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The Yo-Yo of Grief & Holidays

Most grievers go through…and understand…the yo-yo cycles of grief.

You dread the holidays…then you desperately want to have the ability to enjoy the holidays…then you agonize about the holidays…then you go through a period of time where you just wish holidays could be normal again…and then you may feel guilty when you do enjoy the holidays…then you feel weird…then come to peace about it…and the grief cycle can spin you again out of nowhere…and so on…and so on…and so on.

The thing about grief: nobody who is going through grief signed up for it.

The harsh emotional turmoil.

The guilt.

The regrets.

The crazy emotions.

Nobody in their right mind would even wish it on their most annoying enemy. I know I wouldn’t.

My holiday yo-yo began several years ago…and I sure have learned a lot about God, grief, life, family, friends, and overcoming grief ever since.

Several years ago, my 22 year old sister died on Thanksgiving Day.

It shouldn’t have happened…she had everything going for her: she was married and she was a mom to three beautiful children who she loved with all of her heart. She adored and enjoyed being a mom so much that she was trying to have another baby. An amazing pianist, she had taken piano lessons at a university since elementary school since no teachers in our area could keep up with her talent. An accomplished baker, she and I had been going to several baking and candy workshops since we were in the process of opening our very own bakery and chocolatier…that way we could always have a flexible schedule and have our kiddos with us. She had everything in the world going for her.

But then she got sick. Really, really sick. Really, really fast.

That Fall, we were all on vacation having the time of our lives…a month later, she began to have allergy-like symptoms, and then within a few weeks of feeling ill, she suddenly and unexpectedly died of Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA) – a very rare autoimmune disease that was only named in 1939.

Thanksgiving has never been the same since…and believe me, I have really tried.

I’ve tried vacationing during Thanksgiving to get my mind off of it – to no avail. Then I tried going on a Disney vacation…the happiest place on earth…and during that trip, I had to go to the Urgent Center since I was so sick. In fact, the first several years after my sister’s death, I’d wake up every year around 4am and become violently ill. There has never been a Thanksgiving since that I haven’t gotten sick or felt major anxiety.

The last Thanksgiving morning she was alive, she had her nurse call us around 4am and ask us to immediately come to the hospital to be with her. We threw our clothes on and got there…only to be blocked from seeing her by her medical team.

Then the Code Blue came…and they revived her. And then the final Code Blue came…and she was gone.

I guess my body remembers the 4am time – and that whole morning – because every year since, I have become extremely ill or anxious each Thanksgiving from 4am-10am.

Frustrated by Thanksgiving, I finally found a way to cope. For years, I have put all of my Christmas decorations up by November 1, so I could just go straight into the Christmas season.

I still celebrate Thanksgiving with my family…and I am extremely thankful for God, my family and friends, and all of life’s blessings…but this has helped me to not focus on the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Although I am super thankful for life, loved ones, and every blessing God lovingly grants me – and although I put on a happy face for the sake of my remaining loved ones…mostly my sweet mom and the kiddos in my life – I just don’t like Thanksgiving.

In October, and up until this week, I was actually looking forward to Thanksgiving…it’s the very first year that I have actually looked forward to it.

I haven’t put up one Christmas tree, ornament, or decoration yet.

I was still feeling anxiety about Thanksgiving, but I was super grateful for the progress of my grief. And it felt good to not experience the yo-yo of grief the last six weeks – especially from all the years I tried so desperately to run away from the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

I’ve spent many years going back and forth trying to make my heart feel something it just didn’t feel.

I think most grievers understand what I’m talking about…especially if they’ve experienced a holiday death. But it’s not just the death of a loved one…it could also be loss of any kind.

But then this week, all of the feelings of dread are starting to creep back.

So the yo-yo is apparently still strong.

I always try to be very transparent in my grief so I can help and encourage others.

I hope this blog post doesn’t come across as whining. I truly hope it helps someone to know they’re not alone in their grief.

Here’s my advice for getting through the Yo-Yo of grief:

