Tag Archives: grief

Christmas Countdown – The Tree

Family time decorating the tree 2003

Family time decorating the tree 2003

We are now within  weeks of Christmas. Friends have asked me what we have done to prepare our home for Christmas. I would like to share some of our new traditions in hopes they will help you during this bitter-sweet time of the year.

It may take two weeks to get our tree up and decorated because of our schedules but it now has a prominent place in our living room. We have dressed it with glass balls, heirloom ornaments and new sparkly ones. We have the handmade ornaments with pictures of the kids growing up and ones bought on family vacations to spark memories.

The new tradition we brought to our tree are ornaments which represent each of our loved ones who are spending Christmas with Jesus. Josh has a soldier, Beth a snowboarder, and Chris has two – a camping tent and snowboard boot. When we hung these we told stories and shed a few tears. They are with us in our hearts as we look at our tree.

There are a myriad of stories depicting where the tradition of the Christmas tree began.

  • It is a Conifer which is green year round, even when the other trees seem to have died. To me it represents eternal life and stringing it with lights is like bringing the stars inside.
  • The Vikings saw the evergreen tree as a symbol of strength. It survived the long, dark, cold winters. They brought this reminder into their homes. When things got really tough and they felt as though they couldn’t survive they would see the tree and remember to be strong.

What a great symbol for us who celebrate a ‘blue’ Christmas. Grief is similar to winter, it too is long, dark, and cold but God wants us to remember He is with us. Through Him we can be “strong and courageous’ (Joshua 1:9) while leaning on Christ. One reason He came was to “bind up the brokenhearted”.

My new favorite “flower” is the Poinsettia. It is one of few flowers which will only bloom in the dark. I feel my sorrow may have darkened my world but God brought forth flowers, beauty out of ashes.

May you feel God’s strength wrapped around you this Christmas season.

What will you do differently with your Christmas tree to remember your loved one this year?

 

One Reason We Don’t Receive

She struggled her way through the dense crowd which engulfed Jesus. She approachedTeen Acquainted with Grief - girl purposefully from behind not wanting to draw attention. Her goal was simple, reaching Jesus. Accomplishing it could be life threatening but this was a life or death action. She could not wait. Successfully reached Jesus unnoticed, she stretched her hand and touched his robe.

She had bled for over 12 years exhausting her resources without answers. This Jesus was known to heal. He was on his way to heal. It was what he did. She knew, deep in her heart, if she could just touch his robe. This was her chance. She did not need eye contact. Who was she anyway? She was nobody, shunned by everyone else, unclean. But Jesus, she knew that Jesus could heal her. A touch was all she needed.

She reached, “If I just touch his clothes,” flit through her mind boosting her courage. Fingers grazed the fabric and immediately her bleeding stopped. She knew she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:28-29) The surge of this power stopped her in her tracks as she embraced the sensation, allowing it to fill her and empty out – push out – all that was impure in the face of pure holiness.

The crowd flowed past but only for a split second before everyone stopped. She glanced up, He had turned and was looking straight at her. She diverted her eyes not wanting attention drawn to her, wanting to be invisible.

He spoke, “Who touched me?”

“Master, the crowds are hemming you in and pressing against you.” One of His disciples said.

Jesus was insistent, “Who touched me? I know power has gone out from me.”

The woman felt a finger pointed directly at her though not a hand was raised.

She fell at his feet feeling equally grateful and exposed. Without raising her head she told her story. In His deep compassion He tenderly slid his hand below her chin lifting her face, “Daughter, your faith has healed you, go in peace.”

Jesus, was surrounded by people “hemmed in” people constantly bumped into Him. Why didn’t power flow into everyone? Why her? Enough power left Him that He knew someone received healing. He stopped. I think He wanted to make full contact, not just ignore her like everyone else had. He knew who had touched Him – He wanted her to speak, to say out loud what she needed to acknowledge, her need for His healing.

No one else was healed. Many may have needed His touch but didn’t ask. Maybe out of fear or they were unsure He would, or could do it. Whatever was the cause they didn’t ask, so they didn’t receive, “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2. It was her faith that brought healing. She asked, by her action, with full expectation of being healed.

Ask and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

What do you need that only Christ can supply?                           What is keeping you from asking?

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How much can you bear?

