These regular My Forever Memories blogs are written with love to offer encouragement, help, hope and love through your personal journey of grieving your loved one.
It is absolutely true that death is at the forefront when your loved ones dies. Sometimes your loved one’s death hits you out of nowhere like getting hit by a semi-truck. The awfulness and finality of death has to be dealt with and relived until the reality can be absorbed. The deep wounds and traumatic injuries must be attended to. The shock of how they can be here one moment and gone the next must be dealt with. A lot of questions, regrets, and emptiness must be wrestled with. Death is definitely the cause of grief, but I propose it doesn’t have to be the outcome of grief. After 25 years of personal grieving and standing with others through grief, I have watched death turn into life over and over again. You may have to walk through the pain of death but Life is worth it!
Your Life Together
No one else can understand the relationship you shared with your child, baby, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, friend or person who meant so much to you. You shared a one-of-a-kind relationship that no one else has ever had in history because there has never been another you or another them. You share so many memories, hopes, dreams, battles…Some were fulfilled and others were not. Grief helps you review what you shared together and what you hoped to share forever.
Their Unique Life
Your loved one was a special individual—never before replicated even by those who shared the same DNA. They have left a trail that has impacted others in one way or another. It is amazing how the absence of someone causes you to realize who they really are and how many lives have been touched by them simply being who they are. You can choose to carry the best of them with you as you keep going.
Your Life Without Them
There is a huge learning curve as you process the fact you must go on without their physical presence. There is a huge recognition of loneliness as no one else can fill that particular void. Much of grief is the hard work of figuring out how to live without them. Nobody but you can do that. I believe it takes the realization of knowing that you never go forward alone. Not only do you carry them forward as part of who you are, but I pray you discover as I have (and many others have) that the Lord is with you and will never ever leave you.
Preciousness of Life
It’s sad to say that we too often take life for granted. We assume loved ones will be with us always. There is nothing like the death of a loved one that makes you more fully appreciate life, relationships, the air we breathe, being careful what you say and how you treat others because it could be the last time you see them or they see you in this present form. One of the most often repeated sentiments by grievers is to hug your loved ones tighter and tell them you love them for no one is promised tomorrow.
Promise of Eternal Life
However, we are promised eternal life—a life without end. It can be a glorious, unspeakably wonderful life with our Lord, our Creator, our God and our loved ones. There is nothing like the death of someone we love that smacks us into the harsh reality of how short this particular life is and that we go somewhere afterward. Often during grief, we may even get a little peek of the glory of the life to come if we are watching and we know who to watch for. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He has gone to prepare us a place where there is no more death, illness, violence, darkness or tears of grief.
Dear friends, I pray that as you face death, you ask Jesus to lead you through this valley of the shadow of death. Death is caused by sin, but God gave us Jesus to overcome death and make a way to eternal life. Ask Him to be your Savior, traveling guide, comforter, friend, counselor…He brings life even from death!
Love and Prayers,
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-56
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Christmas can be very painful for those who are grieving the death of a loved one, but have you ever thought that Jesus was born to bring hope to those who are low in spirit, the broken-hearted; those who think they just can’t go on? This deep gut-wrenching, life-shattering, paralyzing loss in your life is one of the few critical points in your life when you fully realize your great need. How can you go on? How can you possibly ever celebrate again? How can you find any hope or joy or purpose for living without the one you love so much? The answer lies in that quiet, lowly stable where the Son of God was born, mostly unnoticed by a hopeless dark world. It is possible to find all that you need as you kneel before that manger this Christmas-even in the midst of your grief….
Kneel in the Darkness
Most likely, there have been few such times of darkness in your life as when someone you love suddenly left this life. Perhaps it was your child who you must somehow learn to live without. Whether they were a baby, a teen or an adult child—you grieve all the future Christmas and other life celebrations you will miss sharing with them. Perhaps it was your spouse that you hoped to grow old with and you are filled with Christmas and other past memories. Maybe it was a parent, fiancé, sibling or friend. It could have been a violent or a peaceful death—expected or unexpected, but you were not ready (even if you knew it was coming!) Now your world has been shaken. Everything seems unstable, fearful and dark. I respectfully and gently suggest you kneel in the darkness as the Light of the World was born for you long ago in that unnoticed stable.
Solemn Stillness in a Crazy World
Your world seems chaotic, out-of-control and void of the love you depended on, that you were counting on. This is the most critical time in your life to kneel in the lonely stillness. You need this baby Jesus who was born to be King of your heart. Nothing will be right until you do. He is the only One who can heal your heart, who will walk faithfully with you through the Valley of the shadow of Death. No one else can understand you like He does. No one else will stay with You when everyone else leaves. No one else can give you peace and joy in the midst of your grief.
Drop to Your Knees
Grief will knock you off your feet; punch the life right out of you. While you are there flat on the ground, make a choice to kneel before Jesus, the baby who was God-in-the-flesh; the one who lived as one of us yet without sin to willingly offer Himself as a holy eternal sacrifice for our sin. Jesus is the only one who could overcome death (the penalty for our sin) and make a way for us to live with Him in holiness forever and ever. If Christmas seems different this year because of your great loss, kneel quietly before Baby Jesus in a manger who gave everything to become your king! He will never leave you, and will be with you as you learn to live in even greater joy with the Son of God—the very One your loved one knelt before as they left their earthly body. We each have a reason to celebrate Jesus at Christmas time–especially when you stand in grief at the crossroads of heaven and earth.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying. ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” Luke 2:10-14
With the holidays approaching, extra anxiety can set in for those who are dreading going through them without their loved one. No matter how much you want time to stop, the holidays will come whether you want them to or not. Some people truly wish they could just skip over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years due to the fear of facing these special days without the one they love by their side. There are some specific plans you can make to ease your way through these special days that are filled with memories, emotion, family and the very obvious void of your loved one.