  1. Seek God’s heart. It is truly amazing the amount of comfort and love God will shower onto those who love Him! Making God my closest and most treasured Friend has made all the difference in the world! Even during times when I don’t think a grief situation is fair, He patiently and lovingly always directs me in the right way. I can’t stress this enough…when you feel like you don’t want to trust His plan, always trust His great heart! Fight for your relationship with God…never give up on the true Treasure of His Friendship!
  2. Be true to your grief. Don’t force yourself to feel anything that isn’t authentic. If you feel sad, honor that sadness. If you feel fine, don’t feel guilty for having a good holiday…it doesn’t mean you love someone less. Good days & good holidays are truly a gift…embrace them when they come!
  3. Share with your family and friends where you are at in your grief…and don’t be ashamed of your grief. Don’t assume they should know or that they should instantly understand…take the time to share your heart.
  4. Don’t make family or close friends be mind readers. Tell them what you need so you will have the ability and support you need to get through the day.
  5. Do only what you feel you can truly do. It’s totally okay to have a relaxed holiday. If you’ve lost someone very close to you, it can take awhile to find a “new normal” for life and holidays…and sometimes the “new normal” you found can suddenly change and need readjusting. It’s okay not to always be okay…and that is totally FINE!! Be gentle with your heart!
  6. Light a memory candle in honor of your loved one…or do something special to “include” their memory. I have found that lighting a memory candle is a very special way of including my loved ones – it’s a beautiful way of saying, “I love you…I miss you…I will never forget you…I sure wish you were here!”
  7. NEVER apologize for your grief. If other people are uncomfortable with you honoring your grief or loved one, well tough. Lovingly remind them that you didn’t sign up for your grief experience…you’re doing what you need to do to get through it. So they’re frustrated? Kindly remind them that you’re frustrated too. Losing a loved one is the highest price you pay for loving someone…just because a loved one dies, your love doesn’t die too. People sometimes forget that.❤️
  8. Be careful to not create future guilt or regrets. I love the quote, “Even though I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living purposefully.” I take the time to truly honor my grief, but I also make a very purposeful choice to celebrate and extravagantly love my remaining loved ones. Just like my sister suddenly died, I realize that is a possibility for everyone else I know too…so I make sure not to isolate myself and I choose to make the most of Thanksgiving and other holidays. I’m very authentic about my grief, I honor my grief…but I also honor my loved ones who are here as well.

This Thanksgiving, I am praying for all of the Grief Bites Family! May you highly treasure God, enjoy your remaining loved ones, and honor & remember your treasured loved ones who are no longer on earth.

Wishing all of you a very peaceful, special, joy-filled, and loving Thanksgiving Day!!

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!For more encouragement: ❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

❤️

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7 TIPS FOR HELPING A GRIEVING LOVED ONE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Do you know of someone who is hurting due to the death of a loved one, an illness, divorce, family conflict, or an unexpected life challenge or crisis?

The holidays are very hectic for most people, but they become extra challenging for those going through grief.

When family and friends offer kindness and encouragement, it can make all the difference in the world to those who are hurting.

Whether the person who is grieving is a family member, friend, fellow church member, coworker, acquaintance, or neighbor, you have the AMAZING opportunity to offer compassion, support, and HOPE this holiday season.

Choose to be a BLESSING!

Think about each of these tips, and while you’re reading them, think of who you can bless – starting this week!

Here are 7 practical tips for helping a grieving loved one during the holidays~

1. Offer encouragement to the person who is going through grief by sending them an I’m-thinking-of-you card or a phone call. Whether they lost a loved one a week ago or many years ago, their loved one will always be treasured and missed. The holidays can be a painful reminder of the fact that their loved one is no longer here. If possible, refrain from sending over-the-top cheerful holiday greetings and cards if their loss is recent. Instead, send a more peace-filled greeting card with a special heartfelt note.

2. Stay away from cliches such as, “They’re in a better place”, “God needed an angel”, or “God must have needed them more.” Although these statements are intended to make the grieving one feel better, it will often leave them hurting and frustrated. Try encouraging your loved one with loving words of remembrance such as, “I really miss _____, she/he was a such a wonderful person” or “I remember when we ________.” Reflection on the deceased loved one brings validation to family members left behind that their loved one was important, is missed, and that they are still cared about. Most who have gone through grief still enjoy talking about their loved one. Bringing their loved one up is welcomed by most. You’re not going to hurt them by bringing up their loved one…their loved one is already on their heart. Also, at all costs, never say (or even suggest) to someone who is going through grief to “get over it.” That’s worse than all cliches combined.

3. Take the bereaved person a Christmas wreath, cookies, or a Christmas flower arrangement, and while there, maybe offer to do errands for them. A small kindness and helpful gesture goes a very long way in cheering someone up who is going through grief.

4. Invite them to attend your Christmas church service, family holiday dinner, or join in your Christmas festivities. Peace, comfort, encouragement, and loving relationships are important to offer to the bereaved during the holidays. A griever may want to attend church, but may not have anyone to attend with. Sometimes, traditional family dinners can be challenging too. If you are a close enough family member or friend, they may welcome an opportunity for a new place and environment to go to for church, dinner, or holiday celebrations.

5. Invite your grieving loved one to a holiday movie, out for coffee, to a Christmas church service, to see The Nutcracker, to dinner, or to go shopping with you. When someone is going through grief, they lose contact with the outside world as they are immersed in their pain. Many times, people do not know what to say to someone who is going through grief so they avoid seeing them altogether. Please let them know you care. An invitation will speak volumes of your love and concern for them.

