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

Dear Friends,

When I saw this sculpture depicting grief by Celeste Roberge made from rocks of all sizes, I felt led to share it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized one of the reasons grief is so painful is that we are filled with memories (or sometimes what we hoped would be memories that never happened). Each of those rocks represent a memory, dream, hope, fear, hurt, wound, or way our loved one made us feel. One of the most important “jobs” of grief is to lift up each one of those rocks and tell the story. It’s a one-of-a-kind story. It’s our story that’s intermingled with their story. It’s a love story whether it is about a spouse, lover, friend, parent, sibling, baby, grandparent, teacher…

Memories need to be expressed, evaluated and processed. When they are all bundled together at a one time with the full impact of the loss, it is way too much to handle or carry. I suppose that’s another reason grief takes time to work through. Yet as we hold up one rock at a time, one story at a time, one memory at a time—we can handle that. That’s one of the reasons I wrote My Forever Memories of You. It not only contains some of my memories- one little chunk at a time—but there are guided suggestions for you write/hold up/tell your memories one at a time. Many people do not want to look at those memories. In fact, they even run from them for fear that the pain and tears will kill them. What kills is carrying around the heavy burden of grief without lifting up one story at a time.

Something glorious happens when you begin to tell your stories, the rocks that were once more than you can bear, become light eternal jewels that add to your light that shines out through all eternity. Even the regrets, disappointments and pain transform into beauty as we tell the story and we realize it is part of who we are forever. The most important part is to hold each rock, one at a time up to the Lord. He is the one who lifts the heavy burden of grief and turns our mourning into joy. We need to be gentle with ourselves as it takes time to take each rock, one at a time, to really look at it, express it and see the beauty that was once so heavy.

Love and prayers to each and every one of you as you tell your stories.

****

“Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

 

 

I just attended the beautiful memorial service for my dear friend Belinda’s husband. (I believe the photo above is the last taken while James still had breath. Jesus was about to take the other hand to take him Home!) He was a very young 51-year-old. Until the last few months of his life, he was incredibly healthy. Up until the end he was the strong, protective, provider super-hero of their family. (He always will be!) They have three young adult daughters and not long ago added a set of siblings- three young boys who needed a family. Though I know without a doubt my friend James is free and living a life we all can only dream of, I can’t help but weep for Belinda and each of her children. I know a lot of what they must go through. As much as I want, I cannot take away their pain and grief. It’s something each one of them will have to go through in their own way. How I wish I could help!

That’s the whole reason I led a weekly grief support group for over twenty years. Grief is such a personal experience for each person because their relationship with their loved one is so unique and personal. I saw how much having a place to simply voice emotions and tell the story of their one-of-a –kind relationship was to so many who came to the group. It took courage for those who came to make that step, but there were so many who just couldn’t or didn’t want to go to a group setting. As I continued to pray for those who I knew were grieving, I believe the Lord placed on my heart the thought of a “grief support group” in a book. It is a blend of me sharing raw excerpts from my personal grief/prayer journal, a place for the griever to share their personal stories, thoughts and prayers, and for God’s encouragement and ever steady presence during one of the most painful times in each person’s life. In other words, it would be a “grief support group between the Lord, the grieving person and me.” It can be done in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace—even in the middle of the night when a lot of grieving is most intense. And now, the Lord opened up a My Forever Memories Grief group on Facebook.

I gave my sweet friend Belinda a book. I know it won’t take away the pain. Yet I pray that as she reads how the Lord lead me through my grief, and writes about her own amazing story, she will see how the Lord is right there closer than ever. He will never leave her or forsake her (or her children). He will hold her hand and walk her through the valley of the shadow of death and bring her out into a joy and hope that is more precious than she can imagine. I also gave her the children’s book for her young boys to fill out as their own personal memory book of their awesome dad who will forever be their superhero. There is no way I can walk beside Belinda and all the others I personally know (as well as those I have never met) as they grieve, but there is more love than can be measured in these books. There are continued prayers that each person finds the support and hope they need to express their own grief and find the eternal hope of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that my sweet friend Belinda will find all the eternal help she needs one day at a time as she carries the great gift of love she and James shared throughout her journey Home.

Love and Prayers

Dear Friends,

One of the hardest parts of grief is seeing children grieve. Children need a way to express their emotions, as well. If we, as adults have difficulty dealing with the ever-changing emotions that come with grieving, think how children and young people must feel trying to sort it all out.

