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A Heart for Others

A Heart for Others

There is much hardship in the world. That certain “been through it” look can be detected in the eyes of pain ravaged people everywhere. It is captured in Photo Journalist’s depictions of starving children with their bloated bellies, or in the aftermath of national disasters and catastrophes, with people tearfully sifting through the rubble of destroyed homes. Lobbies of emergency rooms and intensive care units are places we see it often, as loved ones gather to strengthen each other and to mourn. When we share in the sorrows of another, we become a balm for the hurting soul, however slight the comfort may be.
Most recently I saw the same look in the eyes of a homeless man as he sat extending a pauper’s paper cup for change. His face tried to smile, but it was as if he had forgotten how. A half raised mouth corner is all he could manage, as his brow remained scrunched and wrinkled. We want to look away, to pretend we didn’t notice. It is too sad to think about; we don’t want to feel that pain along with them. Yet ignoring it does not make it go away.

Until experiencing the harsh realities of life through much anguish of heart and physical pain, and deep suffering, it is difficult to fully empathize with others. Everyone at some time must pass through the dark valley of sorrow and suffering or loss. The unifying effect of sharing in the hurt of others is synergistically powerful. Jesus was moved with compassion for the hurting multitudes, saddened over the effects of sin on the world. The now cliché, “What would Jesus do?” has never been so pertinent as it is today for our responses to fellow mankind.

The earnest desire of my heart is to do whatever I can to help alleviate the hurt that many people go through. If by God‘s love, I can erase just one scar, salve one heart, bandage one injury, or only point someone to a better life, some of my own suffering abates. Yet what is needed most is someone to enter into the hurt with us, to come along-side and weep with us–experience it with us. No words will do.

That homeless man’s response was amazing! I sat next to him on the sidewalk and we shared a candy bar. We didn’t speak much at all. His eyes brightened. Someone cared. Someone was willing to stop and feel the pain and show an understanding that, no, I don’t really know what you’ve been through. But I care. His goodbye was accompanied by a broad smile, a glimmer of hope for tomorrow.

Though I still have pain of my own, God has taught me of its benefits. The grace He gives is not to keep, but to give and to share with others. Suffering is a good teacher. It forces us to either grow, or to just break down. It teaches us of our dependence upon our loving Creator and upon one another. Once we learn of its potential: the wisdom and caring it brings, its power to unite, we no longer fear what once terrified us. Instead we reap the supernatural peace and joy that comes through relying on God for strength and comfort. He leads us through the valley of suffering that we may go back there, as escorts for our fellow man.

by Sheldon Bass

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Moving on After Loss – Set Free to Let Go

Set Free to Let Go

Loss is a universal experience. No one escapes this life unscathed by its cruelty and the pain and devastation it causes. Though loss is universal in nature, each individual will experience loss differently. For some it might be through the death of a child or spouse. Others will face a divorce and the break-up of a family or a chronic illness or cancer or losing a job that provided for their family. Loss might come by way of a ruined reputation, betrayal by a good friend or rejection by a loved one. Regardless of how loss comes, when something is taken from us that we cherish and hold dear, the pain and heartache that accompanies that is inevitable and very often, life-changing.

Having gone through several significant losses in my own life, I know how debilitating loss can be. Yet, as I’ve grown and matured, not so much in age and experience but in the ways of God, I am beginning to see and understand how the pain and heartache of loss, any loss, can be healed and used by God to expand my soul and grow and strengthen me as person. Not so I can take great pride in myself for having overcome so much, for how sad would that be, if that were all I had to show for the losses in my life. No, when God expands our soul, grows, and strengthen us, in the midst of our losses, it’s so He can open our eyes to a world that is bigger than us; demonstrating that even in this fallen world of sin, death and loss, He is still able to accomplish His perfect plan and will for us and in us.

Romans 8:28 of the Amplified Bible says;

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”

Many times when people are in the depth of their pain because of their loss, they reject, to the point of anger, someone sharing the truth of God‘s Word with them, thinking it callous, insensitive or “too preachy”. While timing of such things is important, withholding the hope that comes from the promises of God shows a great lack of love and compassion, for ultimately nothing apart from His love and power will set a person free to move on and thrive following a devastating loss.

It is that inability to move on that is the subject of this article. We wouldn’t need to talk about moving on from loss if it didn’t have such incredible power to keep us “stuck”, almost frozen in time or worse, living life only in the past, as if today or tomorrow doesn’t matter.