6. Be patient with those in grief. Life as they once knew it has drastically changed. It takes time to find a new “normal” and to thoroughly understand the full impact their grief and loss will have. Allow them the time they individually need to grieve. Everybody grieves differently and that’s perfectly fine. Please do not become frustrated with someone who is in grief…trust me, they’re frustrated, too! Support, love, and encourage them.

7. Simply listen and be there. Sometimes, the best thing someone can do for a griever is to give them a hug with the gift of silence and a listening ear, and simply let them know someone truly cares. No words necessary…just be truly, genuinely caring and be a good listener. We all desperately want to say the magic words that will comfort loved ones in grief, but there simply are no words that can magically remove their heartache and pain. A trustworthy listening ear is more important than most people realize.

Please consider whose life (and heart) you can make a difference in this week! Think of someone you know who is going through a hard time and then offer them hope and encouragement.

Have a very blessed and meaningful holiday season!

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim 🦃🎄❤️🎄🦃

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!🎄

❤️For more encouragement:
⭐️ <u
p://peacewithgod.net

🎄Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

⭐️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

🎄Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

⭐️FREE YouVersion reading plan:

Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays🎄❤️🎄

The Challenge of Unspoken or Hidden Grief

Some of the most difficult grief experiences to heal from are those that are unspoken.

The reason unspoken grief experiences are so difficult to heal from, is because of the nature of the grief – and the choice to isolate oneself.

As I was helping an anonymous young lady on an online grief forum last week, my heart sure did go out to her. She – unknown to her parents, family, church family, and friends – had gotten pregnant and miscarried her first child 8 weeks into the pregnancy. Fearing judgment, she didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone except for the father of her child. For three years, she’s walked the road of grief all on her own. 

Isolated. Heartbroken. Alone.

With unspoken grief, some grief events have happened recently, while some happened decades ago.

Some may have believed that time would heal their wounds, only to find that time hasn’t healed anything.

There are many grief experiences that are “unspoken” or “unknown”…experiences someone may not feel comfortable sharing with others:

  • Unplanned pregnancies that end in miscarriage, secret adoptions, or abortion
  • A sexual assault 
  • Medical diagnosis such as HIV
  • Mental health diagnosis 
  • Adultery
  • Family or marital issues
  • Abuse
  • Conflict with adult children or other family members
  • Addictions
  • Mistreatment of others or conflict that you never had the chance to make right
  • Church conflict/church abuse
  • Suicide issues that remaining loved ones have to go through
  • Suicide attempt survivors

There are many life challenges people go through. With unspoken grief, they’re just not at a place they feel comfortable sharing with others the tremendous heartache they’ve been through. 

Unspoken grief presents a big challenge for the person going through it: if they keep their grief concealed, they may never find the help or healing their heart needs.

So how do you heal from unspoken grief experiences?

Please realize God never intended for us to walk through grief alone. Community, as well as the many resources available, are very powerful gifts when going through heartache, challenges, and grief.

There are many confidential options for finding help and healing when going through an unspoken grief experience:

  • Seek out confidential help with a trusted pastor, grief counselor, or therapist
  • Find encouragement through a local grief group (GriefShare, The Compassionate Friends, local funeral homes who offer grief seminars, Grief Bites conferences, etc.). Many grievers do not realize their grief situations can remain completely anonymous at these meetings, conferences, and seminars. Outside of introducing yourself, you don’t even have to talk if you don’t wish.
  • Utilize online grief resources (blogs, YouVersion’s grief related reading plans, grief related Facebook pages, GriefShare daily emails, The Compassionate Friends private groups, Grief Bites blog, etc.)
  • Talk to a trusted family member or friend…keyword: trusted. When choosing who to confide in, always realize that two listening ears are also attached to a talking mouth – meaning, they can share what you confide in them, so be very selective in who you choose to trust!
  • Go to your local bookstore or favorite online bookseller and purchase books on grief. 
  • The best place to go with your broken heart is to God. He is always there 24/7, He cares deeply for you, and He has the power to heal your heart and spirit.

If you are going through an unspoken grief experience, please know there is hope. You can find relief and healing. Seek out the help you need today so your heart has the opportunity to truly and fully heal.

May God bless and encourage your heart!

Gratitude & blessings,
Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:⭐️

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617&nbsp;

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships&nbsp;

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed&nbsp;

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites&nbsp;

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

What To Do When Life Gets You Down

Life can get you down.

We each go through hardships. Some are spoken; others are too painful to speak of.

