Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holidays I - Further Along the Journey

Holidays and Beyond by Kurt Olson

Holidays are always special because it is on those days when we typically go above and beyond showing the normal, everyday appreciation to those we love.   But now, one or more of those held so dear to us have died and it feels like the magic of the holiday has metaphorically ‘left the building’ without them.   Can you really be thankful on Thanksgiving?  Is there really a merry in Merry Christmas?  You wonder if any of this is remotely possible without your loved one. 

It may come as a surprise but your holidays will need to heal from your loss too.  The meaning of the holidays hasn’t changed, but the way you celebrate them probably needs to shift or might even need major reconstruction.  For me, it became a time to remember my late wife’s generous heart.  I tip my head to her generosity but donating a goat to a needy family through Compassion International.  Another smaller thing I do throughout the year that changes my thoughts, honors her memory and helps me heal is what I call my “Do Good” column in my yearly budget.  I made the decision to set aside 1% of my earnings to do some good for others. Some call it “random acts of kindness” but I prefer thinking of it as my divine appointments from God and His generosity.  It’s those times when a friend or a complete stranger is brought my way with a need. Do I give to everyone who comes my way?  No, but I do find myself freed up to help someone out if I have the money set aside.

The reason I do these acts is to help out others with a bigger need than I have for that money. But it also does something in my heart. I was recently in a restaurant where a woman had her hands full with her kids. Most of the restaurant was giving her dirty looks. I could see the tension on her face trying to feed her kids and calming them down. I asked the waitress for her check and paid for it. Then I asked the waitress to hand her a note after I left that simply said, “Congratulations you been chosen to receive a free lunch from a complete stranger. Have a great day!  You look like you’re an awesome mom. Great job!”  I do not remember anything else I did that day, but I remember that woman.

Do you have any room in your life for random acts of kindness? Your assignment this week is to find just one person to whom you can show a little bit of kindness and take action.   And remember, do so with humility and without any possibility of repayment.

Scripture tells us in 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.”  (NRSV)  Pass it on.

 This is the first in our series of three Holiday posts so stay tuned.  If you are viewing this through the email feed, please know you can find additional support and encouragement at our home site of www.griefslinky.blogspot.com  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thanksgiving & Christmas Ahead - Further Along the Journey

Handling the Holidays after a Loss by Nancy Hamlin

My mother died on July 1, 1993, so we went into my daughter’s birthday, (November 25th), Thanksgiving, and Christmas thinking we had grieved.  When I look back on this time, I want to laugh at how totally crazy were we in thinking that we had even begun to understand what my mother’s death meant for our family.

I went “over the top” for my daughter’s birthday, making this elaborate Teddy Bear cake from a mold, and I think it took me 6 hours to put the star frosting on, star by star.  Julia had far too many presents for a 2-year-old, one present after another.  She couldn’t even comprehend all of the unnecessary bounty.

I was frantic.  I didn’t stop moving.  I made Thanksgiving dinner and then proceeded to buy  tons of Christmas presents.    On Christmas day, my husband, daughter, father, and brother kept opening presents until we were exhausted. I remember us sitting in my parent’s living room after opening the presents.  We were all very quiet, just looking at each other, and I remember feeling…terrible, just terrible. What was wrong? What did I miss? What didn’t I do right? Why did I feel so incredibly sad?

The answer is that I had not planned on anything feeling different. I had not planned on what it was going to feel like to NOT have my mother at my daughter’s 2nd birthday, or at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  I so wish I had. I so wish we had. We caused ourselves unnecessary additional pain because we were all pretending that we could just “go on” without her and not feel this amazing void, this huge hole in our lives. Oh my. It was so sad…

Lesson learned – DO NOT go into your holiday season and pretend that nothing has happened, that you can just do everything the same as before and it will “all work out.” IT WON’T.  Be wiser. Be healthier. Plan. Do something different.  Realize that the whole world has changed and don’t fight it.  Embrace it.  It’s your chance to make some decisions that make you feel comforted, loved, and cared for. You can do this….you can handle the holidays and grieve and love and rest in God’s care.  The best way to honor your loved one is to not just survive, but to THRIVE. 

