A Decade of Pain, a Decade of Progress

“…we will always hurt, but we must persevere and strive to thrive.”

As I emotionally prepare for the tenth anniversary of my son’s death this weekend, my heart naturally takes me back to those early days and months. This has been true every spring over the past decade. Decade?! 3,650 days to be exact.

Sometimes I feel like David is still here, like it’s all been a horrific nightmare. There have been times when it seemed I took two steps forward, five steps back. Grieving is fluid. I think that’s what makes it so traumatic, exhausting and downright depressing.

It’s a continuous cycle to be sure, and no one said it would be easy, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort in the journey. We need to resign ourselves to the fact that we will always hurt, but we must persevere and strive to thrive. We may even learn some valuable lessons along the way.

I’ve never experienced anything so tragically heartbreaking, or so incredibly life-changing. June 6th jumps out at me like a strobe light, announcing the significance of the day. It also prompts me to take inventory. How well am I doing? Mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Am I doing better than last year? Did I engage in unhealthy behaviors that caused me more harm than good? What lifelong lessons have I learned to date? What’s next?

As I reflect, I see pain, but I also recognize growth. The confidence and encouragement I’ve experienced over the past ten years is directly interwoven with the lessons I’ve learned, a lot of which will make for more detailed blog posts in the future.

Here are a few that have stood out to me over the past ten years:

  • Early on, from a faith standpoint, I had to ask myself, “Do I believe that what I believe is really what I believe?” How I answered this question would determine and lay the foundation for my healing and change the trajectory of my life.
  • God is not a genie. Why have I treated Him like one in the past?
  • Jesus is truly enough.
  • I have chosen to become better, not bitter.
  • I have to take an active role in what my “better” will look like.
  • Because of the power of God’s Spirit in me, I am never alone.
  • I not only read the Bible, I’ve learned to rely on it. Gamechanger!
  • There is purpose to my pain.
  • I have been able to help and encourage others, in the same way that God has helped and encouraged me.
  • God is still writing my story.

There are more lessons to be learned. I will continue to share my survival story, in hopes it may help to jumpstart someone else’s. I will continue to lean on the Lord and grow stronger in my faith.

There is hope. Hope is a person. His name is Jesus.

Dear friend,

How do you handle the milestone anniversaries associated with the death of your loved one, or the days in between? Maybe you have a hard time getting past your anger.  

If grief is a fire, anger is the accelerant. It has a way of fueling how we will handle our pain-if we allow it to. It will not only spread out of control, it will fan out beyond our control, and it may also prevent us from doing the hard work of striving to thrive as we grieve. 

In order to begin compiling your own list of lessons learned you must be willing to commit to choose better over bitter. I pray you will trust God to lead the way…then you’ll have a little something to share with others-your own survival story.

Love and prayers to you,



Navigating the weight of Mother’s Day

“…what follows will shift your focus from the brick in your pocket toward the joy of the day…” 

The heaviness felt on this day is challenging for those who have lost a child or a mother.

It doesn’t seem possible that this marks the tenth Mother’s Day without my son David. This blog was originally published in 2017. I modified it a bit, but it still speaks to my heart. I hope it speaks to your as well.

The commercials started a couple of weeks ago. Facebook will soon be inundated with celebratory pics and that’s the way it should be. So how can we navigate our hearts to celebrate with others while also carrying the deep weight of our loss?

This is a question we’re faced with all the time isn’t it? Life goes on and we need to keep up, but it requires balancing our pain in the process. Does it ever go away?

In the movie Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman’s character tragically loses her son. She is inconsolable, consumed by grief. It begins to affect her marriage and every other aspect of her life. Her mother also knows what it’s like to lose a child. Her brother died eleven years ago, and she begins to wonder how she was able to manage during such a devastating time. She asks the same question, “Does it ever go away?” Her mother describes it this way…

“No. I don’t think it does. But it changes though…the weight of it. At some point it becomes bearable.  It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and – there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be awful – not all the time. It’s kinda…not that you’d like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So, you carry it around… and it doesn’t go away. Which is fine, actually…”

I’m not sure if the screenwriter intentionally based this response from personal experience, but it sure makes sense to me. I can totally relate. Can you? Fictional or not, it’s a great word picture.

