Tag Archive | loss

Healing From Pet Loss ~ Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Boy, was I wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disclaimer: Like I said in my first post about pet loss, I know by writing about pet loss, I run the risk of a non-pet lover rolling their eyes (I used to do the same, so no worries)…and I also may be criticized by those who are experiencing human loss. I’d like to assure my Grief Bites readers that I am not saying pet loss is worse than losing a human being. To some, it may be worse; to others it may not be. Each and every grief experience is unique and completely different – no two people will go through or experience grief in the exact same way. Whether it is a human being or a pet, this is an absolute truth every griever can agree on: The greater the investment, the greater the love — and the greater the love, the greater the grief. I sincerely hope this series on pet loss is a great comfort to anyone who is mourning – or who will be mourning – their much-loved pet, and it is my prayer these posts are not offensive to anyone in the grief community.❤️As with any grief experience, I look at it as an opportunity to share what I’m learning through my experiences, in hopes it can help encourage whoever needs it. I count it a privilege to help others through all grief and loss issues. 

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

How To Help & Encourage Someone Through Pet Loss~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude, healing, & many blessings,
🐾❤️Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

🐾❤️For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

❤️🐾FREE YouVersion reading plans:

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

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

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

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

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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

💕

What Do The Olympics And Grief Have In Common?

Who doesn’t love the Olympics? The competition…the excitement…the pride for your country…the breathtaking joy you feel when you see someone accomplish their Olympic best, as well as the profound sadness you feel when you see a competitor lose their dream of winning.

I’ve watched quite a bit of the Olympics at home since it began. And lucky for me, it’s also been on at restaurants I’ve dined at, as well as other places I go.

As I was watching this week, I’ve seen many similar comparisons of competing in the Olympics and the event of grief.

Each Olympian chooses to force their self to get out of bed, especially on days when they’d much rather stay at home…grievers also force themselves to get out of bed, especially on mornings they’d rather block out the world.

Olympians go through blood, sweat, tears, prayers, and great sacrifice to get to the next level…grievers go through a very similar process. For Olympians, much of it is mental and physical…for grievers, it’s emotional and spiritual.

What an Olympian chooses to do in the dark (in the harshest and earliest of mornings, as well as the grueling out-of-view workouts) will eventually allow them to extraordinarily grow, better themselves, and fully shine in the light…Likewise, how a griever chooses to handle how they respond in the dark — all they are going through behind the scenes and learning in the darkest days of their life — eventually will predict if they come out better and shining through their grief experience and circumstances.

All Olympians and grievers need to surround themselves with great coaches, advisors, encouragement, and support. Neither can reach their fullest potential or ultimate life purpose without a strong community and the help of others.

With both the Olympian and griever, the excruciating struggles are real. Both are confronted with grueling hardships and tough choices, and both have the ability to fight through the dark to make it into a well-deserved glorious light.

I love this video of Michael Phelps ( https://youtu.be/Xh9jAD1ofm4 ). If you’ve followed his career, all you can say is WOW! Out of the entire time, he only took off one year, yet decided to come back and compete.

In grief, you may need to take some time off, but choose to never, ever quit! When you feel like quitting or staying stagnant, think of all Michael Phelps would be missing out on if he had never came back!

Both the Olympian and griever gain some of the hardest earned rewards for their sacrifices as they push through, press forward, and finally realize their potential of healing and perseverance, as well as their goals and dreams later on.

When you feel defeated in your grief, remember there is Gold at the end of your race. Choose to do the grueling hard work so you can make it through the most difficult, toughest days of your life!

When it comes to an Olympian swimmer like Michael Phelps and a griever, both are in situations where they can drown if not careful. Both also have to find the ability to fight for their breath during the most vital times so they can finally rise to the surface in victory.

Both have failures and successes, disappointments and triumphs. All go through a grand series of emotions and also learn new breathing and life techniques so they do not feel as though they are continually gasping for air.

With hard work, the Olympian triumphs over competitors…the griever triumphs over grief.

You are worth it! And your life will be richer and much more fulfilling when you realize you truly triumphed to new heights over and through your grief experience!

And when the day of realization, healing, and triumph comes, what a great feeling that will be!!

