Tag Archive | family

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

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 Best Decisions I’ve Ever Made

All throughout life, we each will make a series of choices.

Some choices will turn out to be very beneficial; others will prove to be liabilities. 

We can truly learn through all choices – the good and the bad. And when we learn or experience something in life – especially the great things, why not pass it on to help others?

My favorite choices in life, are the ones I can look back on and be exceptionally happy I made them count.

As I was talking to a dear friend this week, she asked me what three choices – other than becoming a Christian, wife, or mom – have made the greatest impact in my life.

I immediately thought of several, but one stood out the most…the decision to buy a notebook and use it to create, and continually update, a Bucket List.

A Bucket List has helped me to be much more intentional in living life…both short term and long term.

There are many places I’ve traveled that I most likely never would have traveled to, many goals I’ve reached that could’ve gotten lost in the shuffle of life, and many activities and traditions I’ve enjoyed with my husband, the kiddos, and my family and friends — all because I wrote these things down and purposely made them a reality — especially if I gave myself a deadline to complete them.

Do I meet every goal, destination, and activity’s deadline all of the time? Nah…and I don’t beat myself up when I don’t. But I do meet about 80-90% of them…which is much better than the 0-25% I’d meet if I weren’t intentional about it. And on some things, I’ll extend the deadline so I can accomplish them at a later date, so there’s never any stress with my Bucket List.

I love my Bucket List! It’s purpose-filled and fun! I enjoy dreaming, setting goals, planning fun activities, and looking forward to different travels. 

There have been many times that my Bucket List has provided much joy, and it also has helped me stay focused through times of deep grief.

So how do you start a Bucket List?

  1. Buy a notebook or create a file on your computer/cell phone/iPad. There are also some Bucket List apps.
  2. Ask yourself what activities or traditions (old or new) you’d like to enjoy with family or friends 
  3. Think about what you intentionally want to do in life 
  4. Consider places you’d like to travel
  5. Ask God what spiritual goals He’d like for you to put on your Bucket List
  6. What educational or career goals would you like to pursue and accomplish 
  7. Are there areas of self-improvement you’d like to make
  8. What bad habits would you like to overcome
  9. What positive life goals or dreams would you like to fulfill
  10. What financial goals would you like to work on
  11. What relationships would you like to improve or honor/enjoy more
  12. What family and friends do you want to make sure feel extraordinarily loved, encouraged, and appreciated
  13. What ministry do you want to start or become involved in
  14. How can you make God and His love & kindness more known in the world
  15. What activities/hobbies are you passionate about…or what new activities/hobbies do you want to start, try, or perfect

These tips can help you start brainstorming your way to living your life to the fullest! 

Truly think about the kind of life you want. 

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed about going on a Mediterranean cruise, or traveling to Hawaii or Disney World with family. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go skiing over Thanksgiving or to the beach at Christmastime. Or do a road trip in the Fall to see the gorgeous leaves in New England.

Maybe you’ve dreamed of going back to school to get a higher degree.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint or cook…or do tae kwon do or adult league soccer. Maybe get into bodybuilding or running.

Maybe you want to be a better spouse…parent…sibling…family member…friend. 

Make your Bucket List your very own. Create individualized goals/plans and also include God and family in your plans. Have the best time creating a beautiful life – the kind of life you wake up in the morning and truly want. A life you are really excited to live each and every day! 

A Bucket List has helped me tremendously throughout my life. It truly is one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made! 

It helps anyone who has a Bucket List to be very intentional. And it’s great to look back and see how much you were able to enjoy, plan, do, and accomplish – and especially help others, too!

What’s the first thing you’ll write in your Bucket List? Be sure to periodically highlight or put a check next to each item you’ve accomplished, enjoyed, or successfully completed.

At the end of your life, you’ll be extra thankful you took the time to create a Bucket List…and look back and see the wonderful, beautiful life you intentionally created for you and your loved ones!

Happy Bucket Listing!

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

❤️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

The 10 Thieves of Christmas 

So, who all has seen How The Grinch Stole Christmas?

If you’ve not seen, or at least heard of, the Grinch, you probably live in a remote village with no TV or wifi access.

I watched the tv show version of the grinch with my family as a child while growing up, and I have now always watched the grinch with my own family ever since I got married each year as well.

I love the complexity of this show because of the many elements – and so much of life happens in similar ways. 

Just like the Grinch and the Whos of Whoville, you dream of what life has to offer…you plan and prepare for it…something happens and wrecks your plan, attempting to rob you of your joy…and then there is growth – and eventually healing. And this circle goes on and on and on through multiple different circumstances all throughout life.

