Tag Archive | love

Choosing To Make Every Day A Celebrated Day Throughout Grief

Life is made up of days.

Most people typically describe their day as one of the following:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Great
  • Fantastic
  • Lovely
  • Terrible
  • Sad
  • Frustrating
  • “Fine”
  • and every other adjective known to mankind

You rarely hear people say, “Celebrated.”

Especially not in grief.

When most people think of the word celebration, they think of birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, won sporting events – all of the happy occasions.

These celebrations are easy. They’re all smiles, fun, and enjoyable circumstances. No effort needed at all.

But what about when life gets hard? Really, really hard?

Celebrating every day during grief is much more challenging – but I have found it is equally needed.

Throughout my lifetime, I have experienced an extraordinary amount of grief. I’ve been through three major waves of grief and through these waves (each wave lasting between 5-11 years of continual grief events), I’ve experienced…and learned…a lot.

The past 10 years, I have been through intense grief…30 major grief experiences – including my son’s tumors and surgeries, ten family members being diagnosed with cancer, 13 family members dying, and experiencing six close friend’s deaths, my son being greatly wounded by his church and choosing atheism as a result, my husband experiencing a midlife crisis, a family suicide, among other grief events. I’ve also been diagnosed with several autoimmune illnesses throughout this time.

There has been extreme anguish throughout this past decade. Debilitating grief and prolonged hardships are all very tough to go through.

When you initially go through intense grief, you don’t feel like celebrating. A good day is holding it together and concealing your tears so you don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself. For some who go through grief, a good day is simply mustering up the courage and energy just to get out of bed.

About half way into all of these grief events, I became concerned that I’d never feel genuine happiness again.

Thankfully, I found that happiness and joy are both a choice.

Before you discontinue reading the rest of this blog post, please keep reading on. I understand how annoying that statement sounds. Truly!

It used to majorly annoy me when people would say that happiness and joy were choices…

…until I heard a dear bereaved mother who had lost her adult son to suicide say, “Choose joy!

Before Kay Warren said those two words, I always thought people were very insensitive to say that joy and happiness were a choice. But when someone can say these words in the midst of excruciating heartache, such as Pastors Rick and Kay Warren, I’ll listen to them.

Because it’s genuine. It’s real. It’s hard-fought. It’s extremely authentic.

I have found that joy and happiness are definitely choices…choices I now intentionally choose every day of my life.

I have also found that choosing to celebrate each day is also a choice.

Before grief, the words joy and celebrate hold much different definitions. These words were easy. Blissful. Comfortable, even.

After grief, you find these two words hold brand new meaning. They’re hard-fought treasures that you had to walk through emotional hell on earth to obtain.

I can’t go back and change anything that has happened in life. I can’t change the heartache and grief I’ve experienced. I can’t bring my loved ones back to life. I can’t undiagnose illness. I can’t undo other people’s hurtful or devastating decisions that led to massive consequences.

I do have complete choice and control over my own personal decisions, though.

Although I would definitely go back in time and change some things…and I most definitely would reverse my loved ones deaths if I could…I wouldn’t give up any lesson I’ve learned through the incredible teacher of Grief.

I have learned a phenomenal amount of life lessons as I embraced my grief.

At first, I saw grief as something that ripped my heart out and was holding it hostage…but as I chose to embrace my grief, the lessons came pouring in. I didn’t embrace my grief at first – I resented it greatly. I am thankful I opened my heart to the rich lessons I have learned, though.

Deep heartache and loss attempted to define my life…I, in turn, sought to allow grief to redefine – and refine – my life instead.

Through many tears, grief allowed me to see things clearer.

I think very differently.

I feel things at a much greater level and have a much higher capacity of intuitiveness.

I have found that the experience of life is viewed, felt, and experienced at a much higher quality.

I’m different, too. Very different than who I once was.

And I am much stronger.

I absolutely do not celebrate any grief event I’ve been through…but I do celebrate the many byproducts – all hard-fought and earned – that I have gained throughout my grief.

A few I most treasure:

  • A much closer, genuine, authentic, and more intimate relationship with God
  • The strength I’ve gained through grief and hardships
  • The ability to clear away the mundane and focus on who and what truly matters in life
  • The incredible ability to love and appreciate my family at a far higher level
  • The depth that is created through hardships and grief…I am no longer comfortable being shallow in any area of life
  • The wisdom, discernment, and understanding you gain through grief
  • The ability to be grateful… genuinely grateful … for everything in life
  • The ability to be a good “read” on people very quickly and the ability to discern even the most subtle emotions of others
  • The ability to appreciate and celebrate each day – regardless of what I’m going through (this gift took years to achieve)

These are just a few of many “gifts” I have received throughout grief. They’re not gifts you’d ever expect…and nobody in their right mind would willingly sign up for grief or hardships to gain them…but they are very precious gifts, nonetheless.

Focus is key in creating a celebration mindset. What you focus on is where your heart will be…and each day, I am given an important choice: If I focus on all of my loss, I will most likely live a life of loss. If I focus on even the smallest celebrations of the day, I’ll live a life of continual, intentional celebration.

I’m not suggesting to bypass grief or that a celebration mindset will remove grief. Absolutely not! Each griever must be true to their grief and thoroughly experience it. To not do that would be to cheapen grief and dishonor loved ones. I still experience grief, sadness, and missing treasured loved ones – for sure, I just also simultaneously choose to experience joy and allow celebration into my daily life.

I have found it helpful … even lifesaving … to balance grief and celebrating the gifts God and life still have to offer.

Each “gift” leads you to the unmistakable truth that every day can be a celebrated day.

Every day is a great day to be alive.

Every day is a fantastic day that you have the exquisite and exclusive gift of being able to love, talk to, share life with, and hug your remaining loved ones. Remaining loved ones truly are an extravagant miracle if you seriously think about it.

Every day offers the new ability to learn more. Know more. Understand more. Empathize more. The more you learn, know, understand, and empathize, you are then able to do better.

Every day allows you to seek and find fresh new strength…and new ways of creating the best “new normal” you not only initially muster – but eventually enjoy.

Every day is an opportunity to enjoy God, remaining loved ones, work, nature, hobbies, adventures, and the simple things in life like working out, savoring a great cup of coffee, enjoying pets, appreciating music, and the ability to set and achieve goals.

Life, no matter what we go through, is the best adventure – an adventure not afforded … or continued … to all. I have found the best way to honor my loved ones (both the deceased and my remaining loved ones) is to honor them by celebrating life.

Just having the breath of life is an extravagant gift…and that is definitely something to celebrate every single day.

The very best days of life may not have even happened yet. On my toughest days, this is a truth I focus on.

Each day – no matter how excruciatingly tough it is – is a choice. We have the ability to squander life or create the life we want…and we make this very important choice each and every day. And this makes every day an opportunity to make the choice of making every day a celebrated day.

Will there be extremely hard days? Yes. Will there be heartbreaking days you dread, where you feel like your grief could literally consume and destroy you? Absolutely!