Make Realistic Plans
Even without grief, holidays can be stressful with so many things to do on your list. You may want to consider paring down your list to take some of the stress off and leave yourself extra room for grieving. Consider writing down all the ways you usually celebrate (putting lights up, sending cards, shopping, baking, wrapping…) Take a good look at the list and take some of those items off the list this year. The world will not end if you do not do everything you usually do. On the other hand, there may be some things you’ve done every year that you know are important to continue. Focus on those fewer traditions or ask for help on some of your tasks.
Acknowledge Your Loss and Celebrate Them
You do not have to act like nothing has happened. Find a creative way to honor your loved one this season. Make a special ornament; give a gift that you would have bought for your loved one and give to someone in need; set a place at the table for them; light a candle and have everyone tell something they admired about your loved one; print a card to send out to share thoughts of your loved one; give a framed photo with family members; make a pillow from old shirts to give to a family member; read something they wrote… You know your loved one and can plan a special personalized way to celebrate them during this holiday season.
Stay Flexible During this Season
You may get invited to parties and gatherings. You may want to accept them with the understanding that you have no idea how you will feel that day. Explain that you may need to cancel or leave early. Grief, as you know by now, is unpredictable. It could hit hard without warning, so leave yourself an out to leave if you need to. It may be a good idea to come up with a planned answer for those you see during the holidays who ask how you are doing. You may feel like talking about your loved one and you may not. Feel free to have an answer ready such as, “It is still very hard but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.”
Sometimes the anxiety about the holidays turns out to be much harder than actually going through them. Prepare your loose plans. Give yourself permission to take extra time to remember the special gift of your loved one. Keep a journal or have a safe trusted friend you can share your heart with. Don’t forget to celebrate the real reason we have these “holy-days” in the first place. They just might become more precious than ever before as you discover in a new way that “God is with us” through Jesus Christ.
Love and prayers,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:14
There are times that suffering feels like the life is being squeezed out…when it seems more than we can handle…when pain, grief and sorrow threaten to drown us—but even then, You are right here. Lord. You are closer than anyone else could possibly be. You truly never leave us. We can count on You and Your goodness. Last night, I felt the suffering trying to overtake me once more. I knew I needed to be still in Your presence and look to You instead of the suffering. So much pain, tears, sorrow, suffering all around… I need You, Lord—and Your hope.
Less than a week ago, our precious tiny granddaughter died in her mommy’s womb. It has been so sad. I couldn’t share it with the grief group that I host until our grown children decided how they would handle it. I couldn’t ease their pain no matter how hard I wanted to. There have been so many others who are suffering lately…and yet I see how You turn that suffering into something beautiful.
Life keeps going despite our suffering. Several of us go into a neighborhood once a week to leave gospel tracts and pray with people who want it. The day after our granddaughter’s death, I asked You to use my suffering… and You did as I prayed with three different people I had never met about the preciousness of life. I believe it had eternal impact. My sweet daughter-in-law is a NICU trauma nurse. I can’t even begin to imagine how her suffering will impact her future compassion and ministry to families. I see You at work in our son and 4-year-old grandson. There are more ways You will use this suffering than any of us can comprehend right now.
Jesus was with You as You made all there is. He holds all power and authority–yet He knows all about suffering. He was willing to suffer unjust punishment, judgement, desertion, mockery, bullying, physical, mental and spiritual abuse—even unto death so we could live with You for all eternity. He knew His bitter suffering would result in the sweetest gift ever given- eternal life.
Isaiah 53:3 says about Jesus “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. “
“And we hope in the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:2-5
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18
Your Prayer Peek-
Father, what suffering do I have to offer to You?
There seems to have been a flood of deaths around me lately. Some of them have been very close to me and others involve relatives or friends of those I am close to. Death is never easy- no matter the age or circumstance of the one we mourn. My forever Pastor Jerl, who just died, enjoyed teasing and called me “a grief guru” because he knew I would protest! Who wants to be associated with death and grief? I would much rather deal with life than death! Yet they go together…
Those dear ones who just left this life—the two young football players, the young man in his twenties, the little girl everyone loved, the beloved husband, and our amazing pastor friend, Jerl are more alive than they have ever been! They had to die from this life to fully experience eternal life with our Lord! Before this, they had to die to their own will and surrender to Jesus as their Lord to receive His life and all the inheritance His life offers. You sent Jesus to die for us so that we might have eternal life! Jesus’ death was the only way to give us the gift of life with You, our Father. Jesus’ death brings us TRUE LIFE which can never ever die or be taken from us.
Father, how I pray for those who are left behind; those who are grieving the death of their loved one. I know they feel surrounded by death. I realize they feel overwhelmed by death…yet I know that You are with the broken-hearted, tenderly calling them to a new deeper life with You. You will never ever leave them or forsake them. You know they must go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but You have much more life ahead for them to live—both here on earth and for all eternity.
Lord, as much as I would love to take away the taste of death from those who are hurting, I know even as I pray that You are bringing life out of death. You are the expert on birthing life from death! We wait upon You! We look to You, the Victor over death and the gracious Giver of Eternal Life!
“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me…’” John 12:23-26
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” Revelation 21:4-5
Your Prayer Prompt-
Father, help me to trust You to bring life even through death and grief…