Perhaps a parent died or a grandparent, a sibling, a baby, a favorite uncle or aunt, a young friend, a teacher, or a close neighbor. Children must deal with the loss they are experiencing. One of the most helpful ways is to give children or youth a way to review their memories. That’s why I developed this interactive children’s book called My Forever Memories of You: Personal Memory Book to Help a Child or Youth Deal With the Death of a Loved One- With Ideas for Adults who Long to Help. Depending on the age of the child, you can help them go through it or let them draw pictures or write their memories. Each page has a prompt so the child or youth can record their personal memories. It is their book to write. They will be the author. It is a memory book of their loved one. This precious keepsake can be kept to read back through later in life as children often grieve at different stages in their life as they grow older.

The opening section is specifically for the parent, guardian, counselor or teacher who wants to help the child through their grief. There are some helpful thoughts to give children and young people the support they need during such a hard time. As with the adult book, it offers the hope of eternal life.

As with adults, children can look ok and even play but they need to work through their grief, knowing they will be alright. You can also check out my website for ways to help children grieve. Pray for the children and young people you know who are grieving.

Love and prayers

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew  19:14

Dear Friends,

I’m very aware that there are always new people who might be reading what I happen to write about grief. Most often, when someone is reading something written on grief, they are either still actively grieving or someone they love is, and they are searching for help.

I fully realize though I am a certified grief recovery specialist and have been facilitating a grief group for 25 years, and have written a lot about grief, including the books, MYFOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU, I am not an expert on your grief. Your grief is very personal because the one you are missing is unique and one-of-a-kind just as your relationship with them is. Please do not ever think that I am telling you how to grieve, either in the form of this blog or in the books I’ve put together. (The books are designed for you to write your memories in, to actively work through your personal grief.) My purpose and inspiration for writing about grief is to offer you eternal hope in the midst of your pain.

I used to tell those who came to the group I facilitated that I hoped they never felt guilty for not coming each week, and that I certainly hoped they wouldn’t be coming forever. Not only have I grieved deeply and discovered I could go on in life but I have seen many others begin to find joy again when they believed they never could.

There comes a time when you may feel guilty for laughing or enjoying something—that perhaps because of the deep love you have for them, you should honor them by grieving forever. Obviously, there will be times throughout your life when grief pops up as you miss them and the relationship you had with them or as you wish they could experience a certain thing with you. They will always be with you as you travel on in this life. They have forever become a part of your life. Even when you know you will be reunited someday, you just wish you could have them today. Yet, the deep grief does not need to last the rest of your lifetime. As you come to terms with their departure, you can remember and be incredibly grateful without letting grief rule the rest of your life.

I recall having a dream/vision of heaven with Steve (my first husband) showing me around. (Sorry I do not recall the specific details, but I do believe it somehow happened. Whenever I started to feel guilty about enjoying life again, I remembered that he was enjoying his new life so much more than I ever could here on this earth. It helped me to feel free to savor each day here and to also look forward to the future.

I know you must grieve, but I pray that as you work through your precious memories, and realize the impact your loved one has had on your life, and are grateful for whatever time you were able to have with them—that you are able to grieve with hope. The hope that our Lord is will never ever leave you, that He walks with you, and that you can go on living this life because of the promise of eternal life found in Jesus Christ.

All my love and prayers.

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”   John 16:20

Dear Friends,

When a loved one has just died, it can feel like your whole world stops…but the world around you just keeps on going. You need time to grieve, to take it all in, to process this huge void, to let the huge gaping wound heal… but the bills keep coming, the water heater floods the garage; your kids need care; your car breaks down…

A dear friend of mine just lost her husband recently. Before the reality had time to even set in—within a month of his death, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was quickly told it had spread. She is grieving the death of her husband and her own health, while continuing to work, go through treatments, and help prepare for two daughters’ weddings. Life does not stop no matter how much we want it to.

It is still critical to slow down and breathe in God’s Spirit (our comforter, counselor, strength). It truly helps to be gentle with yourself as you grieve. Grieving takes more energy than you realize. In our fast-paced society, everyone expects things to happen quickly. Grief can’t be rushed through. It is there no matter what else is going on. Sometimes we have to remind others that we are still grieving when they demand too much of us during this season of our lives. Sometimes, we even have to remind ourselves not too expect too much of ourselves for a while. This intense grief will not last forever. It can slowly become a beautiful part of who we are with God’s help.

Some of the most important parts of grief are realizing what a great gift we had in our relationship with our loved one, figuring out how to go on without them and finding a way to honor them as we go forward. This is definitely a process. It can be done. It needs to be done—even if the world doesn’t stop and life goes on with all its demands.