But with each daily decision to press forward through the pain– and truly see each celebration offered throughout each day, life can eventually be the true celebration you choose and want it to be.

It may take time…maybe even lots of time…but it is possible.

A quote I’d like to encourage you with:

“Although I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living…purposefully.” ~Kelli Horn, grief author

How can you choose to make each day a celebrated day?❤️🎁

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2018 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/

❤️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 3

This post is a continuation of a series I started writing last year. It will discuss creating a peaceful euthanasia experience for your pet, what to expect, and some pitfalls to look out for. I’ll also share some good tips for after you arrive home from the euthanasia.

Most of my readers know that our family experienced the death of our much loved two year-old puppy last Spring. I never could get myself to write about his last day before today, because it was – and sometimes still is – very painful.

If you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2 of this series, I’ll start by sharing about our family’s relationship with our sweet puppy – and how we rescued him…and how he rescued us.

At the very end of this post, I will give 20 important tips that can help you tremendously regarding the euthanasia of your treasured pet. There are some lessons my family and I learned the hard way and it is my hope to help others prevent the same (and even unnecessary) pain we experienced.

You can read this entire post in one sitting, break it up into a few reading sessions, or you can feel free to skip down to the 20 tips if you are short on time.

Before I get started, I’d like to share my heart by saying that I realize 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 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 the same way. Whether it is a human being or a pet, this is truth every griever can agree on: The greater the investment, the greater the love…and the greater the love, the greater the grief.

Now to continue, here is how our new puppy was introduced into our lives and how he forever changed our lives and hearts:

For my son’s Christmas present of 2014, all he wanted was a puppy. I wasn’t a dog person at the time. I didn’t even like dogs.

But there I was, granting my son his Christmas wish: a new puppy.

My son had asked me if I would be willing to puppy-sit and help train his new puppy for him, as he worked 10 hours a day and my job is much more flexible since I can work from home. I immediately said yes since it meant I’d get to see my son every day.

When we took my son’s new puppy to the veterinarian for his first checkup, he noticed a few things about our new puppy. The puppy had been abused and was only three weeks old…not eight weeks old like we had been told. The vet noticed our puppy had an injured paw and had little cuts on his head. We hadn’t noticed until the vet pulled back our puppy’s fur.

The lady we had rescued the puppy from told us he was eight weeks old…among other mistruths. We would later come to realize through our vet that this lady had been reported several dozen times for intentionally harming puppies. My heart absolutely went out to this precious, fluffy, sweet puppy as I looked at his scars. Who abuses helpless puppies…and what on earth had he endured the few weeks he had been with her? Our family would find out in just two years that the lady had created the perfect storm for our puppy getting cancer.

After getting the new puppy, I can’t explain it, but my heart absolutely melted. Other than family and close friends, I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone as much as this puppy. We instantly bonded.

We had our set routine every single day. After my son dropped the puppy off at our house, I’d snuggle with that tiny puppy every morning. It was Christmas time and I was working on an important writing assignment. The puppy was so little, maybe 3 or 4 pounds when we got him. That sweet puppy would gently rest on my shoulder, snuggling so close to my neck and heart, as I researched and did my writing assignments.

The Christmas lights on the trees were aglow in our living room, peaceful Christmas music filled the air, and the preciousness of snuggling with him…and that sweet puppy breath🤗💕…everything was pure bliss! I ended up keeping all of the Christmas decorations up until the end of February because I was enjoying the atmosphere so much with my new furry friend.

Our family was going through a terrible grief experience at the time, and the addition of this new puppy brought so much life back into our lives.

After our snuggle time while I was writing, I would take a few hours to take the puppy on a walk, play with him, and train him. I was absolutely surprised how close I got to this puppy and how much fun we were having! Since the vet had told us how he was abused, I made it my mission to help the puppy understand our family was safe. I wanted him to feel so loved and treasured. Every afternoon, I’d give the puppy a little massage on his back, ears, and paws so he would trust that our hands would never hurt him. After that, he would fall asleep on my lap for about two hours as I took phone calls for work.

We were absolutely inseparable during the day. If I had to leave, I’d even take him with me. Everybody at our bank and our local Starbucks knew our puppy and would get him a dog treat or a puppuccino – a special puppy treat Starbucks offers complimentarily. In the middle of the day, I also took the puppy to see my son at my son’s workplace on his lunch break to strengthen their bond.

As the puppy grew, my love for him grew deeper and stronger too. My appreciation and respect for the puppy grew as well. I had seen how this puppy loved my son back to life. I saw my son go from a deep depression … to smiling and laughing again. My heart will forever be grateful to this sweet puppy for helping our family through that hard time.

God also used that little puppy to heal my heart. As my heart deeply grieved for my son because of all he had been through, and also throughout my dad’s cancer and another grief situation, that little puppy would lick the tears off of my face and get me to smile. He was just so intelligent and intuitive.

As time passed, the puppy seemed to make it his life mission to protect our family, deeply love our family, and it seemed that he wanted to show his gratitude to us for saving him out of his own terrible situation as much as he was helping us through our situation. I’d often look at our puppy and wonder, “who rescued who?”

Our puppy didn’t just love us, he loved us with his entire heart and being. When he would snuggle with us, it was like he was trying to melt his very body into our chests. He didn’t just want to be on our lap, he wanted to be as close to us as he possibly could be. Sometimes, he would snuggle into our necks and it would feel so soft and furry as he enveloped and intertwined his neck into ours. From the time he was a mere three pounds, all the way up to his full weight of 90 pounds, he loved being a lap dog!

When any of us would arrive home, he would greet us at the door and shake his entire body. His little wiggle was so cute! He’d be so happy to see us, that he would let out the sweetest cry as if to say, “Finally! You’re home! Come spend time with me!”… even if we had only been gone for 5 minutes to get our mail.

Our family had the most extraordinary relationship with this precious puppy. I never in my wildest dreams would ever have thought that a puppy could love us so much and that we would love a puppy as much as a human being. We enjoyed such a special bond!

That’s why it hurt so very bad when we found out he had cancer.

I also think one of the many reasons we loved him so much is because we had fought so hard even before the cancer to save him several times from euthanasia. One of his vets had requested three different times for us to have him euthanized. He had some behavioral issues that we had to correct in specialized training classes and his life medically was intense. He constantly had vet appointments because he had such terrible allergies and skin allergies due to not having his immune system built up (since he was taken away from his mom too soon). We poured a tremendous amount of care into him to keep him happy, healthy, and whole, even bottle feeding him when we first got him. Our love for him certainly developed as we took care of him.

When we found out he had cancer, we were beyond crushed! We were actually at one of his dog training classes when we first noticed something was amiss. The trainer thought our puppy had gotten some gravel embedded in his paw. He was limping but we couldn’t see any gravel. I wondered if maybe he had a sprain due to the agility work that he had done. He had just won 1st place at an agility competition…he loved his training classes and loved his agility work so much.

