Tag Archive | bereavement

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 

❤️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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Healing From Pet Loss ~ Part 2

Experiencing a pet’s death can be very painful. It can also be painful to physically lose a pet through a divorce or if the pet wanders away.

When I talk to those who have experienced losing a much loved pet, they share how tough their experience has been. Some have been offered love, encouragement, and support, while others have not.

Perhaps, people are not quite sure what to say or do after a pet dies, because they’ve never lost a special pet. They just don’t “get it” or understand the heartache that transpires. They may have never experienced a close relationship with a pet…even if they have had a pet. 

People are also extremely busy these days. We live in a microwave society…everything is instant. And if something isn’t quick and easy, some people will choose to not get involved. Life seems to always be in one mode: fast forward.

Personally, until our recent puppy’s death, I never thought to call family or friends to see how they were doing during their grief after they experienced pet loss. I was clueless how painful losing a pet could be. I previously thought you cried for a few days and then carried on.

Boy, was I wrong.

But once you know better, you then are able to do better.

This blog post is Part 2 of a 4-part series on pet loss. After the death of our much loved and treasured pet’s death, my heart certainly goes out to anyone who has experienced losing a pet. To read our family’s story about the life and death of our son’s two-year old puppy, and our background with pets, check out Part 1 of this series on pet loss. 

We were very blessed to have support from our loved ones, which certainly has helped our grieving process. 

Others are not so lucky. Not everyone receives support…and, like me previously, not everyone knows what to say or do.

After talking to others who have been through pet loss, I want to offer some ideas of how to encourage those who have experienced a pet’s death – that way people can better know how to be there for their family and friends through their grief.

Anyone who reads this will have the ability to encourage their family and friends who have experienced a pets death…and it will mean so very much to them.

Disclaimer: Like I said in my first post about pet loss, 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 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 exact same way. Whether it is a human being or a pet, this is an 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 – or who will be mourning – their much-loved pet, and it is my prayer these posts are not offensive to anyone in the grief community.❤️As with any grief experience, I look at it as an opportunity to share what I’m learning through my experiences, in hopes it can help encourage whoever needs it. I count it a privilege to help others through all grief and loss issues. 

Here are a few ideas of how to help a loved one through the death or loss of their pet.

How To Help & Encourage Someone Through Pet Loss~

•Seek to understand– Many people think of their pet(s) as family…their baby. They’re continually around them every second they’re home. They snuggle with them most nights, and many people’s pets even share the same bed with them. So when the pet dies, their presence is terribly missed. Since their home holds many memories of their pet, too, a person’s couch, bed, and every room in their house may feel empty. Memories are everywhere. When they get home, their pet is no longer there to greet them. It can be very tough the first few weeks or months.

•If the pet helped them through a tough time or a grief experience, the loss of the pet is going to be much more devastating- When a pet is “there” for their human during grief or loss, the pet and human develop a very strong bond. Some people may even become closer to their pets than their human relationships if the pet has helped them through grief. I know of a man whose grandchild was lost during the pregnancy. A few months later, when a new “grand-dog” entered the picture, he said his heart was greatly comforted every time he was around the new puppy. Sometimes, he’d puppy-sit for his daughter and take the dog fishing with him each weekend. The new dog truly helped him through that tough time. When a dog dies during or after a grief circumstance, please realize the pet’s death is profoundly sad to the pet owner.

•Call your family member or friend whose pet died and realize they’ll grieve for awhile due to triggers– Check up on them periodically. Just like all grief experiences, the grief comes in layers when someone loses a pet. There are ups and downs just like traditional grief. I cried horribly the first few weeks after my son’s puppy died. Then I seemed to be doing much better…until I was driving and saw the Starbucks where I used to get Pupuccinos for him. It brought all of the sadness back up. Grief, whether it’s a human loss or a pet loss, comes in waves…and you never know when a wave will hit you without warning.

Offer to bring your family member or friend dinner, or offer to take them out for coffee…and just be there to care- Not many people will offer compassion to those who have experienced a pet’s death. It’s not that they’re heartless…like I said, they may just not “get” how painful it can be. You can offer to bring coffee or dinner to your family or friends when they lose a pet. A few weeks after our puppy’s death, some of my friends lost their dog. To offer comfort some friends who just went through pet loss, I ordered and paid for dinner and had it delivered to them. I know how hard the first several days were after our dog’s death…I wanted to let them know that somebody cared. This special family was the first to offer to help us with our puppy when we first got him…they helped us so much. I know their hearts were heartbroken after their sweet dog’s death.

