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Entries in Grief (6)

Tuesday
Jun052018

When Your Last Living Parent Passes

Have you ever noticed that broken people—healed by God's grace—share His truth in a powerful way, straight from their heart? Yvonne Ortega is the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® series.

In this Grief UPGRADE, she encourages us to seek God's caring presence and peace, just as she does.

“‘Dad passed,’ my younger brother said on the phone. For a couple of minutes, I couldn’t say anything," Yvonne said. "Our last living parent passed.

"I felt broken again. Perhaps my brother felt the same way, but he didn’t say so.”

I (Dawn) still have one living parent, but I've thought about this topic many times lately.

I don't think we're ever prepared for a parent to die, but perhaps we can prepare our hearts to continue to live.

Yvonne continues . . .

Daddy wanted to live to be 100 years old. He got close to that, but his body wore out.

He had a massive heart attack on Palm Sunday, seemed to improve, but slipped away nine days later.

His mind also wore out. He had dementia.

I’ve learned three things about my heavenly Father that help me cope with the loss of my last living parent.

1. I’ve learned that God cares about orphans.

Psalm 68:5, in talking about God, says,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (NIV).

God is a Father to me. As a caring parent, He loves me, watches over me, and guides me. He will fill in the gap.

I can go to Him in prayer, call him "Father," and feel confident that He will be a faithful parent to me.

Deuteronomy 10:18a says, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.”

God will defend me. When the need arises, I don’t stand alone. I can run to Abba’s arms in confidence and feel safe.

2. I’ve learned to meditate on the names of God.

El Roi means the God who sees me. Since He sees me, God knows I experience bouts of loneliness. As God comforted Hagar in Genesis 16, He will comfort me.

God knows where I am and what I need.

Another name of God is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is our peace. In Judges 16:24, Gideon built an altar to the Lord and called it "The Lord Is Peace."

I admit, every so often I want to call Dad, but remember I can’t do that anymore. Other times, I tell myself I need to buy more greeting cards for Dad. I used to mail him two cards a week. Then I remember he’s in heaven.

I’m happy for him, but I miss him. In those moments, I call on Jehovah Shalom and claim His peace in my life.

3. I listen to praise and worship music.

One of my favorite Scriptures about the importance of praise and worship is 2 Chronicles 20:21:

“Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’”

My battle is coping with the loss of my last living parent. God’s Word showed me the most powerful weapon—praise and worship.

I praise God continually that my father accepted the Lord last summer.

Then I fight the battle with God’s love and strength as He brings me to a more beautiful tomorrow.

What will you do when you lose your last living parent or feel lonely because of other circumstances?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a professional speaker, and a speaking and writing coach. She’s the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne will speak at a Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Conference October 19–20, 2018 in Virginia Beach and would love to bring that conference to your area. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr172018

Walking a Loved One Eternally Home

Joanie Shawhan writes words of encourgement to those touched by cancer and other painful struggles, writing from her own experience and wisdom to encourage us in this Grief UPGRADE. Joanie writes about a phone call she received:

“'I have stage 4 cancer,' my sister Tracy said. I groaned as I tightened my grip on the phone."

I'm sure you would agree with me (Dawn)—this is one of the most painful phone calls we can receive. But what do we do with that information?

The Lord says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15); but what choices might we have in the days before they go to their eternal home?

Joanie continues . . .

How could this happen to my sister? She goes to the gym everyday.

As a cancer survivor and a nurse with an oncology background, I was familiar with stage 4 cancer. But a few days later, my heart sank.

God had whispered in my spirit, “Walk her home.”

How do I say goodbye to my sister nine years younger, nine hours away and nine years old when I left home? We had rarely visited or talked with one another between crazy schedules and multiple states.

How DO I walk my sister home? How do we WALK our loved ones home?

With God’s help, I discovered ways to walk Tracy home. 

1. Pray.

  • Ask God how to pray for them.
  • Ask our loved ones for their prayer requests. My sister wanted prayer for the pain.

2. Encourage. Share encouraging words, scriptures and songs.

I sent my sister a Bible, but would she feel well enough to read it? I created daily memes with scriptures of God’s love, comfort and faithfulness.

3. Listen.

Some people want to talk about dying. Tracy did not want to talk about cancer, death or anything negative.

4. Respect.

We need to respect their choices.

Tracy had a rare bladder cancer resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation with a life expectancy of three to six months.

She did not want to live the rest of her days sick from chemotherapy. Instead, she chose two weeks of alternative treatment in Mexico followed by a home regimen.

5. Contact. Call, text and send cards.

I discovered that Tracy was more receptive to conversations starting with “What’s up?” rather than “How are you?” This gave her the option to talk about things other than cancer.

She preferred to text when her breathing grew labored.

6. Gifts.

My sisters and I sent flowers, Polish pottery, tea, books, DVD’s, and hand-knitted socks and blanket.

7. Meals.

Tracy’s co-workers ordered food from a local restaurant when they heard family were in town. There were so many leftovers that she invited her co-workers for dinner the following day.

8. Finances.

A devastating diagnosis can drain the family’s finances.