We took our puppy to the vet and they requested to keep our puppy and do x-rays. They called and asked us to come back in, so we did. The vet said she had very bad news. I was thinking she was just going to say he sprained or broke his paw and would need surgery. Instead, she told us he had a very aggressive cancer called osteosarcoma…and that he only had three months to live. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…did I really just hear what the vet had said? My son and I started crying. Even my husband (who isn’t very emotional) cried. We couldn’t believe what we were being told. How does a young, spritely, 2 year-old puppy get cancer? The vet explained he had old scarring in the paw that had the cancer and that it had never healed – and that’s how the cancer formed. I remembered right then what all the original vet had told us about the lady we got him from…I also remembered that the lady said she kicked our puppy away from the trash multiple times for getting into it. She said he had been nothing but trouble to her.

We ended up taking our puppy to two other vets – one, an oncologist – hoping to save him. The oncologist said that a popular drug that was prescribed to our puppy for his skin allergies was a major cancer causer as well. She said majority of her canine and feline patients had previously used this commonly prescribed medicine. She believed that his previously injured paw had been compromised, the cancer set in, and the drug accelerated the cancer.

Being told by the oncologist that our puppy’s cancer was preventable greatly upset me. I was very angry at the lady we got our puppy from for abusing him and I was also upset that a pet pharmaceutical company knew the high risk and incidents of cancer … yet still put the drug out — knowing it was going to harm pets. (My next post will share the dangers and solutions to creating the ultimate health for pets…especially in regards to cancer…we learned so much!)

We tried very hard to save our puppy. I truly believe we could have, but unfortunately, our puppy was exposed to a common virus that he just couldn’t beat. After showing great promise and rapidly getting better on the treatments we were giving him…he went downhill just as quick. We ultimately had to do the right thing for him…which was euthanasia. We owed it to him after everything he had done for family. We were not about to let him suffer.

We made the dreaded phone call every pet owner hates to make…we set up the appointment for his euthanasia.

As the time came for his euthanasia, I literally thought my heart was going to break. He continued a downward spiral, and it was heartbreaking. He was perfectly housebroken and crate trained…it literally only took me about two weeks to potty train him. He had a perfect record in our home. As I saw him “piddle” on the floor, he looked up at me and was so ashamed. It broke my heart that his dignity was compromised. He began sleeping a lot more. You’ll never know much I missed his energetic, fun-loving, spritely personality that he vibrantly spread all over our home.

He could no longer jump up on the couch, so he would quietly lay down on his bed and sleep. I would gently lay on the floor beside him, holding him – never wanting to let him go, and would kiss his cheek and head, as I sang his favorite songs to him (Penny Lane by The Beatles, I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Michael Bublé, and Ho Hey by the Lumineers…he would “sing” these songs anytime we played them).

The day of the euthanasia came, and my son and I decided that we were going to give his puppy the very best day of his life. We agreed that we were not going to show our sadness or have him around any crying.

We woke up and took my son’s puppy to all of his favorite places and let him eat all of his favorite foods that we’d previously let him only have a tiny bite of, as well as the bad food we never allowed him to eat. We also took him to get some toys and had one last photo session done at his favorite place – the park. We also snuggled with him a lot! We tried to give him the very best day possible and he was so very happy all day.

We picked up some sedatives from our vet the day before so he would be as calm and relaxed as possible when he arrived for his appointment.

We arrived at the appointment, expecting a calm, peaceful, and as gentle as possible euthanasia.

We received anything but that.

We arrived at the vet and was placed into a private room with our puppy. The vet also suggested that we bring our other dog who was extremely close to our puppy. We kept our third dog at home at the vet’s request. So the puppy, our other dog, my son, and I were all in this little room…and my husband was on FaceTime so he could also “be there” since he was out of town. The vet came in and explained how euthanasia works. The vet assured us that we would have time with our puppy before she stopped his heart with the final shot.

They then told us that they were about to take him to another room to insert an IV into his paw so they could administer the medications in that way. We had told them which paw had the cancer.

As they led our puppy to another room away from us, we heard him crying out in horrendous pain several times. It seriously made me wince.

After they brought him back into the room, to our horror, we saw that they had put his IV in his sore paw that had cancer. I can’t even imagine how excruciatingly painful that was for him to have a needle shoved into his tumor. Our puppy had been guarding that paw the last three months…he wouldn’t even allow us to touch it.

Our puppy at that point was highly anxious and was highly guarding his paw. After about 10 minutes of the vet and vet tech trying to force our dog to be okay with letting them touch his bad paw, I asked them to stop and asked if they could insert the IV in his good paw. They reluctantly did and our puppy came back looking hurt and worn out. He was also in defense mode. Instead of taking the time to calm our puppy down, the vet and vet tech ended up being rough with him. The vet on his right put one restraining leash on him and the vet tech on his other side put another restraining leash on him – our puppy was freaking out. It seriously reminded me of a video I had seen of a frightened, chained elephant on his hind legs trying to be controlled at a circus. As our puppy became more bewildered and confused, looking up at us as if to say, “why is this happening to me?” … the vet and vet tech slapped a muzzle on him.

We had never euthanized a pet, so in our shock, we didn’t know what to do.

In hindsight, I wish we had immediately called off the euthanasia, left, and went to another vet. Never having done this before though, we just didn’t know better. My guilt was excruciating in the days and months after the euthanasia. I felt like I had majorly let our puppy down.

The euthanasia got worse. My son and I were promised time with our puppy to say our goodbyes. We each wanted to have time to hold him while he was alive…to talk to him and snuggle him one last time.

Our wishes were totally not honored.

Thankfully, my son had gotten on the floor and was holding his puppy to comfort him…or our puppy would have died without feeling comfort, peace, or security.

The vet then administered all shots at the same time…and our puppy went limp within 20 seconds and was dead within a minute. I will never forget the loud cry my son made when he realized his dog – his very best friend who had been his everything the last 2 years – suddenly (and unexpectedly) went limp and died in his arms. When my son realized his dog was dead, and he didn’t get to say his goodbyes, my heart broke for him as I saw the anguish and regret in his face.

The vet then said to our deceased puppy, “you’ll never have to wear a muzzle again!” and walked out of the room. He had only worn a muzzle twice during his entire lifetime so I didn’t understand why she said something so heartless and thoughtless like that. As hard as my son was crying, and with my own face flooded with tears, the lack of empathy surprised me. The vet tech did come back in and apologized for what had transpired, but the damage was already done.

It was a bad situation. I know that the vet and vet tech are both very good at what they do, but I didn’t like how our puppy’s last moments in life were filled with pain, anxiety, and chaos…especially since we worked so hard to give him the very last gift we could give him – a peaceful life exit.