Actively show your condolences- Don’t only call or text your loved one, buy a card…send flowers…make a donation to a local shelter in memory/honor of their precious fur angel…offer to help them plant a memorial tree…if you have photos, make a mini scrapbook of the pet to give as a thoughtful gift. The ways to show you care are endless. As with any loss, take the time to actively care.

•When you do something kind, it will always be remembered- Right after we euthanized my son’s puppy, my mom and sister came to the vet. I didn’t even know they were coming, but it truly meant so much to me. As my son held his dog, right after putting him to sleep, I wanted to give him and his puppy some time alone. As I walked out of the room, it was a nice surprise to see my mom and sister..and so good to have a shoulder to cry on. I underestimated how tough the euthanasia would be on us. After the euthanasia, later that night, one of my nieces called to check on us and another niece brought a dog over to play with our other dogs, too. Our family received cards and phone calls as well. I will always be grateful to those who actively cared by showing up and those who offered us compassion. It really meant a lot. 

NEVER say anything to minimize a pet owner’s grief such as, “It’s just a dog” or “You can always get a new pet”- And please do not get them a new pet as a gift unless you talk to them first- They can’t replace the feelings they shared with their pet or duplicate the relationship they built. Most likely, it took years to build it. The reason they’re hurting so badly is because they are grieving the years they “did life” with their pet. Plus, another pet may not have similar personality traits. It’s also not fair to a new pet to place such high expectations on them; any new pet needs to be loved for the unique individual they are. When in doubt, just be there and simply say, “I’m really sorry. Please know I am here. Anytime you’d like to talk, call me.” Your loved one will know when it’s the right time to get a new furry friend….and they’ll appreciate any kind words you can offer them.

If you’re close enough to the person who lost a pet, and you know they cremated their pet or have fur clippings, consider doing something meaningful- I’d suggest inviting them to go somewhere meaningful to sprinkle some of their pet’s ashes at a special place. If the pet had a favorite blanket, you could ask the owner if they’d like for you to have it made into a pillow. You can also buy a necklace or bracelet for the pet owner that they can wear in honor and memory of their pet. We had our vet clip some of our puppy’s fur off after he passed away and I’m taking the fur to Build-A-Bear to be built into stuffed animals that have a clear, see-through heart…one for our son and one for me…so we can “hug” a part of our puppy when we miss him. If your loved one feels up to it, consider inviting them to do something meaningful like this, too.

Realize the inner turmoil your loved one may be going through– When a person has to make the painful decision to euthanize their pet, they’re responsible for ensuring the best interests of their furry best friend. Often times, there is a lot of second guessing…”did we do it at the right time…did we do it prematurely?” If the pet loss was sudden, they may wonder, “did I do all I could do to comfort, help, and save them?” A pet owner may feel deep feelings of guilt, depression, anger, or intense sadness after a pet’s death. They may even blame themselves for not realizing an illness sooner or not having the ability to save their pet’s life. Please take the time to see where your loved one is in their grief process. 

These are just a few suggestions of how to help and encourage a loved one who goes through a pet’s death.

Even if you’re not an animal lover or a “pet person,” these ideas will most likely be very meaningful to your loved ones after they experience losing their furry friend.

Compassion, love, and empathy are what’s important. Always be the compassion today that you hope to receive in the future.

My next blog post in this series will share ideas of how to carefully plan and create the prefect last day for your pet, and also how to create a peaceful experience with your pet’s euthanasia. If you have a pet, you will not want to miss these very important tips and safeguards. There are some lessons we learned the hard way. The next post will help to alleviate future regrets.

Gratitude, healing, & 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

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 

❤️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 

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

💕

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 

❤️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

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, 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, acquaintance, or neighbor, you have the AMAZING opportunity to offer compassion, support, and HOPE this Christmas season. 

Choose to be the BLESSING and compassion today that you will hope to receive tomorrow.

Think about each of these tips, and while you’re reading them, think of who you can bless 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. 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 bereaved 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 them up is welcomed by most. You’re not going to hurt them 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 family holiday dinner or Christmas festivities. Sometimes, traditional family dinners can be challenging. If you are a close enough friend, they may welcome an opportunity for a new place and environment to go to for dinner or holiday celebrations. 