There is, of course, a time and a season to grieve. Not facing your loss and allowing yourself to feel the pain and sorrow of it, can bring on all kinds of additional emotional and physical problems down the road. Loss requires healthy grief for healing, and healing from grief takes time. However, that time is not meant to last forever. Cherishing memories and special feelings for a lost loved one is by all means important. Remembering special or joyful times in your life are good and healthy. Even sadness from time to time as you feel the emptiness or face the changes loss has left you with, is good and acceptable but a lifetime of grieving is not!

Lamentations 3, talks about there being a season and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven, including mourning;

“A time to week and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verse 4)

If we choose to stay in an unending place of grief and sorrow, we will miss all the good things God still has planned for us in this life, and that is a loss of unspeakable proportions. Our loving God delights in healing and restoration for all who call upon Him. He does not intend for us to go through this life wounded and crippled in body and spirit as a result of losses we experience. He wants to heal us for our sake and for His glory and purposes. He is a God of new beginnings, always on the move, demonstrating His power and His love to a dying world.

Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NASB)

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?”

He wants us to join Him in the new things He is doing but we can’t if we’ve shut our self off from what He offers, determined to spend the rest of our lives in self-pity and despair.

One of the most detrimental decisions a person can make after the loss of a loved one especially that of a spouse of child – or even after a divorce – is that they will never love again. In their mind to do so, would be to open themselves up to that same devastating pain again and who in their right mind, would do that? But to make a decision like that is to ensure that one is very likely to miss more of the good things God still has planned for them.

In his book, “A Grace Disguised”, author Gerald Sittser, who lost his mother, his wife and a young daughter in a car accident talks about this very issue. “The risk of further loss, therefore, poses a dilemma. The problem of choosing to love again is that the choice to love means living under the constant threat of further loss. But the problem of choosing not to love is that the choice to turn from love means imperiling the soul, for the soul thrives in an environment of love. Soul-full people love; soul-less people do not. If people want their soul to grow through loss, whatever the loss is, they must eventually decide to love even more deeply than they did before. They must respond to the loss by embracing love with renewed energy and commitment.”

Expanding our heart to love again after loss is a mysterious part of the healing God gives us. We can refuse His healing if we choose and withdraw to protect ourselves, leading to a diminished soul and an empty, lonely life. That withdrawal could easily be justified by saying another loss is too certain to risk it. Yes, most likely another loss is certain but so is God‘s love and power to heal. It takes courage to live and it takes courage to love – again and again. It also takes wisdom and grace to know and understand that loss does not mean the end of life. With God, it means a new beginning and a reason to move on!

Living Life Set Free is a ten day, amazing journey with God using the books Living Life Set Free and Reflections designed to invite the power of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to radically transform you, change your life and set you free.

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5 Coping Skills to Help Grievers Get Through Holidays and Special Occasions

5 Coping Skills to Help Grievers Get Through Holidays and Special Occasions

The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for those of us coping with loss. Find five skills the author used to cope when her son was diagnosed with a chronic illness. The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for those of us coping with loss. In this article, I share five skills that helped me cope when my son was diagnosed with a chronic illness.

1. Schedule a Specific Time to Cry

If the onset of your trauma and/or loss is still fresh you may be like me, out of my mind in pain and crying non-stop. I decided that I needed to give myself a coping skill and that was to schedule a crying time for every day.
I would become overwhelmed with thoughts of what had happened and I could feel the crying coming on and then I’d stop myself.  I’d say, “No, you have to wait 4 more hours and then you can let it go.”  That would move my brain forward enough to get over that crying session for at least 10-15 minutes.

2. Do One Nice Thing For Yourself Every Day – No Kidding and No Excuses!

I would NOT get out of bed until I thought long and hard about the one thing that would make me feel better for just that one day.

‘Nothing can make me feel better’ was the answer that was always there but I’d push myself to pull out just one thing. Most of the things were extremely simple: taking a long bath, making a café mocha with extra whipped crème, or taking the dog to the dog park.

3. Seek Out and Attend a Local Support Group

I went online and entered the cause of my grief (i.e. brain disease, death, cancer, etc.) and looked for a link (URL) that ended in .org since this generally means it’s a non-profit and most non-profits are really set up to help. Do yourself a huge favor and find and attend a support group, even if it’s just for one time only. You can visit my web page ( ) and click on ‘Grief Resources.’

4. Find Three Things to be Grateful for Each Day

As I was grieving it was hard for me to imagine that I would ever be happy again, I just could not see it.  It occurred to me that I needed to find something to be grateful for every day.  I started with, “I’m so grateful my son is still alive.”  “I’m so grateful I was here and can be here to take care of him.” Start small with, “I’m so grateful the heat is working and my house is warm.” “I’m so grateful that I can make myself some tea this morning.”