Mother’s Day will look different for everyone. For me, I will acknowledge the heaviness of the day. I’ll grab the oversized card David gave me ten years ago, a month before he died. I’ll read and re-read it. I was loved. He is missed. I am grateful for the precious time I had with David. He is forever in my heart. Tears and prayers will follow.

I will cherish the day. I’ll relax my grip on the brick in my pocket and embrace the joy right in front of me; spending the day with my husband, parents, my son Daniel and his wife-to-be, Savannah. (I’m also hoping there will be some sort of cake!)

And finally, to officially mark the end of the day, a private moment at the cemetery. The routine is always the same; make sure the flowers in the Green Bay Packer vases are upright and secure, brush away any grass on or around the base of the stone, soak in David’s smile from his photo etched on the black granite… and look for deer along the nearby treeline. I always look for deer. Tears and prayers will follow.

Oddly enough, tears of thanksgiving and praise will follow as well. They always do. On this special day for Mothers, the gravitational force from the brick in my pocket becomes perfectly balanced, as I simultaneously give thanks for both my boys. I like that. There is always room for giving thanks. What better way to spend Mother’s Day?

Oh, and don’t forget, it’s important for you allow others to celebrate you this Mother’s Day. The bitter and the sweet meet here, but you are so loved. You got this. You can multitask. You are all on my heart today. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Dear Friend,

As Mother’s Day approaches, take time for yourself to acknowledge whatever you’re feeling. (I know you already feel it coming!) Please don’t ignore it. Reflect with sweet remembrance of your mother, son or daughter. I’m praying what follows will shift your focus from the brick in your pocket toward the joy of the day, as you celebrate with the people you love and who love you. God bless you. 


Living a Wonderful Life, in a Bah Humbug world.

… “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again!” It was time. It was way past time.

After the beginning credits have stopped the scene zooms in on a small, quaint town where everybody knows everybody. The streets are pristinely decorated with Christmas lights as people hustle and bustle, getting the last of their Christmas shopping done.

In a local coffee shop, we see a couple talking about their upcoming divorce, but they agree it’s best to wait and tell the kids after the New Year. A single mom mourns the loss of her husband just months before. A man gets dumped by his girlfriend on Christmas Eve and he swears he’ll never celebrate Christmas or love again. Finally, George Bailey realizes that wishing to never have been born proves to be the best life lesson he’ll ever need.

Ahhh. Hello Hallmark Channel.

Two things I know for sure about these movies; there is always a happy ending, and the women always have at least 4 or 5 stylish winter wool coats. Who has that many wool coats? I’m mean, come on!

Before the credits roll, we learn the couple discover renewed love after getting stranded together in a stranger’s house while driving home in a blizzard. A widowed woman from church befriends the single mom, and helps her find a new job with great pay and great benefits, while reigniting her faith once more. The man who got dumped meets someone else he can’t live without. (I got nothing else here. It just happens.) And good ole George Bailey realizes he’s tired of seeing life as it could have been had he not been born. He simply prays, “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again!”

David died in June 2010. Christmas came six months later, which we spent in Wisconsin that year. I couldn’t contain my emotions because I couldn’t control my anguish. I had to push myself to engage in conversations. I hid in the bathroom periodically because when the tears came, the tears came. No one needed or wanted to see that. All I could think about was losing my son. I had very little leftover to think about God’s. I felt guilty about this, selfish even. Was I dishonoring God? It is His Son’s birthday after all! Sigh.

The following year was difficult too. Mike’s Mom had been in the hospital for several weeks, and we knew she wouldn’t be with us much longer. None of us could have imagined Grandma Nancy would die at 5:33 pm on Christmas Eve. This was also our second Christmas without David, and while I missed him terribly I felt that it would be inappropriate to deal with those emotions under the circumstances. I did my best to compartmentalize those feelings for another day down the road. I felt I had to be strong, especially for Mike’s Dad.

By the time December 2012 rolled around I had no idea what to expect. I was pretty numb, almost indifferent. I was determined to just go with whatever happened. 


Until I had a conversation with one of my very best friends. (a friend I can be real with and she still likes me!) We were talking about everything, then De De told me her son KJ randomly asked her why she doesn’t decorate more for Christmas. I like the decorations. Hmmm. Okay. So, she grabbed a few boxes out of storage and went to town. She played loud Christmas music as she decorated the house and decided to claim the joy of the season of celebrating Jesus. She got some baking done too. This was so much fun Jan! It feels so good to slow down and reflect on the joy of Christmas.