Grief. Marriage issues. Family issues. Betrayal. Illness. Financial difficulties. Loss. Rejection. Painful memories. Church conflict. Job irritants. Worry. Depression. Anxiety. Rebellious or prodigal loved ones.

The list of heartaches and tough challenges we each go through in life can go on and on and on.

I saw a quote this week:

“When life gives you lemons, freeze them and throw them as hard as possible at the things or people who are making your life so difficult.”

I’m sure many of you can relate.

As I was driving to meet my parents for ice cream tonight, the Lord brought something to mind. And it is far better of a strategy to get through tough seasons in life without resorting to fruit throwing.

When going through grief, life challenges, loss, trials, or hardships, we have three choices we can make:

  1. We can grow bitter
  2. We can grow better
  3. We can grow braver

I will be completely honest and share that I have, at different times, chosen each of these three strategies. 

Growing bitter led me to experiencing much more hardship and grief. Growing better led me to writing my book and YouVersion plans. Growing braver led to me pouring into the grief community by sharing my life stories to help others.

At times, yes, it sure would’ve felt very fulfilling to throw back the sour frozen lemons at the difficult situations and people who originally threw sourness my way…for sure…but when you choose bitterness, and throw lemons back, you can’t take life’s lemons and eventually have the ability to make lemonade out of them instead. And God always helps us to make lemonade out of the bitter fruit we have been pegged by in life.

What will you choose today?

I do not know what heartbreaking challenges you are facing, but I hope you will wholeheartedly choose to rise high above your circumstances and press forward to become braver and better.

What if you’re currently entrapped in bitterness? 

It’s easy to become bitter. Life is filled with opportunities to hang onto hurts and every unfair thing that has happened. Truly.

Becoming better and braver is a choice…and anyone can choose to become braver and better starting today.

It may take a lot of time, help, and a whole lot of work, but it will be worth it.

May God richly bless you as you choose to handle your grief, heartaches, and challenges in an honorable, braver, and better way.

Taking your circumstances (and life’s lemons) to the Lord and placing them in His hands, continually praying, and reading God’s Word for wisdom, discernment, and instruction are what I have found to be the best ways to handle all life will throw.

God truly has the best way of blessing us when we choose to do that.

He takes the sour oldness and creates a sweet newness in a way we never could have dreamed of. He has the power to bring great purpose out of our heartaches. And He has the power to overcome, restore, and better any situation.

I truly pray your very best days are ahead of you.

And in the future, when you reflect back on the hardest seasons of your life, I hope you will share with others…over a glass of lemonade…how God helped you to become better and more brave. 

Lamentations‬ ‭3:20-25‬,I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, ‭‭‬”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

Psalm 91:14-16,Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation.” 

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617&nbsp;

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships&nbsp;
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed&nbsp;
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites&nbsp;
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

💕

Healing From Pet Loss ~ Part 1

Have you ever had a pet you greatly treasured? Pets are amazing! They are so much fun – and so very rewarding! Pets also provide a multitude of health benefits to their owners as well.

As the months and years go by, a very close bond develops with our pets. They brighten our days and make life richer…better.

I always say that pets, especially dogs, are God’s way of making up for all of the bad stuff we go through in life. They unconditionally love us, fiercely protect us, and provide sweet companionship.

There are two days a pet owner will never forget. The day we met our precious furry friend…and the day our much-loved pet passes away.

Pet loss is inevitable. In fact, I bet you currently know a family member or friend who is going through the heartbreaking loss of a pet right now.

I’ll be writing a series of blog posts over pet loss the next few days because I think it is a topic that can help others. Life offers so many rich lessons. I always love learning from others and I hope the lessons I share will help someone who is going through a similar situation.

Someone sent me a great quote about pet loss. I’d like to start this post by sharing it:

“To me, he was a person in a dog suit, a special being who opened my heart as it has never been opened before. Because of him, I know I am forever changed for the better.” ~Lisa Plummer Savas

Today, I’ll be sharing about our family’s recent death of our two year-old puppy. The next blog post, I’ll be sharing tips of how to help a loved one after their pet dies. The third post in this series will be about creating a peaceful experience with your pet’s euthanasia…and very important pitfalls to watch out for and prevent. And the fourth post will be about pet health, which will also include prevention, treatment, and breakthroughs of cancer in pets.

I know by writing about pet loss, I run the risk of a non-pet lover rolling their eyes (I used to do the same, so no worries)…and I also may be criticized by those who are experiencing human loss. I’d like to assure my Grief Bites readers that I am not saying pet loss is worse than losing a human being. To some, it totally truly may be worse; to others it may not be. Each and every grief experience is unique and completely different – no two people will go through or experience grief in the same way. Whether it is a human being or a pet, this is absolute truth every griever can agree on: The greater the investment, the greater the love…and the greater the love, the greater the grief.