5. Make Sure You Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Grief is extremely stressful and it takes a lot out of us not only emotionally, but physically as well. I had a real issue where I could not sleep.  But I knew that getting 6-8 hours of sleep would go a long way in helping me cope and get through the journey.  See your doctor or a psychologist for help if you find you can’t and haven’t been sleeping.
It is my sincerest wish that these coping skills that I’ve shared coupled with Mourning Expressions makes your journey measurably more bearable.

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Women Grieving For Their Loved Ones

Women Grieving For Their Loved Ones

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Women Grieving: I watched as my fellow village women gathered around my mother as she cried her heart out while the pallbearers carried the body of my late sister to the grave site. I said, ‘Lord, do you not see this? Has my mother not suffered enough, six of her children now to the earth, plus the husband, does she have to go through this?’ And the Spirit of God rebuked me saying, ‘Only I know what your mother is able to endure.’

The Spirit spoke to me about a woman in the Bible we can all learn from when it comes to grieving for a loved one. That woman is Mary the mother of Jesus.

She experienced pain at the deepest level we can all imagine. When she gave birth to her little boy Jesus, as per the Hebrew tradition she took him to the Temple for dedication. While the Priest was peforming the dedication rites accompanied by the necessary words, he also threw in a very disturbing word, something no mother wants to hear. The Priest said to Mary, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against; (and yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also); that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

What strong words to say to a young mother who just had her first child! But for Mary this was not the first time that she had been spoken to in such a manner.About two years ago she had been minding her own business when an angel appeared before her and saluted her with these words, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you”. Luke 1:28. The Bible goes on to say that Mary was perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of a salutation this was.

But the angel reassured her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called theSon of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end”. Luke 1:30-33

Mary was worried about becoming pregnant; because as a virgin betrothed to a young man named Joseph, she was patiently waiting for her wedding day.

This time the angel did not reassure her saying; “Do not worry the baby will come nine months after your wedding night!”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God“. Luke 1:35

I went to Bible College at a late age. At the end of every semester exam I would come out with my head throbbing and blood pressure high. It never got better, even at the end of the very last semester, after four years of studying. Hence I can empathise with Mary. The more she tried to understand her predicament, the more perplexed she became. But by the grace of God; I succeeded in attaining my Diploma in Religious Studies. Mary also overcame her fear and ran to her relative Elizabeth where a miracle was in the making through the birth of John. For the angel had said to Mary, “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month…For nothing is impossible with God“. (Luke 1:26-37)

The Holy Spirit overshadowed her as promised and Mary gave birth to her little boy, Jesus. At the appointed time she took the boy to the Temple for dedication. That is where we meet her today as the story of her life unfolds. With the help of her capenter husband, Joseph, she raises her son.

Other than working in the capentry business like his father, Jesus took a keen interest in his Jewish religion and soon became a keen student at the Temple courts. At the age of thirty he became one of the most sought after evangelists. He was a great Teacher and miracles portraying the power of the Holy Spirit were evident.

Many were his teachings, and many people received salvation into the Kingdom of God. Many were also healed from all kinds of diseases and afflictions.

But as this Teacher, Jesus the son of Mary became more and more popular so did those who opposed his teachings.  His teachings conflicted with their religious values. Their hatred of him grew bythe day, until finally they decided to kill him.

So we find the prophecy given to Mary by the Priest Simeon in Luke 2:34-35coming to fulfillment. Mary’s heart was about to be pierced.

They came for Jesus on the night soon after the Passover as he prayed in the gardenof Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives. They knew he would be there that night as it was his custom to go there and pray.

After seizing him they took him to Pilate for a well rehearsed trial. They found him guilty, even though he was not. He was condemned to die by hanging on a cross. They beat him up, severely, spit on him, mocked him, called him all kind of names and then put a heavy wooden cross on his bruised back and made him carry it Mount of Golgotha.

Where was Jesusmother while all this happening? At home; unaware of the rubble? Away visiting relatives? No, she was right there in the midst of the mass of onlookers watching her son, the Great Teacher suffer. With every blow they struck him, Mary’s heart was being pierced; her insides were being shredded to pieces. I have seen pictures of lynching on television; they are horrific. Mary had to endure that; but the worst was yet to come.

When they got to Golgotha they laid his body against the cross and drove long heavy nails right through his hands and feet into the cross. Then they lifted him on the cross for the whole community to see; and thus they hung. Mary was there at his feet, barely able to look up at the tortured frame of her son; the son that God had given. The son who had performed so many miracles in the short three years he had evangelized the country of Judea. The son who was not just hers and Joseph’s; but who was in reality the Son of God.

