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

 

Dear friends,

Some of you are dealing not only with the death of your loved one, but you are facing all that comes with a violent death. Perhaps it was a suicide, a traumatic accident or a murder. I wanted to encourage you today. Death is such a shock anyway. Even when you know it might happen, you’re never quite prepared for its reality. God created our minds and spirits for eternity- not for death. There are times life is cut short in a very violent traumatic occurrence.

When that happens, we not only are dealing with the sudden loss of our loved one’s presence, but we have to come to terms with the violent activity that caused it. There are so many emotions that happen with a violent death. There are times we are haunted by the last moments our loved one had to endure. There could be guilt that we didn’t see it coming or couldn’t protect them. Unanswered questions have to be wrestled with. Things out of our control must be eventually let go. Nightmares of what they must have gone through keep flashing in our minds. These are all issues that call out to be dealt with and somehow accepted so we can eventually go forward with our lives. Writing out your true feelings and emotions in a prayer journal to the Lord are one of the very best ways to deal with all these issues. Even if you don’t get all the answers you would like, you will receive His help and peace as you continually hold all these crazy emotions before Him. (There are some important chapters in the My Forever Memories of You book which can help you work through your own personal emotions related to violent deaths.)

When one of my loved ones committed suicide, it was as though time was split in half—before and after his death. It is amazing what the Lord can help you heal from. There is no pain, no wound, no trauma, no violence that can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. In our very last breath—no matter what caused the death, Jesus is there. Death in all its forms is a result of sin in this world. God’s desire is for us to have eternal life. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was dying a violent death. He asked Jesus to remember him and Jesus promised, as they both were dying, that he would be with Him that day in paradise. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord was with your loved one in their very last moment no matter who or what caused their death. He is also with you, my friend, as you deal with the violent death of your loved one. Ask for His peace and He will give you that peace that goes beyond comprehension.

Love and prayers

“No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”  Isaiah 60:19-20

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers , neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35-39

 

Dear friends,

There are many people who truly fear something is wrong with them because they cannot cry. They know they are grieving. Yet, there are no tears. Every single one of you is different and will grieve in your own way. That’s why anything I write about grief in My Forever Memories books, in this blog or in the years of being there for wonderful people while grieving never promises that there are certain steps or stages you have to go through in any certain order. Each of you has a unique God-given personality and the relationship you are grieving is completely different than any that has ever existed before. So naturally your grief will be unique from anyone else’s.

Some people’s tears flow fluently as their expression of the physical presence they are missing. Others almost can’t make themselves cry. Both tend to worry that something is wrong with them due to too little or too many tears. In fact, there is a whole chapter in the My Forever Memories book dedicated to one of the questions I’ve been asked the most over the years by those grieving, “Am I Going Crazy?”

I happened to be one who couldn’t cry at first. There was obviously deep pain but no tears fell for a while. I knew how much I loved my husband and thought something was wrong with me because I couldn’t cry. I think I even knew I needed to let all those pent up tears go, but to no avail. The flood came unexpectedly as I was watching a silly sitcom about a little puppy that died. It wasn’t even real. The tears burst like a broken dam and started flowing. It seems like it was almost 2 months after my husband’s death.

Try not to be any harder on yourself than grief already is. Just know you are grieving in your own style. Grief involves much more than tears. Just don’t completely avoid grief, because it’s better to go through it purposely so you don’t carry unresolved grief for the rest of your life.

Love and prayers

 

“Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”  Psalm 130:1-2 (Cries are not always with tears)

Dear friends,

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the whole Bible is packed full of meaning for those who are grieving. It comes in the middle of a story of Jesus’ good friends who happened to be siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus came to the sisters when their brother died. He “wept” at the sight of His beloved friend Mary weeping. Weeping is not the same as a tear rolling down the cheek. Those who grieve usually know what weeping means. It comes deep from within. It is full body, mind and spirit crying out in anguish. Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus because He knew Lazarus was going to be brought back to life. The Son of God wept for the broken human heart He felt in Mary’s weeping. He cried along with her.

Sometimes believers think it’s not ok to grieve if we truly believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus knew all about eternal life and He wept. Martha believed in a resurrection-to-come for her brother yet she still grieved. That’s when Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Yet Jesus still wept. Even now, our Savior sits on the throne and intercedes for us. I often wonder if He cries with us when we grieve. Even though He knows our loved ones have left this world, He cries for those left behind. He sees and knows the pain that no one else could fully understand. He knows. He weeps with us.

We weep and grieve for our loss- not for our loved one’s gain. Jesus’ weeping does not last forever, for our Lord knows the true joy to come. He sees what we cannot see- our loved ones life with Him, our own coming resurrection, the joyful reunion with our loved ones with NO MORE goodbyes, and most of all our complete joy as we come home to Him. Dear friends, your weeping will not last forever (although many believe it will at the time). Go ahead and weep, but not as one without hope. Jesus weeps with you right now, knowing that the day will come when there will be no more tears or death.

Love and prayers.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet  and said, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”  John 11:32-35