Practical Ways to Grieve When the World Doesn’t Stop:

  • Set aside some time to journal or work through your grief
  • Free up your schedule as much as possible for a while
  • Grieve at your own pace and not by other’s timetable
  • Try not to avoid grief with excessive activities, shopping, medications, travel…
  • Trust God to help you handle all that comes up each day, one day at a time
  • There are many more suggestions in my book My Forever Memories of You. It truly has many interactive ways to work through grief and trust the Lord to come out stronger than ever. There is even a chapter called “The World Should Stop!”

All my love and prayers

“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Yesterday I was told of a precious young pregnant mom who was due to have a c-section in two days when they discovered no heartbeat. The baby had already died, before it could even be born. Now, the birth still has to take place- yet its tiny body will be lifeless and there will be tears of grief instead of joy.

I had just read a report of the high infant mortality rate in infants. Of course, it is so much better than even a couple generations ago. Yet there is still a high risk for babies to die in the womb or in the first year. No matter how much medicine advances, it will never completely do away with death. It is part of this world.

My heart goes out to those who have lost babies from miscarriage, SIDS, complications, abortions or no matter the cause…so I write this prayer for you:

Heavenly Father,

You knew these babies even before they were formed in their mommy’s womb; before their mommy and daddy even knew they existed. Even as their DNA is woven in intricate strands determining who they are, You are the One who intimately knows them, creates them and determines their purpose and place in eternity. The older I get, the more I realize how very short this life on earth is. But these babies have an even shorter time- barely getting started. Yet they belong to You forever. Their lives are eternal. Nothing can separate them from Your love. Nothing can separate them from the love of their parents and families. Not even death.

Life here on earth is but a mist when compared to all eternity. Our lives are not created simply for this short time here…You created us to be with You forever in Your eternal presence. These precious little souls, for whatever reason skipped this hard earthly life, and went straight to Your loving eternal care. Yet their very existence forever changes who we are. Only You, Lord, fully comprehend the eternal impact these short earthly lives made on our souls.

Though we grieve the awful pain of empty arms and dreams of our lives with them, we also acknowledge their eternal life with You and another connection we have to heaven because of who they are. Lord, we praise You for sending Your Son to be born as a tiny human baby and to die on the cross to defeat death so we could follow Him to eternal life with You. Thank You that there will be a reunion with these precious little ones that can never be broken. Thank You for their short lives which help us focus on eternity with You. In Jesus’ name, we pray for those grieving little ones to find all they need in You.

*****

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am  fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me are written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16

****

A Few Practical Thoughts to Consider as You Grieve the Death of Your Baby

 

*Name your baby if you haven’t

*The young mom mentioned above is giving away her babies’ clothes, etc to bless another family in memory of her little one.

*Make a memory book of this little one (possible thoughts to include: how you felt through pregnancy, dreams and plans you had for this child, how carrying this baby has affected your life in both sad and good ways, how you hope to go forward in your life in a way that honors them…)

*If you have other children, help them make a memory book of their little sibling. See the book for children My Forever Memories of You: Personal Memory Book to Help a Child or youth Deal with the Death of a Loved One With Ideas for Adults who Long to Help  There is also a full chapter in the adult book My Forever Memories of You that gives help for children grieving.

*Meditate on God’s promise of Heaven and what your little one’s life might be like now.

Dear friends,

How can we possibly be thankful in the grips of grief? It is absolutely possible and vital to find ways to be grateful even on the very worst days of grieving. Perhaps those are the most important times to find specific things to be thankful for. Once you start, it becomes easier than you thought. There might be times you want to yell, “I DON’T WANT TO BE THANKFUL! I want to be left alone in my grief!” I know! Yet it can all too easily become a drowning pool of prolonged pity. It can even become a way of life. Bitterness wants to take over. So it has to be fought off with thankfulness.

 

How can you be thankful when your loved one is gone? When your heart was ripped from you? When there is a deep wound which will never be healed? When you can’t understand why they were taken. At least give this a try for one week and see if it helps: Make a list of three things you are grateful for each day. You can do this first thing in the morning, midday, or before you go to bed. I highly recommend writing them down so it is more fully imprinted on your grieving mind which can barely function right now. Try to list three different things each day. Keep them recorded in your grief journal or the interactive My Forever Memories of You book.

 

Does anyone remember Garth Brooks’ song, “I Would Have Missed the Dance?” Your loved one may be gone, but for however short the time was with them, your life is forever changed because of who they are. That’s a good place to start. Write specific ways you are thankful your loved one has been, is now and forever will be a part of your life…

 

Love and prayers

 

“Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:17-18

 

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”  Philippians 1:3