He had the power and authority to call down angels to come and stop this horrific torture before him but did not. Everything that was happening had to happen because this was the will of his Father in heaven for him. He had to die for the sins of the world; that we all humanity would be forgiven because of his precious blood shed on the cross at Calvary for us.

Did Mary know this? Probably; but that did not take away the sharpness of the pain she was feeling. So Jesus beckoned her close so he could make eye contact. Then he also called John, the disciple he loved very much. To both he whispered, ‘Woman, here is your son and son here is your mother. John 19:26-27. Why; because John was the closest of the disciples to Jesus. Over the years Jesus had shared his deepest thoughts with his mother and his closest disciple. In that darkest hour he was reassuring them that both would be able to comfort and give each other strength.

Then his crucifiers took a crown of thorns and shoved it on his head, making his head bleed. Then they took a sharp spear and drove it through the side of his belly; both water and blood oozed out. John had to hold Mary tight lest she collapsed at the weight of her son‘s imminent death. Then Jesus died. Thirty three years of his life on earth as Mary’s son had suddenly come to an end.

What would you say about that? If you were Mary where would go with that anguish and pain?

God has not spared us from the pain of losing a loved one to death. He did not spare Mary, the mother of His own dear Son. But in whatever He has allowed us to endure, He has also given us strength through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in us.

On our own we are frail and weak, but because of the Holy Spirit in us we are comforted, strengthened and able to stand the storm.

The Holy Spirit will reveal the Word of God and.give us hope despite the bleakness of our circumstances. Three days after Jesus was buried, Mary and the other women in Jesus‘ life went early to the grave site. With spices in their hands what did they expect to find at the tomb? Luke 24. Mary remembered snippets of the conversations she had had with Jesus; that on the third day he would rise from the dead.

Women have had it hard right from child birth. But the same God who is able to sustain the woman through childbirth is also able to sustain her through grief and pain. He will never leave her nor forsake her, for He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:5b, & 8)

When we pass through the valley of Baca (Weeping) we make it a spring of Joy.Psalm 84:5-7, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you (Lord), who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion”.

Yes, you can smile even in the midst of grief; especially when God brings a wonderful memory about your loved one. Tthat is how healing begins.

My mother is strong today because she believes in God. She has faith that someday in heaven she will be reunited with her husband and children. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

Woman, your grief and pain does not mark the end of your life. The devil has not won. Trust God and He will give you the peace and strength you did not know was in you. He will keep her in perfect peace she whose mind is steadfast, because she trusts in Him. (Isaiah 26: 3)

Job, at the tragic death of all his children said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

King David at the illness and death of his son said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23)

Jesus to Martha and Mary when Lazarus died said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. (John 11:25-26) Even though we will die in the flesh our soul will live with Christ eternally.

Finally, we have a promise in Revelation 21:3-4 that there will come a time when every tear will be wiped away. ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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.”

No more tears, no more grief, no more pain. Praise the Lord!

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A Meaningful Life

A Meaningful Life

A Meaningful Life was written in honor of the Chandler family as they celebrated the life of a beloved husband and father.

I pray that it will lift you to see meaning in the relationships that were placed in your life whether the person is still here with us or not.

A Meaningful Life by Cassandra Grant

A life that is filled with meaning
is not in the length of one’s days.

It’s not in the length of time here on earth
in which one may stay

A life that is filled with meaning
is a life fulfilled

Committed to the purpose
of doing the Father‘s will

A meaningful life is not determined
by how boldly a man enters a room
or how loudly this man may talk.

But by how many are changed along the way
as He lives out His daily walk

A life that is filled with meaning
is like a fruitful tree

That any can come around hungry
and be able to pick from thee

We celebrate the life of Rev. C. W. Chandler
A meaningful life indeed
As we gather from His life
fruit to grow on our trees

So that our witness and not our words
will cause men to come to Christ

And it is at that very moment
that we have lived a meaningful life

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Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

Early intervention during times of loss and grief helps keep children psychologically healthy and prevents the development of later emotional problems.  Understanding the stages of grief can help caregivers provide quality care to children.

Caregivers never want young children to have to learn about death. They want to protect children from pain and loss. But, child care professionals cannot shelter children from death. Early intervention during times of loss and grief helps keep children psychologically healthy and prevents the development of later emotional problems.
Although children cannot speak about their feelings and emotions like adults can, they still grieve. Even young infants under six-months-old grieve. For example, infants have deep relationships with their mothers and they grieve when their mothers are absent.