Just like when the Grinch attempts to steal Christmas from The Whos – and all seems lost, miracles can still become a reality and life lessons can be learned through the toughest grief experiences we each face.

Are you battling a thief of Christmas today? Is something, a life event, or someone sucking all of your joy and peace out of you this Christmas season? 

Everybody at some point will go through a season during the holidays where life is a true, heartbreaking challenge. Below is a list of the most common thieves of Christmas. As you read this list, consider what “thieves” are attempting to steal your joy and peace.

1. Grief – 
Losing a loved one can make the holidays absolutely unbearable. You miss your loved one so much that your heart genuinely aches…it feels as though your heart is literally breaking. If you are going through grief, be kind to your remaining loved ones and yourself. If you are freshly in grief, there is no wrong or right way of celebrating the holidays. Do only whatever makes you comfortable. You may choose to do your usual festivities…you may choose to have a much more relaxed holiday…or you may choose to simply stay home or go out of town. The people who love you will understand and support however you need to spend the holidays. Surround yourself with love.

2. Disappointment
There are many disappointments life can throw at you — and the holidays seem to magnify them. If you’re frustrated by an area of your life, the holidays tend to bring up intense feelings. If you’re single and wish to be married or you desperately desire to be a parent, you most likely will see more happy couples or children than usual. If you wanted a promotion at work, this can be magnified as well. If you’re married and your spouse or children don’t seem to care about you or they don’t care to celebrate the traditions that are dear to your heart…or your kiddos can’t come home for Christmas…that’s tough, too. Disappointments come in many forms. It’s up to each person to figure out how to navigate through the deep disappointments in life. I have found the best way to deal with disappointments in life, is to mourn the loss of whatever disappointment it is, then give all of my expectations to God, and then finally write down a checklist of all of the good I have in my life. Sometimes when you see what you do have in life it alleviates what you do not.

3. Relationship Conflicts –
The holidays for most people – sadly – wouldn’t be the holidays if there wasn’t some sort of relational conflict. Parents get upset by how their married children divvy up the time they have to spend on Christmas Day…spouses are stressed due to a multitude of reasons – maybe even undealt with past conflict…kids are shuffled between homes and become irritable…family members fail to value one another…certain family members bring up problems during Christmas dinner or make catty or rude remarks. A variety of relationship conflicts happen to most everyone at some point during the holidays. My advice? Make the most of EVERY Christmas event with loved ones. You never know who will pass away in the new year and you don’t want your previous holiday to hold painful memories or regrets. Choose to give grace to others when you can. Enjoy and love your family extravagantly. If you’re upset a family member isn’t doing what you’re expecting them to do, or if someone is upset with you, seek to find win/win situations where both people can be happy. If you know you’re being difficult, give the gift of harmony and flexibility to others. Be super good to your spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, siblings, and all other family members. Family is a most treasured gift – even if each person doesn’t always act like one. I talk to so many grievers who would absolutely give up everything in the world to have their loved one back with them on Christmas Day. Choose to call a moratorium and be the bigger person. It’s one day of the entire year – do your part to make it a great one! If someone is seriously rude or degrading to you or your family, sometimes the most polite thing you can do is create strong boundaries…especially if you have young children who you are trying to provide great Christmas memories for. If someone has majorly crossed over boundary lines, you may want to get the advice of a therapist to see how to best handle the conflict. If it can be resolved or talked out, family harmony is very important. Sometimes, that just, sadly, isn’t possible. There’s a big difference between an annoying or opinionated relative and an extremely toxic one who can truly create long term damage. Pray and ask God for wisdom of how to handle situations, give grace where you can, and seek out healthy interactions and create great memories with family this year! 

4. Addictions
Addictions are a killer around the holidays. If you are someone who struggles with sobriety or you’ve chosen to make healthier life choices, temptations are EVERYWHERE. If you’re battling alcohol, food/overeating, overspending, etc, you have to be so very careful to maintain your sobriety and health. Perhaps your family still has alcohol around because they “have always done things this way,” you’ll need to ensure your healthful choices by pre-planning how you’ll address potential situations and temptations. Preparation and having a solid plan at all times goes a long way! Addictions demand that you give up so much for so little…it literally is like borrowing $5 but having to pay back $5,000. Don’t give up months or years of discipline and hard work for one day or one week of the year. It just isn’t worth it!

