When Grief Comes Unexpected

As I walked through Kohl’s, searching for the best Christmas gift for my niece, I passed a shelf full of the cutest little dolls. I stopped to pick one up, then held it to my face – the soft, cuddliness of a little girl’s toy.

Suddenly, I realized I never had the joy of buying my daughter a doll.

Fierce and unexpected grief crushed me. Overwhelmed me. Paralyzed me. Right there, in the middle of the toy section of Kohl’s, I found a corner – alone – and wailed out my grief.

No one came to help me, but that was okay. I could not have spoken to anyone or stopped my grieving.

After a while, I sat there in the corner, unable to move. The wailing was over, but I still held that little doll and wondered what it might have felt like to wrap it in a box, put a pretty bow on top and watch my baby girl open it.

I would never know.

My Rachel slipped out of my womb too early for life on this earth. At only twelve weeks, she could not survive. In fact, the doctor performed a D&C (dilation and curettage) to remove any leftover “tissue.” The remnants of my daughter’s body collected into a petri dish for further study, to find out what happened – why she was born and died so early.

No easy answers. No way to prevent its happening. In fact, two years before, I lost my little boy, Ryan – also at twelve weeks.

The most surprising thing about my grieving experience in Kohl’s was that it happened 33 years after my little girl died. You would think after 33 years, all my grieving would have been completed.

Evidently not. Something about that doll triggered the pain and the remembrance of losing my Rachel – something I could not anticipate or prepare my heart for.

Grief is a most amazing and scary thing. Immediately after the loss, as we begin to grieve, we think … well, I’ll cry and just get over this. Then I’ll move on.

Our society teaches us this is the correct way to deal with grief.

But not necessarily. Everyone grieves differently.

No one can tell you how to grieve or how long it will last. I certainly didn’t think I would be grieving 33 years after the event.

Some of us hope to avoid grief by seeing a counselor, joining a support group or praying our guts out. All these methods may help us deal with the grief.

But we can’t avoid it. We can’t just hope to get over it.

Grief is something we have to go THROUGH.

It’s sort of like puberty. We can’t jump from age eleven to age eighteen without experiencing pimples, hormonal changes and myriads of mood swings.

But as we go through puberty, we grow and learn who we really are. Then one day we realize…okay, I’ve finally grown up.

Grief may come in the stages Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

But even those stages cannot be predicted. No one can tell us how long a particular stage will last – or if it will ever completely go away.

Most of us don’t grieve in nice little bundles of time. The grief process is messy, weird and hard to figure out. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to figure it out.

Grief will always, always change us. Hopefully, for the better – to make us kinder and more sensitive to the griefs of others, to keep us from becoming hard and bitter, to enable us to grow up a bit more.

That’s why I knew I couldn’t just leave Kohl’s and forget about my grief. I had to give it a voice and work through it – even 33 years after my baby died.

When I finally did leave my corner in the store, I drove home and journaled for a while. Then I felt better. I knew I had moved through another piece of my grief.

Even though I never had the chance to buy my Rachel a doll, I know my daughter still lives – somewhere in heaven where I will someday meet her. I’ll wrap her in my arms and tell her how much I missed sharing earth with her.

And then…I’ll move through the final stages of grief and feel the joy of total healing.

©2017 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

When God Endorses Change

karen-morerodI took myself to the attic and left her there.

Maybe it was because I was tired. Or – maybe, just maybe – God told me to leave her there. I’d like to think it was about obedience. But here’s how it all went down.

I had performed dramas for churches and women’s gatherings for over ten years. Exhilaration soared when I performed. Audiences varied in size. Sometimes over 100. Other times, small, quaint women’s events.

The number of people didn’t matter. After each performance, as I walked off the stage, I thought, That’s what I was made for.  

I could slip into Esther’s royal clothes or Rahab’s PG-rated costume and assume their life stories. I wrote the scripts to help their faith message come alive in the 21st century. I felt like I knew them.