Joy. There’s that word again. Ya know, I’d spent the past two years balancing my grief, but experiencing joy weaved in with Christmas traditions of the season hadn’t even entered my mind. Just like when De De had to spoon feed me crackers to get me to eat after David died, she may not have realized it, but she was doing the same with this notion of joy.

De De sent me pictures of what she had done and that’s all it took for me. A spark ignited, and suddenly I became excited to re-claim the joy of Jesus and the joy of Christmas traditions that used to drive me this time of year. I put lights on the Christmas tree and lit garland on the fireplace mantle, along with the snowman stocking holders which showcased David and Daniel’s stockings I’ve had since they were little. I also set out the nativity set that Grandma Rozga gave me a month before she died. I’m giving this to you early so you can enjoy it this Christmas. It was the last gift she gave to me and I will treasure it forever.

I also decided I would do something I hadn’t done in years; I turned on Christmas music and baked away. I actually had fun doing it, anticipating the moment when I would hand deliver the Christmas treats to our friends in the neighborhood. I hadn’t felt this joy for years, and I’m talking about a “Merry Christmas Mr. Potter!” type of joy. I couldnt wipe the smile off my face. It was wonderful.

I called De De later that day and sent her a picture of my finished work and the treats cooling on my kitchen countertop. I thanked her for helping me to jumpstart my Christmas spirit. More specifically my soul. I had been missing out on a lot of things in my life, a lot of joy that had been buried within me. I needed to open my heart up… “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again.” 

It was time. It was way past time. Maybe it’s time for you too.

Each Christmas brings its own challenges. This year we will spend it without Mike’s Dad. He passed away last month. But I know what I know; God is still good, and searching for joy is a choice. I choose joy.

Dear friend,

It is possible to mourn your loss AND celebrate Jesus’ birth at the same time. I pray that you will rediscover Jesus, the reason for the season and that you will find joy in the traditions of the past that you once loved and looked forward to. You may even start new traditions. What joy it will bring to your heart as you prepare for Christmas next week.  Grab the decorations out of storage and set the butter out to soften. You have work to do. 

God Bless you and Merry Christmas.


God’s Promises

Luke 2:10-11

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus=joy, and joy=Jesus.

Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Our hope is found in Jesus, and joy always follows this hope. And not just at Christmas time.



When the car sticker begins to fade

“…we need to fight our way out of the fog, and retrieve our precious memories.”

If you drive you see them everywhere. You might even have one yourself. I do.

I knew the minute I placed it on my car I would instantly become one of those people others gawk at. Admittedly, I’ve done my share of gawking too. The process takes a matter of seconds from start to finish. We strain to read the name and dates as we leave a haze of exhaust in the rearview mirror, carrying on with our busy day. I’ll leave the sadness in the car behind me, thank you very much.


Until someone we love dies and we become part of the club no one wants to be a member of. The laminated piece of paper that now dons our car window is a traveling memorial which represents our loved one. It keeps their memory alive. For us anyway.

Over time rain, sleet, snow and countless trips to the car wash take their toll and the sticker begins to fade. As we squint to read the fine print, we may ask ourselves, “When did this start to happen?”  “Did I even notice?”

I had to wonder if the fading sticker on my car had become a metaphor for my memories slowly fading out of my reach. Sticker or not, have you ever asked yourself similar questions?  “How well am I doing at remembering them?”

My son David took his life after smoking a synthetic drug called K2 in the spring of 2010, a week after graduating from high school. He was 18.

The distance between that devastating day, almost 9 years ago, and my world today continues to grow, and so does the gap between my memories. I used to recall the smallest of details about David, but now?  I strain to remember what his voice sounded like!  I can’t imagine not being able to remember! Photographs and memories are all I have left of him. (That’s a sad but great Jim Croce song btw.)

As life marches on, this gap will continue to widen for all of us, making it harder to remember things like we used to. It’s heartbreaking. It’s also very odd because the memories we may have avoided because they caused us so much pain early on, are the very same memories we’re trying so desperately remember. This has been my experience anyway.

And beyond that, when I think about life events, I tend to place them on the “did it happen before or after we lost David” timeline. Nine years is a long time, but it drives me crazy when the years overlap each other and I question myself. I should know! It feels like an epic fail. It saddens me, and it leaves me with the same void I was left with when we lost him.

