I didn’t know Brenda very well. I saw her only three times
in my life, twice at church and once at her father’s funeral. But if you ask me
how I can speak with authority on this, I have an easy answer. She was LOVED by
so many people that I love.
It took quite a while for the cancer to take her body. It never beat her spirit. She fought a hard fight, and she did it her own way.
She was a warrior.
When you’re a kid and you have the whole world in front of
you, death seems so impossible! If it’s even a thought in our minds, it’s
fleeting. And even then, it’s about something besides US, like maybe a frog that
that got run over and fried on the pavement. Never a human, never ourselves. We’re
damn near invincible, or at least that’s what our hearts would have us believe.
I can imagine Brenda skipping down the sidewalk, blowing
bubbles with gum that cost a nickel at the little mom and pop store up the road.
Cancer never entered her mind. She believed in love, life, laughter, and
possibilities. The very idea that she would one day leave her own children
motherless wasn’t even a tiny consideration.
Yet now there is this gaping hole where Brenda used to be.
Even though she was equipped with guts and strength and
FAITH so strong, there finally came a moment when she didn’t have enough of
herself left to stand and fight the war that was waged against her body. She
accepted the freedom that eternity offered. Her heart was right. Her mind was
good. It was her body that failed her.
Even though everyone fought to keep her here, when it got
closer to the end and pain wracked her small, exhausted body, her family prayed
she’d just let go and stop the fight. She wasn’t going to win it. There was
obviously a plan bigger than ours. A kingdom stood ready. Her king was waiting
Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in the glass you’re
In fact, it would make more sense to hurl it to the floor
and watch it shatter. To rail at God and ask Him, “Why?” This was no ordinary
life you took this time, God! This one was full of hope, promise, and joy. She
was a MOTHER, a DAUGHTER, a SISTER! She TRUSTED you! Her whole FAMILY believes
I hear the faint sound of wind blowing. Beyond that, there’s
And Jesus walked on water.
He healed the sick, made the blind see, and turned water
into wine. Yet Brenda slipped away from here.
People do, you know.
And I know that even though the world is a lesser place, Brenda is free.
And if she ever skipped, she’s skipping now. If she blew
bubbles, she’s blowing the biggest one ever! I also know she could probably
catch that frog that’s hopping by if she wanted to. She’s safe now. It doesn’t
hurt. CANCER didn’t win.
I just don’t know how to say all that to the ones I love, who loved her so much. They will grieve—pain is part of life in this broken world. It’s all just temporary.
Death will come for us too—then life and eternity!
I can hear my own footsteps as I walk through my silent
house. I think about life, cancer, and death. My heart hurts, and there’s a
lump in my throat. All the words I could say keep running through my head.
The last time I felt like this, I thought I was dead.
Today the world became a lesser place, and there was nothing
we could do to stop it.
In this world of influence and social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt told us a long time ago that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I believe that reality speaks for itself when you look at the increasing number of teen suicides since the invention of certain social apps that are being used as bullying tools. Here are a few truths to fight back against that old stealer of joy:
God created YOU to be YOU! He gave each of us a
unique set of gifts and talents to be used for HIS glory. You are the only
person who was designed to be exactly like you—so be that! And be that BEST YOU
that you can be!
What you see on SOCIAL MEDIA isn’t real. Faces are airbrushed. Backgrounds are blurred. Vacations are faked. Waists are slimmed. Lots of things are made to appear one way when they are just the opposite! Isn’t it better to be authentic than to wear a mask for the rest of the world to see?
We ALL fall short of what we could be! It would be great if we all lived up to our potential, but clearly, we don’t. If someone is pointing out what they perceive to be YOUR shortcomings, it’s probably just to take attention off their own.
You may not really want what you think you want. Think about what it would REALLY mean for your life if you had the things THEY seem to have! What if you had that dream job? How much time would you have to spend away from your precious family? What if you had all their money? Would you really know who your friends were at the end of the day? How about that car? Okay, maybe it WOULD be cool if you had that CAR! Okay then! Quit wishing and start figuring out what it would take to earn the money to buy it!
know that it is self-defeating, here are several things you can do to get out
of the comparison trap and start to lead a more productive life:
a. Work on being a better YOU!
We could ALL use improvement, remember? You don’t have to make a huge goal.
Just try to be better than you were yesterday! Stretch yourself a little
further every day. Take more risks toward a better future!
b. Tend to your health. Start
eating better. Make one healthy food choice at a time. Take the stairs more
often. Walk across the parking lot instead of parking as close to the door as possible.