5. Loneliness – 
There are many reasons for loneliness. You may not have family or friends, or you may even be married with kiddos and have family and friends but feel extremely alone if your relationships are shallow or stressed. The holidays can be intensely lonely. Everybody dreams of having lots of family and friends around…receiving lots of Christmas cards…being invited to holiday parties…having a special friend or romantic partner to do activities with…snuggling up with someone or doing lots of fun Christmas activities with friends…but sometimes life just doesn’t happen the way we wish. I remember one particular Christmas that was painful for me, it was actually the year before I met my husband. Due to some very tough situations, I felt extremely alone. More alone than I had ever felt. I had just been through a traumatic grief event and I could have thrown the biggest pity party on planet earth – and everyone who knew me at the time would’ve completely understood and supported the pity party. I, instead, chose to do whatever I could to create a memorable Christmas. I invited my parents to go buy a live Christmas tree with me. I asked my sisters to bake treats with me. The very best thing I chose to do was choosing to spend many nights in front of the Christmas tree with all of the lights out in the room except for the beautiful lights on the Christmas tree, pouring my broken heart out to God. It sounds really crazy, but I will always treasure that super lonely Christmas. I found God’s heart through that tough and lonely season in my life. If you are feeling all alone this Christmas, please know that God loves you so very much! When people hurt or fail you…when spouses of kiddos disappoint or hurt your heart…when friends fail you…God is always there. He’s beyond faithful and will comfort your lonely heart in a way no human possibly can. Invite God to spend your holiday with you. You’ll be delightfully surprised how faithful – and what an amazing friend – He truly is!

6. Financial Difficulties –
I wish everybody had a money tree in their backyard, especially during the holidays. How cool would that be? Unfortunately, not everyone is consistently blessed in the area of finances. Finances can bring upon tons of stress and be limiting. If people allow it to, finances can create conflict in marriages and families, wreck havoc on health, and cause tension. The only good things about financial challenges are the creativity you can develop through hard times, the drive to create a better life, and realizing that what truly matters in life is definitely not “things.” Don’t feel pressured into buying things you can’t afford or taking up slack you genuinely aren’t able to. Do your very best and ask God to meet your needs. It also helps to appreciate the simplicity of Christmas and the peacefulness of the season with your loved ones. The only thing that truly matters is Christ and loved ones. Everything else is just a bonus.

7. Medical Diagnosis –
Medical diagnoses or issues are alarming. If you or a loved one received bad medical news this year, you most likely feel deep concern. Concern for how your loved ones are going to handle the diagnosis, concern for the future, concern for you or your loved one’s wellbeing. You also are probably going through a roller coaster of emotions…fear, worry, heartache, frustration. You may even feel angry or cheated. Illness is difficult and can leave you feeling helpless and even depressed. Take the time to talk to God about all you or your loved ones are going through and feeling. He wants to encourage and comfort you. With your loved ones, share how you each are feeling and also share what each of your needs are. Whether you (or a loved one) have a lifelong debilitating illness or the illness is at hospice level, I pray God comforts your heart and gives you and your loved ones a Christmas that is special and memorable.

8. Prodigal spouse, child, or family member –
I’ve never seen a time in my life where there was such spiritual warfare in families. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive a phone call to meet with clients who are experiencing the pain of a spouse who has committed adultery, the heartache of an adult child who has abandoned their Christian faith, or a sad situation of family estrangement. Parents abandon their children…children are now abandoning their parents…family members quit talking to one another…it’s just very, very sad. And this time of year is the worst time to experience such heartache because it is so much more deeply felt. It is very painful to experience a family member not living close to God or yourself. When you are at your wit’s end, remember that God is never not working in a situation. He truly is working on your behalf and your loved ones behalf. He never quits, and He can bring beauty out of ashes. Commit your loved ones and your tough situations to the Lord and ask Him to work everything out. He loves you and your loved ones – and can do – more than you can imagine. Trust His heart! He, better than anyone, knows exactly how you feel. His heart is for you and your loved one!

9. Guilt & Regrets –

Past guilt and regrets can do a real number on people. “Could’ve,” “Should’ve,” “Would’ve,” and “If Only,” wreck havoc on many people during the holiday season. “If only I had tried harder in my marriage…”…”I should’ve spent more time with my kids while they were growing up…”…”If only I could’ve gone back in time to prevent_____…”…”If only I would’ve done_____…”…the list of guilt and regrets can go on and on. It is so incredibly important to realize that had you known better, you would’ve chosen or done better. By all means, if your conscience is hurting you and you have it in your power to do something about your guilt and regrets, then definitely do so. Make amends wherever possible. But if you can’t do anything about whatever past situation you are hurting or feeling guilt or regrets from, then you may want to talk to God about the situation and ask Him to help you and heal your heart. Every situation we go through in life is an opportunity to learn to be better, do better, and change things for the better. Be kind to others and yourself, always seek to have a clean conscience, and give grace to yourself and others. You may not be able to do anything about the past, but with each new day, you have the opportunity to create a brand new future.