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ~Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭

“…I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” ~Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭

Don’t you realize that everyone who runs in a race runs to win, but only one runner gets the prize? Run like them, so that you can win.” ~1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭

Gratitude and many blessings (and Happy Olympic watching),
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing Your Hard Questions To God: An Extra Crispy Collision 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

A lot about: Life. Relationships. God. Church. Family. Grief. Helping others through grief. Illness. The FANTASTIC people you meet in life. The not-so-great people you’ve had the displeasure of knowing. Healing that has taken place. Raw wounds that scab over, yet somehow re-open. What a great gift life is — actually, what a treasure each and every day truly is.

Lots and lots of thoughts…both good and bad.

I’m a pretty deep person by nature. My husband jokingly says while some people tend to be kiddie pools or swimming pools, I’m lucky enough to be a large, deep ocean.

But those who are “oceans” know that it doesn’t always feel so lucky. 

When you have depth and many life experiences, you can see, discern, and perceive things around you..and that’s not always a fun thing. You can quickly “know” a person’s character and motives…sometimes without them saying a single word. You have an incredible God-blessed ability to help others — and feel an empathy that allows you to absorb others heartache so you can truly help them find healing and wholeness. 

And people who are oceans think a lot more than most realize. When you’re often around grief and heartache, helping the grief community day in and day out, you truly have times where you don’t just think about things…you carry a lot of your clients pain and questions, too.

Questions such as: why do children die?…why do people put their precious spouses through so much agonizing heartache due to adultery?…why do people have to get sick?…how do family and friends hurt, backstab, reject, abandon, or betray those closest to them—and sometimes not even care?…how do some pastors and church people cause intense pain then not even care about those they’ve hurt, ran off, rejected, or offended?…why is there so much pain, chaos, and heartache in the world?

Pretty much, you think about and question every scenario you see people you help go through.

And then you wrestle with God with questions you may have.

And there you go…you have an extra crispy collision.

For the record, I grew up in a conservative church. You weren’t really taught much about wrestling with God or asking tough questions because to question God was considered Extra Crispy. I think every Baptist has heard sermons on how Jacob wrestled with God, but I would have loved to have been taught how to bring my questions to God without feeling like an extra crispy heathen.

Definition of Extra Crispy: an undesirable activity, thought, feeling, or action that others believe can send you straight to hell to fry for life.

Growing up, extra crispy could have been my middle name. Ashamedly, I was my mother’s worst child. I questioned everything, and wanted to experience life so I’d know what I personally thought or believed. For myself. On.my.own. All by myself.

Regrettably, rebellious.

Yep…Extra Crispy.

Majority of it stemmed from a place of deep hurt…yet I’m extremely grateful for the harsh lessons I learned from my “extra crispy” days long ago. 

When God turned my life around, the same closed fist that shook at Him demanding answers…was turned into a soft open outstretched hand that desperately sought Him for life’s answers.
Similarly, I sharply questioned my parents while growing up. After I became a parent myself, I found great value in my parents and asking them for advice and guidance.

Both were similar experiences.

I didn’t fully respect or value my parents advice, opinions, or guidance until I understood their love for me. Likewise, I didn’t value God’s authority or answers until I understood His deep love and concern for me, as well.

When you understand just how HUGE God’s love (and heart) truly is, you understand that He will NEVER allow you to go through deep heartache without having a great purpose behind it. His heart is kind…good…merciful…compassionate.

I truly hate that I wasted so much time getting to that humble spot…with God and my parents. I also truly hate that people are taught that it is an extra crispy sin to question God during their greatest life struggles.

For the record: yes, God is God. He is holy, perfect, perfectly good and 100% right all of the time. Absolutely! He doesn’t owe any of us anything…and He most certainly doesn’t owe anybody answers. Ever.

But…as the Ultimate Parent, He loves each and everyone of us so much that He welcomes the dialogue.

It is always better to have a difficult or hard conversation with God where you share with Him your questions and everything you think and feel – in a respectful way – than to harden your heart and make poor choices that will eventually lead to a hard and difficult life.

We don’t ask questions to demand answers…we ask questions to seek to understand His magnificent heart and purpose. And there is ALWAYS purpose in pain.

God can handle the big questions. He can handle the dialogue we bring to Him from the overpowering grief, hardships, and heartaches we each go through. He welcomes our messes…and the imperfect questions we have…with arms wide open.

God wants you to ask Him why your spouse committed adultery, or broke your heart, or left…or why your precious baby or child died…or why your prodigal teenager or adult child is in deep rebellion…or why your family or friends mistreated you…or why you lost your job…or why you or a loved one is going through a major or terminal illness or disability…or any other life questions you may have. He wants you to ask because He genuinely listens and cares. 

When questions are asked, the One who holds the answers can work deep within our hearts and lives. 

Whatever you are going through, God wants you to have a full head-on collision with His great heart so He can help you through your most heart wrenching, honest, authentic, toughest mess of questions.

Because when you go to Him with your questions about life…He gives you an incredible gift — He then deeply ministers to your heart and brings you healing, guidance, purpose and peace.

So go to God and ask your toughest questions. It doesn’t mean that you lack faith…it means you want to finally cross the bridge of the Cross so you can powerfully reconnect with His amazing heart to build your faith back up!

Share with God your gut-wrenching feelings, fears, and concerns. Plead with Him to intervene and work in (and through) every situation in your life.

God doesn’t roll His eyes or resent our questions or pleadings. He’s slow to anger. He welcomes us, loves us, and stands ready to embrace us in His loving compassionate arms.

Whatever you are going through in life, He truly cares. And it isn’t a flippant or fickle type of a care. He’s all in.

When you understand just how all in He is, you begin to place your burdens at His feet…onto His back…into His capable hands…sealed into His loving heart.

So go to God today. Ask Him the questions you most long to. Ask Him to reveal His purpose for any heartache or disappointment you are going through. Ask Him to turn your hardships and grief into something of great value. Seek His heart, unconditionally give Him your circumstances, and ask Him to use you and your life experiences for His glory.

He’s waiting. He loves. He cares.

So after thanking Him for His great patience, compassion, genuine concern, and unfailing love, what will your first heartfelt conversation be?

He welcomes the dialogue. He always welcomes and loves YOU!❤️

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

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

For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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
❤️


Comparing Life, Grief, & Loss

When my sister and I founded Grief Bites, and started our grief group, classes, and seminars, I don’t think either of us could have possibly been prepared for all we would see and hear.

With grief, people are at their rawest and most vulnerable. Tensions and emotions run very high and sometimes that has led to some colorful dialogue — especially in the setting of a grief group.

Anyone who has been going through grief for awhile knows and deeply understands that each grief experience is unique to the one who is going through it…you just can’t compare grief experiences…and grief is just plain messy.

Anyone who has attended an authentic grief group has definitely seen and heard it all. 

Grief group participants will see people deeply heartbroken over a loved one’s death, as well as family members who celebrate the death of a loved one…especially if their loved one was suffering.

Some people deeply mourn the fact they had chosen to get married, and then there are singles who greatly wish to be married.

One couple, who seemed as though they had it all together and were deeply in love shared that they had grown in their love only after adultery had nearly destroyed their marriage…the marriage they were now enjoying was the result of many, many tears and a lot of hard work.

Looks can be deceiving when we make blind assumptions. And it can be easy to compare life and grief experiences. If we knew the facts about each other’s lives, we’d be more grateful we are living the one we are living.

I’ve listened to parents who were deeply hurting due to being severely mistreated by multiple children….as well as parents who were devastated they could only have one child…and others who would absolutely trade everything they own to have the ability to have a baby.

One time, I had two separate families tell me they were jealous of each other during grief group: one person (who had five children) was jealous that the other family frequently went on vacations since they are childless…and then the other family (who could go on multiple vacations) revealed that they travel to escape the pain of not having the big family they had always dreamed of. Each family had heartaches and each received a different blessing from God: one received children and the other, money.

The fact is, everybody is either:

  • coming out of a grief experience 
  • in the middle of grief experience
  • about to enter into a grief experience

We all have:

  • shining moments in life
  • fantastic memories
  • “behind the scenes” heartaches
  • major failures 
  • great accomplishments
  • grief experiences nobody knows about
  • blessings others may not have

It doesn’t make sense to compare ourselves to others, or compare our grief experiences or heartaches.

We are all different and our grief experiences — and blessings — are unique to each of us…even if we all go through similar ups and downs in life.

Each and every person who is going through a grief experience could present their case as to why their grief is greater, but wouldn’t it make more sense if we all simply chose to encourage and be there for one another? The greater the love, the greater the grief, and the more people encourage and empathize with one another, the more people have the ability to heal.

In His amazingly great wisdom, God said it best when He summed it all up:

Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”

Once we understand that everybody is going through an uphill battle — or will be going through an uphill battle, it becomes so much easier to be a vessel of encouragement, love, and hope to everybody around us.

