Category Archive: Loss

Joy, Pain, and Peace

Quite the weekend! At a client appreciation dinner Friday night, Don and I received a significant answer to prayer, not only for us, but for someone we love.

Saturday we attended a magnificent Christmas concert at Twin Lakes Church. The rafters were raised and joy was present! Two hundred singers, instrumentalists, dancers, American Idol finalist James Durbin; Rebecca Jackson, violinist with the San Francisco Ballet; and Grammy award winning cellist Jonah Kim told the story, not only of Jesus’ birth, but of the cosmic war going on between light and darkness, and the knowledge that God in Christ has won the battle at the Cross, that Jesus is Lord!

My physical therapist, Emily, joined us, as did a former Intel colleague and his wife, Bill and Carol Munger. Bill and I haven’t been in touch for eleven years, until I recently learned he and Carol now live in the same area as we do. Wonderful to enjoy this concert with these friends. We were all lifted up, encouraged, renewed in spirit.

And tonight, we will celebrate a 50th birthday for one of my daughters-in-faith.

We are richly blessed in the things that really matter–family, friends, the God who is here with us, Immanuel. Beautiful, centering music. This morning, sunlight streaming through the window as Don and I sat across from each other, reading God’s Word and having our minds renewed.

Yet in the middle of all the festivities and celebration and joy, there is lots of pain.

  • Families have lost, and are losing, homes to California wildfires. Some don’t know where their next housing will come from.
  • Finances get stretched in the desire to provide a wonderful Christmas to our families.
  • A friend’s infant nephew is in the hospital with three infections.
  • Another friend’s husband has been in the hospital, fighting for his life, for over 200 days.
  • Families are stressed because of conflict, finances, illness, and other challenges.
  • Loneliness is heightened during a season focused on love, when many are surrounded by loved ones and it sometimes feels like everyone else has it together.
  • Political conflict abounds, here and abroad.

With all our technologies, our knowledge, life is still hard. Jesus said that “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)  While we still face difficulties, we have a God who has promised to be with us in all, who cares for our pain, and who promises His people a future when justice will reign, illness will have died forever, and we will live in peace, love and joy in His presence for all eternity.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (Matthew 5:3, MSG)

Will you join me in focusing on moments of joy and gratitude this Christmas season, rather than in the “to do lists” we all have for the holidays? Let’s make more of presence than of presents; of the beauty in our loved ones than in our homes; of God’s good gifts than in our wish lists.

Blessings to each of you this Christmas!

Grief at Christmas

At a memorial for our dear friend this week, close friends celebrated Steve Stybor’s life and faith through sixteen years’ struggle with cancer. The pastor spoke of Steve’s love for Jesus Christ. Friends spoke of this man’s care for them, always wanting to know how THEY were doing in the midst of his own struggles. I experienced this too.

“How’re you doing Steve?”

“Not great. But how’s your shoulder healing?”

Steve made friends everywhere he went, from the Safeway clerks he knew by name, to the orderlies, nurses and doctors in the oncology ward and chemo unit, to friends at Bible Study Fellowship and at church.

We miss Steve. Conversations, shared memories, and his humor. He had two memorable caps he wore often: one embroidered with “Chemosabe;” the other with a fringe of fake red hair sticking out the top. Steve could laugh at himself as well as at, and with, others.

I expect some of you are either experiencing your own grief over the loss of a loved one, or know someone who is grieving this Christmas season. Somehow all the “firsts” hit especially hard as the loved one’s absence leaves a gaping hole as we go through the motions, hearts numb, minds unfocused, eyes either wet from unstoppable tears or dried out from the sobs that have already wracked our bodies.

So I thought I would repeat a blog I wrote two years ago.

It was Christmas, 2005. Eighteen days after my husband had moved from my arms into the waiting arms of Jesus.

All I wanted to do was crawl under a warm blanket for about three years, until the aching void in my heart had eased, the elephant on my chest been removed. But you can’t sidestep grief. I slept about eleven hours a night, often with a two or three-hour nap in the afternoon. The ache felt so HEAVY.  It weighed me down. In a daze, I moved from one thing to another, planning and communicating with friends about his memorial, filing for insurance and social security benefits, and taking care of immediate needs.