10. Stress
There are three types of people during the  holidays: those who are completely refreshed and relaxed…those who are completely stressed out…and those who are a combination of the two. Try not to stress too much these next few days. Take on only what you feel comfortable doing. It’s not a sin to say no to a request if you genuinely don’t have the time or energy to do something. Take time to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of the season: time with God, family, friends, and your church family…attending Christmas services at church…Christmas music…a good Christmas movie…hot cocoa…Christmas lights. Stop to reflect on all of the blessings you’ve received from God and others this year. Take a deep breath and realize that it’s truly okay to relax!

There are so many thieves that can invade Christmas and obliterate it’s usual cheer.

With just 4 days until Christmas, make the decision to be kind to your heart…and to celebrate these remaining days of the holiday in the most stress-free, enjoyable, and relaxed way possible.

Whether you are feeling sadness, or you are feeling cheerful, take the time to focus on the most important Reason for the season. Spend time seeking God’s heart and thank Him for the absolute miracle of Christmas.

When it all comes down to it, the holiday is truly only about Jesus. Never allow anyone or anything to steal your joy in Him!

I truly wish each of you a very blessed Christmas! May God richly bless each of you in the days to come and throughout the new year!

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

🎄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
❤️

Creating An Authentic & Personalized Valentine’s Day In Spite Of Heartache

Valentine’s Day.

Ah, the day for lovers. A day filled with flowers, chocolate, jewelry, romantic candlelight dinners, gifts, and love.

But what if you’re one of the people who aren’t in the Happy Valentine’s Day Club this year?

Maybe your treasured spouse has passed away, or you recently went through an ugly divorce or tough breakup, or your little Valentines (kiddos) who used to make you the sweetest homemade Valentine’s Day cards have grown up and are being anything but sweet.

Maybe your spouse or significant other has cheated on you or betrayed your trust and you’re in the heart wrenching transition of cleaning up a horrible mess you didn’t choose, create, or deserve.

Maybe you’ve longed to have a spouse or a special someone in your life, but things never worked out quite how you wanted them to, and now you find yourself alone. 

Perhaps you’re married or in a relationship, but you know you will not be cherished or celebrated…February 14 is “just another day” to your significant other or spouse – and no matter how much you’ve shared or communicated your feelings, needs, and desires, Valentines Day will simply be another annual holiday let down…just like every other past Valentine’s Day.

Maybe you’ve been burnt by love in the past, so you take great care to never go near any flame of love ever again. You just don’t care to pursue or open yourself up to love ever again because you don’t wish to potentially get hurt. 

Perhaps you’re in the middle of a huge grief experience and love is the last thing on your mind. Your broken heart feels as though it can’t focus on anything but your present pain.

There are many reasons – spoken and unspoken – why some are less than enthusiastic about February 14: the day of love, chocolate, and roses.

This past week, I’ve seen so many blogs with helpful lists of Valentine’s advice. What to do…what not to do…what to avoid…where to go…where not to go…the advice is as numerous as the lists. I actually had spent several hours writing a list, but my computer crashed and it was all lost. I’m now glad it was, even though it was very frustrating at the time, because I think this post is much more real, heartfelt, realistic and authentic than the original list I came up with.

As I kept pondering Valentine’s Day, I realized that lists can be a huge source of help – because face it…some people do not have a romantic bone in their body and they need all the help they can get – but by following lists, it still keeps the focus exclusively on the romantic facets of the holiday. 

And I think that’s a big problem.

I remember times in the past that I could have been the president of the Valentine’s Day Sucks Club. During these times, I was in the midst of certain grief experiences (death of a loved one, being alone on Valentine’s Day, after getting married – having marriage issues, going through relationship conflict, feeling as though there was no hope to be had, etc). And I get it…because I remember holidays not being so great during these times. 

I didn’t read any blogs at the time, and frankly, if I had been in a state of mind to read, I’m not sure a tidy little list could have helped me out or solved my hurts. They most likely would have encouraged me, but I’m not sure I’d feel much better after reading them in the long run.

I think when you’re going through a tough life experience, your soul craves comfort and relief. It also craves authenticity, because when your heart and soul have been battered by the waves of life, it washes everything away and you just want something real.

I wish someone would have given me a different perspective on holidays – new ideas so I had options for enjoying them – so today, I hope to be a source of encouragement for all who are hurting today.

Sometimes, you just need to change things up or create something unique and different – so as to not stay stagnant or miserable.

How do you wish to spend Valentine’s Day? What can you do to create a wonderful day for your loved ones and yourself?

Maybe you want to celebrate big. Maybe you’re so discouraged that you truly just hope to get through the day.