Sometimes I thought I was them – at times wondering what name I should put on my grave marker: Here lies Karen/Esther/Rahab. 

Then life got messy. My dad unexpectantly passed away. Eight months later, my beloved 96 year-old aunt that I helped care for died. Within the week, Mom’s death blindsided us.

I went from being Karen/Esther/Rahab to not knowing who I was, where I fit in, or how I could take the next step.

I was tired. Sad. Grief-stricken.

In the middle of this introspection, I had forgotten I scheduled a performance for what would be five months after we buried my mom. No problem, I thought. Surely I would be recovered by then.

Not.

Anxiety built as the performance approached. Could I speak in front of people? Would I remember my lines? Could I be a believable character with everything I had just gone through?

I had made the commitment, so I started praying. I prayed through the fear. I prayed about my attitude of simply not wanting to do it.

In my car one day, it seemed as if God whispered, “It’s okay to quit. You don’t have to keep doing this.”

Maybe it was God’s sense of humor adding, “It’s time to let younger women tote around scenery, cake on layers of make-up and dress up like somebody else.

My heart shouted, “REALLY? I don’t have to keep doing this?

It seemed strange to want to release something I was made for. But, after more praying, I knew this season was over.

The last performance was well received by a warm, friendly group of women. I fought a few tears as I left the stage, but I knew this was right. And it felt good.

A few days later, I gathered all my props, costumes, and scripts. I boxed them up and took myself to the attic and left her there. Another season finale.

Changing seasons can be hard, although sometimes they are met with excitement. Either way, I know God endorses change.

He will help me – and you – through those changes. He will love on us, calm our fears, and even show us what’s on the next season’s schedule.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

©2016 Karen Morerod 

Karen Morerod lives and writes to encourage others, to point them to the One who knows and loves them more than they can imagine. You can find her on her front porch, with her family, or sneaking chocolate at www.karenmorerod.com and on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Finding the Value in Group Relationships

At GateWay of Hope, we offer various groups for women – groups that foster hope, healing and wholeness.Sharing Experiences - Bengston quote

The group dynamic offers several benefits that help us move forward in life:

  • In groups, we realize we are not alone.
  • Within the group dynamic, we begin to grow new relationships with each other.
  • As group members build relationship, we teach each other.

How do these different dynamics work?

WE’RE NOT ALONE

When we go through a struggle in life, we often feel as if we’re all alone. Sometimes we may even isolate ourselves so the aloneness becomes not only emotional but also physical.

But within a group, we meet other women who are going through the same struggle. They may even have the same experiences we’ve had.

Even with different experiences, we learn how to deal with the struggle – using a shared solution.

For example: every woman has had a loss of some kind whether it is within a relationship, a circumstance of life, even something as seemingly normal as moving to another state. And we need to grieve those losses in healthy ways.

All women grieve about something. But we don’t grieve in the same way or within the same timeline.

We learn, within groups, to respect that difference in each other yet to empathize because we, too, have grieved.

In some of the more unique groups at GateWay, we address issues women try to keep secret.

A woman who is married to a sex addict is not going to announce her struggle to the world. She will not share that trauma with even some of her best friends.

But within the safety of our group, “Restoring Hope After Betrayal,” women share the secret and realize they are not alone in the struggle.

They support each other, empathize with each other and help each other grow.

GROWING NEW RELATIONSHIPS

This wonderful phenomenon happens within every GateWay group.

Women from various demographics and ages begin to know each other and share together. They focus on the topic of the group, listen to the facilitator and dare to reveal their secrets.

Then one or more of them will bring a snack, share a favorite recipe or decide on a meetup at another time outside their group meeting.

They schedule a coffee together, either at GateWay or in another location. They discover a talent they share, a dream they both have or maybe the same parenting challenges.

They draw a bit closer in relationship and soon they schedule play dates together with their kids, introduce each other to their husbands and/or invite each other into their homes.