Tracy’s treatment in Mexico was expensive and not covered by insurance. One of my sisters set up a Medgift * account for her.

9. Visits.

Visits from friends and family can be great distractions from sickness and pain. But they can also be exhausting.

Some days our loved ones may feel better than other days.

Call or text to see if they would like a visit.

10. Outings.

Movies, shopping trips and walks provide wonderful distractions.

11. Serve.

Offer specific help such as childcare, housekeeping or lawn care.

  • Tracy wanted help taking down her Christmas decorations.
  • As part of staging their house, my brother painted and laid flooring.

12. Prepare.

Prepare for the loved ones left behind.

Help videotape messages, sort photographs or write cards for special occasions. Tracy and I sorted through her childhood photos.

13. Celebrate.

My brother-in-law brought Tracy into town for an old-time family dinner. Fourteen of us gathered around the table set with china that hadn’t been outside of a hutch in over twenty years. Wisecracks, laughter and family stories mingled with the aroma of roast beef.

For a little while we could forget that this weekend would be our last time together.

14. Hope.

Allow hope.

Between staggered breaths, Tracy had said, “We’ve had lots of miracles in our family. I hope there is one more miracle for me.”

My sister still clung to hope despite starting oxygen and entering hospice.

On Good Friday, Tracy’s husband texted, “Her condition has worsened. I don’t know how long she has.”

My Mom, sisters and I arrived in town to be with Tracy during her last days. We enjoyed Easter together, Tracy hooked up to oxygen, swinging on the patio and soaking in the sun.

Early the next morning, Jesus received her—eternally home.

I am sure she would say along with the psalmist David:

“When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied” (Psalm 17:15b NLT).

How would you lead a loved one eternally home?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Kaz at Pixabay.

* MedGift is a non-profit with resources and tools for those facing a health-related hardship or need.

Tuesday
Feb272018

4 Steps to Dealing with Disappointment

I have no doubt Kathy Carlton Willis is qualified to teach us on the subject of disappointment in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE. I was on her prayer team last year when she experienced what she calls, “back-to-back-to-back disappointments.”

"I started the year in the hospital for a post-surgical infection," Kathy says. "It required additional surgery, going home with a PICC line, and a change in plans to allow time for recovery."

I (Dawn) think most of us would struggle with just that, but Kathy's tale of struggle and disappoint went on and on. And so did her commitment to deal with those struggles in a "grin with grace way.

Kathy continues . . . 

I was so disappointed in how that impacted my year. I had to cancel contracts with clients and postpone a writer’s getaway.

My diet and exercise plans were on pause, too. Everything just felt off kilter.

Then, when I finally got back in the swing of things, I had four disappointments hit almost simultaneously.

  • I developed a urinary tract infection that wouldn’t go away.
  • The antibiotic I took for it caused a tendon injury.
  • Hurricane Harvey hit.
  • And if that wasn’t enough, it flooded a home we had in contract.

Notice I said, “had.” Harvey nullified the purchase.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that, I received a book rejection from a publishing house.

I’m not going to bore you with all the other commonplace disappointments, but these were the biggies!

You’ve had years like that, right? How did you handle the disappointments? Maybe you are going through a frustrating setback right now.

I’ve learned it doesn’t work to ignore the loss, and it’s not healthy to stay stalled out.

Each disappointment requires a process.

Here’s my 4-Step Process for Dealing with Disappointment.

1. Rightfully MOURN the loss.

Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. (Lamentations 5:15 NLT)

Disappointments stem from losing something we had or not getting something for which we hoped. Either way, we experience sadness.

Grieving is a painful process, but if we try to avoid it, we only manage to delay healing. When we mourn, the sadness subsides, and we are ready to move on.

2. Receive more of God's COMFORT and peace.

Look up the words "comfort" and "peace" in the Bible and you’ll see it is the Holy Spirit’s role to soothe your soul. Don't feel guilty for needing it—we all do!

Will you invite God’s Spirit to embrace you, rock you, and sing songs of consolation?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)

3. Ask God’s DIRECTION for something new or something to renew.

Once you’ve received God’s comfort, it’s time to look around to see what God has next for you, rather than continue self-reflecting.

It’s possible He will use your story to help someone else.

God helps you gain closure from your hurt so the pain no longer blinds you from your purpose.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

4. Move on with a RENEWED passion or project in something bigger than yourself.

There’s nothing like a new project to keep me going despite the let downs!

I anticipate seeing God at work, producing lightbulb moments.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

These are my four steps to deal with disappointment. Which step are you ready to take?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Growth through Grief

Yvonne Ortega, a woman who moved from broken to beautiful, encourages others to do so as well. In this Trials and Victory UPGRADE, Yvonne invites us to grow and thrive after grief.

“I rode an emotional roller coaster of grief because of the loss of my mother and my only child within weeks of each other,” Yvonne says. “Somehow, my losses couldn’t be in vain.”

I (Dawn) cannot imagine some of the things Yvonne has experienced, but I know her words are true. The Lord does meet us in our time of need, and He doesn't leave us without resources to thrive.