Children and Grief: What They Know, How They Feel, How to Help.

For infants, six-months-old to two-years-old, there is a more specific process of grieving. At this age, children are able remember and visualize their mothers and learn that they are separate individuals from their mothers. Children may protest and withdraw to the absence of their mothers. Children may become depressed and no longer seem interested in toys, food, or activities.

The loss of a mother becomes more devastating as children are able to grasp the specific difference of their relationships with various members of their family. Grief is often expressed by regression, such as clinging to others, wetting the bed, or wanting the bottle back.

Adults often fail to recognize the impact of loss on children and this can result in anxiety. With the loss of a mother, the very security of the family is disrupted and children may believe that their own survival is at stake.

Death of a parent can lead to withdrawal, irritability, and severe depression. But, there are certain factors that can influence the outcome of childhood bereavement.

Such factors involve:

  • Communication between children and adults about the causes and circumstances of the death.
  • The nature of the surviving relationships in the family.
  • The support given by the family.
  • Children exhibit their feelings through play and fantasy. Children will share their feelings at unexpected moments and often with only a phrase or sentence. This is an opportunity to help children talk more about their feelings.
  • Grieving continues for many years for children. Since children do not have the strength to deal with the pain in its full intensity, a great deal of the pain may be turned inward. Their pain may be expressed in misbehavior such as: seeking attention, talking back, losing concentration and motivation, or decreasing school performance.

There are common stages that everyone experiences after the loss of a loved one. Mourners may not experience the stages in any particular order and there is no pre-determined time limit of how long someone may grieve.

Stage One: Shock and Numbness: Even when death is anticipated, the immediate feelings following death are shock, numbness, a sense of disbelief, and denial. Denial is a defense mechanism. But the denial that protects a vulnerable and shocked ego must slowly give way to the reality of loss.

Stage Two: Separation: Separation leads to a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and isolation. Emptiness is the sense of being diminished from within. Loneliness is the sense that one’s surroundings are also empty of people who matter or care. Isolation is the sense of being divided from others.

Stage Three: Disorganization: The anxiety of separation involves a process of disorganization and a fear about the future. The fear and the disorganization are caused by uncertainty, about functioning in a different role, and the changes that are necessary after the loss of a significant person.

Stage Four: Rebuilding:  Integrating and rebuilding is when death becomes a reality. Although the loss is sad it is seen as a challenge and people develop new strengths.

It is wise for child care providers to encourage parents to consult with a child’s pediatrician to discuss loss of a child’s loved one. The pediatrician can suggest ways to help a child and provide specific ideas about what kinds of behaviors to expect, depending on what stage of development the child is in.

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Seven Things You Can Do to Help a Grieving Co-Worker

Seven Things You Can Do to Help a Grieving Co-Worker

Here are seven things to consider in supporting someone you work with who is mourning the death of a loved one, and help him/her adjust to the loss. The funeral or graveside service is over and someone you work with is back on the job. Is there anything you can you do to help the person in the transition he or she is facing? Plenty. Remember, your willingness to be with anyone who is grieving, your presence alone, can be a factor in healing from a major loss. Being around pain is a challenge and an essential factor in helping the bereaved.

Here are seven things to consider in supporting someone you work with and help him/her adjust to the loss.

1. Most important of all, let the person know you are willing to be of assistance. If you were, for whatever reason, unable to attend the funeral or service express your condolences in a way you feel is most appropriate. Some people are uncomfortable in simply saying “I’m sorry” and say “I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain.” Others apologize for not being at the funeral and offer to be of help in any way possible.

2. Talk about the deceased person. Reviewing the relationship with the deceased by asking a question about the person is a good starter and gives the mourner an opportunity to talk. You could ask where the person died and if the co-worker was there at the end, inquire about the nature of the illness, or if the person had been ill for a long time.

3. Always allow the co-worker to dictate the pace and content of the conversation. If  you sense the person does not wish to talk about the deceased follow through and  ask if this is the case (Would you rather talk at another time?) and if there is anything else you could do at the moment.

4. Many employers, after three or four days, expect the co-worker to be working at his or her previous level of output, which in most cases is highly unreasonable. Be willing to give your co-worker an assist if it is obvious that he is behind in his work.

5. Each day inquire how your co-worker is doing. Commonly, the response will be okay or fine. When you hear this follow up with, “How are you really doing?” Often you will hear some important responses that the person would like to say but holds back so as not to appear to be hurting or looking for sympathy. Mourners often shape their grieving to please those around them and not themselves. You will be giving the co-worker an opportunity to express how she is really feeling and not have to suppress a natural response.

