizing it took years to build your relationship with your loved one (a new relationship cannot pick up where your old one left off. It will take time to build as well), and discovering all the ways a new relationship will impact your children and friends. Then there is the very scary vulnerable position to be in the dating world when you have been living a married life for so long.

The book I wrote to help others grieve, My Forever Memories of You, has an entire chapter devoted to this particular issue with all the surrounding challenges involved. It goes so much further in depth than this short blog—with places for you to work through in your own unique personal way, suggested thoughts that have helped others, and God’s word to encourage you as you work through this particular new twist in your life. Stepping into the dating world can bring up fresh new waves of grief so go easy and slowly (and prayerfully).  God is with you. Jesus promised He will never leave you or forsake you- not in the loss of your beloved spouse and not as you begin to consider dating again.

Love and prayers,

Eva

 

Dear friends,

I was contacted by a friend whose relative is an elementary teacher. This teacher had just got her roster of new students for the year. She has two children coming to her class—both of whom had a parent die over the summer break. Another friend who is an early childhood teacher had a two year old student run over and killed by a car on the way to school this week. Two years ago, within less than a month two preschool girls in the school I teach in (whom I love), both experienced their precious daddies’ deaths.  School keeps going…just like life keeps going for adults who are grieving. But there are ways we can help children give voice to their grief.

My friend is sending two of the children’s MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU to her relative who is a teacher.  I pray that these two students fill out their memory books and save them forever. I pray the teacher is able to read the guide in the front of the book for adults who long to help. Perhaps the surviving parent will help them or at least share in their memories so they can laugh, cry and share the precious gift of their loved one together.

Children can look like they are doing fine one moment (playing, working, eating..) and burst into tears the next instance. Perhaps they simply thought of their loved one, or saw or heard something that reminded them of their loved one. Some kids act out their pain in anger, isolation, regression, or many other unexpected ways. Teachers, parents and other relatives need to show extra patience and gentleness with them as they work through their deep pain. That can be challenging for families as everyone is grieving. A lot of times, children can express their emotions more easily to a trusted teacher since they do not want to cause any more pain for their family members who are obviously also in pain.

Adults should follow the child’s lead. Let them cry when tears come. Simply give them a safe place to cry and reassure them its ok. Let them draw or express it in art/writing/play. The rest of the class may have to be reminded they are sad because of their loss, but they will be ok. Nap time at school for very young kids can be just as difficult as going to sleep at night. That quiet time can bring extra tears and fears. Perhaps a stuffed animal with their loved one’s photo attached to it might help. They may/may not want to show the photo to the class. If it is a fellow student or teacher who has died, perhaps the whole class can make a memory book to share with the family. It will help everyone.

As most teachers fully know, they are always running into challenging situations that require them to support the children God places in their care for such a time as this. You may not feel adequate but God can use you to love these kids through it.

Love and Prayers