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Next Day - Handling the Holidays

Now is the time to think about the holidays coming up in the next several weeks.  Thanksgiving with Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day are approaching with their own set of past memories,  rituals, and traditions.  Don’t let this time of year scare you or force you to do things that are not healthy and honoring to you and your journey.  Spend the next few days thinking about how YOU would like to honor these days and holidays this year.

WHO would you like to spend time with? WHERE would you like to spend time? WHAT would YOU like to do?  Don’t let this holiday season sneak up on you and overwhelm you. Think about what you need and don’t be afraid to be slightly selfish for a change.  Take care of yourself this year.  There will be other years where you can “go with the flow”, where you will be in a better position to compromise with your family.  But this year, take care of YOU.  Your heart, your soul, and your loved one’s memory will be better served.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.”  Psalm 27:1-3(NASB)

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Handling the Holidays After a Loss?

The first years following a major life loss are challenging to say the least.  Changes in the family structure, loved ones absent from the table and long standing traditions beckoning to be "the same" surround Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s.   We need to re-evaluate, re-position and re-create how to deal with these significant days in our lives.  Join us on Wednesday, November 13th to learn about triggers that high-jack your emotions and situations that rob you of joy, as well tried and true approaches from fellow survivors that allowed them to honor their circumstances and remember what is most important now.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week 8 Further Along The Journey

A Legacy by Kurt Olson

Football season is in high gear across this country.  It’s played in the pee wee leagues and all the way to the NFL. Two of the most talked about positions are the quarterback and the receiver, and there have been many legendary players from both of those positions. This isn’t the type of legacy I want to write about today though.  Instead, I would like to look at the basic ideas of these two positions and make some comparisons to the concept of legacy in our own lives. To simply define the roles; as a quarterback, one of your primary job descriptions is to pass the ball, and as a receiver, your primary job is to catch the ball.

Quarterbacks   Quarterbacks need to deliver the ball on target at the right moment when the receiver breaks free. It doesn’t just happen by magic. The quarterback and the receiver work on it together in practice. A pass isn’t just thrown in any direction randomly, but is thrown to a specific spot, and to a specific intended receiver. Admittedly, legacy doesn’t work exactly like that. We don’t get the luxury of practice in giving our legacy to our kids. But when you think about your every-day life, you have the opportunity to raise or lower the legacy bar you are leaving by your actions.

A quarterback doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame by completing just one pass; he gets in because over the course of his career he has completed a number of winning passes.   Each day you can leave a little deposit on your life long legacy. The legacy my Dad left me was telling me that he loved me every day. I know men who have told me they never heard those words once from their fathers. I never had to guess if my Dad loved me. Does that mean that my Dad and I never had words?  No, it doesn’t mean that.  But it is a message I heard from him every day, and I knew he was in my corner and he loved me. 

Receivers  The job of the receiver is to catch the ball. By nature they have the ability to catch passes, whether they are from a great throw, or if they are poorly thrown. That is good news if you are cheering for the receiver in a football game.  However, it might be lousy news if the person you are leaving the legacy to is a great receiver and YOU are throwing a poor legacy message.
I was thinking back on the legacy my wife left my kids. Pam was a well-educated woman, an Electronic Engineer with a degree from Carnegie Melon, and with her Master’s from IIT. When we had our three kids and it came time for them to go to school, Pam decided to build into them more herself, and home schooled them as long as she could before she got sick. She also modeled every day what it looked like to be a Christ follower. My three kids have all decided to be teachers, and more importantly, they all follow Jesus.
Here are some things to consider:
1.      What is the legacy your loved one has left? How has that changed the way you do life?
      What is the legacy you are leaving? If the legacy isn’t what you would like others to remember you by, consider this; it’s never too late to change the message.
3.      Start today!

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Week 8 The Next Day - Legacy

When we think about the legacy we will leave behind, we are confronted face-to-face with the end of our own life and death.  And because that can be a difficult, we put off really considering how the way we are living our life now will directly impact the legacy that we leave when we die.

