“The thing is a change in perspective has the potential to change everything.”

“The thing is a change in perspective has the potential to change everything.”

surviving-holidays-laura-gThis year will be my fourth year celebrating the holidays since my Mom passed unexpectedly and quickly from cancer. I am not an expert on grief by any means, but I have discovered some helpful ways to make the holiday season still be one that I can fully celebrate in spite of the deep loss of my Mom not being a part of it. I am writing this in the hopes that what I’ve learned will be of some use to someone else that has suffered deep loss.

I would say this is THE most important and helpful tip I could give anyone regarding grief especially as a special day approaches.
As the anticipated day approaches, (whether it’s a holiday, an anniversary, birthday or any other big day that the loss may seem greater) allow yourself to grieve, don’t wait and hold it all in, in an attempt to “save” it for that special day.
Personally, I have learned that if I allow myself to be taken under the waves of grief as they roll in, I am able to resurface and experience peace again more quickly than if I try to control it by holding back and waiting for a convenient time. Another MAJOR benefit to this practice as special days approach is that by the time the special day becomes the present day, you’ve already grieved in such a way leading up to it, that the actual day becomes less sorrowful and more a day that can be truly celebrated.

I know that this may be a hard thing to practice, as it is a natural desire for our flesh to run away from what causes us pain. If this is you, take heart, my friend, may you find comfort from Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Did you notice that it doesn’t say, “Wait before you come to me”? No, it simply says “Come”. It has been my experience that when I come to him raw with honesty about my internal state of being, he meets me right then, where I am, and he gives me exactly what I need. REST.

Isaiah 54:10 “Thought he mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” It does my heart much good to remember that He has compassion on me, he hears my cries, and no matter what happens, his love for me is unfailing!
Typically the holiday season is one filled with traditions which makes it extra hard when one that you shared those traditions with is no longer present to take part with you.
The solution I have found for this is to do things differently than you normally would have. This enables you to be creative and to spend time thinking of new ways to make this time of year special with those that you still have to celebrate with, all the while it makes it not feel quite as big of a deal that the person you’re missing isn’t there because you’re doing things that they weren’t ever a part of. For instance, if you normally would gather on Christmas Eve and have a formal dinner, try meeting in a more casual setting and having an appetizer/dessert and game night. A personal example for me, we would normally all gather at my Mom’s on Christmas for brunch. This gave us time with our immediate families in the morning to open presents. Now that my Mom is gone, I have found much joy in planning some sort of special breakfast/brunch to surprise my kids with on Christmas morning instead of rushing off to my Mom’s house. I also carry on a tradition my Mom started when I was younger and I wrap a few “family presents” (games) to put under the tree. This way we have some family activities to fill our time on Christmas Day, and it feels fun to honor a tradition she started. I find Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 especially encouraging whenever a change is hard. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven (v 1)…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a tie to dance (v 4).” I cry and grieve as Christmas approaches, and I laugh and dance on Christmas Day.

Staying busy by focusing on others through the holiday season helps me to get my focus off of my loss and myself, and back to Christ and his command to love and serve others. Be creative and look for ways to serve in secret. If you have kids this is a great way to teach them that this life is not about us, it’s about bringing glory to God’s name. A tradition I started with my kids after my Mom died is baking cookies and homemade bread to take to all of the neighbors on my street, along with a Christmas card that shares about Jesus’ birth. Phil 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” –even in grief.
As the very first Christmas I had without my Mom approached, I remember having the realization that every day without her was hard, which begged the question, “Why should that particular day be any harder?” Even as I write that question I can hear in my head all of the arguments one could make against it. The thing is a change in perspective has the potential to change everything. Sure, one could have the perspective that a certain day will be harder, but does it have to be that way? Or can we change our perspective, and decide that it doesn’t have to be? Let me give you an example, one of the hardest things about not having my Mom here anymore is being able to call her to share with her the funny, exciting, or hard things that are happening with my kids. Another big one is not being able to discuss the hardships of my own life as she was very wise and knew me so well. These are some of the everyday losses that feel excruciating and are no less painful than not being able to spend Christmas or any other holiday with her. In my experience, deciding that the loss doesn’t have to feel any worse on a holiday than any other day has proven to make it not so bad on the actual holiday or anniversary. I suggest trying it!

