Thursday, October 31, 2013

Week 7 The Next Day - What We Have Now

So here we sit.  The crisis is over, whatever it was that got us to this point. Whether it was due to an accident, a disease, old age, or something else, our loved one truly is gone.  Wow. They are finished here on earth.  How can that be?  It is just too hard to think about sometimes.  We feel like we are sitting in a pile of ashes. We have only the leftovers...after the love is gone. We are left….but with what?

We are left with our lives. Not the lives we might want, but the lives we now have in front of us.  The truth is, those lives are going to continue, and how they end up will be heavily influenced by our choices, our decisions, and our hearts.  So while we feel very out of control over our loved one’s death, we actually are confronted with many ways in which we are in charge.  We need to make good decisions for our lives and our futures.

Words that describe our feelings now may be; scary, frightening, new, fresh, overwhelming, exhilarating, heavy, or depressing.  There are a lot of ways to feel and experience where we are now and what we have now.  However, we are not starting this new journey with nothing.  Almost everyone has loves and complications and relationships and families. We probably all have a lot of things in our lives already that we have not considered, have discounted as not enough/important or are not seeing at all.  So our question is...what do you really have NOW?

Spend some time this week writing down everything you have in your life that you think is positive – those who are left, work, a house, a car, a nice comfy bed, central heat, food - remember the little things, not just the big things.  Spend some time thanking God that you actually have them.  Then think for just a few minutes about how those blessings can be your base for other good things…..for other blessings…..for your future. You can do it.


If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Week 7 Introduction - What We Have Now

Join us Wednesday, 10/30 at 7:30 p.m. to hear noted speaker and author Miriam Neff as she brings a wealth of faith-filled wisdom to understanding our life after our loved one dies.  While there are many things that we lose after experiencing a death in our life, there are also many things that we gain. It is important to acknowledge both aspects of the process and claim new aspects of our life and ourselves as we journey towards wholeness, healing and new beginnings.

Learn more about our teacher by following this link: 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 6 - Further Along the Journey

Keep On, Keeping On by Kurt Olson

Did you hear about the 17-year-old tennis player Vicki Duval? She was the 298th ranked tennis player who won in the US Open this year against the 11th ranked and a former U.S. Champion.  Though that was quite a feat, but it isn’t really all of her story. Vicki has seen and lived through some life-changing tragedies from her homeland in Haiti. 
Vicki Duval
Time Magazine
At age 7, Vicki and her older sister were kidnapped and held for ransom by men in Haiti. She and her sister survived that horrible ordeal.  In 2010 her dad (a doctor) sent the family to the US while he stayed in Haiti to help out the poor in their country. The office where he was practicing collapsed during an earthquake and he was buried under the building structure, but was not killed. He was able to make a phone call to Vicki’s mom, intending to say goodbye before he died, and that he dearly loved them. Vicki was there when her mother collapsed to the floor in grief. Miraculously, her father did manage to pull himself out, and though he still suffers some physical problems, he is alive today.

At a young age, Vicki is battle tested beyond her years. I couldn’t help but wonder if those events somehow had something to do with this recent match as she struggled to win. In her words, Sam, her opponent, didn’t have her best match, and she had the match of her life so far.
Each of us to some degree experiences this battle testing when we suffer loss and are dealing with grief. We experience it when we struggle to keep going, keeping up with the day-to-day, and when we feel like giving up, but we don’t give up.  Could this be the heart of the message God is telling us in His word? 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)
So let’s keep going. God’s promise is true!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Week 6 The Next Day - Where Is Our Hope

As we discussed in our workshop, “hope” can be about the last thing you think about when your loved one dies.  Death itself is the opposite of hope. Death is about endings, not beginnings, darkness, not light, stops signs, not green lights, not a future vision, but looking back at what was.

As you move through your grief journey this coming week, make a list of those things in your life that could, over time, lead to hope-filled thoughts. Your list might include the important people still in your life who love you, and who need your love as well; like your children, spouse, brother, sister, father, mother, or close friends. Your list might include a stable job that provides a comfortable life for you and your family. It might include dogs and cats and other family pets that are always there to provide you with comfort and care.