After we were left alone with our sweet puppy, I quietly said my goodbyes to him as I got on the floor and held him. As his death sunk in, I began to miss him so very much! I kissed his cheek and deeply inhaled the smell of his fur as I pressed my face into his soft neck. I told him “thank you” for loving my son back to life and for loving our family so very well. As I was leaving the room, my heart broke into a million pieces. I couldn’t handle the pain. I hugged my son and left the room so he could have time with his best friend to say his goodbyes.

This entire situation deeply broke our family’s hearts, and the regrets we felt in the days after the euthanasia were terrible.

It took me awhile to write this post because every time I’d start to write about this, I’d start crying. I cried today as I wrote it. There are some pets who make such an incredible impact in your heart and life that “goodbye” becomes truly unbearable.

Our family could never replicate the special relationship we built with this puppy because we deeply bonded with him during one of the toughest seasons of our lives. He kissed (licked) away our tears, brought us so much joy, and loved us so very well! God really blessed us when he gave us Titan!

I read a blog post right after our puppy died where the author said about her dog (a German Shepherd named Hugo): “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

When I read that, it brought tears to my eyes because that is exactly how I felt about our puppy…he was a person in a dog suit who opened my heart in a beautiful way that had never been opened before. He made our family – all of us – better. We loved better after knowing him. I used to not even like dogs. Now, I love and adore all animals! I “get it” now.

I truly hope our story helps others to not make the same mistakes we made…and to be very proactive if (and when) the time comes to euthanize your much-loved pet.

⭐️Here are my tips for creating a peaceful euthanasia:

1. Talk to the vet you would like to perform the euthanasia. Ask them what their protocol and timeline is…in great detail…for a euthanasia.

2. Ask the vet how long you can spend with your pet in between the shot that completely sedates them and the shot that actually stops their heart.

3. Ask for sedatives to give to calm your pet (before you leave to go to the appointment) so your pet will be most relaxed at the euthanasia. You usually pick these sedatives up the day before. The sedatives may also prevent your pet from twitching or taking a final deep breath which can startle you as your pet passes away.

4. Know that whatever outfit you wear to the euthanasia might remind you of that very sad day. I couldn’t wear the outfit I wore on the day of the euthanasia for almost a year…it was very painful to see that outfit.

5. Give your pet a super great “one last day.” It could be a day like I described or simply a quiet day at home enjoying your pet. Be sure to take pictures or have a photo session done with your pet. Whatever you think is a perfect, special day for your pet is what you should do. When I think back to our puppy’s last day of food, fun, and snuggles, my heart smiles at the joy he experienced. I’ll never forget how happy he looked all day, on his last day with us.

6. When you take your pet in to be euthanized, remind your vet about the conversation you had with them (when you talked to the vet about the amount of time you would have to spend with your pet, in between the two shots). Remind the vet and every tech you come into contact with of your wishes. When they administer the first shot, remind them again of your wish to have time with your pet before they are deceased.

7. Euthanize your pet on a Friday. You’ll have two whole days before you have to go back to work or school. Consider taking vacation days too. My boss was exceptionally kind to me…he had recently experienced his dog’s death and gave me three weeks off. He also said he’d extend it if needed. I will forever be grateful to him for being so understanding.

8. Consider where you want the euthanasia to take place. You can have your pet euthanized at the vet, inside your home, or at their favorite place in your backyard. In hindsight, I wish we had euthanized our puppy in his favorite place in our backyard and then planted a tree to remember him by.

9. Ask your vet what options you have for your deceased pet’s body. We were told we had the following options: allow the veterinarian office to dispose of his body…we could take him home and bury him…we could take him to a crematory…we could have our dog buried at a pet cemetery…or we could allow the vet’s office to take him to a crematory and they would return our puppy’s ashes to us for a fee. We ended up choosing the last option and selected a beautiful urn for his ashes. We wanted him home with us.

10. Consider what will be best for your emotions when you return home from the euthanasia: do you want your pet’s belongings to be out or do you want to pre-pack them and place them in a room, attic, or in your garage? We chose to leave them out where they had always been…but it was very painful to see all of his belongings once we got home – and realize he’d never be there again. I placed all of his belongings (his most loved toys, his favorite blanket, favorite bag of treats, all of his cancer/prescription meds/supplements, and his collar/leash inside his crate and shut the crate door so our other dogs wouldn’t get into any of it. I still have his crate out and finally feel – a year later – as though it’s time to move it into our attic. I had told our puppy every single night, “Goodnight little baby, I love you!”…it was comforting to still say that every night even though I knew he wasn’t there.

11. I greatly underestimated how upset and sad I’d be after our dog’s death. Consider having a trusted family member or trusted friend safely drive you home from the euthanasia. My mom and sister knew what vet we were going to and came up there unannounced right after the euthanasia. I was so very grateful that they showed up. It was really good to have their compassion and support.

12. Have some easy meals – easy to prepare or already prepared – for when you get home (pizza, cereal and milk, frozen waffles, fruit, soup, cheese and crackers, salad, etc.). You may not feel like eating, but if you do get hungry, you’ll appreciate having something quick and simple already prepared.

13. Sign any necessary paperwork and pay your bill before the euthanasia. Feel free to decide the aftercare after the euthanasia though. We decided the final plans for our puppy’s body right after he was euthanized. I’m thankful we waited until afterwards to decide his aftercare because we changed our minds. We considered having him be taken to a pet cemetery, but the finality of the situation hit and we decided we wanted his ashes at home with us.

14. Bring items you know will provide your dog with extra comfort…such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, and/or toy. Make the experience as comfortable as you possibly can.

15. Our vet said to bring our other dog. I really wish we hadn’t. Our other dog was super anxious and he didn’t handle it well. It brought a sadness to the mix that made the situation tougher. If you don’t bring other pets, you can exclusively focus and pour all of your attention onto the pet you are saying your goodbyes to.

16. Understand that your pet’s eyes may stay open after they die. They also may urinate or defecate after they pass away as well. We had our dog potty before we left the house and also right before we entered the vet’s building. We also wrapped our puppy in a comfy blanket too. We were not prepared for his eyes staying open after he died and the vet or the vet tech didn’t shut them. We didn’t expect that. Talk to your vet about these issues beforehand so you’ll know what to expect and to also prevent any unnecessary bad memories.

17. Realize that no matter what you do or how perfectly you plan your pet’s last days and euthanasia, you may experience extreme guilt. We did everything we could to save our puppy…got him the best care, loved him extremely well, gave him a fantastic life and wonderful last day, and took the time to pre-plan a perfect euthanasia where he’d be comfortable and at peace…yet we fell short. Guilt – and questions – haunted my heart for several months…”what if we had taken him to get a 4th vet’s opinion?”…”why didn’t we stop and leave the euthanasia after we saw how frightened he was?”…”could we have done more?”…”did we do the euthanasia too soon or did we do it too late into his cancer?”…”why didn’t I sleep in the living room with him the night before?”…”did we do everything we could have done?” My thoughts and guilt wouldn’t quit. It took me months to gain some much needed peace. The fact is, you can do all the right things, and plan as much as you can, but that in no way 100% assures that everything will go as planned or turn out as you hope it will. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to fully grieve. Cry if you need to…I cried almost every day for 11 months since I missed him so very badly. Realize that your pet is so very grateful for the terrific life you gave them and how well you loved them! Please go easy on yourself and know that majority of pet owners will experience some very tough emotions…as well as guilt…after a euthanasia.