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

Lastly, remembering 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” My Mom loved and followed Jesus faithfully, thus I have the assurance that she is in Heaven.
One of the things that help get me through Christmas and birthdays is remembering her love for Him, and her desire to be with Him in Heaven one day. I allow myself to imagine what it is like for her in Heaven on Christmas. Is there an amazing birthday celebration, or is every day a celebration? I picture what her face used to look like when He would move her in some way, I wonder if she has that look on her face all of the time now. Remembering that when she was here on Earth there was no place she would’ve rather been than in His presence, helps me to rejoice that she is there because I love her, instead of focusing on what it’s like for me to not have her here.

“Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” (vs 6) “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

Psalm 95:1, 6

It is my hope for all that have experienced loss to know that the Lord is good, and His love endures forever.

Laura

 

About Laura: My name is Laura, and I’m a daughter of the One True King. I’m a warrior in training for His Kingdom. I’m a sinner redeemed by Jesus. The only good you will find in me comes from Him, Jesus in me. Without Him, I’m just a mess… I’m also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.  My passion is to inspire women to desire change, to go, do, and be, the beautiful and powerful warrior daughters God created them to be.
Stay Connected: lauragthr@yahoo.com

 

“This last handwritten letter from my mom can be our marching prayer for our own family.”

942473_135972139946241_1082488315_nThis last handwritten letter from my mom can be our marching prayer for our own family. March on ladies…until He returns or calls us home. Mom left a mess of Jesus behind, and I mean that quite literally (see these notecards?!). Our home is still full of these scripture filled notecards in her precious writing. What will be your legacy?

My dearest Maria,

As I have thought and prayed about you for many years, I want to leave a legacy to each of my children. I know, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the legacy I leave is to be the legacy of the Holy Spirit’s mark in our lives, God’s thumbprint on the forehead and hearts of each of my children and influence to our grandchildren and possible great-grandchildren. This is done by pursuing our Savior, Jesus Christ, as our true Lord of our life. Today I began my “journals” to each of my children and possible love journal to my Husband. Throughout the years to come, I will make inscriptions of love, teaching, thoughts, encouragement, warnings, and prayers. All to better remind and equip you in this world even after I am gone. As I read today in Matthew 8:16-17, Jesus (with a word-His word) drove out demons into a herd of pigs, which ran to their death to be no more. In Matthew 8:23-27 He (with His word) rebuked the wind and waves and calmed the sea. In John 11:43-45 Jesus spoke (His words) “Lazarus, come out!” and he was raised from death. With Christ’s words, even the dead are raised!

Legacy, yes legacy, of knowing, writing, sharing, believing, living, and passing on my Father’s love to his love (His children, you). These are His words to you, Maria. He had his word’s put to paper, his love exposed and put to paper (all scripture is God breathed, 2 Timothy 3:16), but it is breathed on paper to be breathed on all of you. So I do what my Father does and continue to breathe in and breath out his Holy Spirit as far as He allows. You, sweet child, are charged with doing the same for the next generation: your children and possibly their friends as well. I love you, Maria, angel from Heaven, one with such beauty and grace. May you always love God with great passion and sacrifice when called to. Celebrate Christ every day. He is celebrating you this very moment.

xo-

Mom

Click here to read more pieces on the series Reflections on Grief 

View my grief story here

 

“Through the most darkest days of my life (to date), I got know Jesus in the way that his word because real to me”

“Through the most darkest days of my life (to date), I got know Jesus in the way that his word because real to me”

“It was too perfect to last,’ so I am tempted to say of our marriage. But it can be meant in two ways. It may be grimly pessimistic – as if God no sooner saw two of His creatures happy than He stopped it (‘None of that here!’). As if He were like the Hostess at the sherry-party who separates two guests the moment they show signs of having got into a real conversation. But it could also mean ‘This had reached its proper perfection. This had become what it had in it to be. Therefore of course it would not be prolonged.’ As if God said, ‘Good; you have mastered that exercise. I am very pleased with it. And now you are ready to go on to the next.”

This quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed, is a perfect summary of my journey with the Lord through my grief.

After my losses, everything I was sure to be true about God came into question, and that’s really painful when you’ve been a Christian for over 10 years. Often times I asked God, “what was the point of loving them so much only for it all to be taken away in an instant?”. In my pain, I spoke the language of someone pained and say things like, “I would’ve guarded myself against loving them that much had I known” and “you let me love them and you tricked me”. In my pain, I began to believe God wanted to rip the “rug” out from under me to teach me a lesson that he alone is God and I should not love anyone else more than him.

Fast forward this grief journey to today and I have a new understanding and certainty of what I am to do with this loss and who Jesus is to me, Maria. 2 Corinthians 1: 4 makes it very clear what the purpose for these losses were for me, “…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” and I have been comforted by him, in the most tender and intimate of ways.

Through the most darkest days of my life (to date), I got know Jesus in the way that his word because real to me, and I got to experience (first hand) just how true his words are, which is intimate. Instead of just telling you it was intimate, I’m going to share with you through one of my journal times with him …
Maria,

You believed me to be a tyrant King who is going to show you that it’s my way or the highway. You translated your losses to be a personal attack on you. You took my very words, in Romans, that say I work all things for the good of those who love me, to mean somehow your parents’ death was good for you. Death isn’t good. Your parents’ death was not good. Death is not what was intended when I created this world (Genesis). Your parents’ death wasn’t good for you, Maria, but I am going to work for your good and those are not the same meaning. Trust me, Child, because I died for you and I know…In Matthew 26, you see that I was in such great sorrow over my death that my sorrow felt like physical death. I get it and I get what this pain means for you. I knew what these losses were going to do to you and, child, I can handle it. I can handle your hurt, pain, and questions. I created you in your mama’s womb and I know your innermost places (Psalm 139). There is nothing you can do or say that will hurt or offend me so bad that I’ll leave you (Hebrews 13). I know this is painful and I hate it for you. I hate it for you so much that I died on the cross so you will never have to experience this again when you get to come home to me (Revelation 21). I needed you to see me (really see me) so you could know me and I could then heal the most broken areas of your heart, to heal the broken beliefs because you have three little ones I have given you to disciple. Your parents came home to me because “this had reached its proper perfection. This had become what it had in it to be.”

I become little a child, his child, with tears flowing down my cheeks. I grieve again but this time, I grieve not for my parents but to see him more because I’ve missed so much of him, I’ve missed so much of his love for me because I didn’t know it quite yet. I didn’t know he loved me like this, so personal. My parents’ death amputated me, but it’s been his love that has changed me. I’ll never be the same and it’s marked by the night I heard “Maria, your parents are dead” …

“Child, you have used the plane crash as evidence that I’m not all that good, but if that was true”

“Child, you have used the plane crash as evidence that I’m not all that good, but if that was true”

cropped-cropped-IMG_2714-3.jpg

 

My Daughter,

My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Come to me, you weary one, and I will give you rest  (Matthew 11:28). After your parent’s death, you’ve made a living off of being the “strong one”. You found courage in your own strength and ability. Child, I created you to be strong, don’t you know that (Ephesians 6:10)? I created you and knit you together in Kimberly Dawn Hatch’s womb. I, too, knit your mom together. She was created for you, by Me.  I wanted the best for you, and I gave you parents that would train you in the way you should go (Proverbs 22:6) so that you could have the true Bread of Life (John 6).