This Valentine’s Day, create whatever kind of day you personally need, so you truly are able to enjoy or just get through the day. If that means declaring an “Un-Valentine’s Day” where you make the day just like any other day or avoid all things Valentine-ish, then do so. If it means pouring your heart and love into your loved ones (spouse, children, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents, other family, or friends, then wholeheartedly do that. If it means baking Valentine’s Day treats and passing them out to loved ones or those you know who are hurting, then go and enjoy that. If it means warmly remembering and honoring your loved ones who are no longer here, then do that. If it means putting on your comfiest pajamas, lighting the fireplace, and getting a big box of chocolates and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (hey, no judgment here😊) and watching sappy movies while either loving or hating the holiday, then go for it. If you want to go out to dinner with all of your single friends, go out and celebrate. Do whatever makes you feel comfy, cozy, and happy!

You might want to spend the day completely alone, or with a few people, or get a big group of people together who want to have a great Valentine’s Day, too…or even an anti-Valentine’s Day. 

People should create whatever type of day they need, so that on February 15, they can wake up with a heart that is filled with joy, contentment, good memories and wholeness.

Expectations of how one thinks the day should go…or expecting others to fill their heart up…is the quickest road to arrive at disappointment and heartache. Instead of waking up on February 14th with great expectations…and then waking up on the 15th with disappointments or sadness, what if you purposely choose to cultivate gratefulness for any evidence of love you have in your life… and on the morning of February 14th, choose to create the best customized Valentine’s Day that truly fills your heart and the hearts of your loved ones, too? 

There are no rules on how to get through Valentine’s Day – or any other tough holiday of the year for that matter. As long as you aren’t hurting God, other people, or yourself…or doing anything illegal…then authentically doing whatever helps your heart to heal or feel great joy will be what creates a wonderful, personalized Valentine’s Day.

What kind of day can you custom create this Valentine’s Day? What will bring your heart joy, comfort, warmth, and peace? Do you want a day of relaxation and solitude or do you want a day filled with loved ones and fun? Do you enjoy flowers, candy, and jewelry? If you have no one to buy these special gifts for you, consider buying these treats for others or yourself. Are you concerned someone won’t celebrate and honor you? You have great value! Celebrate and honor your own heart…because you deserve it! 

All of the usual things about Valentine’s Day…flowers, chocolates, jewelry, gifts, fancy dinners, and gifts…although these things are amazing, they ultimately fail to include the very best thing about Valentine’s Day. They can’t even compete with the true meaning.

Valentine’s Day is about genuine love and the hearts of ALL the precious people God has graciously given us to love in our lives: God’s heart, our family members’ hearts (spouse/significant other, kiddos/little people, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, etc), and also our own heart.

Creating a special day to celebrate love – and the gift of love – is what will make the day special. It doesn’t have to primarily be about romance. In fact, I prefer it doesn’t so I’m not limited in my celebrations of the day. I choose for February 14 to be a day of gratitude and love.

It is also a great source of comfort for each person to know and truly realize that the Ultimate Valentine loves and adores their heart. If there is ever a day a person feels they do not have any options for a Happy Valentine’s Day, there will always be One who constantly remains…and He loves each and every soul more than any human ever can. God is MORE than happy to spend the entire day with anyone who feels lonely or disappointed by life and love! Just ask!❤️

So how can you celebrate and create love tomorrow and each and every day of the year?

The creation of how you choose to unwrap the gift of Valentine’s Day is truly and authentically yours. Do something extra special!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! May you always realize your great value, and how special and loved you truly are!

Gratitude, LOVE, 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

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

❤️

70 Fun & Memorable Christmas Traditions

I absolutely love Christmas! 

Growing up, my mom made the holidays an extra special and magical time for our family and me. After I became a mom, I carried on some of the traditions that were passed down to me and I also created some new ones for my family. 
Hope you enjoy doing some of these – my absolute favorite Christmas traditions – with your loved ones!

~Kim 

1. Decorating the tree & home~
Whether you put up one tree or many, or whether your tree is perfectly themed or filled with mismatched ornaments, a tree should be a unique display of a family’s personal tastes, Christmas fun, and warm memories. Put on some Christmas tunes and decorate to your hearts content!

2. Christmas baking party~
Invite family and/or close friends over and make some yummy treats.
The best part is sharing them with loved ones! If you know of someone who needs encouragement, why not surprise them with some cookies too!

3. Looking at lights in your pajamas~
Put on some super comfy PJ’s, bring along or buy some hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music, and drive around looking at lights. This can include just your immediate family or you can invite many family members and friends. Afterwards, watch a Christmas movie complete with holiday snacks.