6. At least once a week call the person at home, especially if the person is now living alone. Evenings are frequently the most difficult for widows and widowers who are living alone. At the appropriate time, invite the person over for dinner or out to a movie.
7. Finally, be on guard to help a co-worker who might be holding on to some of the old myths about grief: you shouldn’t cry too much; you must be strong; you’ll be your old self again soon; and there is a predictable course of grief. Give the person permission to cry, not be strong, and follow her own individual course of grieving.

As time goes on, allow the person to repeat the story of what happened to their loved one. The repetition of the mourner is often what is discouraging for a caregiver. However, it is important for the mourner to replay the story again and again as it is an aid to the healing process. Grief is not an orderly and predictable process. With all of its ups and downs repetition is useful and meaningful for the mourner.
Again, to repeat, being there is half the battle. You don’t have to say a lot. However, be willing to be open with the person and make frequent contact as you sense the need.

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Widows: Envision Your Future

Widows: Envision Your Future

I never thought I would be in the same position as widows I knew. Tears streamed down my face as I sat on the side of a raised flower bed in my garden, watching the blue Ford take my partner Nick’s planer and other carpenter tools away. Nick had died 2 months before; it was time to remove some of these remnants that I would not be using.

I felt all alone, grieving as those first things were sold. For the first 3 months after Nick’s death, my grief felt like a red hot brick sitting in the middle of my chest. I cried often and at the oddest places, like seeing Nick’s friend at a banquet where I was accepting a donation for the organization I represented. In most cases, when I felt sadness and tears, I expressed them. Heck, there was no way of holding them back!

After 5 months I felt a weight lifting off me. It felt like I had lifted a very heavy blanket or coat away. I had more energy and felt alive and happy. I started to pay attention to the details of winding down a business that Nick had run. I considered how to manage the acreage where we lived including an addition to our house that was only roughed in.

I pondered my future: What now? What was I going to do alone? What did I want? Was this a time to be celibate? I had been studying a yogi who considered celibacy as the best route for spiritual and personal growth. As I mulled it over, I realized that I wanted a relationship again.

One Saturday 5 months after Nick’s death, there was a notice pinned to the corkboard at a restaurant that my girlfriend and I favored, advertising a vision workshop. We decided to go.

There were 12 to14 of us, both men and women. We discussed setting up a vision for the things you want in your life and managing the fear that surrounds new beginnings (I had an image of transforming my fears from ferocious tigers to tame, meowing pussycats at my feet).

I considered what my beliefs were around relationships: I believed that men and women could have wonderful fulfilling lives in relationships; I believed I could be a good partner.

I felt I had something to give in a relationship, With Nick, I learned a lot about my anger and wanted a relationship where I could do it different, I had seen how it had affected Nick, who was frightened when I became angry. I had had times of great outbursts, and I could see how Nick, not being available emotionally, to discuss my needs had contributed to it. I decided not to feel guilty about how I had acted. I knew I had good communication skills but needed a partner who was willing to listen.

I have been a spiritual seeker all my life and felt that it would be difficult to find someone who had the same values and ideas. It had been difficult for Nick to accept them and that was uncomfortable for us. My future partner would need to have those interests.

So, I thought about my values, my wants and needs. I considered my life in all aspects: how I wanted my work life, my living space, and my relationships.

My vision included all these things, described in detail that delighted me. I continued by listing all the aspects I wanted in my future partner, without being too specific. For instance, I listed that I wanted a handsome, attractive partner, but did not specify that he had black hair, blue eyes, and six feet tall.

I wrote my first draft, then meditated about it and finished my vision. Three weeks later, I met the man of my dreams!

He is a perfect match for me and six years later, it continues to be wonderful. We live, love and laugh joyously. Life is fantastic.

And the amazing thing is: at the time I was writing a vision of my ideal life and partner, so was he! The Universe, in a magnificent gesture, brought us together through a mutual friend.

Vision writing is very powerful and is the first step in the process of transition. Its power lies in the creation of an image that attracts our desires to us. We energize our vision by enjoying its images as if we were actually living it now. This is like putting gas in our car, giving the vision energy to have it happen.

As I wrote my vision, I spent time imagining all the details so that I could see, hear, smell and taste it. All of this imagining was done with emotion. I visualized actually standing in the rooms, felt the Egyptian cotton sheets, enjoyed the smells in the garden, and felt my lover touch my skin, mmm, delicious!