They become friends – sisters – with a shared background and now – a new relationship.

We love to see this happening at GateWay, and we welcome the value of relationships as women grow stronger together.

TEACHING EACH OTHER

We may have shared experiences, but we don’t all learn in the same ways.

Women who grow together in groups share some of their practical tips with each other. Sometimes the older women help the younger ones; sometimes it works the other way around.

Dr. Michelle Bengtson reminds us how the sharing of our experiences may teach us valuable lessons and perhaps keep us from repeating past mistakes.

We help each other deal with the present but also prepare for the future. And as we heal from the past, we become stronger and more alert so we can help others.

The cycle of health then continues and reproduces itself. Women become stronger.

What we may not have learned from our mothers or grandmothers, we can learn from other women.

Women teaching women. It’s a biblical and a historical truth.

As we teach one another, we grow the dynamic of relationship even better which results in a new normal of strong, confident women moving forward in life to make a difference in our homes, our communities and our world.

So get involved in a group. If you’re interested in groups at GateWay, check out our website. We’re putting together groups for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

©2016 GateWay of Hope

How to Deal With Holiday Grief

The lyrics from a Christmas song suggest that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Yet for women who are grieving, the holidays represent fresh sorrow.

How do we survive the holiday season when everyone else acts like a cheerful elf? depressed woman

Perhaps some of these tips will help:

Express Your Feelings. It’s okay to grieve, even during Christmas. Others may not understand but you are not responsible for how they feel. You are only responsible for yourself and your own reactions. Allow yourself time to grieve.

Be With People You Enjoy. Although it’s okay to grieve, it’s also important not to isolate yourself. Surround yourself with a support group that will encourage you and help you through the grief.

Embrace the Memories. Hanging ornaments on the tree often brings back special memories. Make that special holiday food or play that favorite Christmas song. Remember the good times.

Re-examine Your Priorities. You don’t have to do everything you once did to make the holidays special. Eliminate any unnecessary stress. Set realistic expectations. Simplify.

Take Care of Yourself. It’s easy to eat too much of the wrong foods, drink too much and miss out on rest. Especially during the holidays and especially while you are grieving, take care of yourself.

Exercise. This tip underscores the idea of taking care of yourself. A brisk walk in the cool air will clear your head, boost your endorphins and help you deal with holiday stress.

Remember, it’s just one day. Soon, the holidays will be over and you will launch into a new year. This difficult season will be past. Keep looking forward, keep trusting God and think about tomorrow.

Do What Feels Comfortable. Set your own boundaries. You don’t have to meet everyone’s expectations, and you don’t have to be involved in the same activities as before. Do what you want to do.

Create New Traditions. Your world is not the same as before, but you still have the freedom to do whatever you want. Try something new and create a new holiday tradition.

Do Something for Others. One of the best ways to get beyond our own grief is to consider the needs of others. Visit a nursing home. Make a treat for your neighbors. Go caroling at a hospital. Get beyond yourself and offer hope to someone else.

Consider Counseling. If you’re feeling as if you can’t cope, consider counseling. Take care of yourself by doing whatever is necessary to make it through the holidays and move forward with hope.

What about you? How do you best cope with holiday grief?

©2015 GateWay of Hope

 

How to Transition Well

We’re in a transition time at GateWay. We have a new Executive Director and this week, we’ll begin our move to a new location.801 N Murlen - new site

All transitions are a bit tricky, but if we’re determined to do them well – they can result in joy.

Whether we’re packing boxes, finding ways to repurpose furniture or sharing financials with a new staff member – transitions involve several levels of movement in order to succeed.

–          Patience

Everyone is tired. We’re working longer hours and moving heavy boxes. We’re deciding what to keep and what to give away, choosing paint colors while doing ministry, drinking another cup of our chosen caffeine.

We do this transition well by being patient with others and with ourselves. Hurry doesn’t solve anything and can result in a broken lamp or a wounded heart.