I thought my life was over. “How do you go on when half of you has been ripped away?” I sobbed. And yet, the very day of Jerry’s death God gave me Jeremiah 29:11 to claim as my own: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” I knew that withdrawing into myself would not honor either my Jerry or my God. I stumbled on, with a deep void I thought would never leave my heart, tears accompanying me to bed and again on waking, the body pillow I hugged a very poor substitute for that living, breathing man beside me. And yet, the God who is FAITHFUL and TRUE promised never to leave nor forsake me.

I felt His care through family and friends who loved on me, who didn’t try to “fix” me, who let me cry or talk or be silent or a distant guest, lost in my own thoughts as others laughed and talked around me. My brothers supported me in a myriad of ways during and after Jerry’s death. My nephew and niece, who rented an apartment from me, came to my back door every night for weeks, to check in and hug me. My sister-in-law and niece prepared and froze quite a few individual meals for me. On each Tupperware container was a scripture or note of encouragement. And, having been widowed three years earlier herself, Mom listened and prayed and grieved along with me.

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

As we celebrated Jerry’s life a few weeks after his death, I knew my family and many friends who also loved Jerry, grieved with me. But two days later, during our family Christmas, I felt like I was in a bottomless hole. With hollow, red-rimmed eyes, I watched others open gifts. Their muted affirmations of thanks swirled around me. I wasn’t quite “there.” This was my first Christmas in 24 years without his love, laughter and teasing, his presence, his gifts, and gifts for him. It seemed surreal that life could continue when mine had been so radically altered.

It must have been hard for my loving family to watch me, as they reached out to me with hugs and tears throughout the day. They were dealing with their own loss, of a son-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncle.

Friends expressed love in a variety of ways. The day after Christmas, a dear friend sat on the floor in front of me and listened. The first person to whom I told the whole story of Jerry’s last day on earth, she loved me by squeezing my hand and murmuring words of compassion as I spoke.

How about you? Are you lonely this Christmas? Can you reach out for help, to a friend, a local church, a counselor? Be with people who will allow you to grieve at your own pace and in your own way?

Conversely, if you know someone who is having a hard time this Christmas, look for ways to encourage them.

  • Don’t try to “fix” your friend. Listen meaningfully and hug appropriately.
  • And oh, avoid giving advice (unless asked) or telling the person “this must have been God’s plan.” A woman approached me very soon after Jerry’s death, asking “What is the Lord teaching you through this time?” She must have caught my look, which said “Teaching me? Friend, I’m just barely hanging on by my fingernails.” “Spiritualizing” is NOT helpful. Listening IS.
  • Prepare a meal, or invite them to attend something with you. (And if they say no, ask again later–they may not have been ready yet to do anything public.)
  • Send a card or note telling them you’re thinking of them.
  • Offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, a ride to an appointment, or help finding resources such as grief recovery groups.
  • Allow your friend the freedom to express anger, pain, disillusionment, whatever he or she feels, without judging or trying to challenge those feelings. They need to be expressed in a safe place. LISTEN!
  • If many others are asking how they can help, offer to be the point person to coordinate so the grief-stricken individual doesn’t have to handle logistics at this difficult time.
  • Pray for them.
    • Now.
    • On the phone.
    • In person.
    • Privately.
    • However the Holy Spirit suggests.

Click on the link below for more ways to help a grieving friend.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devSupporting a Grieving Personine/death-and-dying_b_4329830.html

May you experience the love and comfort of our God, through Jesus Christ, no matter your circumstances, this Christmas season. “Immanuel” — God with us!

 

 

 

God … in the Storm

Hurricane winds, floods and storms are blighting our land. Irma closely follows Harvey, with Jose and others coming behind. People are dying, losing homes and worldly goods, and face a long reality of rebuilding their lives. On top of that, there are the personal storms of people we love … broken families, heartbreak, insecurity, fear, anger, loss, homelessness, and more.

Is someone you love going through their own personal hurricane? Troubled seas, high waters, loss of innocence. My heart is heavy for someone in my life who is carrying an overwhelming load. And I feel helpless. All I can do is pray.