18. Remember the amazing love and incredible lessons you shared and received from your beloved pet…and know that your pet absolutely loved and adored you! If they could tell you “thank you” in a letter, it’d probably be 1000 pages long! You made their life so very meaningful…their best days were when they were with you!

19. After you euthanize your pet, consider planting a memorial tree or garden in their honor. You can also place a bench, chair, or hammock by the tree or garden so you can sit down and reflect on your time with your pet.

20. Take care of yourself and be gentle with your heart. Grief is extremely tough and can wreck havoc on your health. Take the time to intentionally relax. Do something that brings your heart peace and joy. Surround yourself with loved ones. Start a journal and write down your thoughts and feelings. If you live with a spouse, child, or your family, comfort and help each other. Most importantly, share your heart, grief, and feelings with God. God sure was faithful in helping me each and every day … especially on my worst days!

I’ll never forget that very extraordinary, sweet, exceptionally special, 90 pound fluffy fur baby of ours. He blessed our lives with so much love, fun, and joy! I’ll always remember him and love him!❤️🐶🐾

I hope this blog post and these 20 tips are helpful to all who read them. And I truly hope and pray that if you are in the heartbreaking position of having to plan your treasured pet’s euthanasia, that God will bless you and your pet’s last days together.

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim🐾💕🐾

©2018 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/

🐈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

Never.

Never give up your opinion just because someone steamrolls you with theirs.

Never change who you are just so someone else can accept you or find you worthy enough to love.

Never mistreat anyone who has proven their love for you. Genuine love and concern are hard to find.

Never allow someone else’s behavior to dictate your own personal integrity.

Never allow anyone to dictate or belittle your grief. That’s an extremely personal journey that is only between God and yourself.

Never allow anyone or anything to rob you of your joy.

Never allow anyone access to or into your life if they don’t truly care about who you are and have the very best intentions for you.

Never give up an opportunity to travel when you can afford it. Travel is one of life’s best gifts.

Never enter – or lose yourself in – a relationship where the person refuses to care enough about themselves to do their own self work.

Never go through mistreatment or abuse just because someone else doesn’t care to have good standards for how they treat others.

Never give up your dreams just so someone else can pursue theirs.

Never take your health for granted. You never know what a treasure it truly is until it’s compromised.

Never give up your beliefs just because someone doesn’t want to raise their standards.

Never allow anyone who doesn’t love you to live “rent free” inside your mind.

Never allow another person to interfere in your relationship with your spouse, child, parents, siblings, or other significant relationships.

Never refuse anyone kindness and basic respect.

Never judge a book by its cover. I’ve met a lot of incredible people with brilliant hearts and super cool ideas who were rough around the edges.

Never give up or compromise your character or uniqueness just so someone can find you more like-able or appealing.

Never allow someone to pull you down. Be around those who lift you up.

Never give up hope, faith, or genuine love. These 3 things will always sustain you.

Never feel bad about loving your kiddos and grandkiddos to the moon and back.

Never allow anyone to degrade you. Your value and your heart are your responsibility to protect.

Never allow anyone to intrude in your goals. Only God has that right.

Never attempt to “repaint” a person after they’ve shown (or continue to prove) their true colors.

Never blindly believe what you hear about others. So much of negative information is rooted in bad intentions, jealousy, and someone trying to cover their own rear.

Never feel bad about loving your pets as though they were lil humans who happen to wear fur. God loves all His creation!

Never allow someone else to make you responsible for their happiness. Happiness and joy are each person’s own responsibility and self-work.

Never be ashamed of tears. Tears cleanse your soul.

Never bless someone with the expensive gift of trust – or another “knife” – after they’ve already carelessly stabbed you in the back.

Never give up or jeopardize your belief in God…or your relationship with Him…especially if it’s due to how a “Christian” treated you. There’s a huge difference between a genuine Christian and a Church Attender. God will always love you more – and better – than anyone else ever can.

Never waste life and never take life for granted. You’re never guaranteed tomorrow.

Never allow anyone or anything to rob you of God’s Purpose for your life.

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2018 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/

❤️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

When God Doesn’t Give You Your Fairytale

We all have fairytales we’ve built up in our minds. Those great kingdoms we so greatly desire and hold deep inside our hearts.

Some may have desired to get their college degree, find the right person, get married, have children, and live happily ever after.

Some may have desired for their kiddos to grow up, have their own children, and all of them love and serve God.

Some may have dreamed about developing their talents, passions, and abilities, and boldly create a satisfying career.

Some may have dreamed about moving away or traveling abroad, seeing and experiencing as much of life as possible.

Some may have wanted a certain relationship, dream, or goal to happen in their life.

Some might have pursued health and wellness to the fullest.

There are many desires, fairytales, and kingdoms we would’ve chosen if we could have been in total control…but the truth is, “life” happens.

Relationships end. Financial and marital issues are far too real. Illness and disabilities happen. People fail us…and we fail them. Plans we make crash and burn. Fairytales we’ve created in our hearts crumble and are compromised or destroyed…by others, ourselves, or “life.”

This past year may have been a real challenge for you…maybe the last decade, or your whole life has been difficult. Perhaps you have seen the fairytale you greatly desired fade right out of sight.

Maybe you’ve lost a loved one or you’ve watched people you dearly love go through grief, illness, or trauma. Perhaps you were given a terrible diagnosis. Maybe you’ve watched someone you deeply love walk away. You might’ve watched your marriage or family crumble…or a family member turn away from God. Maybe you’ve seen the desires you once held dear be sifted and slip through your fingers.

Something God has been showing me the last few years is to persevere … To love Him no matter what. To place my “fairytales” in His super caring – and capable – hands. This isn’t always easy; in fact, it’s much easier said than done – especially when you’re going through major grief or trials.

My frustrations, disappointments, and heartaches have taught me many important life lessons. These lessons have come at a high price, but I couldn’t have learned them any other way.

Although hurts, frustrations, and disappointments can come from multiple sources, some originate from an unexpected source: ourselves. We want to play God. We think we know best and try to force the “glass slippers” in our life to fit. We will wiggle, stretch, or try to broaden or shrink our feet (life) to make our plans and desires fit God’s plans. God has a better plan, but we want what we want.

God asks us to close the door on something, and if we refuse, He closes it for us. We then become upset. Instead of seeking to find the right “doors” He wants us to find and enter…we instead stay stagnant at a closed door, resenting Him for not answering our prayers – and we desperately try to “pick the lock” of the closed door. Oh, how we cry at the shut doors and become upset with God for not doing things our way – and for not giving us the “happily ever after” we envisioned.