We take deep breaths, do what we can, when we can, and know that step by step – the work WILL get done.

–          Grace

GateWay of Hope has been in this location and serving well for nine years. That’s a lot of memories and dynamics between people and even objects.

Moving to a new location forces us to clean out messes, throw away trash and wrap carefully the things we treasure.

It also forces us to consider the grief of change and how that affects all of us – staff, volunteers, board members and our precious GateWay women.

We give each other grace every day – and lots of hugs.

–          Acceptance

Our new space will look different although we’ll work hard to make it still feel like the cozy, safe atmosphere of GateWay.

We’ll use much of the same furniture, flowers and pictures, but we’ll design the space to accommodate new rooms and various dimensions.

With time, we’ll all grow accustomed to GateWay of Hope at 801 North MurLen. We’ll recognize the same spirit of acceptance and respect for every person who enters. And we’ll move forward to help women find hope, healing and wholeness.

So be patient with us and give us grace as we meander through this transition. Accept the changes and embrace the newness.

And remember that GateWay of Hope isn’t just a location. It’s also where God Himself stretches out his arms to welcome his daughters home.

©2015 GateWay of Hope

When the Road Leads to Grief

I never heard the phone ring, but my husband’s voice jolted me awake. “Cindy, Cindy, wake up. Answer the phone! Cindy, answer the phone!”

It was 1:30 a.m. Was I dreaming? I wished I was. The message would alter my life forever.bend in the road quote

My oldest sister had just been killed in a car accident. Disbelief, shock and fear entered my mind as unwelcomed guests. What do you do with sudden tragic news?

Questions flooded my mind but I had no answers. How did this happen? Was she really dead or maybe just hurt? Why would God let this happen? The hours that followed were filled with unbelievable sadness and heartache.

I recalled seeing a billboard along a highway: “If I never tell you why, will you still trust me?

Would I still trust God? Could I still trust him? Trust Him to be loving and good in the midst of such pain?

My sister was a breast cancer survivor. As an oncology nurse she had been driving home from a “Seven Levels of Healing” class she was teaching to other cancer patients. She had been married only seven weeks to a man she affectionately referred to as her “Boaz”; the man who had captured and redeemed her heart to love again after her 23-year marriage came to an unwanted, abrupt end.

She was the happiest I had ever seen her. Then it hit me. She died happy. She was cancer free. She had healed from her divorce, renewed old friendships and married a college sweetheart. Not many of us live happy, let alone die happy.

She had a favorite sign that read, “The bend in the road isn’t the end of the road, unless you refuse to take the turn.”

My sister took the turn to trust God with her cancer diagnosis, through her divorce, and in her choice to forgive.

Because of her example, I was able to take the turn to trust God in the midst of my grief.

The morning after her death, I read Psalm 27. Verse 13 gave me hope to trust in the goodness of God despite my painful circumstance. “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Although I cried many tears, I would not grieve as those who have no hope. As Christians, we have the hope of heaven. As sisters, I have precious memories. As her friend, I will be forever grateful she left a legacy of love, forgiveness and trust.

She showed us all how to trust God with the bends in the road.

©2015 Cindy Richardson
For over 20 years, Cindy Richardson has been guiding little kindergarten hearts to love Jesus while mentoring and teaching women’s hearts through Bible study, retreats and speaking engagements. Her desire is to encourage, challenge and inspire women to trust the Father’s heart.

Image courtesy of SearchQuotes.com

God’s Heart for Women

The next time you’re in a group of people, look around at the women

.

At least 25% of them have been sexually assaulted or will be during their lifetimes. For those who are married, half of them will be divorced.

A majority will struggle through depression and low self-esteem while every one of them will experience some type of loss.depressed woman

The stats are daunting and we believe the percentages are actually higher, because some women will never report rape or childhood abuse.

Some women are hiding their memories so deeply, they don’t even remember the trauma.