Death can cloud our future and our feeling of hope.  Don’t let it steal your joy forever. Don’t let it blind you to the things you still have in your life that are hope-filled, positive, and unique.  Where is your hope?  It’s right here.  When is your hope? It’s right now. It’s just waiting for you to step back and take notice.

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 5:5 (NRSV)

By Nancy Hamlin

If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 6 Introduction - Where is Our Hope?

Grief Support Sr. Leader Nancy Hamlin moderates a live panel of Grief Support leaders in discussing what has given them hope for their future, personal vision and a sense of healing and God's presence as they journey on through their life without their loved one.   Please join us on Wednesday, October 23rd at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 5 - Further Along the Journey

Just Enough Light by Nancy Hamlin

I am a planner.  I like to know what I am doing today, every hour, and then tomorrow, every hour, and then next week, next month, and then the next month. Knowing what is going to happen in my life makes me feel calm, in control, centered, and okay.

When my mother died, I was 34, my daughter Julia was just 18 months old. I had been married for 9 years. I was an ADULT. But the feeling of control left my life.  I felt like I had just been pushed off a very high cliff. Even though my mother had been sick with emphysema for over 7 years, her death shocked me. It rocked me. It just took the foundation out from under me.  I had no clue what was happening to me. I really did not know how I was going to go on living without her in my life.

I had no joy. I had no happiness – even for my daughter. I had no sense of hope for feeling joy again.  I was terrified that I had entered a new realm of living where I would never again truly feel like living.  I call this the “black and white” period of my life.  Everything felt like it was in black and white, and the color had left my life forever.
A wonderful book I have encountered in my journey is called “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On” by Stormie OMartian.  Her premise is that God gives us just enough….food, energy, knowledge, comfort, care, and LIGHT for our path, for where we are TODAY.  God does not give us the big huge camp flashlight that allows us to see into the future, or what is down the road, or years from now.  No.  God gives us his grace, mercy, and love in a portion that gets us thru TODAY.  He gives us enough for where we are right now, this very minute.

If we step back, that actually sounds wonderful and sufficient.  But we are not creatures of the “now”.  We are creatures of the “what is going to happen next”. God never promises to reveal His plans for us further down the road.  Rather, he reveals to us what we can handle right now.

 “So don’t worry about seeing or understanding what the future holds.  God wants you to trust him as he leads you, even though you can’t see clearly ahead.  And don’t be overly concerned about fully comprehending the past. Only he knows the whole truth about it anyways.  You have HIM now.  HE is your light and that is all that matters.” 

“Just Enough Light”

Sometimes only the step I’m on,
  Or the very next one ahead,
        Is all that is illuminated for me.
God gives just the amount of light I need
   For the exact moment I need it.
At those times I walk in surrender to faith,
   Unable to see the future
   And not fully comprehending the past.
And because it is God who has given me
    What light I have,
             I know I must reject the fear and
            Doubts that threaten to overtake me.
I must determine to be content where
     I am, and allow God to get me where I
                 Need to go.
I walk forward,
             One step at a time,
                       Fully trusting that
                             The light God sheds
                                      Is absolutely sufficient.

Quote and poem from “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On”, page 25, by Stormie OMartian

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week 5 The Next Day - Shame and Regrets

As we intentionally move toward choices for health and healing it’s a good time to take stock of what we wish we could “do over” from our past, and in our relationships with our loved ones. As we learned last night, there is no place for shame in our journey, but regret is a natural part of our learning and growing process. Regret propels us to make positive changes.  It also propels us to re-evaluate our behavior and move toward a future that includes increased self-awareness, acceptance, and love.