As I was talking to God about this very thing a few years ago, I felt as though He was saying, “I don’t always allow the glass slipper to fit in the way you so desperately want to wear it. I know you want it to fit, but I love you enough to take that glass slipper away from you, place it behind a closed door, and lock the door because in My higher wisdom, I can clearly see how that glass slipper will eventually shatter…and then you would be stuck with broken, shattered slippers that would forever cut you the rest of your life.”

Sometimes, God protects us from the fairytales He knows will end badly; other times, I have found (particularly in times of deep rebellion or extended disobedience), God will allow us to make those ill-fitting glass slippers to fit. Sometimes, we need a painful reminder to not make the same unwise choices again.

God knows what is best – whether we like it or not. He is God and we are not. He is all knowing…our vision is so very limited. He doesn’t owe us our fairytale or our “happily ever after”…if we were to look at all of the good in our lives and every blessing, it’s astonishing how good He truly is to us. Even when bad things happen…He may be mercifully preventing something far worse from happening in the future.

If God closes a door or removes a glass slipper in your life, press forward, seek Him with all of your heart, and see what He has in store for you.

Many problems are born out of not viewing life or eternity correctly. We faultily believe life is about our comfort and blessings here on earth…and we fail to see that life is ultimately a training ground to prepare us for Heaven.

Everything we experience or go through in life – all of it (the good and the bad) – has great value and purpose. Every joy, every success, and even every heartache, disappointment, and failure brings us closer to God’s heart as these precious life experiences prepare us for Heaven. Nothing is ever wasted when we give it (and continue to give it back) to God. We can waste or take for granted the lessons God offers us, but each has a specific purpose.

Our minds cannot possibly wrap around or understand God’s plans, thoughts, or ways…and some of them may even seem incredibly cruel.

Being told you or a loved one have cancer (or another major health issue) is devastating. Going through relationship, marriage, or family difficulties…or other hardships in life, again, totally stinks. It tempts us to think that God doesn’t care or that He somehow dropped the ball. But the fact is, God cares more than we can ever begin to fathom or imagine.

God loves us, and if we could see the overall picture that He is painting in our life and our loved ones’ lives, we’d totally be ashamed of any time we’ve doubted Him, His Word, His promises, or His goodness.

I’m just like everyone else…there are things in life I deeply struggle with and don’t understand. I don’t have everything figured out…and there are situations I sure do wish God would heal, repair, give justice in, or fix. There are some things I’ll never understand or agree with…not in a billion years.

We are fortunate God is so patient with us. He allows the questions throughout our deepest heart’s grief. He shows up. He cares.

We don’t know what Heaven will ultimately be like, but God is a great God of purpose, order, goodness, and creativity. This I know to be true.

As we go through the death of a fairytale or the death of a great desire of our heart, it is so vital to remember that God promises He will be making up for all of the bad we suffer and go through on earth (Joel 2:25-32; Revelation 21:3-5; Deuteronomy 30:1-20; Acts 3:19-21; Psalm 51; Job 42:10-17; Jeremiah 33; and so many other verses that share of God’s healing, blessings, and restoration).

When we faultily believe that life is primarily about our happiness…without caring about the incredible holy work God wants to perfect in our heart…we shortchange ourselves and those around us.

Don’t get me wrong. God loves to give us the desires of our hearts…He loves to see joy and happiness in our lives — He truly does. But when we have a specific purpose that God has in store for us (or our loved ones)…and then we rebel or refuse to obey God or fail to make His purpose and plans our first priority – above our desires and “fairytales” – then why are we surprised when life becomes stressful, difficult, and chaotic?

I love the quote by Lecrae: “You can live like there’s no tomorrow…but tomorrow always shows up full of consequences.” The same is true: God gives us free will to disobey, reject, and rebel against God when our fairytales crumble, but the consequences of these decisions will eventually catch up to us.

I’ve seen a lot of my fairytales end up in flames. Sometimes, “life” just happened – I didn’t do anything wrong and it was totally unfair. Other times, if I’m truly honest with myself, I can trace my heartaches and disappointments in life back to times when I disobeyed God or didn’t submit to Him. The consequences may not have shown up until years later, but in my heart, I know where the pain truly originated from.

When it comes to our life, our castles, kingdoms, and fairytales, they must fall so that God’s perfect plans can be rightfully built in their place instead.

Instead of us making ourselves the kings and queens of our own lives (which is ridiculously easy to do…knowingly and unknowingly), we need to exalt the King of Kings over every facet of our lives instead. When we truly do this, God gives us the desires of our hearts. The difference is He takes away the glass slippers (desires) that could cut us deeply, and instead gives us a fresh new pair of sturdy, unbreakable glass slippers that are custom designed, the correct size, and a joy to wear…no pain or hardship is attached to them. If we do go through hardships down the road, the slippers will hold us up because we will be walking in God’s perfect, purpose-filled, peaceful will.

You may be in the worst chapter of your life right now, but with God, your life story is far from over. Give God the “pen” of your life’s book and ask Him to write the remaining chapters of your life.

What if you’ve already quit on God? It’s not too late! Just the fact that you’re reading this is proof that God has amazing plans for your life! Simply ask God to forgive you and tell Him you want HIS plans and purpose to prevail from this moment forward. Ask Him to guide and direct you.

Your very best days may not have even happened yet. We need to fully trust God to write our life stories. It will be far better than any fairytale we could ever write ourselves. Yes, we will still go through grief, hardships, and difficulties, but they will not be in vain.

What could God truly accomplish if we were to trade in our glass slippers and fairytales for His perfect will? God wants so much for us to trust Him, obey Him, and delight in Him.

God created all of His marvelous creation in just one week. Think what our Creator can accomplish in our lives if we were to give up our fairytales, and dedicate the remainder of this year to Him.

When we trade in our fairytales and kingdoms, God always gives us something far greater: He gives us true crowns and grants us a life we will wake up to each day and be truly excited to walk throughout our life with Him!

One day, we will see He is the truest Friend we can ever hope to have. Everything will all make perfect sense.

Today, share your heart, dreams, goals, and plans with God – your most treasured fairytales – and ask Him to accomplish His perfect Will for your life!❤️

He is faithful!

©2018 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/

❤️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🎄❤️🎄

Divorce Prevention: Questions To Ask Before Getting Married

Marriage can be one of the most incredible experiences of your life…or it can truly drain and destroy your heart every. single. day.

When starting my grief ministry, I was surprised by the amount of people who sought help for marriage, family, in-law, and dating relationship related grief issues. All of these types of relationships – especially in this day and age – can be stressful and cause an extreme amount of grief and conflict.

Yet few consider the huge impact these relationships can have before taking the plunge.

My adult son once told me a marriage joke: “There are three rings in marriage…the engagement ring…the wedding ring…then the suffering.”

This was funny when I heard it..but it is an all-too-true reality for so many.