4. Play Christmas song charades~
Get a bunch of people together and give everybody 3 little pieces of paper and have them write down 3 of their favorite Christmas songs… Then put the pieces of paper in a big bowl and have each person take turns drawing 1 of the pieces of paper out of the bowl and act out, without any words, the Christmas song they drew out of the bowl. Be prepared to laugh…hard.

5. Christmas home video night~
Every year, record home videos of every Christmas and then watch those videos on the nights leading up to Christmas. Our family now has 25 videos so we start 25 nights before Christmas Day, watching one each evening. 

6. Game night~
Invite family and friends over to play games and drink hot chocolate or eggnog…and eat Christmas cookies! Have each person bring their favorite holiday snack.

7. Snow ice cream~
If it snows during December, make snow ice cream and watch Frosty the Snowman. If it doesn’t snow, have an ice cream sundae bar. Maybe make some snowball cookies, too.

8. Surprise your grandparents & parents~
Visit grandparents and/or parents and surprise them with a Christmas poinsettia and a holiday treat such as Starbucks or a holiday flavored milkshake. It’s a great way to thank them for all they have done (and still do) for you and the investment they made/make in your life! 

9. Contribute to charity~
Teach your children the joy of giving (and model compassion) by providing gifts to those in need. Consider writing those in the military and teaching your children about the sacrifices our military makes. Bake or buy cookies and then stop by the police department or fire stations and bless them with cookies. If you know of a widow or widower, do something special for them. Consider doing Angel Tree and choose an angel who shares a family member’s birthday.

10. Scrapbook Night~
Take lots of holiday photos, get the photos developed, and make a scrapbook. If you have kids, have them create one too!
Also, get out all your old Christmas photos and reminisce about Christmases past.

11. Indoor picnic~
Make some traditional holiday food, picnic foods, or snack foods and have an indoor picnic while watching holiday movies or listening to Christmas music.

12. Tea party~
Make some fun holiday scones, tea sandwiches, and petite desserts and invite loved ones over for afternoon tea. You can also decorate Christmas sugar cookies at this event, too.

13. Tepee/Fort Day~
Make a teepee or fort in the middle of your living room with your kiddos, complete with decorations and lights, and then watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

14. Finger paint with pudding~
Make some vanilla pudding and color it with red food coloring and another batch with green food coloring and then “paint” on wax paper.

15. Make ornaments~
Google “make homemade Christmas ornaments” and get creative!

16. Make homemade Christmas play dough~
Make green, yellow, blue, brown, white, and red play dough and have fun with your kiddos creating Christmas themed creations.

17. Christmas Eve gift~
Start a tradition of opening up one present on Christmas Eve: a great book to read or pajamas!

18. Homemade hot chocolate & story~
Make homemade hot chocolate to drink while reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

19. Treats for Santa~
Leave out cookies and milk for Santa Claus…and don’t forget carrot sticks for Rudolph!

20. Attend Christmas church services~
Spend time praising God for His amazing gift and miracle of Christmas!

21. Caroling~
Go caroling in your neighborhood and pass out treats or fruit baskets to your neighbors.

22. Live theater/ballet night~
Get dressed up and go see the Nutcracker ballet, a Broadway musical, or a live performance of A Christmas Carol.

23. Peace by the tree~
Turn out the lights, except for your tree’s Christmas lights, and sit by your tree every night leading up to the New Year and spend time with God while listening to soft Christmas music.

24. Advent~
Do Advent with your kiddos. My favorite book to follow is, “Christ in Christmas: a family advent celebration”…very good book!

25. Christmas Date~
Make plans for a special Christmas date with your spouse and/or children (or nieces/nephews/siblings)….go buy a Christmas CD together and play it in the car, go out to lunch (let them choose the place), and then go to every store that interests your spouse and/or child and make a Christmas “wish list”. If you make this an annual tradition, your child/niece/nephew will have a great Christmas CD music collection when they’re an adult.

26. Have a family Christmas card party~
Buy or make Christmas cards, have the whole family sign each card, and send them to family and friends. When addressing the cards, pray for God’s favor on each family.

27. The Reason for the season~
Read all about the birth of Christ in the Bible to your children on Christmas Day and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before opening presents. Tell your kiddos that everything they receive for Christmas is all because God has blessed them with His goodness.

28. Happy Birthday, Jesus~
Have a birthday party for Jesus, complete with a birthday cake.

29. Gifts for Jesus~
Give Jesus a birthday gift of your choice: do something special for another person, set aside time to read your Bible everyday, develop the fruits of the Spirit all year long, etc…think of something truly special and then do it in honor of Jesus as a special gift to Him.