Take some time this week looking back over the past 24 months of your life.  Write down a few things you wish had gone differently, things you wish you could change, or do over. As you review your list, also jot down what you can do differently in the future as a result of your awareness. If you wish you had said, “I love you” more often to your loved one, can you begin working those words into your everyday exchanges in small ways? If you regret the state of your relationship when your loved one died, take a look at your current relationships and determine if there are any areas that need to be shored up, restored, or redeemed right now.  Use your honesty and bravery to give yourself a new road map for the future. You still have time to make changes in your life that will bring you increased peace, contentment, and joy as you let God bring forth new things from the darkness of your loss.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week 5 Introduction - Shame and Regrets

Teacher, counselor and fellow grief traveler Sharon Voyda takes a close look at the role of shame and regret in our emotional reactions to death and defines the differences between toxic feelings and healthy feelings in our process. Exploring the roots of these two powerful emotions can be the foundation for continued healing and freedom from becoming stuck in the mire of shame and self-doubt in our grief process.   Join us Wednesday, October 16th at 7:30 p.m.   Learn more about our teacher by following this link:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 4 - Further Along the Journey

Catching Up With Your Soul By Kurt Olson

My wife and I were on vacation in Italy with our German friends. On Sunday it was Katja's birthday and after three days of being on the go, she chose to celebrate her day by staying at the villa and just resting. She made an interesting statement; she said, “I need a day so my soul can catch up with me”. 

She then told an interesting story that was set in the early history of America. (Yes, there is a little irony in a German telling an American, an American folklore tale.)  It was about a Native American Indian man who was on one of the first train rides. When he got off the train, he laid down on the ground. Some people were curious about why he did that, and asked him what he was doing. The man told them he was waiting for his soul to catch up.

It occurred to me that this is wonderful description of the early days of my grief journey. I was so busy with all the demands and details of my life that I didn't rest for a very long time. When I finally rested, it was out of exhaustion, not by choice. I collapsed in weariness, but still my soul didn't catch up.

A little further down the road on my journey, I started to choose the days when I rested, and it was on those days that I seemed to become aware of God’s presence in a big way.  Slowly, I started my day by reading God’s Word and ended in reflection on the goodness of God and what He brought my way. In the beginning of each reflection, it seemed to be all about me with my mixed bag of feelings. I was feeling everything; from sad to angry, and occasionally, even happy. But when I stood still to reflect on where I saw God's goodness, my soul started to catch up. I finally found some peace that I desperately needed!

So on this day, I am praying for your soul to catch up with your body and heart so that you may experience rest and God's goodness. My hope is that you find a little peace today, while seeing the goodness of God in your life, and have a bit of feeling that you are “all together.”

A Psalm of David - The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:1-4 (NIV)

If you are viewing this through the RSS email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Week 4 The Next Day - Anger

Not everyone experiences anger as part of their journey; though it is common to ask questions and challenge not only God, but own our view of the world when our loved one dies.  We ask questions like: What is going on?  Why do I have to deal with this when my best friend doesn’t have to? Why did my husband/wife have to die and THEIRS didn’t?  Why did my parent, or my child have to die and THEIRS didn’t?  Maybe we don’t directly question God for a variety of reasons, but we do question ourselves in our everyday lives. When we spend even five minutes thinking about why ME and not THEM, we come face to face with the ideas of free choice and God allowing our world and US free choice and freedom. This freedom opens the doors to our questions and doubts. Why am I all alone now and they are not? Why? I don’t understand the way the world works. Why ME at this point and not THEM?

 Maybe we have what we would call anger, or maybe we don’t. We certainly have questions and confusion. Take the next week and write down all of the questions you have surrounding your loss.  What, where, when, and why, and then maybe why again.  I ask that you try an experiment. Take these questions and put them in different buckets – those that make you angry or confused, and those that you either accept or are resigned to. Write your list and pray over those things in your grief journey that make you angry. Anything from “she still gets to have lunch with her mother”, to “they are all getting together for a family reunion and they are ALL there and I will never have that again.”