The mind plays tricks when we grieve. Why do I listen to the lie that I’m losing my grip on my memories of David? Details might get a little hazy at times, but I remember him.  Of course I remember him! This seems stupid even as I write this. Geez! Such as life in the confusing journey of grief. Am I the only one who struggles with this?

Our memories ebb and flow. Maybe that’s how it’s suppose to be. Maybe God protects us when our loss is fresh, and surprises us with the gift of beautiful memories in the years that follow when we need them most. Maybe I’m making way too much of a simple thing.

Still, when the elements of time compete with our memories we can be fooled into thinking we’re somehow forgetting them. We need to cut ourselves some slack. This is not a reflection of our love for them. Our loved ones live in our hearts. That will never change. At some point however, we need to fight our way out of the fog, and retrieve our precious memories. If we don’t take action nothing will change. So Fight.

Take a deep breath. The process of jumpstarting memories you thought were forgotten will take you straight into the pain of your loss. It’s okay. Grab some Kleenex. Grab that photo album. Start a new one. Restore old family videos to DVD’s and watch them. Ask others to share their memories with you. It’s not as awkward as you think. You will both blessed as you reminisce. Older memories will comfort you as they rise to the surface again, and new ones can be clung onto with newfound joy.

And if memories of your loved ones were less than perfect, search for something good, something positive, no matter how minuscule. Forgive what needs to be forgiven, and salvage what can be salvaged, then grasp onto it. Make a commitment to finding peace and contentment with it. Let it be enough for you.

Dear friend,

Grieving people need to fight against the ‘woe is me’ mentality at every turn. Feeling bad that we can’t remember things like we used to is just one example. There are many others. You know this to be true. If we don’t take action nothing will change.

Our love for those we lost will NEVER fade, and we will NEVER forget them because they live in us. Push your way out of the fog once again and jumpstart your memory banks. The heart remembers everything. We just need a little help from time to time.

With heartfelt prayer for healing,






When anger gets the best of you

“If I allow anger to get the best of me, then I’ll have nothing left to give.”

I remember it so well.  I woke up angry that day. My mind was made up, or maybe I should say my heart was made up.

My son David had died a few months before and my emotions were all over the place. Shouldn’t we be allowed to just be angry that someone we love is gone?

Anger tends to feed us, drive us on these days. It’s not pretty or becoming. I usually hole up in my house when these emotions hit me, and God help those in the house if you know what I mean. Again. Not pretty.

My husband Mike was aware of my demeanor that day. He suggested we go to a sports bar for lunch. I REALLY didn’t want to go but reluctantly agreed. So, sporting our best Packer attire, we shared appetizers, sipped beer and watched football with others in the crowd.

I was starting to relax a little, at least until the woman next to us started getting a little over zealous in rooting her team on. She was sitting at the bar along with her husband and two young boys. I felt uneasy each time she spouted off, “Jeesus!” The entire restaurant could hear her. I found myself in a bad place.

I was just waiting for her to make a comment to us, whether it be regarding our Packer shirts or anything else for that matter. I was readying myself to call her out. I was prepared to comment on her repeated “prayers” to Jesus, all because her football team wasn’t performing the way she thought they should.

Really? She barked out Jesus’ name with such anger, arrogance and frustration. It was a stab in my heart every time. It grieved me on top of the grief I was already feeling. It angered me on top of the anger I was already feeling. My heart rate began to skyrocket.

Was I being judgmental or holier than thou in the moment? I suppose so, to a degree, but more than anything the reality of my situation began to spring to the surface as she spoke.

Bottom line, I speak Jesus’ name too, but the context is a bit different for me. David’s death encompasses my life. There’s no escaping it. My pain is as deep as I’ve ever experienced. Football games or heavy traffic have nothing to do with it.

Funny how some throw out His name in anger and no one blinks an eye, but when you cry out His name during suffering people look at you as if you have a third eye.

Yeah, I cry out to Jesus. I’m a Mom who lost her son! It hurts not having David here. I miss him so much. The fear of living in a constant state of discontent for the rest of my life has haunted me, especially in those early months and years following his death.

I know coping with anger is challenging, but adding in raw, excruciating pain makes it downright brutal. When you’re grieving, these two emotions intertwine just like a Chinese finger trap. It’s hard to break free, and the more you struggle, the tighter the grip becomes.