Prepare

Prepare

The quiet of the morning was a welcome reprieve to the hectic night I had on the ambulance. I put this time to good use doing inventory on the rig and shelves in the storage area. We needed to always be ready. This moment of calm could be interrupted any moment. Emergency Medical Services could be misinterpreted by the outside world as Earning Money Sleeping. Yes there can be long periods of extreme boredom but it is punctuated by intense levels of adrenaline. When tones sound waking us from a deep sleep we have to be ready for anything. The honest truth is we are a highly trained, well equipped rolling Emergency room.

Interrupting my inventory Cynthia, a member of the next shift, entered the room. In a glace I could read her face, she was low enough emotionally to be able to walk under a door. I wanted to cheer her up. What does a Christian say to another Christian to cheer them up? I grabbed for the one I had heard and used often,

“Cynthia, God will never give you more than you can handle.” I paused, expecting this to lift her spirit. “That is not what it says, go look it up!” was her sharp retort.

What? I was shocked and my face probably showed it as I became instantly silent not knowing any reply for that statement.

My shift ended and I headed home, straight for my concordance. I really didn’t know where that scripture was in the Bible but I knew it was there. I heard it in songs, read it in sympathy cards, and heard pastors use it in sermons. I searched under “handle” and came up empty handed so I looked under “more” and still no results. Wondering what other words could be used to convey the thought I struck on “bear” as in ‘more than you can bear’. I struck gold when I read “more than you can bear” cited in 1 Corinthians 10:13. I opened my Bible and read, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Wait, that can’t be right! There must be another verse; this one deals with temptation not trials. I searched for another 30 minutes before I realized 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the verse but I had misquoted it. I had made it say something it really didn’t say.

I pondered on this for days, I really didn’t want to admit Cynthia was right but she was! There was no scripture which said God would not give me any more than I could bear. That meant I would have to face trials I could not bear if I followed it logically. What does God want me to do then when I face those situations?

This thought led me on an intensive study to find the answer. Mining God’s word took me weeks before God showed me the answer. Paul had undergone overwhelming trials and sure enough he had addressed this very issue in his second letter to the Corinthians.

‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Wow, this is Paul and he was experiencing far more than he could bear. He saw it as an opportunity to learn not to rely on himself but on God. He was familiar with God’s power to even raise the dead so even death was not beyond God’s power. This was my answer. When I am facing overwhelming pressure and trials I need to rely on God, His power will get me through.

God opened my eyes to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 then showed me two more verses confirming Paul’s statement:

“God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” Isaiah 40:29

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I Corinthians 12:9

I rested in this new knowledge but had not faced anything beyond my ability to endure yet. At the time I didn’t realize He was preparing me for what was to come.

Just as I had been doing an inventory of the ambulance so we would be prepared for any call I now realized I needed to take an inventory of my spiritual life. Was I well grounded? Was I ready for whatever came my way? Was I drawing close to God daily even when things where quiet? My study of God’s word proved to ground me in God’s faithfulness which I was going to need.

When have you needed to rely on God?

 

 

Change

One key to understanding the uniqueness of grief for teens are the many changes they are going through just being an adolescent. Their bodies are changing radically physically, emotionally and sexually. For some it is hard for their wardrobes to keep up. While their bodies ache from the physical changes and the heart aches from loss, life can be overwhelming.

                Teens need adults who are willing to come alongside them, spend time with them, listen to them, and then listen some more.

                Teens need adults who are willing to come alongside them, spend time with them, listen to them, and then listen some more.

What they are feeling is normal during grief:

  • It is normal to be forgetful, the mind so busy it can’t be slowed down.
  • It is normal to feel constantly exhausted even with hours of sleep.
  • It is normal to feel confused and lost in familiar places.

It is important that they know it is normal. For them these feelings may seem to last forever, but again, they need to be reminded – it is temporary.  Just like growing pains, the grief will subside. They will heal.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Creating a journal in which they can express their thoughts and feelings can be very helpful. Use an inexpensive composition book and encourage them to cover it with their own drawings or pictures, phrases, and words cut from magazines that remind them of their loved ones.

This journal becomes a place to write their thoughts, poems, stories, and pictures of what they were feeling at a given time during their grief journeys. The outside of the journal represents not only how unique their loved ones were but also their own uniqueness. It is good for them to go back to these journals and see their progress over time. It is healing to see in their own words how far they have come, that feelings are temporary and one thing constant is change.