Drink more water.
c. Practice humility and
gratitude. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life to
just take the time to be grateful for all you have.
d. Give others more of your
time, energy, money, and resources. You will be blessed more than they will.
e. Get rid of things cluttering
up your life. Do you really need that porcelain figurine from 1976? Are you
ever going to fit in those jeans again? I’m sorry to tell you that the answer
to both of those questions is probably NO!
f. Love more.
g. Go to church.
h. Pray and read your Bible (if
you don’t have one, go get one).
i. Journal. Writing your feelings down helps you sort them out and is extremely helpful when trying to work through situational anxiety.
j. Paint, draw, take photos, or do anything artistic! You will be so busy that you won’t have time to compare yourself to ANYBODY. Also, you will have accomplished something wonderful (no matter how it turns out)!
Hope these tips help the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself or
your life to someone else! Remember, the most important thing that you can be
My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy.
He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God. Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.
God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive.
I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much choice.
The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old.
I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.
PEOPLE ARE MORE
IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.
This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the
obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and
your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The
Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole
world and forfeit his soul?”
Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.
2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.
Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).
3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.
Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the
future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says
in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such
and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do
not know what tomorrow will bring.”
Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!
4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.
You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too).
If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now.
Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life! Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.
5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.
Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.
6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.
He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.
It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies–also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent.
You are insignificant to God because He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point.
He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then, I remember the cross, and I get through. I know where my hope is.
7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.
Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group.
There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.
8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.
Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.
9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.
No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives.
Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).
10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.
You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.
11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.
Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will.
Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace.
You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.
12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.
This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss.
Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them! That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?
Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.
Bonus: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SWIM THROUGH THE RIVER
There are times in your life when you need medication to get you through the hard stuff. There’s no shame in taking it when you do. Other times we try to self-medicate by using all kinds of things–alcohol, narcotics, sex, food, distractions–just about anything you can think of that we believe will take our minds off the hurt.
They all work for a little while. The problem is, when you step back from all you have done to numb the pain or forget the hurt, it’s still there. Not only do you find the loss and grief is still right where you left it, but you have often piled a load of guilt and remorse on top of it through behaviors and addictions that you wish you could change.
It’s hard to turn your life around when you find yourself in a situation like that, but it can be done. You have to make the decision to embrace the joy and faith that are still in your life and turn around and swim through the river. Sometimes that’s the only way to survive, and then you can turn around and help others across too.
These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.
RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998
Here’s a link to this post in Medium if you’d like to pop over and see it! There are lots of other things to read from other writers as well that I think you would enjoy and benefit from:
Not a Roll of Cookie Dough, but One of Those Tubs.
Or Eat Five Gallons of Chocolate Ice Cream with a Package of Oreos–No, Girl Scout Cookies! I want Thin Mints, and I want them fresh out of the freezer!
Are you wondering why I want a tub of cookie dough, or something else sinfully sweet? In case you are, I will tell you. Because I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed out, all I can think about is taking something sweet and bad for me and shoveling it in my face.
Food is where I go for comfort.
It sure hasn’t failed me yet! Well, it hasn’t failed me in
the moment, when the cookie dough is in my mouth and my endorphins are through
the roof. I only reach failure status when I step on the scale a month later
and I’ve gained 20 lbs. Or I would reach failure status then, if I ever really
got on the scale. See, if you don’t acknowledge it’s happening, it’s not
I’ve lived most of my life in just that way. The struggle to
maintain a weight that made me feel comfortable with my own body has been
life-altering and mind-consuming. I’m a good weight now—just ask any
specialist. My BMI is perfect I’m told. “You are a great weight right now. You
can continue to lose if you want to tweak it, but that’s just for you.” I
thought it was all just for me.
It’s not my body that’s the problem. I don’t know if you know this or not, but it rarely is. It’s the mind that has all the issues. Every single morsel I put in my mouth comes packed with a load of guilt. I’ve written about this before in another blog, https://moodyoops.com/how-you-see-yourself-determines-who-you-are/, and you may want to check that out! It’s a big deal to me.
Think about it like this. If you were an alcoholic, and you quit
drinking, you would feel better. You would find other ways to gain comfort and
peace—perhaps you would learn to pray more, read, fish, exercise, or do
something creative. You would never have to pick up the bottle again if you
chose not to, and that’s fantastic! Your addiction may be slightly easier to
understand and control when you realize that you can actually live your entire
life without one sip of alcohol.
But What If You Are a Food Addict?