When left unchecked, anger becomes an offensive mechanism to prevent a defensive reaction.  It prevents us from confronting what we don’t want to think about, what we can’t quite put into words to begin with, and finally, what we feel will completely break us in the process if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it.

This protective wall of anger we put up is not something that strong, courageous people do. It’s actually just the opposite. It’s something that broken people do in the midst of the worst pain they’ve ever encountered, but instead of protecting us, it pushes us deeper into the abyss. We can’t expect to get better if our hearts are hardened with anger.

I didn’t confront the mother that day. Mike thought it was in my best interest not to. Wise counsel. I have no doubt she would have had me for lunch! I haven’t been in a fight since, well, I’ve never been in a fight.

I think she was struggling that day too. Maybe she woke up angry just like me, and it played out as she watched a simple game of football. I’m guessing her anger and frustration wasn’t about the game, just as her behavior wasn’t at the core of mine. You never know how others may be suffering. I learned it’s best to keep judgement at bay.

How do you handle your anger?

This isn’t exclusively a grieving thing. This is a human thing. Our mood can potentially set the course for how we respond to others whose mood is also less than desirable. Some things will just set us off, and sometimes it all hinges on how well we’re handling our grief in that very moment. #emotionaltimebomb.

Acting out in anger begets more anger. It’ll eat you alive unless you tackle it, and you may not even see it coming. That’s what happened to me. I was sad and mad at the world when I left the house that day. I allowed the behavior of another to dictate mine. Yikes! This wasn’t my personality, but it was what I’d become.

Chalk it all up to grief lessons learned. I’m thankful for them. They’re what’s shaping and growing me through this journey.

* If I allow anger to get the best of me then I’ll have nothing left to give.

* I should’ve taken it to God to begin with, and trusted Him with the outcome. I know this would’ve prepared my heart before even stepping foot in the restaurant that day.

* Yes, even though I found her words offensive, I should’ve cut this Mom some slack, not knowing what she could’ve been going through at the time.

* I shouldn’t be surprised by the good, bad and ugly emotions I experience. As much as I shutter when emotional waves come crashing in, I also know the calm after the storm will follow. God is faithful. He has proven this over and over again to me. I’m not sure why I forget this!

No, I don’t have a third eye in the middle of my forehead, but I do have a gaping hole in my heart that only Jesus can fill. When we find ourselves in the darkest, deepest pit of despair, He is with us. Every time.

When you know who Jesus is, then you know how His sacrifice on the cross changes our outlook on everything. I know that David is in heaven. I know one day I’ll see him again. While I’m still broken, I am also very thankful. An odd combo to be sure, but hey, I’m still here aren’t I? I’m surviving! Truth be told, I was scared I wouldn’t. Believe me, this is something to be thankful for in and of itself.

Dear Friend,

Jesus’ name is more than just a name. If you want to know Him you have to know him, so I would encourage you to actually get to know Him. It just may change the way you think about Him, the way you talk about Him and talk to Him. You may end up realizing you’ve needed Him all along. I swear I won’t use the word ‘know’ again. Whoops.

God tells us it’s okay to be angry, but we need to know it can overtake us and lead to sinful behavior/actions. This can then present a whole new set of problems to stack on top of the ones we’re already trying to balance. Get professional help if you need to, but take it to God. Always take it to God. 

God bless you, and remember, you are not alone.



Ephesians 4:26

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

John 20:31

“But these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”



Grieving on Mother’s Day.

“The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost.”

A day just for Moms? It may be possible that this is the one time of year when eye rolls are replaced by hugs, cards and homemade gifts.

However, for those of us who have lost children, Mother’s Day is one of hardest days to endure.  It’s actually an excruciating day for a lot of people.

It hits me when spring arrives in Iowa. As much I look forward to and love this time of year, it also serves as a reminder of the events surrounding my son David’s death on June 6, 2010. He took his life that day after smoking a synthetic drug called K2. He was 18.

Cruise control kicks in, chasing away any thoughts I may have. I figure I have plenty of time to be sad during this season. I can put it off awhile and I tend to, but this defensive mechanism can only continue for so long. Eventually the coasting cycle begins, leaving me more vulnerable. The ache that’s been lurking under the surface slowly starts to demand my tears.