I sincerely hope this series on pet loss is a great comfort to anyone who is mourning their much-loved pet, and it is my prayer these posts are not offensive to anyone in the grief community.❤️

Here’s a little background into my (and my family’s) experiences with our pets…and the heartbreaking death we recently went through. This will be a longer blog post than normal, but I know my animal-loving readers will appreciate the background for my upcoming posts.

Our family had mostly outdoor pets while I was growing up…6 dogs and a cat who had kittens. I never formed a super close attachment to majority of these pets – with the exception of my cat – because they either died while they were young or they were primarily outdoor pets, with my dad being the primary caregiver to them. I was close to them, and I definitely cried when they each passed away, but their deaths just were not as intense of a grief experience as losing one of our current indoor dogs this year.

After my senior year of high school, when my cocker spaniel died, I never got another pet until my husband and I bought a Persian kitten as a Christmas gift for our son when he was four years-old. My son ended up being deathly allergic to cats, so we found the sweet kitten a new home.

When my son turned five, my husband and I got him a Labrador puppy for his birthday. Unknown to us, our son’s dog became pregnant from a neighbor’s dog a few weeks before we were scheduled to have her spayed before her first birthday. 

Becoming a mom so young, my son’s dog went crazy and attacked her puppies…even killing two of them…and she also started growling at our son and became very aggressive towards him. We ended up contacting a place who specialized in rehoming our specific breed of dog and gave him to a family who didn’t have children. 

I swore I’d never get another dog after that incident and I didn’t allow our son to be around large dogs from that day forward.

When my son was a senior, I bought him a male Labrador Retriever. We actually still have this sweet, now gray-bearded, pup. He’s always been such a sweetheart – always super good-natured and very loyal to our family.

A few years ago, my son (who is now an adult) asked if we’d buy him a dog for Christmas. He had just made the tough decision to break up with a young lady he was about to propose to, and he wanted the companionship of a pet to help him through that major loss.

My husband and I thought it was a great idea so we gave him a puppy for Christmas. 

The puppy was a rescue and we were told he was a Great Dane. Later, through DNA testing, we found out he was actually half German Shepherd and half Pitbull. This sweet puppy also had been severely abused. When we got him, he had scar lines under the fur on top of his head and on one of his paws. We were told he was eight weeks-old, but our vet told us he was most likely just three to four weeks-old after looking at his forming teeth.

My husband and I frequently had to go to our son’s house…sometimes at 2am…to help bottle feed his new puppy and help crate train him. He was a very high needs puppy who needed a lot of care. Our son ultimately ended up moving back in with us so we could all jointly better help his puppy together. My son also moved back home to better help me, too, since I was going through health issues.

When my son first got his puppy, as he would go to work each day, he’d drop off his sweet puppy at our house every morning and my husband and I would puppy-sit for 10 hours five to seven days every week.

I fell so in love with this precious puppy! Being a person who previously wasn’t very fond of dogs, I ended up becoming a major dog advocate. I now love all dogs since I finally “get it.” 

As I saw my son’s puppy “love him back to life,” I truly respected the new puppy just as much as I loved him. This very special puppy ended up being very important to each of us, each in different ways.

Our son, my husband, our entire family, and I all grew very attached to the puppy and loved him so very much! He’s literally the best dog we’ve ever known!

Right after Christmas, after my son’s puppy had just turned two years-old, he developed a limp while he was at his dog training classes (he had to take weekly specialized classes since he was so aggressive to anyone who wasn’t family). After a few weeks, his limp wasn’t healing or improving so we made an appointment with his vet. The vet told us she had bad news…I thought she was going to suggest surgery. Instead, she told us he had a very aggressive form of cancer (osteosarcoma) and only had a few months to live. We would need to immediately amputate his leg. If we chose treatment, it’d cost about $1400-$3500 for the initial surgery and then several thousand dollars for additional chemo and radiation. 

We took him to a pet oncologist for a second opinion. We were told the same thing: that treatment would do very little for him and that we’d have to drive several hours each weekend and spend these weekends in another city so he could do his cancer treatments. The heartbreaking truth was this would only extend his life for possibly 4-12 additional months – and he’d suffer. A lot. 

We contacted another veterinarian for a third opinion. She knew our puppy from the time we got him. I trusted her completely because she loved him like we did. In fact, outside of family and one other vet tech, she was the only other person he liked. She recommended pain pills and to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as we could…and to give him the very best life in his ending days.

We were absolutely devastated! Our hearts broke into a million pieces and the pain was excruciating. 