My husband and I have been marriage coaches at our church the last several years. We also have many couples contact us now due to word-of-mouth and recommendations from couples who we have helped. With God’s grace, we have an over 90% success rate with helping couples to turn their relationships around, and it’s not because my husband and I have a perfect marriage. It’s because we experienced years of marital turmoil, and we also experienced many life, family, and grief experiences throughout our marriage – so we have gained priceless practical insight on how to help couples. We are also very real, authentic, honest, and transparent when we help others.

When rebuilding our marriage, we found what worked…and what did not…and we are very open about what we learned.

My husband and I have been together for almost three decades. During the first 14 years, our marriage was horrible…absolutely terrible. There were ten years we genuinely despised each other. We only stayed together because we didn’t want to ruin family members’ birthdays…or divorce around a holiday…or we had a vacation or special occasion coming up that we didn’t want to ruin for anyone. For me, it was also because I didn’t want all of our photo albums and home videos to turn from being a source of joyful memories for our family to being a visual source of pain – evidence of what “once was.”

At our lowest point…I sought to improve myself and our marriage, as I deeply pondered how things got so bad.

Nobody plans on things going bad, but it does happen…frequently. Too frequently. In fact, around 50% of marriages fail.

Most people (my husband and myself included) get it backwards: we wear rose-colored glasses before we get married and then we wear magnifying glasses after saying, “I do.”

It is much wiser to wear magnifying glasses while dating so you can truly make a solid decision about who you will be spending the rest of your life with…then wear rose-colored glasses after you get married.

When someone gets married, it literally can affect everything in, and about, that person’s life…who they are, their joy, their relationship with God and others, their family, their health, their present or future children, finances, goals, dreams, job/education/career, beliefs, their self-esteem…everything. Since they are willingly placing their self…and their life…in a position of extreme vulnerability, it’s important to be very thorough in making sure they’re giving their heart and life to someone who truly deserves it.

Nobody is perfect…that’s for sure. We all are a work in progress. We all have room for improvement. We all have a bad day here and there. Always. But there is a huge difference between being with a partner who is willing to work at figuring things out vs. a partner who will simply wear you out.

Many people — like I stated earlier, one out of every two people — will either file for divorce or be served divorce papers…so it makes sense to ask a few very important questions before getting engaged or tying the knot.

Consider these statistics:

  • The average marriage lasts 8.2 years
  • 45-50% of first marriages end in divorce
  • 67% of second marriages end in divorce
  • 74% of third marriages end in divorce
  • Nearly 60% of spouses admit to cheating…45% will go on to cheat again
  • The average divorce costs $15,000 to $30,000
  • BUT you can beat these odds with prayer, and a lil preparation and prevention.
  • A good marriage can be an incredible joy and blessing…but a bad marriage can negatively impact both spouses, their children, and both spouse’s families – and each person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health…sometimes for years!

    Contrary to popular belief, a gold band or diamond ring doesn’t have magical abilities. It doesn’t sprinkle pixie dust on the wearer’s finger and make them a magically better version of their self. Brides and grooms come “as is” – no warranty.

    Some go into marriage not only thinking they can change someone…they try to make the marriage or potential spouse “fit” their expectations.

    If a person has to force their foot into a glass slipper (marriage) to make it fit, they will, no doubt, have a very uncomfortable walk throughout their marriage…or worse, the glass slipper will eventually shatter and they’ll carry the scars for a very long time. And if someone is made to feel they never measure up, they, in turn, will resent their mate.

    So now that I’ve been a much needed Negative Nancy so far in this post, how about some positive statistics?😍

    • Married women are 30% more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good compared to single women
    • Married people report lower levels of depression and distress
    • Married people (over 50 years old) are more likely to maintain daily health routines like exercise, eating right, not smoking, and routinely receive annual health physicals
    • Married people are twice as likely to go to church as unmarried people
    • Marriage does more to promote life satisfaction than money, sex, or sometimes even children (source: Wake Forest University psychologists)

    Okay, so what if you’re already married and you believe you made a huge mistake or you think you married the “wrong” person? Please consider a few statistics:

    • 50% of those who divorce regret ending their marriage, and 80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision…so it is vital to talk to a trusted pastor or qualified marriage therapist before making the painful decision to separate or divorce
    • 86% of those who rated their marriage as “unhappy” reported having “improved” or even “great” marriages five years later after choosing to stay married
    • once you get married, your spouse becomes the “right” person. God has the incredible ability to heal your marriage

    At some point, I’ll write specifically about each of these questions, but for now, I’ll leave these questions without answers so each reader can come up with their own individual answers. As you read each question, be sure to also answer how your partner would answer or rate you if they were the one reading these questions.

    With any and every relationship, you must keep perspective and look at all viewpoints and sides!😊 It is an absolute must for both people to reflect on not just their partner, or their own individual wants and desires, but it is also important to reflect – and be real about – what both people are personally bringing to the relationship. It most likely will be a mixture of good strengths along with some flaws.

    Each person needs to do their own self-work to ensure they are continually becoming a skilled “master” of their relationship, instead of being the “disaster” of the relationship.

    We’re truly either an asset or a liability to our partner’s heart and wellbeing.

    While reading this list, you may be tempted to point fingers, argue with your partner, or dish out blame. That is not the goal of this blog post. The questions are a great opportunity to reflect on what self-work needs to be done by each individual, and it may reveal deficits so you can make an overall decision to either work toward a happier, healthier, and much more fulfilling relationship – or discover that you (or they) may need to upgrade your/their value…or if you choose to stay together, upgrade the value of your relationship together.

    In any bad or challenged relationship, it is rare if it is just one partner’s fault. Both people need to take responsibility for their part and work toward creating a “team” mentality together. When my husband and I were repairing our marriage, I shared with him, “Well, we’ve already found out what doesn’t work for our marriage…let’s now focus on finding out what will work.”

    The truth is: marriage – just like all relationships – are work…sprinkled with love, times of joy, memories and purpose.

    If you’re experiencing a bad time in your relationship or marriage, or you’re in need of good, solid, unbiased advice, there’s no shame in seeking out a qualified and trusted pastor or marriage therapist. My husband and I went to several before we found one who we both liked who could genuinely help us. To this day, we still go to this therapist when we run into issues we can’t easily resolve. The best advice he’s given is, “Treat one another how you would want to be treated and seek to improve yourself!”

    When tempted to think that it’s all one partner’s fault, it’s best to consider the impact – both the good and the bad – both are contributing. As my husband’s and my marriage therapist always says, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

    When my husband and I coach couples, usually one partner will initially drag their feet and truly dread it…until they realize they can custom create a marriage where they and their spouse both feel treasured and fulfilled.

    Your relationship and marriage is yours. You do not have to have a perfect marriage to be happy. You don’t even have to resolve every problem to get along and feel fulfilled. You are not required to pattern your marriage after anyone else’s marriage. You get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make your marriage exactly what you both want it to be!