We feel pain because we loved. I may be stating the obvious but it’s worth digging into further. The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost. Our tears are not wasted. Why would we want to avoid showing this emotion? Ultimately our tears honor those we lost. What a personal, intimate way to express our love for them! Let the tears come when you feel the dam giving way. Don’t ever hold back.

If you have other children, guilt can invade during this time too. You may not feel much like celebrating. You may want to crawl in a hole until the day is over. I’ve sure been there, especially that first Mother’s Day, but if we let that happen, we deny our family members the opportunity to express their love and appreciation for us. It’s important for them. They may need this for their healing. They’re hurting too, so we need to let them. More importantly, we need to receive it from them. Don’t deny others the opportunity to make you feel special.

I’m so thankful for God’s protection. He’s holding me together, without a doubt. Even though eight years have passed, I still need Jesus and our family needs each other to get through what will be a lifelong journey-the pain of losing our precious David.

How are you doing? Are you on cruise control, or are you coasting downhill at this point?

I know the emotional scenarios that fall under the umbrella of Mother’s Day are too numerous to count.

We find ourselves in one or more devastating camps; you may have lost your Mom or you never knew your Mom. Maybe you’ve struggled with infertility, are currently in the middle of a lengthy adoption process, or have had to release children whom you temporarily fostered. Maybe this day has you dwelling on what could have been, had you not made the choice you did years ago. Or maybe you’ve lost a child to miscarriage, SIDS, illness, accident, or suicide. I’m sure I’m missing some here.

Whatever your experience, my heart goes out to you. The aftermath from any one of these losses are devastating every day of the year, but there’s something about Mother’s Day…

I don’t have all the answers. I just want you to know you’re not alone. Put one foot in front of the other. Acknowledge what your heart can’t deny, then engage with family and friends who love you.

God is with you.

Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

God Bless you and Happy Mother’s Day.




“The children were nestled all snug in their beds…”

“What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?”

The kids are in bed and can’t wait for Christmas morning. The first ray of sunlight appears to announce the day. The sound of tiny feet follow. It’s Christmas!  Before you take your first sip of coffee, the surge of questions begin: “Did Santa come?” “When can we open our presents?” “What’s for breakfast?”

Maybe you have adult children. You look forward to their arrival, and breathe a sigh of relief when they’re all finally under the same roof after a long day of travel. Ahhh. All is well with the world. You know that feeling. And yes, they still want to know what’s for breakfast!

There’s something wonderful about having family together.

Christmas 2004 comes to mind. Our niece was in the Army. She’d just finished serving a tour in Iraq. Although she was back in the states, we knew she wouldn’t be able to join us for Christmas in the north woods of Wisconsin. Everyone else would be there but her. Wait for it…

Someone whispered in my ear, “Kim will be here for Christmas!” Oh gosh, I could hardly contain myself!

We all screamed with joy when Kim finally walked through the front door. Of course Mike’s Mom cried, which started a chain reaction. Hugs followed. This was “the best Christmas ever!” I thought my heart would burst! I felt that “all was well with the world” feeling again. We were all together. Life was good.

While you may not be able to celebrate with everyone in your family this year, let them know they’ll be missed and tell them you love them.

Christmas traditions that once included friends or family members who have since passed away are especially difficult. It’s hard to turn from our sadness to be able to embrace the joy of what Christmas is all about. I know it’s not easy.

I don’t know about you but after the hustle and bustle of getting the tree up and decorated, buying and wrapping the gifts, the mind has more space to fill. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to hustle or bustle this year. Sadness may creep in as we’re staring straight into the celebratory face of Christmas without those we lost.

What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?  It feels like an oxymoron to feel them both simultaneously, but we do.

It’s normal to feel as if you’re being pulled in different emotional directions. You need to acknowledge you’re hurting because someone you loved has died. Your tears are proof of that. The pain is proof of that. At the same time, God wants you to know that Jesus’ birth is proof of his love for you.

The heart requires us to feel whatever we’re feeling. The emotions need to come out anyway right? Taking time to cry, pray or read encouraging Bible verses can be cleansing, and may be helpful prior to meeting with family or friends. Just go with it. It’s a human response to our devastating loss.

So much has happened since our ‘miracle’ Christmas. I could have never imagined we would lose our son David six years later, or that Grandma Rozga would pass away on Christmas Eve 2011. They are greatly missed.