This puppy helped us through some of the worst days of our lives and he loved our family back to life. I always thought to myself, “who rescued who?” whenever I would recall the day we rescued him. His great love for us helped us…even saved us. It was sickeningly and devastatingly unfair that we couldn’t do the same for him. We were powerless to do anything. If love alone could’ve healed our sweet puppy, he would’ve lived to be 100.

My son’s puppy died two months ago (three months after diagnosis) and I was surprised just how deep my grief was in the days and weeks after his death. The grief was thick and incredibly intense. I am thankful we chose to lovingly end his suffering close to the weekend so we’d have all weekend to try to come to terms with our heartache.

I knew I’d be incredibly sad. I just didn’t expect my grief to be as strong and overwhelming as it was. I didn’t think pain like this was possible with losing a pet. To my shame, I had said at a grief conference I spoke at a few years ago that losing a pet wasn’t the end of the world compared to other grief events. I just didn’t “get it” at the time. After all, all of my pets growing up were mostly outdoor pets. There’s a big difference when they’re indoors with you 24/7…and an even bigger difference when you get a pet during a time of grief. I think when you get a pet during a time of grief, and they help you through a super sad time, I believe their death is much harder to get through. 

I certainly have learned so much through this entire experience. After experiencing our puppy’s daily struggles with cancer, my heart immediately went out to my loved ones who had experienced their pet’s illness and/or death.

After we found out about our puppy’s cancer, I invited one particular friend out for coffee – this was a friend who had been through her beloved dog’s death a few years ago. I needed to apologize for not being there more for her. 

When you know better, you’re able to do better. The new knowledge of how painful it is to lose a beloved, precious pet allowed me to understand the devastation my family and friends had been through.

Pet loss is hard. I think something that compounds pet loss is that there is very little concern or compassion from family and friends. Many (like me previously) think, “It’s just a dog….you can get a new one,” not understanding how untrue that is. Yes, you can get a new dog, but a person intensely misses the unique, wonderful dog – and the amazing relationship and love they shared with the specific dog (or pet) they lost.

Two months before our precious puppy died, my son had made arrangements to get another puppy. We were scheduled to put our 2 year-old puppy down on a Friday, and we were scheduled to pick up the new puppy on the Sunday after. We were shocked when our two year-old puppy’s cancer treatments started working so we called off the euthanasia. (More about this on an upcoming blog).

I can’t tell you how many people told us, “Just pour yourself into the new puppy. Be grateful you have the new puppy and your other dog.” Of course, they were only trying to help us, but so many of our extended family and friends just didn’t understand how great of a loss we were going through. We still are hurting from the loss. He just isn’t replaceable. The relationship each of us built with him the whole two years we had him can’t be replicated. Our circumstances just aren’t the same as when we got our two year-old puppy…and I’d never want to go through a major grief experience to duplicate how that special bond was formed.

The loss of this precious puppy was super hard not only because he was a completely indoor dog, but that he also had a very well developed larger-than-life personality. He had a high level of emotional intelligence and intuitively knew how to read our family’s emotions. He was also very smart. When he’d get thirsty, he’d go to our kitchen and bring us a water bottle. He was so personable and intelligent…almost like a mini human. Anytime the songs “Penny Lane” by The Beatles or “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers came on, he would stop what he was doing and “sing” by howling to the entire song. Christmas music would instantly calm him since he would lay on my shoulder as a baby while I was working by the Christmas tree the first month we got him. Anytime Christmas music was played, he’d quietly lay down by me and be perfectly still.

His larger than life personality lit up the entire room once he entered it. Although he weighed over 90 lbs, he considered himself a lap dog…our “little” baby. He always snuggled into our laps as soon as we sat down. He also fiercely protected us. Like I said, we had to put him in specialized dog training classes to calm down his aggression towards anyone who wasn’t family. 

He was a huge, perfect, lovable, sweet teddy bear to us. We’ll always miss his love and all of his many emotions…even the pouting and audible “sighing” he’d do. When he’d get upset about something, he’d let out a big, loud sigh and massively pout. It was a theatrical, broadway-style experience. The whole house would know about it…he’d make sure of it. 

One time, he was so upset that our son went out on a date that he dramatically laid down and pouted on the floor after our son left the house…then this poor puppy took the pouting to a recliner…then to another recliner…then he pouted on the couch…then over to his dog bed…then over to his crate…then to everyone else that was home. He was so mad that he refused his favorite treat – squeeze cheese in a can. It was so funny when he’d behave so dramatically.

Just as quickly as he’d pout, he’d use that same intense energy to love my son and all of our family. When any of us would get home, he’d come running up and wiggle his entire big body. He’d miss us so much that he’d literally cry with joy when he saw us walk in the door or into the room. He’d then gently take our hand by lightly clamping his teeth down so he could lead us to a chair to hold him.