Too Dark Too Long

“The tunnel feels too dark and goes on forever” If the sadness is deep for a long time, meaning several months, please encourage them to speak to a trained counselor. Depression locks teens into believing their emotional pain is a permanent state with no way out. They need help escaping this trap. Chronic depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, which need to be addressed immediately. Trained counselors can help themlight-end-tunnel-18817673[1] refocus and lift them from this darkness.

Suicide warning signs:

  • mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as going from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious.
  • lose interest in day-to-day activities,
  • neglect his or her appearance
  • show big changes in eating or sleeping habits

If you notice any of these signs take it seriously. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Seek our help for them. Find the suicide hotline number for your area, contact Second Wind Fund for counseling assistance. http://www.thesecondwindfund.org

“I was emotionless and blank. I would just go back to my barracks room and sit in the dark and just listen to music or play video games ‘cause I could let out some of the suppressed emotions. It took a long time to talk to anybody about it. The only person I can remember talking to was my fiancé. Having someone to talk to about it helped.” Brian, age 16

Death leaves a hole, a huge gaping hole, in the teen’s life. They are reminded of that hole at every turn: the empty chair at the table, the undisturbed bed, the unoccupied desk or locker with memorials all around them. Our culture tells us to replace the loss, remove the chair, and fill the hole. God says to weep with those who weep, “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15b).

You, their helpers, give them the courage to embrace the loss and walk through the grief, not run away from or bury it. As helpers you walk with them through the dark places and help them to identify if those places get too dark or last too long and professional help is needed.

TIME!!

Another key to understanding the uniqueness of grief in youth are the many physical changes they are going through just being teens. Their bodies are changing radically. For some it is hard for their wardrobes to keep up. When their bodies ache from the physical changes and the heart aches from loss, life can be overwhelming. They may already be moody and grief intensifies that.

They need adults who are willing:coffee 1

  • to come alongside them,
  • spend time with them,
  • listen to them, and listen some more
  • assure them that they are feeling is normal
  •  It is important for them to know they have support and what they are experiencing is normal. For them these feelings may seem to last forever, but being reminded that it is temporary is important.  Just like growing pains, the grief will subside. They will heal. This is temporary, long and drawn our but temporary none the less.

        “Even though I wrote quite a bit in my journal I wish I had written more. I’m having hard days      helps to read my words and see how far I’ve come since that day” Katie age 15

Making journals is a good hands on expression of their grief, honoring the loved one they lost. Use an inexpensive composition book and cover it with a collage with their own drawings or pictures, phrases, and words cut from magazines that remind them of their loved ones.

This journal becomes a safe place to write their thoughts, poems, stories, and draw pictures of what they are feeling at a given time during their grief journeys. Then they can go back to these journals and see their progress over time. The outside of the journal represents not only how unique their loved ones were but also their own uniqueness.

Excerpt from Tattooed By Grief by Cari Zorno

 

Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride

roller-coaster-16437706[1]

How will they know they are healing? Grief is an emotional roller coaster. One minute, the grieving teen feels really sad, possibly even crying for no reason they can pin down. The next minute a friend tells a joke and they laugh.It can pass as quickly as it came.

“The more I opened up about the loss, the lighter the weight became. As I look back, the sadness, obviously, did not go away or fade; it just became more endurable. It became something I could live with instead of    preventing me from living.” Chelsea, age 16

This roller coaster ride can continue for quite a while, but eventually the ups stay longer and the downs become shorter. They will know there is healing when the sun seems to shine brighter, when they can feel happy longer.

Documenting today will help them tomorrow. It is recorded in black and white that they are healing.

  • Journaling and diaries                                    pen-journal-open-blank-empty-page-7398267[1]
  • Drawing, collages, sketches, doodles
  • Craft projects

They will know there is healing when they can look back at things they had written or drawn and see how they have changed. They can reflect back on conversations they had in the beginning and realize that their moods are improving.

For this reason it is important for youth to document how they feel physically and emotionally each week. Watch for small improvements you can point out to them. Tracking improvement can be very encouraging. They need someone that is on the outside looking in to help them gain perspective.