30. Thankful for family and friends~
Treat a family member or friend to a place that has holiday themed treats: lots of restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops have great treats in December.

31. Time for a holiday getaway~
Take an impromptu trip to another destination and enjoy all the cool holiday fun. Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hotel del Coronado (California), ICE at Gaylord hotels, Great Wolf Lodge, Silver Dollar City, the Biltmore Estate, New Orleans, New York City (best city ever😊), Chicago…the list of great places to go and enjoy holiday fun is endless! Of course, a staycation in your own hometown works, too!

32. Host an impromptu Christmas or New Year’s Eve party~
Have guests bring their favorite holiday snack, dessert, or beverage to share with everybody.

33. Movie night~
Host a Christmas movie night and provide popcorn and drinks.

34. Frozen fun~
Go ice skating, snow tubing, or sledding.

35. Ornaments and memories~
Buy an ornament every week in December, as well as anytime you go on a trip or a vacation. As the years go on, you’ll end up with a great tree of memories.

36. Cookie exchange~
Host a cookie exchange where everyone who attends pre-makes their favorite Christmas cookie or treat, and brings copies of the recipe, and everyone exchanges treats.

37. Christmas karaoke~
Because singing around family and friends is a blasty blast!

38. Sing around the piano~
Find a piano, someone who can play it, and gather round for some wonderful Christmas fun!

39. Have a gingerbread house decorating contest with family and friends~
Lookup recipes online and don’t forget the toppings and decorations.

40. Check out local Christmas festivities, parades, events, etc~
There’s so much to do throughout the entire month of December. Lookup fun activities and enjoy them.

41. Photos with Santa~
Visit Santa Claus and get your pic taken with him. Be sure to write a letter to him, too, just for fun!

42. Fresh tree~
Go to a tree farm and cut down your own Christmas tree. Be sure to know how to properly care for it to extend it’s life.

43. Craft day~
Make a paper Christmas chain and count down the days until Christmas. Look online for craft ideas and have a relaxing, creative night.

44. Family camp out~
Have a family “camp out” or sleepover in the living room. Watch a Christmas movie, enjoy Christmas treats, get a flashlight and make reindeer shadows on the ceiling, do Christmas crafts, and make cookies at midnight.

45. Volunteer and give back~
Look for ways to be a blessing at your church or a soup kitchen, ring a bell for Salvation Army, or do another service project with your family. Consider making a donation or doing something special for a foster home or orphanage. Also, go through your closets and donate unused clothing.

46. Kindness to the elderly~
Visit a local nursing home and sing Christmas carols and hand out Christmas cards. They love visitors!

47. Play “Dirty Santa”~
Have family and friends buy a gift for $10 or less, get together and take turns having one person open a present…they can choose to open a gift from under the tree or if they like a gift someone else has already opened, they can “steal” it from them (this can happen up to 3 times). 

48. Host a White Elephant gift exchange~
Everybody brings a gag gift and exchanges gifts. 

49. Christmas Eve Watch Party~
Watch the news on Christmas Eve to “track” Santa Claus.

50. Make Christmas dough ornaments~
If you have children, make handprint ornaments.
Be sure to make some for the grandparents too 🙂

51. Tree Decorations~
Make popcorn garland and hang it on the tree. Candy canes are fun to hang on the tree too!

52. Music nights~
Attend local Christmas concerts at churches, schools, and in the community.

53. Relax~
Take the time you need to rejuvenate and relax this holiday season. Pedicures are awesome, too!

54. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life~
Thank God for all the family and friends you have in your life…and also for loved ones who are now living with Him.

55. Thankfulness~
Every day in December, think of a person you are thankful for and something you are grateful for. Each day, call, write, or text the person you are thankful for to tell them why you are thankful for them.

56. Prayer cards~
Every Christmas card you receive, place it in a special basket and pray for the family who sent it. Keep the basket out all year and pray for each family throughout the new year too!

57. Be a “Secret Santa”~
Secretly leave a gift at a loved one’s house.

58. Flower power~
Send flowers or a Christmas floral arrangement to your parents, grandparents, or someone who has invested in your life.

59. Childcare~
Offer to watch family member’s children so mom and dad can go on a Christmas date and get some holiday shopping done. If you happen to have extra money, pay for their date.

60. Host a special Christmas brunch or holiday dessert party~
Invite family and friends over for a yummy good time!

61. Make paper snowflakes~
Use your creativity to create beautiful snowflakes and hang them in your house.

62. Go out to a Mexican restaurant~
While waiting for dinner, order some tortillas. Fold the tortillas in half 2-3 times then bite them in various places. When you unfold it, you’ll have made a tortilla snowflake.