You hurt and you think it was I that hurt you. I know this is how you feel but I also know what’s in your heart. You may think you don’t have faith in my ability but you do. I just need to show you how much faith you have, in Me, like I showed my disciples in John 5. They were in a fearful situation, they saw me and yet vocally doubted and questioned my ability. You see, I knew they had faith, they just didn’t know it yet so I revealed to them just how deep their faith in me ran. You’ve fallen into this trap of believing you need to work out your faith but you don’t. You do not have to work out your faith because it’s already done and sealed, and I’m going to teach you how to trust me more because I desire you. When you focus on the plane crash, you see the destruction of all the beauty that once was, and that’s excruciating (this is no surprise to me). This is just like my people, the Israelites, when I was leading them out of slavery into the Promised Land (Exodus). When the Israelites took their eyes off of all the good I was doing, they only saw how I didn’t provide and missed my goodness (Exodus 16). When you only see the destruction of  what once was, you miss the joy of a family I lavished on you and, in doing so, miss the gift of their life. Their life and unity in marriage was a provision for you, and if I provided for you then, will I not again?!  Maria, claim Isaiah 43: 19 because it’s yours for the taking: “Behold! I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Child, you have used the plane crash as evidence that I’m not all that good, but if that was true, then my words wouldn’t be true. This is what I know of my daughter, Maria, she knows the Bible is true and therefore, doubting my goodness can’t hold true. I just need to help show you for yourself just how deep your faith runs. Don’t twist this into meaning you need to somehow prove your faith to me because I already know my daughter’s heart. It is you that doesn’t quite see it yet. I am doing a new thing in you, Maria. There are nothing and no one that could snatch you from my hand because you are mine. Your salvation was finished on the cross (John 19:30) so there is nothing more you can do to add or take away from it. All I ask from you is to believe me (John 6:29). Will you believe that I will finish the good work I started in you until completion (Philippians 1:6)?

Jesus loves you (John 3:16),

The Bread of Life (John 6)

 

Grief, from a different angle.

Grief, from a different angle.

something-has-died

When people think about loss and grief, they tend to think about death. When things die, we grieve. Last year, my eyes were opened to the reality that grief is unfortunately a much broader term, a much more inclusive hardship than I had realized.

Sometimes, the loss of a relationship – even the change of a relationship – can be something we mourn and grieve. Even if the person stays with us in the life, and even with us in relationship.

Sometimes we have to let go of our expectations and desires for relationships. Sometimes it’s our husband, or a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend. We have hopes and expectations of these people who are in our lives, and often we’re unaware that we even have these expectations.

It is when we see that those hopeful expectations are not being met that we realize what is happening.

Not until we are let down, hurt, abused, mistreated, offended, or disappointed again do we come to the realization that the relationship might never be what we had hoped for, what God had intended it to be. It is then that we experience real loss. Real grief, even without death, in the truest form.

  • You might be a wife, submitting to the reality of your difficult marriage, so much less than what you had dreamed it would be, but unwilling to consider divorce because of your beliefs. Maybe you feel stuck, and you grieve your loss every day as you move through it.
  • You might be a mom, letting go of a relationship with a daughter that you can’t seem to reconcile because something has become between you two. Maybe this flawed and broken world has left her unwilling for restoration and it’s breaking your heart.
  • You might be a daughter, realizing that you’ll never quite receive the unconditional love, support, and approval that you always thought you had from your father. Maybe he cares for you, but it’s conditional. Maybe he has left you, or hurt you. Maybe he doesn’t approve of the decisions that he’s made. Maybe you never met him at all.
  • You might have become estranged from a sibling because you can’t see eye to eye on something important. Maybe one of you didn’t make the choice to love each other without condition when things get hard. Maybe one of you took distance, and you are unable to close the gap.

Whatever it looks like, it’s clear something has died. It will never be what we long for, what we wanted, what God intended for us, and what seems right.

And so we mourn.

We mourn the approval, the emotional proximity, the unconditional acceptance, the unwavering support, the love-me-even-at-my-worst kind of love, the picture of what it should have been.

We may go numb, we may cry out, we may shut down, we may fall into a depression, we may hate ourselves for whatever we did to contribute to the brokenness, we may place blame, we may ball in a heap on the floor.

And then, like anyone who grieves, we are forced to move on.

And what we move on to is the one who loves us more. Unconditionally. Unwaveringly. At our worst. In the pit. He sees and knows us to the core, and loves us even still.

And His love, it keeps on loving. Our hopes, our expectations, are fulfilled and then out done. Every. Single. Time.

His love endures forever. | Palms 136:26

 

Bio:

Taylor Monaco is a work from home mom of two little ones. She started the Fresh Lens blog (www.thefreshlens.com) as an outlet for her love of photography and the word of God. On the Fresh Lens, she seeks to give others a fresh look into His biblical truth because she knows that in Him, we see things quite indifferently.

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