At GateWay of Hope, we work to help women know the truth, face the pain and work through it.

But as much as we respect women and want to help them, someone else loves them even more.

In the book of Lamentations from the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah writes, “My eyes flow with rivers of tears at the destruction of my people. My tears will pour out in a ceaseless stream until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees us. My heart is grieved when I see what has happened to the women of the city” (Lamentations 3:48-51 Good News Translation).

These verses underscore the fact that God loves women and he is grieved with what is happening to them.

He cries with each little girl who is abused, and he takes that assault seriously. Someday he will judge those who have injured his precious daughters.

He empathizes with women who struggle through depression and grief because he knows how difficult it is to feel alone, rejected and sad.

He comforts women who have been abandoned and betrayed by their spouses. He promises to be their eternal husband and maker as well as taking special care of their children.

God grieves over his daughters because he knows how wonderful they are. He planted within them brave giftings that have not been respected, tender hearts that have been bruised and strong minds that have been tormented.

He cares. He grieves and he promises to make it right. “Your innocence will be clear to everyone. God will vindicate you with the blazing light of justice shining down as from the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6 The Living Bible).

Someday, justice will be complete. God will judge those who have hurt his daughters and he will bring wholeness and healing to all the women he so dearly loves.

In the meantime, he is available and eager to comfort his daughters.

At GateWay of Hope, we help women embrace that truth and show them how to trust the God who grieves for the women of the city.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Writing Through the Grief

The inaudible voice in my heart was unmistakable and the message clear: I want you to write your daughter’s story and I will give you the strength to do it.Bethanys Calendar Cover

It was not an assignment I relished; in fact, it was a directive I dreaded.

Write about my daughter, Lord? Seriously?

The thought of re-living my daughter, Bethany’s battle with a terminal brain tumor seemed a daunting and emotionally painful task.

How could I bear that step-by-step recollection of the worst days of my life?

Yet, after decades of knowing Christ as my Savior, I knew it was pointless to argue with the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Since the unspoken message came during the Spirit-filled praise and worship time at a 2011 writer’s conference, I decided I had not imagined this mission.

In the midst of my angst, the Comforter continued to reassure me He would be there as I wrote each and every word.

Yet I knew every phrase would be wrought through an onslaught of tears.

I delayed starting this “assignment,” knowing how difficult it would be. But that inner voice kept nagging my spirit, even while I continued to write my preferred genre of historical fiction.

In 2014, I finally gave in and began my daughter’s story.

On New Year’s Day that year, I sat in my home office and read through Bethany’s journals, which she had started when she was barely old enough to put sentences together.

Reading through her lifetime of thoughts was an indescribable gift and a legacy of her faith in Christ. It was a day of reading that I will always treasure.

I gathered excerpts from her diaries and used them to open each chapter. Amazingly, nearly every quote fit beautifully with the topics. Even more amazing, the writing of the book flowed unhindered.

Of course, I kept my box of tissues nearby and used them frequently. But my daughter’s story bloomed like a perennial garden after a long, cold winter.

It was time to push through the dirt of disease and show the beauty of a life lived well for the Lord.

The response to Bethany’s Calendar has been more than I could have hoped for. So many readers share how they have been touched by the things our family learned during Bethany’s illness and ultimate passing to eternity.

From caregivers to patients to those who just want to help others going through illness, I pray Bethany’s Calendar is a blessing to all. Just as Bethany was a blessing to us.

©2015 Elaine Marie Cooper Elaine Cooper
This post first appeared in “Southern Writers Suite T” blog.

Bio: Elaine Marie Cooper has released her first non-fiction book, Bethany’s Calendar. It is a personal memoir of her daughter who died of a brain tumor and how the Lord was their strength during the darkest journey of their lives.
As a novelist, Elaine Marie Cooper has written “Fields of the Fatherless” and the “Deer Run Saga.” Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her historical fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels. Visit her website at: http://www.elainemariecooper.com

11 Tips for Dealing with Holiday Grief

The lyrics from a Christmas song suggest that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Yet for women who are grieving, the holidays represent fresh sorrow.Christmas ornament

How do we survive the holiday season when everyone else acts like cheerful elves while all we want to do is curl up in the fetal position and forget?