63. Play “I Spy” with Christmas decorations in your home~
This is fun for everyone – especially little people!

64. Make homemade marshmallows~
Give them out to family and friends along with a box of hot chocolate or a jar of homemade hot chocolate mix.

65. Remember family and friends who have lost a loved one or those who are going through a tough time in life~
Take the time to encourage them, call them, check on them, care about them, and include them. Christmas is especially difficult for new grievers.

66. Don’t sweat the small stuff~
Christmas should be a FUN and MEMORABLE time of year – just say no to drama and avoid conflict! As a gift to God, yourself & others, drop any resentments you have towards family & friends so you can start the New Year fresh with a renewed light heart.

67. Making memories is much more important than material things~
Don’t go into debt. Keep things balanced!
Also…avoid conflict over finances as much as is in your power to do so.

68. Find 3 families to host a Progressive Dinner night~
One house does appetizers, the next does the main course, and the third house does desserts. Ask holiday themed questions as a friendly game or ask people to share their favorite holiday memory.

69. Take time out to nurture your relationships with God, your spouse & children, your parents, siblings, and the rest of your family~
In years to come, you will either say, “I’m so glad I took the time to do that” or “If only I had ____!” If you already have regrets, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself, realizing had you known better, you would’ve chosen better. Today is always a brand new opportunity to draw close to God, choose wisely, love others, and learn all you can to live the best life possible.

70. Cherish & treasure true Gifts~  
This Christmas is an absolute GIFT!!! Not only is it the celebration and birthday of Jesus, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to extravagantly love all of your family and friends.

Enjoy this holiday season to the FULLEST with your family & friends!

Gratitude & Christmas blessings to you,
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:

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

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

🎄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 

🎄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 

When Someone In Your Grief Group Dies

There is a grief I hadn’t ever experienced before. A grief so deep, words can hardly express the depths. 

I lead a grief group. We have over 100 members. Sometimes a few people show up, sometimes dozens show up. Each week, God orchestrates exactly who He knows needs to be there.

I met my beautiful sweet friend a few years ago. I had just opened up our group to those who had suffered deep loss—instead of “just death,” our group began to include those who were experiencing heartache of any kind.

I remember the first time I met her. She had recently went through a tough divorce and was concerned how her kiddos would be affected. She was brokenhearted.

Today, her loved ones and I are brokenhearted. 

I’ve lost many loved ones but never someone in my grief group. It’s a pain like none I’ve experienced before.

When you’re a part of a grief group, you connect at such a highly emotional and spiritual level…you open up, becoming completely vulnerable, and share your greatest heartaches and disappointments in life. You share your triumphs, valleys, and how God is working in your life and grief. You quickly become loyal to each other, encourage each other, lifting each other up and sharing each other’s burdens. You ultimately become family.

I was blessed to be a part of her grief recovery. Where there once were tears, I saw her press forward and choose happiness. Where there were insecurities, I saw her choose confidence and the pursuing of her dreams. Where there once was deep hurt, I saw her open her heart and fall in love again with an amazing man. A man who is so incredibly good to her kiddos and loves them like his very own.

My heart is terribly broken today after losing my sweet friend. Our grief group lost a treasured and much loved sister!

Today, in honor of my friend, I’d like to ask everyone who reads this a favor:

Live life BIG in honor of my friend and all of your family members and friends. Don’t just glide through life! I learned this through my friend…she lived life so passionately! Don’t wait to be happy! Don’t wait to truly live! Don’t ever be scared to be yourself or to have fun! Don’t wait to achieve your goals! Serve God and your church family, and truly care about others! Each and every day is a day you will never get back! My sweet friend knew this and lived an incredible life in the few years I was privileged enough to know her and “do life” with her. You never know what life will bring so never take one single breath for granted! 

Right now, you may have things in your life that are knocking the living breath out of you. You may have trials that are so overwhelming that they’re attempting to absolutely drown you. Overcome every obstacle, thoroughly go through and experience every pain, opportunity, and lesson grief has to offer you, and choose to extravagantly love others and to live your life with everything you have in you!

Today is the very first day of the rest of your life—live well, grieve well, love everyone you do life with to the best of your ability! 

I’ll never forget my sweet friend. I’m so thankful God allowed me to know her—and I am thankful I’ll see her again one day! She loved God and her fiancé, kiddos, family, friends, and church family so much!

Rest in peace my sweet friend—you are forever missed and deeply loved! May we all love and celebrate life…even while going through hardships…like you did!

Gratitude & blessings,

Kim

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️

Resources~

Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (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
Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

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: (Coming November 4, 2015)