And yet, isn’t that the very thing to which God calls me FIRST? When there are practical ways to help – food, shelter, rescue, emotional and physical support–all of which are happening in a major way in Texas, and now in Florida and along the East Coast–we do those. But sometimes there just isn’t anything our “boots on the ground” can do. So we pray: for wisdom, for others to come alongside, for courage, perseverance, long-suffering love, and healing. For protection of body, mind and spirit in the fight against the darts of the evil one.

So often I think “I can handle this …” And yet, there are times when everything needed is beyond any human control. And God tells us to call on His name for help. Lamentations 3:54-56 states this so clearly:

In the eye of the storm

“…the waters closed over my head,
    and I thought I was about to perish.

I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.’”

These are difficult times in the life of our nation. But God is able to bring good out of the storm. He is able to take the darts of the enemy and bring beauty out of ashes. He is able to impart His strength to the weak, His rest to the weary. My prayer for all going through turmoil, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, is Psalm 73:26:  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” May these be moments where God shows up in such distinct ways that we stand by, watching in awe.

 

So let’s discuss: what do you do when you can’t do anything?  

After the Death of your Spouse

When you lose a partner, best friend, and lover, depression creeps in like a fog. You may lose social connections you shared as a couple and will need to make some new friends. Your husband may have taken care of the bills, house repairs, and yard. Planning and meal preparation, laundry, and carpools may have been part of your role. Now you have to do it all. Adjusting to single life is not easy, especially if you have children. Here are a few additional tips to help you wade through deep waters to your new normal.

Whatever your grief responses, they are NORMAL.  Grief comes in waves. Sometimes I jumped the wave, occasionally even crested it, then another capsized me and I didn’t think I could go on. You’ll experience the continuum of grief, which typically includes between five and seven stages depending on how you identify them.

Five Stages of Grief

                         Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial (This isn’t happening to me!)
  • Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore.)
  • Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes.) 
    • from John H. Sklare, Ed.D, LifeScript Personal Coach

Confusion, loss of focus, and profound fatigue are typical and will pass in time. Accept your current scattered mind and, if possible, laugh at yourself. When my father was dying, a kind nurse told Mom, “When you put the ice cream in the dishwasher, don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind; you’re grieving.”

Seven Grief Stages

Seven Grief Stages

The chart below identifies grief in seven stages.

Because you will feel vulnerable and deal with all the painful emotions that accompany your enormous loss, it is wise to take some extra safety precautions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not meet strangers at your home alone; provide only necessary information; avoid telling relative strangers that you’re widowed. When I sold our second car, I met potential buyers at a location away from my house. No one knew my address until I sold the car and gave the pink slip to the buyer. I also asked either my brother or a male friend to meet strangers together with me for additional protection/safety.

Culprits prey on the vulnerable, lonely, and elderly. Carpet, roofing and painting contractors, repair-persons, and especially solicitors, have no need to know you are alone. I wore my wedding ring and kept “the Nicolet residence” and “we” on my answering machine for a long time after becoming a widow.

Consider joining a support group. After a few months, you may want to participate in a grief recovery group through your church or a community organization. Talking with others facing a similar loss can provide a safe place to express your emotions, share information, and learn ways to deal with your grief. To find Christian resources and/or a support group in your area, contact www.griefshare.org.

Take care of little needs.  Despite my down comforter, I faced many winter nights when, chilled from the inside, I couldn’t get warm. One night, shivering, I called a close friend. She told me to “go to Long’s right now and buy a heating pad.”  With a coat over my pajamas, I did just that, and slept better with the added warmth. I also purchased a body pillow so I had something to hold onto. Your body experiences tremendous shock with the death of a loved one, so sleep when you need to, and can.

Recognize your limitations. For some time after Jerry’s death I continued to mentally rehearse different scenarios. What if we tried another treatment alternative? hadn’t had the transplant? What if we’d had the transplant done somewhere else? But Jerry and I made the best decisions we could at the time, in prayer and with the information we had. So did you. Forgive yourself if necessary.

Finally, take heart. There is hope. Relying on Jesus a day at a time to meet your needs, comfort you, and change your dreams is an ongoing process, and will not occur easily or quickly. I learned to count on God’s promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).  Choose life, one day at a time.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save