I long for the days when David was safe and sound, under the same roof. His smile was contagious. I miss watching him play football in the snow with his brother Daniel, and making the ole standby, Swiss Miss hot chocolate for them after. On Christmas morning he was always the first one up to see what Santa brought.

I swear I can actually feel my heart ache when the memories flood in, but at the same time I know he is safe and nestled close to Jesus in Heaven; the one we celebrate now. He isn’t home, but he is home.

While life is still very hard without him, I have been able to find moments of peace while still living on this side of Heaven.

Oh, and the answer to the question?… I suppose it’s not rocket science but do the best you can. You can be sad and celebrate at the same time. Give yourself permission to do both, and try to engage with others who are hurting as well. Most of all, know that God loves you more than you can imagine. You are not alone in this journey.

Dear Friend,

I hope you’ll take uninterrupted time for yourself to just feel the emotions of missing the person(s) who have died. Don’t ignore what your heart is aching for you to acknowledge, because it can only stay bottled up for so long. This is no guarantee you won’t struggle during your gatherings, but it may lessen it a bit. Life continues to change for all of us. Cherish those in your life now, and accept the bitter with the sweet of the season.  God Bless you and Merry Christmas.




Is it time to unlock your grief room?

“It’s a place we visit from time to time, but we’re not meant to live there.”

When is it appropriate to move out from your grief room after someone you love has died? Every one has an opinion on this. It’s more of a state of mind and emotions than a room of course, but you get the idea.

I believe going through all of our emotions is important. Its necessary, but there comes a time when remaining here for too long can be harmful. We need to be able to engage outside it.

Maybe this means finally getting the counseling you’ve been avoiding. Having coffee with a friend. Going to a movie. Calling that friend back whose left you a million messages. Addressing that stack of laundry. Yeah, those yoga pants? You should wash those. Going to church on Sunday. Volunteering at church. Going back to Bible study again, or accepting the various invitations to join one.  Doing things you used to. Trying new things. The list is endless.

We have a million excuses.

It’s overwhelming and even harder to explain how such a place of pain can become a safety net. We find ourselves spending more and more time in it rather than outside it. Only you have the power to unlock your grief bubble and peer out into the world where life continues on.

We’ll never get over our loss but we need to work toward our healing, without taking out a second mortgage on our grief room. It’s hard work. Really hard. Have you struggled with this? I have.

I know I will always need to be healed from the inside out as I continue to miss my son David, and the synthetic drug battle also continues to rage on. This just adds yet another layer of grief.

Despite this indescribable anguish that grips us, God’s mercy is stronger. Where there is anguish there is also healing, and where there is healing, there is also living. Right now.

There comes a time when any good father gently guides his children forward. It’s a sign of his love.  Over the years, ours sons played sports. My husband and I were always there to root them on.  Mike may have told them to “rub dirt on it,” “shake it off,” or my personal favorite, “stop playing with bugs in the grass!” If the boys let themselves get side tracked, they wouldn’t be able to focus on the next play, let alone the next game. Mike was simply giving them the extra push they needed to move forward.  God does the same.

God wants to reshape, renew and redefine us. He is with us each and every time we muster the courage to venture out of our comfort zone. It’s a big deal. It’s a check mark.

I don’t know about you, but at some point during these cycles I just get tired of it. Don’t you ever want to engage in what’s going on ‘on the outside?’

Dear Friend,

No matter how recent your loss, spending time in our grief room is normal. It’s a place we visit from time to time, but we’re not meant to live there.  God meets with you here to be sure, but he also wants to lovingly ease you out into the land of the living. 

Some of you have spent far too long in this cramped space. I pray you will trust God nudging you toward the door. Crack it open, air it out a bit. Walk outside and feel the sun and wind on your face. 


Joshua 1:9






How Easter encourages those who mourn

“…we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.”

Shopping for Easter dinner. Done. Dusting off that china you use once a year. (Good thing you put this on your wedding registry!) Done. Filling all of the plastic eggs with candy for the Easter egg hunt after church on Sunday. Done. Praying it won’t rain during the Easter egg hunt. Done. Making sure you have plenty of wine. Done. I’ll just let this one steep for a while. Don’t judge.

I’ve heard the Easter message repeatedly since I was a little girl and I’ve always thought I had a pretty good handle on it. It’s pretty clear-cut right? Jesus dies on the cross, they bury him and three days later he’s resurrected. End of story. Bring on the ham, cheesy potatoes and chocolate eggs.

When someone we love dies it forces us to re-evaluate what we think about life, death and everything in between. You think you know what you believe until you’re forced to face it straight on. Suddenly we’re thrust into a cyclone of options and opinions; what does society tell you to think? What about past family traditions? What does Oprah say? It’s hard to zero in on one solid truth. Enter Easter.

Easter picks up where Christmas left off. Technically 33 years have passed, but by this time Jesus had lived his life, teaching all who would listen about what would inevitability happen; his death on the cross, his resurrection and what our lives will look like as believers in the wake of it all.

After the death of my son David almost eight years ago, I found myself drawn to the Easter message. He didn’t die on Easter. He died in June. Weird huh? But every single time I tried to reconcile David’s death, and I’m talking repeatedly for years, it became more about living than dying.

I found myself having this inner dialogue because David was gone. I never thought about losing my children. I didn’t think it would ever happen. I figured I would go before them. I think it’s universal. Most of us don’t think too deeply about death.

I must have missed something profound in the Easter message.  Why else did I continually come back to it? I had to explore this, and I did. This is what I learned; while the message of Easter begins with Jesus’s death, it doesn’t stop there. It’s continual. It never ends.

John 14:25-27

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Ephesians 1:19-20

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised him from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

We have in us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.
Jesus knew his life would end but he also knew we would never have to live without him.

While I was searching for a deeper knowledge about God’s spirit in me, I was simultaneously being guided by his very spirit. Wow! What a great example of how his Holy Spirit has worked through my loss, pointing me to the message of the cross and the resurrection. Yep, he knows what we need and I am so thankful! Amazing!

Our family will always mourn David’s death, but we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Today you’re either encouraged, confused, indifferent or just plain angry, and maybe, just maybe it’s because you haven’t soaked in the life changing message of Easter that follows Jesus’ death. Hope for the future can be found here. Hope is here. It never ends.

Happy Easter!




The Repetition of Seasonal Grief

“While these ‘invasions of pain’ appear to prevent us from moving forward, they actually play a large role in our growth, renewal and recovery.”

The most brilliant greens have taken over the Iowa landscape. The farmers have been hard at work preparing their fields for planting. Perfect rows of tiny green shoots have taken over, and soon it will be time for harvest. All in due time.

While the origin of “green shoots” is associated with plant growth, I find its meaning particularly insightful as it also describes the process and ultimate endgame for those of us coping with loss; “any sign of growth, recovery, renewal.” We want this don’t we?

We’re always in the middle of some sort of ‘season’ in our lives; Family, marriage, children, jobs, etc. If you’re grieving you may find yourself revisiting your loss from time to time.  I don’t know about you, but I had no idea my grief would ebb and flow in a way that would jumpstart my pain over and over again. I’ve never experienced anything like this, ever!

The heart keeps track of everything associated with our loss. Sporadic seasons of grief will invade our life.  It might be brought on by a song on the radio.  It may hit you on your loved ones birthday or anniversary of their death. It can be brought on just about any time, on any day.  You can’t shake it off. (I’m picturing The Pink Panther walking under a cloud right now.)  You just feel it clinging to you.

God knows when it’s time to slowly bring the dormant grass, flowers and so on back to life after a long Iowa winter. Surely He loves us enough to do the same for us… I know He does.

While these ‘invasions of pain’ appear to prevent us from moving forward, they actually play a larger role in our growth, renewal and recovery. Our job in this whole process? Persevere. Go to God. Pray. Study the scriptures for sustainment and encouragement. Get help. Call your pastor. Talk things out with a trusted friend. Make arrangements to visit with a grief counselor if you need to.

Romans 5:3b-5

“…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven; a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God is not surprised by our seasons of grief, or any other season in our lives for that matter. Are you enjoying a brief reprieve from your sadness, or are you fighting your way out from under a cloud? You don’t need to go it alone.

Dear friend,

The seasons of grief we experience are a continuation of the journey we’re currently on and will always be on.  I pray you will embrace the seasonal clouds when they come, and rejoice when they dissipate. There is a time for both.  Having faith in God isn’t easy, but when we persevere, we can count on Him to grow us, help us to recover and renew us along the way. Continue to persevere. Get to know God. Read the Bible. Cry out to Him and cling to His promises. Don’t give up on God.