Perhaps some of these tips will help:

Express Your Feelings. It’s okay to grieve, even during Christmas. Others may not understand but you are not responsible for how they feel. You are only responsible for yourself and your own reactions. Allow yourself time to grieve.

Be With People You Enjoy. Although it’s okay to grieve, it’s also important not to isolate yourself too long. Surround yourself with a support group that will encourage you and help you through the grief.

Embrace the Memories. Hanging ornaments on the tree often brings back special memories. Make that special holiday food or play that favorite Christmas song. Remember the good times.

Re-examine Your Priorities. You don’t have to do everything you once did to make the holidays special. Eliminate any unnecessary stress. Set realistic expectations. Simplify.

Take Care of Yourself. It’s easy to eat too much of the wrong foods, drink too much and miss out on rest. Especially during the holidays and especially while you are grieving, take care of yourself.

Exercise. This tip follows with taking care of yourself. A brisk walk in the cool air will clear your head, boost your endorphins and help you deal with holiday stress.

Remember, it’s just one day. Soon, the holidays will be over and you will launch into a new year. This difficult season will be past. Keep looking forward, keep trusting God and think about tomorrow.

Do What Feels Comfortable. Set your own boundaries. You don’t have to meet everyone’s expectations, and you don’t have to be involved in the same activities as before. Do what you want to do.

Create New Traditions. Your world is not the same as before, but you still have the freedom to do whatever you want. Try something new and create a new holiday tradition.

Do Something for Others. One of the best ways to get beyond our own grief is to consider the needs of others. Visit a nursing home. Make a treat for your neighbors. Go caroling at a hospital. Get beyond yourself and offer hope to someone else.

Consider Counseling. If you’re feeling as if you can’t cope, consider counseling. Take care of yourself by doing whatever is necessary to make it through the holidays and move forward with hope.

What about you? How do you best cope with holiday grief?

2013 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Never Abandoned

“God has assured us, ‘I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.’” Hebrews 13:5 The Message Bible

Abandonment. Betrayal. Desertion.heart of art

These are scary terms but also realities for many women. Abandonment can come in many different forms – a husband betrays his wedding vows and walks away from the marriage, a child abandons the beliefs and values he was raised with, a consultant comes into the workplace and decides that certain employees no longer represent the company.

We sometimes feel betrayed by our own bodies when we try to take care of ourselves but the ravages of old age and the chemicals in our environment work against us. We’re sick and we’re tired of staying sick.

We feel betrayed by the system that is supposed to protect women, yet domestic violence continues to display its horrific results on the nightly news.

Sometimes we are deserted by a friend who leaves us for a good reason – a move across country for a better job or for a not so good reason – a miscommunication that resulted in hurt feelings and the breaking of the relationship.

What do we do when we feel abandoned, betrayed, deserted?

We need to take care of ourselves and then get some help. It’s important to grieve what has happened to us, maybe learn some new things from the experience and then move forward in life to try again – to make new friends, to try a new relationship or to move ourselves out of a toxic environment.

Talking to a therapist might be a good step. Joining a grief group at GateWay of Hope would place us in the company of others who understand. Spending some time in solace to journal and think through our emotions. Reaching out to someone who has also been abandoned and come through on the other side.

One thing we can depend on: God will never desert us. He will never abandon his daughters and he will never betray our trust. He knows how much betrayal hurts. It isn’t in his character to do that to us.

When we’re feeling alone and the pain of abandonment seems more real than ever before, we can lift up our souls to the only One who can be trusted forever with our hearts.

If you want to talk about this, call us at 913.393.GATE (4283). We care about hurting women.

©2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women