Tag Archive | hope

Grief & Holidays ~ helpful tip #1

Throughout the Christmas season, I’ll be offering encouraging tips on how to get through the holidays during times of grief.

After going through multiple family deaths on or around holidays, the holidays became a very painful and challenging time. As I share what my family and I have learned through the process of creating special, enjoyable, and meaningful holidays again – in spite of grief – I hope all who read these helpful tips will be encouraged and comforted!

Grief can definitely make the holidays very challenging to get through…but there truly is hope.

I wish each of you a peaceful Christmas season that is filled with hope, comfort, encouragement, and even joy!

My first holiday tip is:

Grieve how you need to grieve and be kind to yourself. Do not put on yourself the extra pressure of having the “perfect” holidays.

Just like you are having to create a “new normal” in day-to-day life, you may need to create a “new holiday normal,” or the freedom to do holidays differently for a season as well. Creating new normals doesn’t make anything (or return anything back to) normal. I like to think of and compare “creating new normals” to an inflated inter tube…it doesn’t make anything immediately better, but it will keep a griever from completely drowning.

When going through grief, holidays can lose their previous joy, sparkle and specialness.

• Suddenly, the tree that used to shine bright holding treasured ornaments and memories can now bring about intense sadness

• Baking treats and making favorite dishes you used to bake or make for a loved one who is no longer here can now bring about incredible heartache

• Old familiar traditions can now bring intense pain…even anxiety or depressed feelings

• Certain Christmas songs can be tied to a special memory or remind you of a loved one, and can bring sudden tears

• And seeing happy couples and cheerful families—on social media or in real life—can bring about feelings of depression, hopelessness, or maybe even envy

It is very painful navigating through the holidays when going through the loss of a loved one, adultery or divorce, miscarriage/infertility, financial or job loss, family/marital/stepfamily conflict, physical or mental illness of a loved one, addiction issues, family rebellion or estrangement, or other painful losses.

…And it can be extra painful and burdensome when family and friends do not understand or agree with how you are handling your grief.

Explain to family and friends that the holidays are going to be tough on you and lovingly ask them for their help, support, and compassion.

Some grievers may be able to do all of their usual holiday traditions, while others may not…BOTH are perfectly fine!

Pray about and consider what you need to do, or not do, this holiday season and come to a place of peace about it.

It doesn’t mean it will always be like this…(just because you choose something this year doesn’t mean it will be cemented forever)…it simply means you are doing what you need to do THIS holiday season to make it through.

Communication is key! Talk about it with your loved ones, to avoid hurt feelings or conflict. Some compromise may also be needed when choosing what to do (and not do) during the holidays. Ideally, it is best to come to decisions where your grief is genuinely honored while also factoring in honoring your time with remaining loved ones. Just like there is no such thing as “cookie cutter” grief, not every griever or family will handle the holidays the exact same way either. Each must communicate and find what’s best for their own individual family. It may include fully celebrating holidays as usual…or changing things up just a little…or beginning some new traditions…or completely changing everything this year…or going out of town, on a vacation, or to visit family who live out of town for a change of scenery. There are many ways to create a special, meaningful holiday during times of grief.

If you have family and friends who love you, support you, and encourage you, what an amazing gift that truly is! Be sure to thank them for any way they bring encouragement, meaning, and love to your life!

I am praying for everyone who is going through a sad or tough time to have a meaningful holiday season – and I truly hope everyone is surrounded by understanding and caring family and friends who will encourage you this month.

It can take time to find a new holiday normal, so please don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time, effort, and grace to work out a broken heart and to pick up the pieces of a shattered life.

The first few years are the absolute hardest, but through genuinely remembering and honoring your treasured deceased loved ones, honoring your grief situation, showing love to your remaining loved ones, and working through your grief, holidays can hold great joy again…in time!

Gratitude & 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 ❤️ Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): softcover and hardcopy – http://www.barnesandnoble.com or for $3.19 eBook – https://www.christianbook.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

ps://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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The Yo-Yo of Grief & Holidays

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

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

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

The harsh emotional turmoil.

The guilt.

The regrets.

The crazy emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the yo-yo is apparently still strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

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

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

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

❤️

7 TIPS FOR HELPING A GRIEVING LOVED ONE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

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

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

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

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

Choose to be a BLESSING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a very blessed and meaningful holiday season!

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim 🦃🎄❤️🎄🦃

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

⭐️FREE YouVersion reading plan:

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

The Challenge of Unspoken or Hidden Grief

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

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

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

Isolated. Heartbroken. Alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you heal from unspoken grief experiences?

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

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

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

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

May God bless and encourage your heart!

Gratitude & blessings,
Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

⭐️For more encouragement:⭐️

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

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

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

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

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

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

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

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

Healing From Pet Loss ~ Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim🐾❤️🐾

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

❤️Kim’s FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

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

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

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

💕

Jesus Can Relate To Your Grief

Life seems to have a theme of loss. Majority of us will go through a series of deep losses throughout our lifetime. Some are spread out over a long period of time, while some losses happen one right after the other, deeply threatening to bury our hope. 