 

 

Break it up!

shooting hoops

shooting hoops

 

“Don’t ignore your feelings, run from them, or hide from them, because they will get you no matter where you are. For me it was best to feel them in the moment; I’d allow myself 30 minutes to grieve, and then move on with my day.” Jocelyn, age13

 

Grieving is hard work that can only be done in short bursts of intense pain. The pain needs to be broken up with activity as a friend you may:

  • Suggest going for a walk,
  • Shoot hoops with them
  • Go swimming together
  • Watch a funny or action movie

All these can be good releases for the tension of grief. The pain needs to be broken into manageable pieces. It is unhealthy to be expected to be sad all the time. Emotions will be a rollercoaster ride. So, be patient. This is why it is so important for youth to know they do not need to walk this journey alone. Going through it with support, with community, makes it easier.. When a teen seems constantly sad, it may be time to seek professional help they may be suffering from depression.

Grief is temporary, although we do not know how long it will last since each loss is unique. Assure your friend:

  • What they are feeling right now is temporary. No matter how long it feels like it takes, it is temporary. These feelings will not last forever. Honestly, depending on the relationship, it could be either a few months or a few years before they move forward in their lives.
  • Everyone’s grief is unique. They shouldn’t compare their grief with someone elses.

* A recent study by Lebel and Beaulieu reinforces findings that the human brain doesn’t stop developing at adolescence but continues well into our twenties. This contributes to a teen’s inability to grasp cause and effect and to understand that what they are feeling is temporary. The concept of the temporariness of grief needs to be repeated frequently.

Copyright Cari Zorno Tattooed by Grief 2014

Outsider

grieving teen   Personality types respond differently under the stress of grief. Extroverts who are stressed tend to pull inward and become uncharacteristically quiet. A person who is sullen and detached might be an extrovert under stress. Introverts who are stressed tend to “lash out” or “freak out.” A person who is animated and speaking out may be an introvert experiencing stress. (Schneider and Prudhomme, 2014).

When teens experience the death of a close friend, this death may be felt as deeply as and sometimes even more deeply than the death of a family member. Youth often spend more time with their peers, making those relationships extremely close. Each relationship is unique, so we cannot expect grief to be the same for all. Grief doesn’t make sense; sometimes a grieving teen may feel disconnected, like a third party watching from a distance or the mind may go into hyper-drive yet be unable to connect the thoughts.

While everyone will walk through sorrow in different ways and at varying speeds and depths of feeling, the important focus is to go through it, not around it by avoiding or numbing the feelings through self-medication of drugs or alcohol.

Feelings need to get expressed somehow. Expression of those feelings may take the form of written, drawn, or spoken words, but for some the feelings need to be put into action. This can be done with dance, hiking, running, just to name a few. Grief that is not expressed cannot heal. Bottled up or buried grief may manifest in anger or bitterness, which can be harmful to the hurting teen and to others. Teens need to be encouraged to be bold enough to share their feelings in a way most comfortable for them.

“No one understands!”

?????????????????????????????????????          We who have spent any time with teens have heard the words “No one understands!” Most of us have even said it, but in the instance of grief, those words have a reverberating ring of truth. No one does understand. Grieving the death of a grandparent or a pet is done at a different level than grieving the death of an immediate family member or close friend.

            “Friends my age didn’t know what to say. Some related the experience to losing a family pet, which made me mad. Other people would tell me I needed to move on because it happened a long time ago. Of course, my family and people who knew my brother John, like his girlfriend, would pray for me and could understand my feelings.” Ashley, age 11

One item we all need to grasp is NO ONE fully understands, not friends, not parents, not counselors, and not even those who have also experienced the death of that same loved one. No one understands because each teen is unique, and the relationship with the deceased was unique; therefore, the grief is unique.

BUT those who have experienced loss “get it.” They get that the sadness is deep and dark, and it casts a dense cloud over life. They also “get” that grief needs a relief valve of times of activity, fresh air, and laughter. They get that it will last longer than anyone wants, and it can wait in hiding and ambush the teen when he or she least expects it and finds “goodbyes” need to be said all over again. Just because the grieving teen laughs does not mean he or she is “over it” or “ready to move on.” No one understands, but the grieving need to know there are others around who “get it.”

Excerpt from Tattooed by Grief  by Cari Zorno