5. Invite your grieving loved one to a holiday movie, out for coffee, to a Christmas church service, 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 a griever so they avoid seeing someone in grief. Please let them know you care. An invitation will speak volumes of your concern for them.

6. Be patient with those in grief. Life as they once knew it has been drastically altered. 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 truly, genuinely caring and being 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 Christmas 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:

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

The Dark Candle ~ Resolving Guilt After The Death Of A Loved One

When someone you greatly love and cherish dies, life can be a challenge.

A challenge to find joy again.

A challenge not to cry every day.

A challenge to enjoy others.

A challenge to relax by doing your previous favorite activities.

A challenge to figure out how to live life at all.

After my sister passed away, life became a true challenge. I felt absolutely horrible guilt that I couldn’t help her…that I didn’t notice how sick she truly was…that we had a bad argument a few months before she passed away…that I was so busy preparing for thanksgiving that I didn’t visit her the few days she was in the hospital.

My sister and I were extremely close; in fact, she was my best friend. The heartache and intense guilt I felt after she died plagued my heart for years. As I cried out to God to help me through my grief…and to release me from the unrelenting guilt and pain…God was so good to answer my prayers.

My life and the way I process grief has never been the same since.

As I was seeking God for His help, a thought came into my heart, “Your sister doesn’t hold anything against you. What may have bothered her on earth, does not even remotely bother her in Heaven. She knows how much you love her, and she knows if you would have known how ill she was, you would’ve come to the hospital. She loves you and she forgives you. Your sister loved life! She’d want you to enjoy and love life, too, so do so in her honor.”

After sensing this in my heart, my eyes flooded with tears. Ever since that day, I have truly tried my best to celebrate life, love my family, and honor my sister and other loved ones to my greatest ability.

When grief enters your life, you are left to work through all of the tough emotions. You grieve not just the person, instead you grieve every facet of that person and all they meant to you. And it takes time.

I’d like to share a story with you. As you read the following story, keep in mind that during grief, there will be tears – absolutely! – they are a very normal and healthy part of grief. And you don’t always have control of when grief will hit you since grief is much like the ocean’s water…sometimes the water is calm and beautiful, but other times, the water is extremely rocky and torrential.

As you read this story, listen to your heart and truly know that your loved one loves you so very much! They love you for all the ways you loved and cared for them while they were here on earth…and they treasure and love you for all of the ways you honor and remember them daily. They hold nothing against you…they wish you love, peace, comfort, and joy.

I hope this story brings your heart the comfort and peace you so desperately deserve. May God bring your heart healing, love, and all of the good things that life has to offer! You’re going to make it through this!

❤️Gratitude & blessings,
    Kim

The Dark Candle

A man had a little daughter – an only and much beloved child. He lived for her ~ she was his life. So when she became ill and her illness resisted the efforts of the best obtainable physicians, he became like a man possessed, moving heaven and earth to bring about her restoration to health. 

His best efforts proved unavailing and the child died. The father was totally irreconcilable. He became a bitter recluse, shutting himself away from his many friends and refusing every activity that might restore his poise and bring him back to his normal self. But one night he had a dream. He was in Heaven, and was witnessing a grand pageant of all the little child angels. They were marching in an apparently endless line past the Great White Throne. Every white-robed angelic tot carried a candle. He noticed that one child’s candle was not lighted. Then he saw that the child with the dark candle was his own little girl. Rushing to her, while the pageant faltered, he seized her in his arms, caressed her tenderly, and then asked: “How is it, darling that your candle alone is unlighted? His sweet daughter lovingly replied, “Father, they often relight it, but your tears always put it out.” 

Just then he awoke from his dream. The lesson was crystal clear, and its effects were immediate. From that hour on he was not a recluse, but mingled freely and cheerfully with his former friends and associates. No longer would his little darling’s candle be extinguished by his useless tears.

Written by Strickland Gillian

I pray this story brought comfort and great encouragement to your heart. May God bless you today and always!