 Lean into these feelings. Feel free to share in your group or with other safe people in your life. Then make a note if you feel God is there, or how God is working through your tragedy, and through your journey.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Week 4 Introduction - Good and Angry

Teacher, writer and speaker Mikki Peterson helps us wrestle with the difficult emotion of anger in our grief process.  Is it a sin to be angry at God, can God handle you being mad at Him and what does it mean if you are angry at your deceased loved one? How do we embrace and understand such strong and powerful emotions without becoming scared, overwhelmed or in denial?  What are the different faces of anger?  How can we guard against letting anger take over our process? Join us Wednesday, October 9th at 7:30 p.m. to hear Mikki's powerful story of hope and truth. Learn more about our teacher by following this link: 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 3 - Further Along the Journey

Off Road By Kurt Olson

Photo by
This past August, my family and I vacationed in Arizona. My wife splurged on a one day Jeep rental so we could go off road trail driving. We drove a long and winding bumpy path filled with all sorts of boulders and other obstacles.

 During our daylong excursion, I thought about how the grief journey is a lot like driving a Jeep off road.
  •  I was the driver and I was pretty concerned with everything right in front of me: so much so that I would forget to see the beautiful mountains around us. It occurred to me that is a great picture of my first couple years on my grief journey, I would be so busy focusing on the day-to-day obstacles of life that I would forget to look around and see life.
  • Even though I was driving, I had my wife and kids help me navigate through the terrain by looking ahead down the path. I would have had a more difficult time doing it on my own. In grief you need someone to help you see a little further down the road.
  • On the road, you would go a little further on a winding path and you would take look at the mountains and even though it was the same mountain range it would look very different each time you would stop to look. The mountain range didn’t change, but the vantage point of where I stopped and took time to view did change. I was at a different place then when I looked the last time. Some of these changes made the rock formations look more beautiful and other times not as beautiful. The grief journey is very similar when you have been on it for awhile, there are some times that you catch glimpses of life’s beauty and other times you stop and look and it might not be as pretty as you remembered.
  • There were times that great big fluffy clouds would block out the sun. When you looked around at the rock formations, small clouds would cast shadows and almost add highlights to what you were seeing. Larger clouds would just gray the whole landscape. In grief, there will be sunny days where you can see the little details of life. Others days there will be small clouds that add or subtract from your day. Still, there are other days when huge clouds will just make the beauty of life gray and lifeless.
Here are my takeaways that may help you as well.

  1. Day to day problems can suck the life out of you, especially those new to the grief journey. These are important to handle but you also need to stop and take time to look at the beauty of life around you.
  2. Don’t do the grief journey alone.  It really helps to get perspective from someone who has been down the path a little further and can provide guidance, like your group or your group leader.
  3. On the grief journey, life will have its up and downs. The beautiful mountain range isn’t changing, it’s your point of view that changes. Don’t be discouraged if you take time to look at life and it isn’t pretty; just a little further down the road the view will get better, I can almost guarantee it. I do admit that the scenery changes day-to-day, sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes ugly. Remember you choose to keep on going up the road.  If you don’t take the road, life will stay the same.
  4. Clouds happen and there is little that you can do with them. Sometimes it's good to sit in the clouds and acknowledge that you have experienced a loss.  Other times you may choose to keep your head up and keep on looking ahead, and those clouds will eventually pass. Stop to consider what is in your control and what isn’t. I think you will find there is more you have control over than you think. 
Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen." 
 Are you looking?

If you are viewing this through the RSS email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Week 3 The Next Day - Who Are My Friends on This Journey?

As you move through the Grief Slinky, your life is constantly changing.  Not only do you wonder where God is in this time of hurt and sadness, but you also might start to look around and wonder, “Where are some of my friends?”

Your best friends, the friends you thought would be there forever, are nowhere to be found.  Yes, they came to the funeral, and sent flowers and a card. But they are not calling, coming over, or asking you out to dinner.  Where are they?

Then you suddenly turn around and find yourself walking with, and being loved by other friends. Maybe they were just acquaintances, or even casual life friends before. Yet here they are, listening to you, calling you, loving you, and becoming your unexpected lifeline.

As you look for God in your journey, also pay attention to the people who are with you on this walk.  Note the surprising or new friends who are showing up and making this process possible for you.  Don’t overlook them.  Accept their blessing. As for your lifelong friends who have drifted away for now, try to give them some grace. Not everyone can understand and handle this journey. And that’s okay. We’re all human after all….

If you are viewing this through the RSS email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of