Sometimes change is foisted on us, when someone leaves us, or we create it, when we leave a situation. Vision writing creates a clear picture of your new beginning and gathers your resources together to manage it, if you will allow it.

Write your vision, and give permission for your dreams to unfold. Yes!

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10 Ways to Manage Grief During Holidays and Special Events

10 Ways to Manage Grief During Holidays and Special Events

10 Ways to Manage Grief During Holidays and Special Events: Anticipation of a holiday after loss and what is expected is almost always worse than actually experiencing the day. There are many unrealistic expectations at holiday time. Here are 10 things you can do, that have been used by others through the years, which will help you manage grief and reduce unnecessary suffering. Are you dreading the approaching holidays? Fearful of being alone or without your loved one? Or have you been thinking about the possibility of receiving a greetings card from someone who does not know your loved one has died?
Most experts agree that anticipation of a holiday and what is expected is almost always worse than actually experiencing the day. There are many unrealistic expectations at holiday time. In any event, here are 10 things you can do, that have been used by others through the years, which will help you manage grief and reduce unnecessary suffering.

1. Structure your day. Plan. Plan. Plan. Make a schedule of what you will do each hour of the day and be committed to following it. Decide before hand what you can and cannot do on that day. Make a “to do” list and a “not to do” list. Talk about both with your family members. You do not have to follow what was done on previous holidays.

2. Have a back-up plan. If things go wrong and you are unable to follow the schedule you had prepared at a given time during the day, substitute an alternative activity. Let’s say you cannot stay at dinner as long as you had originally planned. Then be sure you have someone and something else to do (another place to go) so you can remove yourself from the highly stressful situation.

3. Simplify. You do not have to do all the work of sending cards, buying presents, and decorating if it does not feel right for you. It is likely you won’t have the energy to begin with. Cancel this part of the holiday. Or shorten your list or decide not to send cards. Send money or shop through the internet. Instead of a Christmas tree, simply decorate with pine boughs or small ornaments.

4. Decide on a way to symbolize the presence of your loved one. It could be by lighting a candle, placing his/her picture in a special place, making his/her favorite dessert, telling a favorite story, or setting a place at table. It is okay to reminisce about past holidays with him or her. Celebrate his/her life and what has enriched yours by your relationship with the beloved.

5. Buy a gift for yourself (from your loved one) and another for your loved one. Then decide to give the gift for your loved one to someone who would benefit from it. Make helping others one of your New Year resolutions to honor his/her memory. Focus on this thought throughout the holiday season.

6. Allow yourself to express your feelings as they arise. Don’t resist. Let grief move through you in a natural way. It’s okay to cry and feel sad. Crying is coping. If you feel especially sad, call someone you trust to talk to. Picking the right person and asking if you can call them “just in case,” is part of your back-up plan. Ask for assistance. Don’t expect friends to automatically know what you need.

7. Take time just for yourself to do something that is pleasing to you—and don’t feel guilty about doing so. Do this every day of the season. Eat a special food. Get a massage. Take a bubble bath. Visit a nearby park or beautiful scenery. But remember, don’t isolate yourself. You need your own time, but don’t over do it.

8. Be sure to exercise. This is a commonly overlooked but extremely profitable way to change feelings and emotion. Walk, ride a bicycle or engage in your usual exercise pattern. We all need physical outlets for the emotional stressors of the day. Accept the fact that the absence of your loved one on a special day is bound to cause pain. But you can use exercise as a counterbalance.

9. Deal with your feelings by periodically asking yourself where you are in your inner life at the moment. Are you overwhelmed, fearful, angry, and lonely or are you experiencing a moment of joy. Once you have identified your emotional state, follow up with examining options for dealing with your state of mind. Do you need to be with someone or go somewhere or say something to yourself? Your encouraging self-talk can be important here.

10. Combine these two survival skills when you start to feel you are going in a downward spiral: take action and refocus your attention. These two critical skills are essential for all of us for the rest of our lives. When you make your holiday plan, list a number of activities you can do when you need to change the sadness and prevent slipping into a depressive state.

Decide on the immediate action you can take to combat too much distress: get up and do something, walk around the house, pray, repeat a mantra, “Google” the word grief. Find a way to change your thought pattern. It will work for you, if you consistently go for it.

You can get through this holiday season, or any day that you feel is a special day involving your loved one. Three things will guarantee your success: make the commitment (“I will get through this”), be determined (“If I fall down, I will get back up”), and persist over time (remember it’s like an endurance race).  There is no right or wrong way to deal with the holidays. There is only your way.