❤️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

❤️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 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

Helping The Hurting To Stay In Church

An alarming trend I have seen — and have also heard about from several pastors — is the amount of hurting people who are leaving the church.
There are many reasons why this happens, but here are a few reasons I have seen firsthand:

  1. After a person goes through grief, their church family is usually excellent at being there for them the first few weeks, but when the grief intensifies several weeks or months after the funeral, it can feel as though they have been forgotten or abandoned.
  2. After going through a hurtful or tragic situation, many do not understand how to reach out or know what to say to the hurting person. The hurting person then feels avoided and assumes they’re not important or cared about, so they leave.
  3. A griever tires of being told unhelpful cliches (“At least they’re in a better place,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” etc) or they may be prematurely pressured to “get on” with life, without anyone truly taking the time to help them through their grief and pain.
  4. The hurting person’s church may not have a Care Pastor who they can talk to, or their church may not offer care ministries where they can find help and encouragement, so they look for a church that does offer these things.
  5. Church staff or church members deeply wound or mistreat others or “drop the ball” in a hurtful situation.
  6. After a big grief event or loss, they find it very challenging not to cry in church, especially during worship.
  7. After going through grief or loss, they feel such a strong void and intense pain that they do not wish to  be around others.
  8. They feel they are being judged by their situation, or they feel embarrassed or self conscious about their loss.

These are just a few of the common challenges I frequently hear about why those who are hurting leave the church.

So what is the solution? What are we missing?

I believe the more we build the heart and spirit of our churches, the better we will be able to meet the needs of every member — especially when they are grieving or hurting.

People commit (and stay committed) to churches where:

  • they trust and respect the church staff and leadership. The church ideally will also have a staff member or trained volunteers who are able to take on the role of being a Care Pastor to encourage and help those who are hurting.
  • they are taught God’s Word and have continual opportunities to learn and grow in their faith.
  • they are taught how to handle grief, conflict, disappointment, and spiritual warfare from a biblical perspective.
  • they are offered the ability to attend strong care ministries, so they can be helped and encouraged during their toughest times in life. It is very helpful for those who grieve to have a place where they can be with like-minded people who “get” what they are going through in life.
  • they are taught how to become a genuine community. They truly learn how to rejoice and mourn together.
  • they feel genuinely welcomed, accepted and truly cared about
  • they understand the value of being a part of a community and learn how to help each other and build one another up — genuinely encouraging and enjoying fellowship with each other.
  • they feel they can truly “come as they are,” but are encouraged to grow…and have ample opportunities to do so.
  • they experience depth.
  • they can see the church has an overall agreed upon vision—without depth, unity, or vision, the people will perish, spiritually die, or leave during hard times.
  • they have the availability to serve and help others and they understand the importance of their role in belonging and serving others.
  • each member shows – in action – the love, mercy, character, and kindness of Christ.
  • the church staff and members are real, genuine, and authentic.
  • everybody feels like they belong.

Some more tangible ways of helping the grief community in your church are:

  1. Provide grief classes and care ministries to the bereaved
  2. Provide grief education at least biannually to every staff member so they understand how to better serve and minister to those who are hurting
  3. Partner with a trusted and respected Christian counseling center so you have a place to refer those who need extra encouragement and help. The counseling center can also refer their clients to your church’s care ministries
  4. Create a Care Card Ministry where volunteers make and send cards to those who have lost loved ones. Send those who are hurting a card once a month during the first year of their loss
  5. Create a Hospitality Ministry Team that can set up dinners for those who have lost loved ones. Ideally, this team can have volunteers “on call” who can make and deliver dinner each night (or at least every other night) for two weeks after a church member has lost a loved one. This team can also coordinate providing a lunch or dinner to the hurting family on the day of the funeral at the church or funeral home
  6. Host an annual grief conference at your church and extend an invitation to your entire city to attend. At the conference, have a table set up with information about your various care ministries. Also have flyers available that share details about your care ministries and the days and times they meet
  7. Be sure to share with your congregation info about the care ministries you choose to offer. Also, there are many free Bible Reading Plans on grief, trials, and hardships on the YouVersion Bible App. Find quality resources and encourage your members to get involved
  8. Take the time to truly care. Invite someone who is hurting out for coffee or ice cream. Listen to them and be there for them in their time of need. Be a good friend to them. When helping someone who is hurting, ask yourself, “if I (or a family member) was in their position, how would I want for someone to reach out to or be there for us?”
  9. If you know you have personally hurt, offended, mistreated, or wounded someone…or improperly handled a situation (past or present), have the integrity to reach out to that person and apologize
  10. If you notice someone who has been active in your church no longer attends, contact them to see how they’re doing and tell them they’re missed

I hope you found this article helpful. I pray that each of your churches are blessed beyond measure as you minister to and help the hurting! All you do for the grief community matters and is so appreciated so thank you for all you do!

Gratitude and many blessings,
Kim

©2016 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

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 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

5. Singing Through The Storm: http://bible.com/r/Sj

Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️