Don’t ignore the obvious.  We are sitting here in the loss and pain and sadness, can we not use these feelings for good, to make conscious decisions right now that will affect our legacy in the future?  Think…how you would like to be remembered.  What impact on this world would you like your loved ones to talk about for years to come AFTER you die?

It’s NOT morbid. It’s the reality and truth we live in AND – good news – we still have the ability to influence the outcome.  Our loved one is gone.  We are not.  While our living without them can seem burdensome, grab something that can be inspiring, grab onto something that can really change the world you live in.  That something is YOU and how you choose to live your life going forward.  Open your eyes and see, pray and then get moving.  There is something that still needs to be done that you were made by God to do.

Who wants to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…oh, I wish you had ________________.”    It’s a choice, you decide.

Are you interested in helping others in their season of loss and grief?   Check out this insightful book from Stephen's Ministry shown on our website http://griefslinky.blogspot.com/    “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Proverbs 25:20)

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 8 Introduction - Leaving a Legacy

Join us for the last night of the fall workshop on Wednesday, 11/6 at 7:30 p.m.  Former Willow Creek Community Church Pastor and Teacher Gene Appel challenges us to consider what we would leave behind if this were our last year here on earth. Uplifting and thought provoking, Gene encourages us to grab the time we still have to create a legacy that is enduring, impactful and God honoring. Pastor Appel walks us through what God outlines as a lasting legacy, ending with a powerful and emotional real life example that will force us all to think about our future differently. 

Learn more about our teacher by following this link: https://db.tt/UQw9fnzE

Are you interested in helping others in their season of loss and grief?   Check out this insightful book from Stephen's Ministry shown on our website http://griefslinky.blogspot.com/ 

“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Proverbs 25:20)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week 7 Further Along the Journey

Welcome to My Club by Nancy Hamlin

I spend most of my time making decisions about things I control.  Everything from what I want to buy at the grocery store, to what I want to wear today, to when I am going to get a new car, to who I am going out to dinner with tonight, to who I feel like talking to, to who I want to email…..you get the picture. Most of us spend our time making our own decisions about our own lives, sometimes consulting with others, often not.

When death comes rushing into our lives, it is like a tidal wave washing over us.  All of a sudden we are furiously treading water, swimming, trying to get our head above the waves just to catch our breath. My problem with this image is that I didn’t get to choose to jump into the water. I didn’t ask to have a tidal wave wash over my life. I am spending all of my energy, all of my survival skills on something that I never, ever wanted in my life.  What is going on? I do not want to be here. I do not want to improve my swimming skills or my treading water skills. I want to be on dry land.

Once I experienced a major death in my life, I became a very unwillingly member of the “survivor of a death” club.  I did not choose to be a part of this club. I do not want to be part of this club.  Again, I keep coming back to having no choice in the matter.  But here I am and I have to live in this.  I need to try and figure out what being in this club means.

While being in this club has many things about it I do not like, I have to admit it has totally changed my attitude towards life and death, and providing comfort and care to others going thru this similar journey.  Before my mother died, I had no idea what it felt like to lose someone I loved; to experience the depth of the pain, and the incredible heaviness of the feelings. I didn’t know the length of time it took to get on dry land again. Now I “get” it. Before, I didn’t.

Now, because I “get” what it is like to experience a death, I can be a completely different type of support system for my family and friends. Being “in the club” allows me to offer empathy, love, care, appropriate support, and words and actions that were totally foreign to me before joining the club. I didn’t know how to treat someone walking through a death before I walked through my own experience.

Am I a better friend? YES.  Am I am a better boss? YES. Am I a better family member?  YES.

And maybe that makes being in this club not so bad sometimes. I try to remember this when I can reach out and truly comfort someone who trusts my care…because I have been there; when I can talk and just listen, and not fix someone who is hurting…because I have been there; when I can hug someone without being asked…because I have been there; when I can just be there… because I have been there.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.  Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.     2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NLT)

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