    Before reading this list, take a few minutes to pray. Ask God to speak to your heart and to guide and direct your life and relationship.

    Realize there are probably some of these that your partner and you are not favorably doing, and one or both of you may not be up to par. This list simply reveals what needs to be worked on.

    Some of these may be high priorities for you both as a couple…some may not be. Each relationship – especially a marriage – needs to be custom created by the couple. Parents, siblings, friends, etc. certainly care…and a couple should prayerfully consider and contemplate the advice and wise counsel of anyone who cares about them…but at the end of the day, both people need to take ownership of their relationship and do what works for them.

    My husband and I wouldn’t have suffered as much turmoil in our marriage had we discussed a list of questions like this before we got married. We pray this list truly helps others to avoid the heartache and grief we experienced for so long.

    Marriage is definitely a huge decision and commitment. And lifetime love, joy, purpose, and commitment are the goals — for both you and your partner!

    Things To Ask Yourself Before Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level:

    1. Is your partner into you…really into you? (Are you truly into them?)

    2. Do you both love, honor, & fear God? Is your relationship with God the top priority…individually and as a couple? Are you comfortable praying together and encouraging each other spiritually?

    3. How do you both treat your own family? How do you treat each other’s family? How does their family treat you…how does your family treat them? Do you both respect and love your families? Are you both capable of leaving and cleaving (even though you will still love and respect your parents and families)? Will you (and your partner) be able to set solid boundaries after the wedding so your spouse and marriage truly come first?

    4. Are they mature, responsible, compassionate, caring, and kind? (Are you?)

    5. Do they – and will they – handle hardship, grief, and stress well? (How do you think you handle these things?) If either of you were to prematurely die, can you trust and depend on them to be compassionate to your family and treat them well…or would there be conflict?

    6. Do they protect, respect, and honor you? (Do you seek to protect, respect, and honor your partner?)

    7. Are they loyal, faithful, and will they truly put you first? (Are you truly wiling to do and be these, too?)

    8. Do they have a solid ability to communicate, process, and work out problems/issues and restore harmony in the relationship? Are they good at taking the initiative to work problems out? Will you truly have a partner who invests in the relationship to prevent issues? (Do you communicate and work problems out well? Do you invest in the relationship and do your part to prevent issues?) Are you both willing to learn new communication and relationship skills?

    9. How do they consistently treat waiters/waitresses, store clerks, pets, children, and others? (How do you treat others?)

    10. Will they be a good parent…and will you want your kiddos to be just like them once they’re grown? (Will you…and would you…want your future children to emulate your life/actions/habits?)

    11. Are they forgiving or do they hold grudges? (How do you handle forgiveness issues?)

    12. Do they have their finances in order and have a stable job/work history – do they quit easy? (How about you?)

    13. Are you (or they) controlled by any addiction or toxic behaviors? Will either of you have a hard life due to these issues?

    14. Do they have anger, bitterness, or attitude issues? (Do you?)

    15. Have they unpacked their “baggage” in life – the unprocessed baggage their parents (knowingly or unknowingly) passed down to them, as well as their own – and do they continually seek ways to grow and improve their self? (Have you taken – and do you continually take – the steps to do this?)

    16. Have you or they ever cheated in a relationship…and if either has a history of infidelity, did you/they learn from it? If someone has cheated and failed to self-reflect to figure out why, they have an overwhelming chance of cheating again.

    17. Do they respect sex and are they respectful towards you in this area? (Are you respectful towards them?)

    18. If you were ever disabled or diagnosed with a serious illness, how would they accept and handle that? (If your spouse became disabled or seriously ill, would you leave…or love them enough to stay?)

    19. Are they continually self-centered? (Are you?)

    20. How does your partner make you feel…and if nothing ever changes or improves, can you genuinely live with how things currently are? (How do you make your partner feel…and are you willing to do whatever is necessary to improve your relationship?)

    21. Do you have a good education, a trade, or skill set to provide for yourself – and any children – if the marriage ends or your spouse dies? (Are you committed to ensuring both you and your partner have this important ability?)

    22. Are you/they in love or in need? Getting married for financial purposes more than love will bring problems and deep heartache – for both people.

    23. How do your parents/family feel about your partner? (How do your partner’s parents/family feel about you?) Are any of their concerns justified? Will they welcome your spouse and not become “monster-in-laws” after the wedding? Will you ensure that your parents/family loves and respects your spouse…and will you ensure that your spouse loves and respects your parents/family? You’d be surprised how many marriages end due to not ensuring basic love and respect by all parties.

    24. Is your partner genuinely good to you and are you genuinely good to them…and are you genuinely good for each other?

    25. Do you genuinely like them as a person? (Do they genuinely like you?)

    26. Do you have similar values, life goals, and beliefs? Are there any deal breakers?

    27. Do you have compatible ideas on the hot topics of marriage: religion, money, parenting, family, sex, chores/jobs/responsibilities?

    28. Do you have fun together, have a strong friendship, and genuinely enjoy each other?

    29. Are you attracted to your partner – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.? (Is your partner attracted to you in these areas?)

    30. Do you and your partner make gratefulness and valuing each other a priority? Are you (and they) more grateful or ungrateful? More valuing or demeaning?

    Hope these questions are helpful! Keep in mind these questions are not the gospel…they’re simply a tool for self-reflection and self-improvement.

    Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither are relationships. Marriages take a lifetime to grow and perfect!

    So, what if you read this list and are now discouraged?

    Here are a few resources I have personally found to be very helpful. Some are websites and some are videos. All are helpful for building relationships and self-improvement:

    http://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember

    https://saddleback.com/watch/how-to-build-a-love-that-lasts-a-lifetime/growing-a-love-that-lasts

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com

    http://www.life.church/media/from-this-day-forward/

    https://saddleback.com/watch/the-purpose-driven-family

    https://www.drphil.com/advice_categories/relationships-sex/

    https://www.celebraterecovery.com

    http://www.life.church/media/the-vow/

    http://www.purposedriven.com

    http://www.life.church/media/samson/

    http://www.chazown.com

    http://www.rickwarren.org/devotional

    http://www.rejoicemarriageministries.com

    http://www.familylife.com

    https://www.gottman.com

    Marriage can truly last a lifetime and be one of the best experiences of your life!

    Your heart is one of the highest, most prized treasures you can give to someone. Give it to someone who will take good care of it!❤️

    Gratitude & blessings,

    Kim

    ©2018 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/

    ❤️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

    ⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

    ⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to help and encourage others by sharing our personal experiences we have gone through with our own personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or pastor for guidance andadvice.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Websites are not necessarily an endorsement. They are included for encouragement and informational purposes only.

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

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

    A challenge to find joy again.

    A challenge not to cry every day.

    A challenge to enjoy others.

    A challenge to relax by doing your previous favorite activities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ❤️Gratitude & blessings,
        Kim

    The Dark Candle

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

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

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

    Written by Strickland Gillian

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

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

    For more encouragement:

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

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

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

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

    ❤️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