10 Ways to Manage Grief During Holidays and Special Events

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Chronic Illness Loss: Coping with the Loss Caused by Chronic Illness

Coping with the Loss Caused by Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness has a profound impact on one’s life and creates a lot of grief in response to the losses it imposes on … There are wide arrays of … life … and Living with a chronic illness has a profound impact on one’s life and creates a lot of grief in response to the losses it imposes on our lives. There are wide arrays of potential life interruptions and psychological changes one will go through when dealing with their illness. Our illness is erratic and unpredictable and requires constant readjusting. We are likely to endure multiple losses that may include the loss of control and personal power, which is an important contributor to self-esteem, as well as loss of independence, loss of identity, loss of financial status and loss of one’s customary lifestyle.

In addition to these we may also have to face the possible relinquishing of our hopes and dreams and face the fear of more on going losses. Changing roles in family, work and social situations that result from a person’s illness also can create additional adjustment problems for everyone involved. Family members and partners are likely to be experiencing the same feelings as we are as well as their own feelings as to how the illness is impacting their life. If these issues are not worked out, then relationships may all apart and leave us with another loss.

Perhaps the most difficult of these transitions is the loss of the identity one held before becoming sick. Often, there is a complete restructuring of the way one defines oneself and the ways in which one interacts with the world. Sometimes it is difficult to feel good about oneself as our illness or disability is incorporated into a new self-image. The work of rebuilding one’s life and identity can be further complicated by the loss of spouses or partners or other supportive relationships that sometimes follow the onset of serious illness. And, as all persons who suffer with an invisible illness know, the lack of validation and support for our illness creates further grief and frustration. At a time when we most need compassion, love, understanding, sympathy and support we may be met with criticism,disbelief, and anger. It is no wonder that many people facing these multiple losses and the grief that naturally ensues find themselves experiencing high levels of anger, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, resentment, depression and damaged self-esteem. Coping with all these issues can be very overwhelming.

There are several things we can do to help get though these difficulties and to cope better:
-Establish a good relationship with a supportive health care provider.
-Allow yourself to feel and express your feelings.
-Allow yourself to grieve for what you have lost.
-Find support such as a support group, friends, counselor, etc.
-Recognize the limits in your life and set reasonable goals. Be realistic about what to expect from yourself.
-Learn to adapt, make substitutions and modifications so that you can still participate in fulfilling life activities. Do something fun!
-Keep communication open with partners, friends and family members so that feelings and resentments don’t build up and so everyone’s needs can be addressed and met in the best way possible. -Learn to value your own company, become your own best friend and find your self worth based on inner strengths rather than on what you do.
-Take care of your body by following a healthy diet, mild exercise, and appropriate rest. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs. Pamper and nurture yourself with things that are enjoyable for you.
-Educate yourself as much as possible about your condition and take an active role in your treatment. This will help regain a sense of control and improve your self-esteem.
-Let go of expectations of others and society. Understand that societies definition of what’s “normal” no longer applies. Do what you need to do for yourself. -Make peace with your illness. Try to think of your illness and your pain as your companion instead of your enemy. Listen to the wisdom and lessons it may carry for you. Learn to flow with and accept your illness rather than resisting it.

Some strategies that have been helpful for others in coping: Mental Renovations, Companionate Activity Modification and Network Remodeling.
(1) Mental Renovations consist of cognitive and emotional strategies used to change expectations of what is usually thought to be normal. An example of this would be (adjusting ones mind to think it’s ok if you can’t do something the “normal” way but you can find another way to do it that fits your needs.) Companionate Activity modifications consist of making modifications that include activity adaptation and substitution and changes in timing, location, and intensity of companionate activities. An example of this might be (you’re physically unable to attend an outing with your child so you find another alternative activity of having quality time such as a dinner at home and reading together. Network remodeling consists of carefully allocating times and energy around your network. Carefully ration your energy. Prioritize and make lists of what’s important and what must be done and what can be put off for later. Living with your Chronic Illness is not easy. It is a lifelong process that will require ongoing appraisal and reappraisal of every day and each situation. Understand and accept that it is the nature of your illness to be unpredictable, intrusive, interfering, and erratic. Expect the unexpected and make adjustments accordingly. As you are sure to go through periods of exacerbation of symptoms and periods of improvement it is natural for you to move back and forth in your level of acceptance and adjustment. Understand that acceptance and adjustment occur in ebbs and flows.

Reference: 1. Duck S. & Wood J.T.: Confronting Relationship Challenges 1995

Chronic Illness Loss: Coping with the Loss Caused by Chronic Illness