Had I never met my son’s puppy, I never would’ve known…or believed…how incredibly close and rewarding a relationship with a pet could be. I used to think people were crazy – absolutely nuts – to love, adore, and spoil their pets….and then I met this sweet fur baby. He truly opened up a part of my heart that I didn’t even know existed, and he taught me so many lessons.

I will forever be grateful to God for perfectly coordinating us finding that precious puppy!

Even though we have two other big dogs (who I also absolutely love and adore in their own unique and special way), they can never take the place of my lil baby. My relationship with him was simply extra special. He was a huge comfort to me as my heart was breaking for my son while he was going through major grief. This sweet puppy also helped our family and me after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. During his first year of life, he helped our family through some very hard days. I will forever be grateful to him for loving our family so well!

Our sweet puppy will always be loved, treasured and remembered.

If you’ve ever experienced the death of a precious, much-loved pet, my heart sure goes out to you. If you are in the midst of  taking care of a pet who is terminally ill, I am so very sorry. I invite you to read my upcoming blog posts for encouragement.

To all who have a pet they love, take some time today to hug and cuddle them. Take them for a walk and give them an extra treat or two.

Enjoy and treasure each day with all of your loved ones. No matter if they wear a suit of fur or not.

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim🐾❤️🐾

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

For more encouragement:

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617&nbsp;

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️Kim’s FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships&nbsp;

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed&nbsp;

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites&nbsp;

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

💕

One Of The Most Important Gifts You Can Give To A Loved One During Grief

When you go through a major grief experience, it changes you to your very core.

And it takes time to sort your life out.

Anyone who has been through grief is reading this and wholeheartedly agreeing. They understand exactly what I mean when I say a person needs time to sort their life out.

Someone who has never experienced a heart wrenching loss just seems not to get it. They can feel sympathetic towards a loved one…but they don’t understand the major disruption grief can truly be.

Every few weeks, a person who has a loved one who is experiencing deep grief will contact me and ask me to meet them for coffee.

When I first started receiving these requests, I assumed that their grieving loved one knew I’d be showing up. Instead, I found that these “coffee meetings” were an intervention of sorts. They thought I’d talk to their grieving loved one, sort them out, share some sort of miraculous words that would instantly change their grief-stricken loved one…so everyone could return to their happy, normal, pre-grief lives.

If only it were that easy…sigh…and apparently they don’t know me very well.

Each person who attempts this, quickly finds out a few things about me:

  1. If someone didn’t know I was coming, I’d apologize and give the griever the option of talking with me or not. I don’t believe in forced conversations or tricking people – even if the original intention was good or thoughtful.
  2. They found out I’m a huge grief advocate…I don’t believe in telling anyone to “suck it up,” “get back to being your ‘old self,'” or “act normal.” The only exception is if a person has children still in the home, a person will have to balance out grief with providing a stable environment for their kiddos…but that never entails hiding emotions, being their old self, or being fake. It just means a person will need to gain more outside help from family and friends so they can gain wisdom and counsel, so they don’t end up experiencing greater loss down the road.
  3. They found out new ways of being there for their grieving loved one…and that their grieving loved one is just as frustrated as they are. Nobody likes going through grief and experiencing deep heartache and the sudden changes it brings.

What do you do when family or friends don’t “get” or understand your grief? 

How do you handle family and friends who say unthoughtful things such as, “you need to get over it, “you need to move on,” or “I just want you to be your ‘old self'”?

When I went through my sister’s and other loved ones’ deaths, I majorly reacted in my heart to people who said comparable things to me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized when people say these things, it is really annoying, but they usually really do mean well. They’re frustrated with the situation, and hurting from the loss of their normal relationship they’ve previously enjoyed pre-grief. Granted, there are some who are selfish and find the grief of a loved one intrusive, but most genuinely do care…some just haven’t learned how to help their grieving loved one or learned how to communicate what they’re saying or feeling in a beneficial or non-insulting way.

I have found one of the greatest things needed during times of grief…for both the griever and the family and friends of the griever…is grace.

Grace is compassion on steroids.

Grace doesn’t take away the grief, but it sure does help tremendously when people offer each other this one special gift. 

What about when a grief event totally changes a relationship? A grief event took place and your family and friends treat you differently than they did before?

I’ve had multiple grievers share with me that they’d had a best friend for decades…but then after a grief event, the friend was nowhere to be found. Couples who had hung out for years – even vacationed each year together – suddenly disappear without warning. Family relationships who were previously very close, end up blowing up, disintegrating, or become almost unrepairable.

Grace is so very important during times of grief!

When people are going through grief, they may say or do things that are very uncharacteristic of them. Sometimes people are in so much pain that they may say some really ugly things … things they truly don’t mean.