Yvonne continues . . .

After my mother and my son died, I needed to make sense of losing them. I had to do something that would improve the lives of others.

My purpose had to be bigger than learning to thrive after grief.

Leaving a legacy became important.

Six months after my son’s death, I left the counseling job I enjoyed to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time speaker and author.  

Here are THREE TIPS that will help you when you’re ready to think about a mission or purpose for your life.

1. Reflection

I reflected on what my mother did in her life. She had helped teachers, students and school districts through her expertise in grant writing. She helped 26 women complete college degrees, obtain teaching credentials and gain employment as teachers.

She left a legacy.

I asked God to show me how I could leave a legacy. I sensed His leading to do that through articles on my website and on others’ blogs. I also sensed that my educational, social, and spiritual encounters with other people could encourage and support them.

The unexpected death of my son made me understand I wasn’t promised tomorrow either. If I wanted to become a full-time speaker and author, I couldn’t put that dream off any longer. So, I left my counseling job to leave a legacy through speaking and writing.

2. Prayer

Based on what God showed me about leaving a legacy, I prayed for divine appointments and His special mentors or coaches.

I claimed Psalm 28:7:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy,  and with my song I praise him" (NIV).

God answered my prayers. I attended additional speaker boot camps and conferences, individual coaching for both my speaking and writing, and writers’ conferences. Before each event, I prayed and asked others to pray with me that I would meet the people God wanted me to meet and work with those he chose.

God brought the most interesting and talented people into my life—men and women I would have never met otherwise.

3. Surrender

I chose to surrender my finances, time and energy to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

I needed to limit leisure days of sleeping in, lunch dates with friends, and shopping days at the mall. As I said no to a social whirlwind, I said yes to scheduled time on my calendar for reading, speaking, and writing. I couldn’t have done that without lots of prayer and obedience to God’s plan on how I would leave a legacy.

God’s favor and faithfulness led to my speaking opportunities and two more books.

Allow your tears to water growth and increase your ministry.

If you’ve lost a loved one, sit alone with God and ask him how YOU can grow through grief and help others.

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful© through Grief (out in a few months / search at Amazon/books). She has also written Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne not only survived, but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, she uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of uroburos at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb232016

Getting Through Your Grief

I met Yvonne Ortega at AWSA, a writer's and speaker's conference in 2015. I was so surprised by her persistent joy. So many struggles conspired to keep this woman of God down, but she emerged victorious. In this helpful Grief and Ministry UPGRADE, she shares her story and what she learned about grief.

"I’ll never forget that Thursday night after work in May," Yvonne said. "I read an email that said, 'I’m sorry to hear the news about your son Brian. Call me"

I called my friend in California and said, 'What news about Brian?'

"She thought I knew my only child had died unexpectedly after eye surgery. Living on the opposite coast, I didn’t. Tears gushed down my checks. I could hardly talk."

I (Dawn) cannot imagine this mother heart's pain! I wonder, if I knew Yvonne during those dark days, would I have known what to say? Yvonne has some wise counsel about that.

She continues . . .

That was six years ago within weeks after the loss of two aunts and my mother. I walked around in shellshock.

Reality set in one year later on Mother’s Day.

Without my mother and son, there would be no cards, calls, gifts or visits. Only AGONY!

Here are three tips that helped me get through the grief.

First, I realized I couldn’t do it alone.

I went to The Compassionate Friends, a support group for those who’ve lost a child. That group met monthly. I also went to GriefShare, a weekly support group for those who’ve lost a loved one. I received a GriefShare workbook and a devotional.

Second, I needed to be honest about my feelings.

I didn’t need to be strong. I wouldn’t ruin my testimony if I cried.

God made me with tear glands. Jesus wept when Lazarus died, and He knew He would raise him from the dead.

I clung to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

As I poured my heartaches and struggles into my journal, I sensed God’s presence.

Third, I accepted the fact that some people would do better not saying anything.

Friends like Job’s said,

  • “We all suffer little losses.” (How could the loss of my only child be little?)
  • “At least you know he’s in heaven.” (I was doubled over in pain because he’d never walk through my front door again, never call me or send me a card again. I couldn’t call or visit him or send him a card or a gift either.)
  • “I heard your son committed suicide.” (She heard a lie.)
  • Call me if you need me.” (I never called anyone who said that.)

Others knew what to say:

  • “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I will miss Brian.”
  • “I’ll be over tomorrow at 1:00 pm to clean your house.”
  • “I want to fix dinner for you tonight. Do you have food allergies or foods you dislike?”
  • “I’m on the way to the post office. I can buy stamps for you.”
  • “What can I pick up for you when I go to the grocery store?”
  • “I’m going to the bookstore. If you need thank you notes, I’ll get them.”

I received God’s comfort and now share that comfort with others. I found peace and joy again, but not overnight.

If you’ve lost a loved one, what will you do this week to help you get through your grief?

If you know someone who is grieving, what can you say that’s helpful?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professonal counselor, a bilingual professional speaker and a speaking coach. She's the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (2015) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (2010). She has not only survived but also thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast caner and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and the truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.