Nobody has a perfect life…and nobody has it “all together” or has everything figured out.

We’re all just kind of winging it and doing the very best we each can. Amen?

Continually learn as much as you can through each grief experience, gain wisdom and perspective with each teardrop, and never fall into comparing yourself with others and never compare your grief experiences or life.

We are all human and we each will process life, love, blessings, and grief differently. And that is totally okay! 

Don’t judge others in life or grief…and do not fall into allowing others to judge your life or your grief.

It’s what we each choose to do with all of our blessings, our life and grief experiences that truly matters. Never waste any of these precious life experiences and learning experiences.

All have a deep purpose!

Gratitude, blessings, & healing,
Kim

©2016 by Grief Bites. All rights reserved.

❤️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

Mourning Those Who Are Still Alive: 10 Ways To Weather The Storm

Most grief recovery efforts naturally include helping grievers to mourn loved ones who have died…but what if the person you are mourning is still alive?

To have once enjoyed a good, solid, rich relationship with a loved one—and then no longer have a good relationship (or to then have a drastically changed relationship)—this terribly and horribly breaks a heart in a very unique, painful way. 

When drastic change occurs, or a difficult situation or relationship develops, it can cause excruciating heartache, loss, and sadness. It truly can feel as though someone you deeply love has died, and you are forced to go through a silent funeral inside of your heart every single day. 

There are many reasons why this can happen:

  • Spouses commit adultery or files for divorce or a significant other leaves or betrays you
  • Children react to parents due to divorce or co-parenting challenges…sometimes parents react back
  • Children react to an adulterous affair a parent has had or children react to how the affair victim/parent handled an affair
  • A loved one battles debilitating mental illness or a loved one goes through the longterm effects of a brain injury and these circumstances completely change the dynamics of the relationship
  • Parents react to children and children react to parents on “life” issues or spiritual issues
  • A parent, step parent, or other family member pits a child, parent, step parent or other family member against each other
  • Custody or visitation issues, foster care issues, or family conflicts cause deep heartache or even estrangement
  • Spouses return home deeply wounded emotionally, physically, spiritually or mentally from serving in the military…or spouses betray the spouse who is away serving
  • A spouse, child, or family member goes through a medical challenge, or deep grief, or another terrible life event or life challenge and they drastically change or become a completely different person
  • Parents abandon their children, and children rebel against or abandon their parents
  • Siblings, or other family members, change and are no longer close
  • A sibling, parent, child or other family member marries someone who isn’t respectful of sibling/parent/child/family relationships…so to avoid arguing with their romantic partner, they choose to “keep the peace,” and choose their significant other over longterm relationships 
  • A family member battles addiction—or another stronghold or wrong thinking—and you can’t get through to them
  • Relationship issues majorly change a relationship due to mistreating or reacting to one another
  • An adult child can enter into a romantic relationship (or marriage) where their significant other turns them against their parents or family
  • Friendships heartbreakingly dissolve
  • Physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse issues create hardships and heartache
  • A family relationship, friendship, or church relationship dissolves due to a betrayal, a lack of understanding, conflict, or deep hurts
  • Bitterness and an unwillingness to forgive or work on the relationship takes root
  • Some sever ties to “make a point” or to intentionally inflict heartache in reaction to their own pride or pain
  • Ultimately, a lack of respect, lack of genuine love, and a lack of honor wrecks relationships 
  • Lots and lots of other reasons

Anytime a relationship changes for the worse, abruptly changes, or becomes fractured or shattered, it is very, very painful. And many times, the result is to feel helpless, as though you have runout of options.

When this happens, what can you do?