You are addicted to food but you stop eating in unhealthy ways, you start exercising, and you start taking better care of your body. That’s a great victory! There’s only three problems that I can think of that might hang you up on a consistent basis: breakfast, dinner, and supper.
Yep, that’s right. You can’t go on for the rest of your life
without eating! So even though you’ve beat the unhealthy patterns, it’s harder
to let go of the guilt that you have always associated with eating. It comes
unbidden the second you start chewing and increases with each bite. By the time
you are finished with your meal, you are filled with remorse!
With guilt comes the desire to cover that guilt, and what’s
the first reaction your mind has to that desire? It wants to go back to that
old comfort that it’s so used to, and put it on again. Guilt is crying, “Cover
me,” and food is answering, “I will!”
It Becomes a Pattern.
It happens over and over. Once or twice at the ice cream trough and you’re okay, a week’s worth and it starts to show. It’s a vicious cycle of doubt, guilt, and confusion that runs through your mind like a hamster on a wheel. The more you obsess over what you eat, the more you want to eat it. The more you try to avoid something, the more drawn you are to that very thing!
Are There Any Answers?
So what are some of the things you can do to break the unhealthy cycle of food guilt? Hmmm….I go through times off and on where I think I get this right. Of course, they don’t last as long as they should, but I am going to keep going back there until “off and on” becomes a tendency, and a tendency eventually becomes a habit, and a habit finally becomes a way of life that’s not even considered thought-worthy anymore.
I never tell myself that I can’t have something. Why? Because if I tell myself “no,” I think about that food all day long every day and eat everything in sight until I finally break down and just go get what I’m obsessing over! If I want it, I eat it.
However, one thing that I will do is tell myself that I can have it “tomorrow.” Sometimes when tomorrow rolls around I don’t even want that whole roll of cookie dough (or tub). Sometimes I do. Either way, I give myself permission to have it. Maybe not the whole thing, but some of it for sure!
I try to take responsibility for my own diet. I don’t mean diet as in “I’m on a diet,” I mean diet as in “the food choices that I make for myself.” No matter what plan someone else is on and thinks is better, no matter what they have had success in, no matter what food they put before me, and no matter what anything else you can think of—since I am ultimately responsible, I make it my ultimate responsibility to choose what goes into my mouth and what does not.
Even when a health professional pushes an app at me and says, “You need to count calories if you are going to lose weight,” and I know that I lost 65 lbs and didn’t count the first calorie, I’m going to politely say, “That’s not how I do it,” and move on with life. It’s my life, my health, and my body. I’m responsible for its upkeep. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. Counting calories will have me (a) starving, and (b) obsessing. I’m saying NO! to both of those ideas and I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life. Thank you very much.
I try to notice how I feel after I eat something. If it makes me feel good physically, I’m good with it. If it makes me nauseated, headachy, sluggish, or any other negative physical outcome, I will probably not want to have that food again real soon.
Since I deal with food guilt, I don’t let my emotions dictate to me what I will and won’t eat. At least, I don’t when I’m working on it.
I also try to notice the taste the food leaves in my mouth. I know that sounds crazy! But to tell you the truth, that chocolate frozen pie that was so dang good when I ate it left a really bad taste in my mouth! I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I did. I was just so used to liking it that I thought I still did. So the next time I want to take a bite of it, I will remember the taste it left in my mouth. Maybe I will still take a bite of it, and maybe I won’t. It has gone both ways.
I don’t always eat every meal, or I just eat during a certain number of hours in the day. They call this intermittent fasting. I probably don’t do this the textbook way or for the textbook reason. What it does for me though, is relieve some of the guilt of overeating because if I’m skipping a meal now and then, I’m not overeating! It’s a pretty simple way to trick your mind into believing the truth.
Now I’m not offering up any of my methods as advice, because
I’m not an expert or a health professional of any kind. I’m just saying what
works for me. There are studies that say that you can’t skip meals because it
lowers your metabolism. What I have learned is that when you get over a certain
age, the rules all change. If I hadn’t skipped some meals, I wouldn’t have lost
a pound! You have to do what is right for you and your health though. It’s
always good to check with a doctor or other health professional before starting
any kind of health and wellness program!
I don’t know if anyone can relate to my food struggles, but this is what was on my mind tonight. We all have different areas that we battle every day—this just happens to be one of mine. Feel free to leave a comment if you have been there, and you can also share my blog to your choice of social media if you think it might resonate with others. You can follow the blog and sign up with your email so that you will get a notice every time I post something new!