Whatever situation you find yourself in today, please know this: God deeply cares about your pain. He sincerely hurts for you. In fact, we serve a very personal God…He hurts not just for you but with you. 

Jesus was a man of sorrows, He was deeply and well aquatinted with loss and grief. 

If you are going through trauma, loss, or disappointment today, Jesus truly can relate: 

Have you felt the sting of betrayal? He has too. Sharply.

Have you lost your home? He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. 

Have you been abused or treated as though you had zero value? He was too. 

Have you watched a loved one go through illness, rebellion, mental illness, or death? He did too. 

Have you felt rejected or looked down on? He has too. 

Have you had your reputation tarnished or been unfairly treated? He was too. 

Have you been through the death of a major relationship? He has too. 

Have you ever loved another person, poured yourself into them, and treated them extremely well…and then was repaid with ungratefulness, unkindness, and a lack of love? He definitely has experienced that too! He still does. 

On the cross, He willingly felt every sin, illness, and heartache. He did it for one reason: LOVE! 

He truly can relate. He loves you so very much! He does care about your life and heart!

He also cares about every injustice you have faced. 

Since Jesus can truly relate to our hurts, disappointments, frustrations, and heartaches at such a deep level, and cares about each of us so much, we genuinely can trust Him to help us through each and every circumstance in life! 

Yes, we all will experience loss in life. It’s so good to know we serve a God who truly can relate and who genuinely cares!

Honoring Jesus this Easter weekend and thanking Him for His incredible sacrifice! God’s plan goes beyond love and comprehension. 

John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Gratitude & Easter blessings,
Kim

*Photo by YouVersion. You can sign up to read the Bible as well as many reading plans by visiting http://www.youversion.com or downloading the FREE YouVersion Bible App.

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

Seasons of Life: When Life Hurts

One of my favorite places in the whole world is Butchart Gardens in Canada. 

The first time I went there, I was absolutely stunned and amazed by how breathtakingly beautiful their gardens are. The Butchart Gardens are exquisite – a gardener’s or flower lover’s absolute paradise. I’m very familiar with flowers, yet I saw so many varieties I didn’t even know existed. The Butchart Gardens boast over 1,000,000 bedding plants in some 700 varieties. An incredible sight to see!

Last month, The Butchart Gardens posted a picture of their wintry sunken garden on Facebook and it was beautiful, but strikingly different in comparison to their gardens in other seasons. 

It reminded me of grief. 

You may be in the coldest, most uncomfortable and dead season of your life right now…but please take heart. Deep within your grief are seeds that are soon to blossom once again. Spring always arrives and the landscape of your grief will beautifully change. 

Not “change” as in your grief will magically end…because grief can never be fully resolved. As long as there is love in your heart for your much treasured loved one, grief will always be a part of your life…but that’s not always a bad thing.

Let me explain.

Even if you are in the worst chapter of your life, God isn’t finished writing your life story yet. Beauty, greater days…possibly even the best days of your life…may be yet to come. 

You will still have hard days. Just as the seasons rotate, so do emotions when it comes to life and grief…and that’s okay. When you deeply love – and terribly miss – a loved one, it’s completely normal and to be expected.

Embrace the days you are in right now, learn all you can, and greatly honor your grief, your treasured loved one, and remaining loved ones. There is purpose that can be born out of grief. Once a new season of your life emerges, you’ll never forget the cold, harsh days you went through…but you will appreciate the beauty that is to come even more. And just like the Butchart Gardens, you will see beauty you may not have even realized exists. Never lose hope! Just like the seasons on earth change, God has the same power to bring renewal to your life and heart! 

The amazing Butchart Gardens began with Jennie Butchart invited master garden designer Isaburo Kishida to begin a Japanese garden at her estate. From there she added additional gardens that would eventually become The Butchart Gardens. The gardens were a source of joy for many years, and on their grandson’s 21st birthday, the Butcharts gave him the gift of owning the gardens.

Grief is very similar. There is something or someone who brings us great joy. We invite the Master Garden Designer of our hearts to take the raw pieces of our grief so beauty can eventually be seen. And just like Jennie Butchart gifted the gardens to the generation after her…our greatest gift to our next generations is taking the time to break up the hard ground of grief and allowing extraordinary beauty to come from the gardens of our grief experiences. 

Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8, There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season. There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up plants. There is a time to kill and a time to heal. There is a time to destroy and a time to build. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance. There is a time to throw away stones and a time to gather them. There is a time to hug and a time not to hug. There is a time to look for something and a time to stop looking for it. There is a time to keep things and a time to throw things away. There is a time to tear apart and a time to sew together. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace.”‬ ‭

Wishing all of you love, healing, blessings, comfort, a great new season, and a beautiful weekend!

You are VALUABLE and life can become fragrantly sweet again!!

~Kim 

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.


(Photo credit: Butchart Gardens. Go check out and “like” their Facebook page. And if you are ever in Canada, consider visiting Butchart Gardens. It’s a gorgeous place to spend the day and have lunch or afternoon tea!) http://www.butchartgardens.com

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

For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

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

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

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