  1. Pray. Pour your heart out to God and ask for Him to intervene in the relationship and situation.
  2. Possibly prepare for God to ask you to make a change or to do something uncomfortable.
  3. As much as depends on you, apologize and ask for forgiveness for your part…knowing that the other person may never humble their self by apologizing back to you.
  4. Place your loved one and the entire situation in God’s Hands….and take your hands off (and out of) the situation. Realize God can do more in one SECOND than you could ever hope to do in an entire LIFETIME.
  5. KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN…meaning, do the right thing and choose to show genuine love no matter what. Take the higher ground. Be completely loving, Christ-like, and kind. Close your mouth (this can be very hard to do!) and do your God-given responsibilities. This will be extremely hard, but remember that God’s got this! He needs for you to reflect His character, love, and glory. It will be very helpful to memorize and recite these scriptures when you’re tempted to put your hands back in the situation or times you’re tempted to not keep your nose clean: Exodus 14:14, Ephesians 6:11-13, 1 Samuel 17:47, Psalm 34:18. This does NOT mean be a doormat, but for God to accomplish His greatest work, it’s very important to get out of God’s way and to obey God.
  6. Have faith and fully expect God to work in the situation. It may or may not be how you had in mind, but God will definitely be working in the situation (and working out the best outcome) as you genuinely trust in Him to do so.
  7. Ask God to provide you with a strong, loving support system: trusted family, trusted friends, trusted pastors/counselors, trusted support groups/biblical community…keyword here is TRUSTED. To get through the toughest times in life, a strong support system is vital. Accountability partners are also very important.
  8. Work on yourself and do your own self-work with the Lord’s help. Consider your individual relationship with the Lord, your joy and life purpose apart from the situation, consider your part in the situation, look soberly at your own faults and possible blind spots both in and out of the situation, and seek to improve yourself as you love and serve God to the fullest as you wait on Him. (Psalm 46:10, Matthew 6:9-15, Matthew 6:33-34, Proverbs 3:5-6)
  9. Delight in God (Psalm 37:4). When we go through hardships, it becomes easy to become impatient, worry, or even become fearful or bitter. God has a better way! Delight yourself in God, learn to trust and lean on Him, and extravagantly love Him as He carries you through your grief and the storm you are in the middle of. He knows your heart, loves your heart (and knows and loves your loved one’s heart!), and no matter what happens in your situation, He will carry you, heal your broken heart, and love you back to life…no matter what! He will NEVER leave you!! In fact, other than our relationship with our own self, God is the ONLY relationship we are guaranteed to continually have here on earth. We can NEVER lose His love!
  10. Allow God to positively change your heart through the process…and whether your situation or relationship changes for the better or not…eventually use your situation to wisely help and encourage others. You are going to be an absolute TREASURE to someone else who will be walking through a similar tough relationship situation. Learn as much as you can through your situation TODAY so you can encourage and help others in the present or FUTURE. God never wastes grief. There is always good that can grow out of it. 

Whatever situation or relationship you are grieving or experiencing deep heartache in, please realize there is hope! I agree with you in prayer for God to heal, encourage, and help you and your loved one(s) through whatever you are going through. I pray God works mightily in each relationship, heart, mind, and situation! If a positive outcome is not possible due to a permanent situation, I pray God gives you the gift of a peace that passes understanding and the ability to truly press forward and heal. God DOES love you, He greatly values you, and He already knows how He plans to help you and every situation of grief you are facing or will face!

Even if a relationship never finds peace or reconciliation again, realize it does NOT diminish your value. Before you were ever a family member, spouse, child, parent, or a friend, you were God’s. He will always unconditionally love you, because you are totally valuable and “enough” to Him. Yes, you will go through incredible heartache if reconciliation does not take place, but God will be there for you every single day—especially your toughest days!

There is always hope and your life is precious! Please never forget that!❤️

Gratitude, healing, love, & many blessings,
Kim

©2016 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged or helped by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage & help 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
❤️

The Doors & Windows of Grief & Loss

Sometimes, grief comes in the form of losing a prized goal, dream, or a treasured relationship. 

A door will close and will cause deep feelings of loss. You may even feel as though you have lost your way. 

When God closes a door, don’t try to “pick the lock.” 

Attempting to force a closed door open delays where God desires to guide and direct you. 

Sometimes God closes a door so He can open an unexpected window. 

He often will give the view of a window because it offers a different view (as well as an alternative perspective) that you might have missed seeing at ground level. 

Windows can be BLESSINGS in disguise. 

When we seek God first and foremost, and keep Him first place in our lives and obey Him, we are guaranteed to be in His perfect will. 

Trust God to fulfill your life purpose and to open the doors He has predetermined to open for you. 

It’s not always easy to accept a door that has closed, but trusting God to open another door or window that He sees as best will offer a view…and future…you presently cannot comprehend. 

Today, ask God to guide and direct your paths and to only open doors that will truly bless your life. Ask for the grace and wisdom to know which doors to keep closed. 

(Lookup Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33)

©2014 Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved. (from the YouVersion Bible reading plan, Grief Bites:Finding Treasure In Hardships)

©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)