Again, grace is very much needed during times of grief.

Who can you offer grace to today? Do you know someone who you greatly hurt or offended during their time of grief who you need to apologize to? Is there someone who hurt or offended you that you need to call to work through a resolution?

Grief changes everything. And it genuinely changes everyone who walks through and experiences it.

Be kind to the grievers you know. Seek to be the grace-filled sun and rainbow through all of your loved ones storms in life. And give grace to those who may have offended you during your time of grief.

There will come a day when we all will need grace. Start being a gracious and grace-filled person today.

May each of you always give and find grace, compassion, encouragement, and love in your relationships with family and friends.❤️

Gratitude & blessings,

Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617&nbsp;

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships&nbsp;
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed&nbsp;
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites&nbsp;
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

“Ugh…Here She Comes Again..” 

“Ugh…here she comes again..”

As I was talking to an acquaintance at church, she interrupted our conversation by rolling her eyes and warning me about the brown haired lady walking towards us.

I didn’t know either woman particularly well; just that we were all in the same Sunday School class. We talked at class parties and get-togethers but I never went anywhere with them individually or talked with either on the phone.

The brown haired lady came up and was friendly. As she chatted about her weekend and her kids, I was trying to figure out what the other blonde lady had against her. The brown haired lady wasn’t mean-spirited…she wasn’t rude…she didn’t smell bad…she wasn’t snobby. I thought she was nice. I couldn’t figure out the disdain.

As the brown haired lady walked away, the blonde one replied, “Sorry…she just rubs me the wrong way. She’s so needy!”

A few weeks later, our Sunday School class had a ladies spa day at our leader’s home. I quietly heard the blonde haired lady and her friend talking negatively again.

I felt a lot of emotions surface. Disappointment, primarily, because I deeply believe home and church are two places everybody should feel loved, cared about, encouraged, and valued. Everybody should fit in. I don’t like feeling conflict among friends at church…and we’re all going to live in the same Heaven, so harmony and kindness should be strong prerequisites.

I felt sadness for the brown haired lady. How terrible to have someone dislike you just because life left you filled with heartache, grief, or a deep need for validation. I wanted so badly to tell the brown haired lady to quit wasting her time trying to get that other blonde woman and her friends to like her. Sadly, they had already made up their minds and “marked” her. She could pay for an all-inclusive vacation for a girls trip, and they still wouldn’t like her. 

I decided I was going to invite the brown haired lady out for coffee.

As I got to know the brown haired lady, I found out she deeply struggled with self esteem. I could tell she desperately needed friends and needed someone to care. She had some baggage that she didn’t know how to process, so it totally did make her appear needy.

But aren’t we all needy? Don’t we all call our mom…spouse…sibling(s)…friends…or other family members…when we need to cry or vent? 

Haven’t we all had a family member, coworker, “friend,” or acquaintance who hasn’t fully realized our value, or who is ungrateful, or makes us feel less than our God-given worth?

And don’t we all have baggage? Either because we foolishly packed it in “life’s” suitcase on our own, or because someone dumped issues in our bag from their wrong or selfish choices?

We are all alike…and we each have been taught – or learned on our own – coping skills or resolutions to life’s issues. Some positive; some negative.

This scenario took place years ago, yet I never forgot it.

It has served as a reminder to be kind to others…to show compassion…to take the time to care…to not be a snob…to do my best to look at others with the eyes of Christ.

Jesus didn’t gravitate towards the cool people – the people who had it “all together.” He purposely chose to look for people He could love back to life. He didn’t see neediness…He simply saw needs to be met.

I challenge everybody to think about the people in your life…all of them.

How about we each make the commitment to reject exclusivity…and instead see each person’s exclusive value?

Let’s get painfully honest and real: who’s the last person who walked towards you and you thought, “Ugh…here she/he comes again..” 

Next time you see them, consider thinking, “Here comes a valuable masterpiece straight from God who I get the privilege of being kind to…and possibly get to help love back to life..”

Who can you say a kind word to this week and who can you offer encouragement to? 

Everybody has great treasure inside of them. Some have had so much mud thrown at them in life that their baggage became heavy, covering the true heart God planted inside them. Kindness (and compassion) is the antidote that helps wash the mud away…so their true heart can fully bloom.

Choose to see treasure in everyone you meet. It’s there.

We each are exclusively handcrafted by God Himself. We each have been intricately designed with unique talents, skills, personalities, and purpose.

Choose to be the kind of person who sees – and brings out – the good in everyone you meet. 

Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.”

Malachi 2:10, “Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”

Romans 12:10, Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617&nbsp;

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships&nbsp;
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed&nbsp;
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites&nbsp;
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays