Planning a Vacation While Grieving

For some, the idea of planning a trip may be incredibly overwhelming following the death of a loved one. However, taking a vacation, regardless of how grandiose or modest it may be, can be extremely beneficial for those struggling with grief. Traveling to new places provides a fresh perspective, and seeing the world on a larger scale can help fight feelings of isolation one may feel while grieving. It shows you that there is a world outside of your grief—one that is still full of new opportunities and joys! This is easier said than done, so keep reading to learn more about how you can make your vacations and travels a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable.

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Set realistic expectations

It’s easy to get carried away when planning a vacation. Brochures and commercials are filled with perfect images of smiling people and sunny weather. While vacations are certainly intended to be fun and exciting, after losing a loved one it’s important that you set realistic expectations. Don’t expect too much from yourself. Grief can drain a lot of your energy, so make sure you don’t plan too many energy-dependent activities. In most cases, a more relaxing vacation is most appropriate after a recent loss, such as a spa day, camping trip, or a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast.

Be flexible

Grieving is a dynamic and unpredictable journey. No matter where you are on your personal journey, your emotions, mood, and energy can all change dramatically without warning. That’s why, when planning a vacation, it’s important to be patient and flexible with yourself. Don’t plan anything that can’t be easily cancelled or rescheduled, and it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. In some cases, it may be good idea to plan a few different vacations, then see which fits best as the date gets closer. Having options takes some of the pressure off vacationing, and provides a more relaxed perspective on the whole process.

Communicate

Communication is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of journeying through grief, regardless of whether or not you choose to travel. However, if you do decide to vacation, communication becomes even more important. For those traveling with family, it’s important to be open and honest with each other. Everyone grieves differently. Certain activities or memories that may not be painful to you may be painful to someone else and vice versa. Therefore, talk about what you have planned for the trip and make sure everyone is comfortable. It may be helpful to plan activities specific to each family member to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. It’s always a good idea to communicate with God as well. Share your feelings, fears, and joys. He will be accompanying you on whatever journey you choose to go on.

The first vacation following the death of a loved will be the most difficult as the absence of the deceased person will be felt at its highest level. This pain will lessen with time, and just knowing this and anticipating the challenge will ease the current pain you feel and hopefully make it more tolerable. The pain is actually the love you feel for the absent person.  The stronger the love, the stronger the pain.  And everywhere love goes, grief goes too. So know that you will feel the absence even in another place, and be prepared to greet it and welcome it as part of the healing process.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Summer and the Grief Journey

The summer months can be difficult for those who are grieving. While the cool air of fall and winter lend themselves to quiet evenings in, spring and summer do just the opposite. The warm weather encourages social outings, outdoor activities, and special vacations. For those who are grieving, this heightened expectation of interaction can be rather intimidating. However, there are ways to cope with the summer months, and even leverage the warm weather (and maybe even a vacation or two!) to help you progress along your grief journey. Keep reading to learn more.

Summer and the Grief Journey

  1. Go outside

It’s amazing what a little vitamin D can do for the body and the soul. It’s been proven that just a few minutes of sunlight a day can drastically impact a person’s energy, outlook, and general health. Vitamin D has also been proven to lower stress levels. So while it may be tempting to stay indoors, try to soak up some sun for at least ten minutes a day, even if that means just sitting on your front stoop or walking around your backyard.

  1. Travel

For some, the idea of planning a trip may be incredibly overwhelming following the death of a loved one. However, taking a vacation, regardless of how grandiose or modest it may be, can be extremely beneficial for those struggling with grief. Traveling to new places provides a fresh perspective, and seeing the world on a larger scale can help fight feelings of isolation one may feel while grieving. It shows you that there is a world outside of your grief—one that is still full of new opportunities and joys!

  1. Enjoy yourself

One of the hardest things many people struggle with while grieving is learning how to be joyful again. Some people may feel guilty for being happy or enjoying themselves following the death of a loved one. While these feelings may be hard to overcome, simply ask yourself “If our positions were reversed, wouldn’t I want my loved one to enjoy life again?” So let the warmer weather naturally uplift your mood and simply allow yourself to enjoy life. Take part in your favorite summer activities. If there are emotional memories attached to those activities, then try to explore and find new things that you can enjoy. Enjoying yourself also means you should take care of yourself. Take time to do the activities you enjoy, and turn away from those you don’t. Grief is an exhausting journey, so learn what your limits are and how much you can handle on a given day.

  1. Honor your loved one

Many people believe that the best way to conquer grief is to push memories and thoughts of their loved one to the wayside, but this simply isn’t true. Healthy grieving involves remembering and honoring your loved one, the life they lived, and the memories you shared together. Whether you’re traveling this summer or staying close to home, try to find a way to honor your loved one. Maybe it’s visiting their favorite vacation spot, or traveling to place they always wanted to visit. It may be as simple as preparing their favorite summer meal, or doing their favorite activity. Another simple way to honor your loved one is to thank God for the memories you shared and spend some time in quiet reflection in His presence. You’ll find that Christ will always bring wisdom and comfort.

If you’re in need of some extra support this summer, please join us for one of our Grief Support groups. Learn more at https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Handling Special Occasions: A Simple 3-Step Guide for the Bereaved

Grieving is a difficult process. It’s one of the hardest experiences we endure throughout our lifetime. While losing a loved one may be hard to comprehend even on a typical day, remembering this loss on days of special importance can take an even larger toll. Since events such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions are usually spent with those closest to us, after losing a loved one these days may be hard to bear, as they bring with them memories of our departed loved ones and serve as a reminder of their passing. Much like the seasons, these days will come each year. The key is not to run away or avoid them, but to embrace them for what they are. It may be hard at first, but with time you can come to appreciate these special days and the memories you shared with your loved one. To help handle the tough times, just remember to feel, react, and reconnect. Keep reading to learn more…

hanlding special occasions

  1. Feel

The most important part of grieving, whether it’s on a notable day or not, is to allow yourself to experience your emotions fully. Often, you may feel pressured to put on a brave face and act like everything is okay—even when it isn’t. This is especially common on holidays, as you may try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Sometimes, you may feel like expressing sadness is a sign of weakness, and prefer that others view you as your “usual self.” This isn’t just limited to feelings of sadness, either. It’s common to experience a plethora of emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few days or a few years—there will be days when you feel confused, hurt, sad, and even angry. Don’t try to cover up these emotions. Instead, allow yourself to fully express how you feel.

  1. React

After expressing your emotions, the next step is to respond accordingly. If you’re too flustered or overwhelmed to have your usual 4th of July BBQ, then suggest that someone else host it this year. If the anniversary of your loved one’s death is coming up and you’re experiencing extreme loneliness or sadness, spend the day remembering them. Maybe make their favorite meal, or watch their favorite movie. Whatever the case may be, being in tune with your emotions can help you prepare for these special occasions, and help you plan ahead. Instead of planning the day according to other’s expectations, do what you feel most comfortable with and what will bring you the most peace. On certain days, it may be a good idea to treat yourself to something special, perhaps a relaxing massage or an extra piece of chocolate cake. An important part of the grieving process is being kind to yourself—something that many of us forget!

  1. Reconnect

Grieving can be a lonely process. Since the emotions you feel are so specific to you and your situation, you may feel like no one on earth can understand what you’re going through. Sometimes, this can cause you to push people away in an effort to handle your grief on your own. It’s true that others may not be able to empathize with your unique grief, but it’s important to stay connected with those closest to you. While holidays and special occasions may be hard to handle, they are still days to celebrate with family and friends. Making an effort to reconnect with those around you can help diminish those feelings of loneliness or sorrow, and remind you that life can still be filled with joy and celebration. Even more important than reconnecting with family and friends, however, is reconnecting with God. He is the only one who will know exactly what you’re feeling, and the only one who will never leave you. During the hardest days of grieving, turn to the Lord for strength and comfort, and never lose sight of the eternal hope He offers each of us.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Handling Mother’s Day: Comfort and Prayers for the Bereaved

 

handling mothers day prayers and comfort for the bereaved.jpgAs we approach Mother’s Day, many of us will be reminded of our mothers and the place they hold in our hearts. Whether our mother is still with us or has passed from this world, Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate these women and the immense impact they have on our lives. It goes without saying that those who have lost their mother may experience added grief on this day. However, there are other groups of people who also experience additional pain or grief during this time: those who don’t have (or never had) a relationship with their mother, those who are unable to have children, couples who have suffered from miscarriage or stillborn children and all other special circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, be aware of your own emotions as well as those of others. If you find that Mother’s Day mass is too hard or painful to attend, spend the day worshiping from home. If you know someone is struggling with any of the situations listed above, or an equally difficult situation, make an effort to let them know you’re thinking about and praying for them. Wherever, however, and with whomever you celebrate this Mother’s Day, remember that Christ is with you and that His plan is far greater than the highs and the lows of our lives here on earth.

Take a look at the prayer below and share with others.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. Thank you for the blessing it is to be called “Mom.” Thank you for the good plans you have in store for those who still wait to be a Mom. Thank you for the numerous spiritual children you have given to so many “spiritual moms” and mentors. We pray that you would fill this day with favor and grace as we honor Moms all around our nation.
We ask for comfort for those who are grieving loss and heartache, especially on this day. We ask for strength for those who wait for children to come back home. We ask for healing for those who have been hurt by relationships that were intended to be loving and nurturing. We ask for faith for those who will someday be Moms, who find themselves on a journey that seems so hard. We ask for great encouragement and grace to cover those who have made a brave and loving choice for adoption. We ask for incredible provision and care over every single parent mom who works so hard on behalf of her children. We ask that you would remind many of those who, though they do not have “physical” children, have the gift of being amazing hope-bringers to many spiritual children they’ve been blessed to nurture through these years.
God, thank you, for the gift of life. Thank you that your heart is for us, and that you are with us, in all our unique journeys and pathways. Thank you that you are Sovereign over every part of our lives.  Thank you that your ways are perfect and you make our footsteps secure.
Today we pray for refreshing, for joy, for grace, for wisdom, for great peace…for all moms, for moms to be, and for women who nurture and lead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. (source) 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

Embracing God’s Plan: An Easter Lesson

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Lonely, desperate, sorrowful, confused, hurt, overwhelmed…
One can only imagine what the first disciples of Jesus must have felt following His crucifixion. He was their world, and their source of happiness and hope. They spent years following Him, and devoted their lives to His teaching. He fulfilled them in a way no earthly person could. Then, they were forced to stand and watch as He died in the cruelest of ways. The man who had filled them with such courage and faith was gone.
In many ways, those who have lost a loved one can empathize with the first followers of Christ. When we lose someone, the world around us seems to tilt. Reality is permanently changed. Just as Jesus was a center of hope and security for those who followed Him, the people we hold close to us in our lives also provide us with an element of security and love. The earthly separation of death may feel like an end to that cherished relationship.

However, as the followers of Christ discovered, and as we now know, death is not the end.

On Good Friday when Mary, the Apostles, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples were in their deepest and most sorrowful mourning, God was already executing His master plan. In just three short days they would all realize that Christ was not dead, but alive. Death was not the final destination, but rather a stop along the way to greater salvation. Viewing death as a journey, not an endpoint, can help us who are grieving understand God’s intentions. This doesn’t mean that the separation isn’t painful, but we can all take comfort in knowing that God calls us all to be reunited in His eternal kingdom.
In the meantime, it’s important for those of us here on earth to move forward with our lives. When Christ ascended into Heaven, it would have been easy for the Apostles to simply pack up and go home to their wives and children. It would have been easy for those early followers of Christ to go back to their former ways and push away those memories and teachings of Christ. Luckily for us, they didn’t. Instead, the Apostles and disciples of Christ embraced their new reality. They found new ways to spread God’s good news, and found strength within themselves and the Holy Spirit to continue with their lives.

During this Easter season, reflect on your own grief journey. Are you embracing this new chapter?

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Springing Forward: Where are you on your grief journey?

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Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. While we may still have a few weeks of chilly weather, the grass is getting a little greener and the sun a little brighter. Soon we will be setting our clocks forward, which serves as yet another indicator that we are entering into a new season, a new time. Spring is a time of renewal and fresh starts. The earth itself seems to shake the snow from winter and instead welcome warm breezes and nourishing spring rain. For the bereaved, spring can be a challenging time. The cold weather of winter makes it easy for us to stay inside and ignore the outside world. In a way, winter weather mirrors our own feelings. It’s isolating and cold—it doesn’t allow for new growth or change. It’s stagnant.

It’s common during the grieving process to crave consistency. The death of a loved one is a traumatic change and makes some of us nervous about any type of change. We may hold onto the sadness and loneliness we feel immediately after the loss of loved one in an effort to maintain some sort of constant, no matter how negative or destructive this constant is. Many of us may even feel guilty for trying to move on, as we fall prey to the distorted belief that working past the sadness and grief would mean to forget our loved ones or imply that they are no longer important to us. This simply isn’t the case.

It is possible to remember and love your dearly departed loved ones without being in a state of constant grief. This can be a hard concept to grasp, and even harder to practice. However, it’s important to give yourself a chance for future happiness. Spring is a fitting time to reevaluate where you are on your grief journey and plan steps to make sure you are continually progressing. These steps can be as large or as small as you’d like them to be, as long as you are progressing and growing in the process.

If you’re still struggling in progressing through your grief journey, don’t forget that God calls us all to experience joy and happiness!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 15:13

 “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”-Nehemiah 8:10

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”-John 16:22

You see, grief is a part of life. It’s something all of us will journey through. Keep in mind what a journey is—something that is full of change, unpredictability, and growth. This journey may have some setbacks and challenges, but don’t let them discourage you. Instead, focus on what you can learn from these setbacks. Take advantage of this spring season to learn more about yourself, your grief, and what you can do moving forward.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Coping with Valentine’s Day: A Guide for the Bereaved

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Valentine’s Day is tough. Even for those who haven’t lost a loved one, the day can be an emotional trigger or stressful obligation. For those who have lost a loved one, the day serves as a solemn reminder that we are missing someone on this earth. Keep reading for some guidance on how to handle this unique holiday.

  1. Set your own expectations
    1. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day carries with it a certain set of expectations. Especially in the years immediately after the death of a loved one, the loss of tradition and custom can come as a major shock. This is completely normal. However, a great way to deal with this new reality is to set new and realistic expectations for the holidays, including Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go out. If you don’t want to watch a romantic movie, then don’t. The day and how you handle it is entirely up to you and your personal preference.
  2. Celebrate yourself
    1. Valentine’s Day is about love—and this includes self-love. Spend the day doing your favorite things or treating yourself to a new experience. Whether it’s going to the movie theater for a double feature or finally taking that art class you’ve been wanting to start, spending the day to truly love yourself and who you are is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness. Learn to love who you are as an individual child of God. So often, we define ourselves by our relationship with other people, whether we’re a wife, husband, sister, son, etc. Because of this, when we lose the people we are so connected to, we can lose our sense of self. Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to discover what makes you happy—so don’t be afraid to explore!
  3. Honor your loved one
    1. Of course, despite celebrating yourself, Valentine’s Day is sure to remind you of dearly departed loved ones. A nice way to remember those who are no longer on this earth is to do something in their honor. If you and your spouse always had a specific meal on Valentine’s Day, prepare a portion of that meal for yourself. If you exchanged gifts, buy something you know you spouse would have enjoyed and donate it to a worthy cause. You can also honor them in other ways—whether it’s writing down your feelings in a letter or going through pictures of them, find what works for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Lent and the Gift of Eternal Love

lent and eternal love

You might notice something interesting about Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Now, say what you will about calendar cycles, leap years, etc. but this correlation is actually rather significant. While one event may imply a period of fasting, personal sacrifice, and repentance, the other emphasizes love, happiness, and giving. The juxtaposition and complementary nature of these events is worth mentioning, especially through a bereavement perspective.

Starting with the season of Lent, we are reminded of the intense and painful journey that Christ underwent. The 40 days He spent in the desert were ones of pure temptation and a harsh reminder of His humanity. Christ’s journey was one that turned away from the sin and death of the world and instead walked toward the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Of course, we honor this journey still today, as many people choose to enter into a personal spiritual journey for the 40 days of Lent by fasting and otherwise making a sacrifice to Christ. This Lenten journey is similar to the journey that is grief. When a loved one dies, so does a part of our heart. Similar to Christ’s journey, grief is the process of turning away from suffering and pain and growing closer to new life. For those who have lost a loved one, this new life is their new reality: life without their loved one. This journey is not an easy one. Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, those who grieve will have set backs and will struggle at times. But, by looking to Christ as an example, and by remembering the promise of life that lies at the end of the journey, you may find the extra strength you need to carry on.

It’s also important to mention that just as Christ was strengthened by God’s love, so are we strengthened by both God’s love and by the love of our dearly departed loved ones. Love is something that extends beyond death. It cannot be broken by realms. No matter where you are on your grief journey, no matter what you might be feeling on Valentine’s Day, the love you feel for your loved one, and them for you, still exists. We know this because of God’s own eternal love for us, which we hear in scripture time and time again:

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Grief is a journey. There are highs and lows. But an important thing to keep in mind as we enter into the season of Lent is that love is on our side. And that is something to celebrate.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

8 Attainable Resolutions for the Bereaved

While we are already a few weeks into 2018, it’s never too late to adopt some new year’s resolutions. For those who have lost a loved one, new year’s resolutions come down to personal preference. For some, the idea of a resolution may seem too overwhelming at the time– similar to starting a new project or chore in the midst of extreme sorrow. For others, resolutions serve as an inspirational and motivational tool that helps them cope with grief and grow as a person. Whether or not you choose to take on a new year’s resolution is entirely up to you and where you are on your grief journey. However, if you are interested in taking on a new year’s resolution, keep reading for some ideas!

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  1. Recognize your strengths

Losing a loved one can install feelings of weakness or helplessness. Start the new year by making a list of your personal strengths, your blessings, and your dreams. Take action and leverage your strengths to accomplish new goals and cope with your grief.

  1. Slow down

Make sure that you aren’t using a busy schedule or work life to cope with your grief. Not only does that make for an unhealthy healing, but it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Make a promise in this new year to slow down and take more time for yourself.

  1. Attend a support group

Support groups are a great way to cope with your grief. Sharing experiences within a support group is a way for all involved to grieve in a healthy and constructive way. (Interested in joining a support group? Click here.)

  1. Try a new hobby

It’s never too late to learn something new. If you feel stagnant or if you feel stuck, pick up a new hobby and see where it takes you. Whether it’s photography, sewing, or hiking– find something new to learn and enjoy to bring some excitement in your life.

  1. Get 20 minutes of sunlight or fresh air each day

Fresh air and sunlight can do wonderful things for the mind, body, and spirit. While it may be tempting to stay indoors all day, try to get outside for at least 20 minutes each day. Even if it’s just in your backyard.

  1. Speak your loved one’s name

Keep the memory of your loved one alive in the new year by speaking their name often. The key to grieving is not to forget, but to remember with hope that you will one day be reunited.

  1. Start a journal

Journaling can be a great way to cope with grief and express your emotions. Think of journaling as a personal letter to God. What are you feeling? What are your hopes? Share these with him and see where the journey takes you. Try to make it a daily habit—God likes to hear from us every day.

  1. Be open to happiness

While there will always be a part of you that misses your loved one dearly, never forget to be open to happiness and new experiences. Pay attention to the blessings God has placed in your life, big and small.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Tips for Entering the New Year with Hope and Love

For many of those who are grieving, the concept of a new year may be daunting. Particularly if you have recently lost a loved one, this may be the first year you endure without them in your life. When a loved one passes away, everything changes. What was once familiar now seems foreign and the idea of tackling a new year full of unknowns and uncharted territory can be intimidating and even scary. This feeling is completely normal—even if it’s been years since your loved one passed away. Keep reading for some simple suggestions on how to embrace the New Year with a spirit of hope and love.

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Be kind to yourself

Some people may feel as if expressing grief or admitting that you are struggling emotionally is a sign of weakness. You may become frustrated with yourself and wonder why you can’t just “be happier.” Particularly when the new year approaches, you may be told to take advantage of this fresh start and forget the grief and pain from the past year. While the New Year can certainly be seen as this “fresh start” it is all dependent on where you are in your grief journey. Grief is not a process that can be rushed or skipped over—don’t become discouraged with yourself if you don’t feel a certain way at a certain time. Instead, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend who recently lost a loved one. Give yourself time to heal. Grief doesn’t have a time limit.

Use a calendar

It’s common after losing a loved one to feel as if every day is the same, as if you’re just going through the motions instead of actually living your life. Another common problem some people face is the good-intentioned invitations from family and friends to go out to dinner, attend an event, etc. in an effort to uplift the griever’s mood, which can be overwhelming to someone who is grieving. To remedy both these issues, it’s a good idea to get a large calendar at the beginning of the year. Start your year by scheduling appointments with yourself. Maybe it’s a Friday night movie, or simply reserving a time for you to read a good book. Whatever the case may be, visualizing your life and scheduling time for you to do the activities that you enjoy will help make your days more meaningful. On a more practical note, scheduling these appointments ahead of time can serve as a polite way to decline an invitation. The best part? If you ever do want to spend time with family or friends, it’s very easy to cancel an appointment with yourself!

Energize your mind and body

Losing a loved one exhausts both your mind and body. This leads to an overall lack of motivation to be active. While it may be hard at first, a good resolution for grievers is to devote some time each day to be physically and emotionally active. Being physically active doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or a short bike ride. To exercise your mind, read a good book or listen to some music that you enjoy. The combination of both mind and body can help you regain a sense of presence and strengthen your resolve. (Hint: Use the calendar mentioned above to schedule these activities in advance!)

Focus on the journey and not the destination

As the old saying suggests, so many people in this world are too focused on reaching a certain destination that they forget to appreciate the journey they take along the way. This same principle can be applied to grief. Many people who are grieving want to skip ahead to a time where they can be completely happy again and obtain acceptance of their loved one’s death. While everyone certainly finds happiness, there will always be a part of their hearts dedicated to their loved one. Grief is not about reaching a level of happiness or acceptance, but rather growing as a person and learning a new way to live. Grief is not a test, but an experience. Entering into this New Year, focus more on what you can learn about yourself, life, or love. Focus less on societal and personal expectations for yourself.

Do some reflective journaling

Journaling can be a very therapeutic and constructive way to work through your grief. At the beginning of the year, write down a few things your loved one would want for you in the coming year. If you have a hard time brainstorming, think about if the roles were reversed—what would you wish for your loved one if you were the one to pass away? Try to think of different states of mind or attitudes you’d want your loved one to practice after your passing and write them down. As the year progresses, look at this list and try pursue those outcomes.

Choose to walk with God each day

Even after following every suggestion and doing your very best, there will still be days when you feel lonely or discouraged. Use these instances to grow closer to Christ. He is the one person who will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. When you have these bad days, take a step back and spend some time reflecting on God’s eternal love for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski