Keeping Memories Alive

These gorgeous earrings were recreated from my mum’s beautiful set of jewellery. My eldest sister came up with this amazing idea and she found someone in Lagos, Nigeria to help make us all something beautiful from my mum’s old collections.

Every time I put these on, fond memories of my sweet mum come flooding back.

So recently, I’ve been doing some research on what can be done with personal items of loved ones who have died, here are some examples I found online (Click link for images Keeping Memories Alive )

  • Pillows made from Husband’s swimming trunks
  • Memory bears made from shirts 
  • Necktie treasures

These are merely suggestions, as I always say, do what you feel comfortable with and when you’re ready to let go. Only YOU will know the appropriate time.

My mum died in Nigeria, and there was only so much of her stuff we could bring over. In fact to be honest, it took a few good years to go through all her personal items and decide what we wanted to keep, give away to other relatives who would cherish her things and of course some were given to charities..We’ve also kept some of my mum’s items just as they are, no need to ‘upcycle’ .

The other day I was in one of my sisters house and I needed something to use as a baby carrier, she brought out this old ‘wrapper’ and I knew straightaway it was my mum’s. I hadn’t seen it in years and it brought back fond memories. I also have this headscarf I use occasionally, the first time my hubby saw it, he suggested getting a new one, I gave him the look of “this ain’t going anywhere”, until I explained that it had sentimental value.

So in summary, you can keep things as they are, recreate/upcycle as something else (blanket, jewellery, teddy bears, cushion covers, whatever you fancy). Do make sure you find a reliable vendor if recreating something new – so they don’t end up ruining your loved one’s items.

If you have other suggestions,  please feel free to leave a comment below 

Celebrating a loved one’s posthumous birthday

September 24th 2017 would have been my mum’s 80th Birthday.

I am certain that if she was still here with us, we would have had some form of celebration, either a big event or a small family gathering.  As it happened to be on a Sunday this year, it’s more likely we would have had a thanksgiving service at church followed by a small reception, her friends and aburos (Yoruba word for younger ones) would have ‘turned up’. Talking about friends, we  (my siblings and I) have lost touch with her friends over the years, many of whom would have also passed away….

So going back to my post, how do you celebrate your loved one’s posthumous birthday, especially if it’s a special milestone?

From my experience, I think it’s easier in the early years, okay maybe ‘easier’ is not the most appropriate choice of word. Of-course your emotions are still quite raw in those early years and their birth date only serves as a reminder of your loss, it evokes your pain, the hurt and anger you seem to have hidden or buried within yourself, but perhaps because of all these feelings, it’s easier to remember to mark their memory and celebrate them in some way, if you can find the strength to do so.

However, I must admit that for me, as the years have rolled by (it has been 24 years since my mum’s death), I have often forgotten to ‘mark’ the day. One year, I completely missed the date and I beat myself up about it, it took me  a few weeks to get over my ‘forgetfulness’, another year… I just let it go..

So this year, I thought to do something a little different. I wanted to reach out to bereaved children in schools and support them. I got the courage to call up my high school in Manchester and asked to donate copies of ‘Letters of Hope – Encouragement for the Bereaved Child’ and the accompanying journal to bereaved children in the school.  I was extremely nervous about calling, and felt a huge sense of relief as well as fulfillment when the conversation ended.  The chaplain I spoke to was delighted that I wanted to give back to the school and support others on their bereavement journey.

My mum’s memory lives on through each copy of my book and journal. I chose to celebrate her this year by donating copies of my book and journal to the 1st school I attended in England when I relocated from my home country – Nigeria.  You too can choose to celebrate your loved one’s memory in a unique way, that is meaningful and special to you.  Here are some suggestions of what you could do:

  1. Donate to {or volunteer your time to} a charity linked to their death
  2. Have a small gathering with close friends and family, perhaps light a candle in memory of your loved one and have their picture at a focal point in your home.
  3. Bake their favourite cake.  This may be cathartic and you also have yourself a treat. 
  4. Spend time alone,  you may choose to visit their grave or  a place of worship
  5. Do absolutely nothing…

Remember to be yourself and do only what YOU are comfortable doing, not what you think people expect you to do.

Sending you warm hugs.

Be Encouraged x

 

(P:S – If you know someone approaching a loved one’s birthday and you’d like to send them an encouraging note and a gift pack, please drop me an email at hello@lettersofhope.org.uk)

 

{Image courtesy of Sharon Chen_Unsplash}

Thoughts from ‘The Shack’

I can’t recall when I first heard about ‘The Shack’, but it was definitely on #socialmedia. Someone must have recommended the book and I decided to read a sample first on kindle before ordering my paper copy. I got hooked on the short sample and bought my paper copy in less than 24hrs. Within a few days, I had finished reading the book 🙂 

 

The Shack by WM Paul Young is a deep read.  The novel (yes it’s fictional) covers several themes related to the world we live in and our relationship with God…. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

However, this blogpost will be focusing on some of the themes around ‘Grief’ highlighted in the book.

I hope you find this post helpful as you journey through your loss 🙂

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  • Grief and Guilt – Irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the death of our loved one, we often have feelings of guilt. I have experienced this myself and heard of similar feelings from both adults and children. We feel guilty of laughing and enjoying ourselves or moving on… for many reasons. Perhaps because we blame ourselves for the death of our loved ones, even when there’s absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent their death. Sometimes we think others expect us to mourn for a prolonged period of time. Often times, we put ourselves under this unnecessary pressure that will only result in more pain. Then we get lost and confused with all these emotions, not knowing where to turn. If you’re going through this right now, Be Encouraged! Know that you’re not alone, you’re not strange, but realize that your feeling of guilt will not bring your loved one back and it’s time to lean on God and open up to Him. Allow God to set you free from the bondage of guilt.

 

*Weep Weep Weep as often as you’d like. Jesus himself wept when his friend died! Let your tears flow freely,weep without embarrassment…weep and let the tension within you drain away. Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears, they can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak*. 

 

  • Loss and God’s plan. God doesn’t need evil to accomplish His good purposes.  However He can indeed work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies.  He can bring life out of death, freedom out of brokenness and He alone can turn darkness into light.  So when we struggle to understand what is happening around us, rather than blaming God or pushing him away, we should learn to embrace His love. 

In the midst of our pain, God is with us, even when we are living in fear. He never leaves us even for a second. That initial feeling of shock when we lose a loved one, either expected or unexpectedly, God is with us – through it all. It’s strange that when we least ‘feel’ the presence of God, is when He is actually close by, ready and willing to shower us with His love. My prayer for anyone going through this right now, is that the Holy Spirit will wrap himself around you and comfort you through this difficult time and that you feel and experience His presence 

 

  • Grief and Personal Identity. Some people find their identity and worry in their brokenness. They are defined by the tragedies they have encountered and they guard it with every ounce of strength. There comes a stage in your journey when you are no longer defined by your past. Yes, it’s a part of who you are, but you no longer carry the burden of grief on your shoulder. This time will differ for each individual. But yes – there will come a day when you can walk into each day without the despair that may have sucked the colours of life out of everything. Personally, I find it strange to refer to myself as an orphan – yes it’s a fact that both my parents are deceased but using that label attracts a certain kind of sympathy, maybe even pity which I am uncomfortable with. Your identity should be in your maker, your creator…do not let your circumstances define you as they are only temporary. Perhaps it’s time to ask the question…’Who am I?’ or maybe ‘Why am I here?’ (I recommend reading – The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren).

 

  • The heart of our healing is relationship! Relationship with God (the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) & relationship with each other.  Life with/without challenges works better with God at the Center of it. We can’t do life alone, especially when coping with the loss of a loved one. Some folks try with all kinds of coping mechanisms  and mental games but the monsters are still there, just waiting for the chance to come out.

Life and living is in Him and in no other!  And then God works His awesome wonder through angels in the form of human beings, hence why it is important we stay connected and not isolate ourselves when grieving.

 

If you’d like to chat to someone about your loss, please email hello@lettersofhope and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

 

Stay strong x

 

(Image courtesy of Timothy Eberley on Unsplash)

4 Special Ways of Celebrating the Memory of your loved one

So last week, on the anniversary of my mum’s death, I spent the evening with one of my sisters and her family, enjoying a yummy bowl of puff-puff (A Nigerian snack similar to doughnut).

We looked through some old photographs and shared memories of both our mum and dad. It was a lovely time, just chilling and reminiscing.

We don’t do this every year, but every now and then, it’s nice to do something different to celebrate the memories of your loved ones.

Here are some suggestions of what you could do on this special day:

  • Have a Party – Most people love a good party. You don’t need to do anything elaborate, simply invite your close friends and family members.  When my dad passed on, my mum would celebrate his anniversary each year by having a time of prayer at home and cooking a special Nigerian delicacy, known as ‘akara’ (a dish made from peeled beans and fried in vegetable oil or palm oil). As well as treating our visitors to this meal, I had the pleasure of distributing to our neighbours. Most families would say a word of prayer for me as I went knocking on their doors to deliver this meal.

 

  • Photo Album/Book – This can either be an online album or a printed book to help share memories. The pictures are also helpful for starting a conversation about your loved one. When I think of my own family and that my children never got to meet their maternal grandparents, having an album would certainly help to talk about my parents in the future. Due to personal circumstances, I have limited pictures but I make the most of these. For example, on our mantle piece we have a picture of my mother-in-law and my mum, which will hopefully help them to make the link when the time is right.

 

  • Visit a memorable place – Every now and then, you could spend time in a place that brings back warm memories of your loved one. You may even choose to take some flowers to their graveside if this is possible.  My parents are buried in a different country to where I leave and nearly all my memories of them are in a different country, so this is not really an option for me, except when I visit my home country.

 

  • Sharing Stories – This is one of my favourite things to do. I love recalling past events with my older brother, we’d call each other up or send a message saying “oh do you remember when mum did this …”. We didn’t do this as much in the early years, perhaps because our grief was very ‘raw’, however as time went on and especially as we started our families, we felt more at ease recalling these memories, and I must confess they are heartwarming – very rarely have they made me sob.  The best part of sharing stories is that you can do this in the comfort of your home, over the phone, you don’t need to have a ‘pity party’ or make any travel arrangements.

 

How do you celebrate the memories of your loved ones? Do you have a special family ritual? There are no rules about how you do this, what is important is you do what is right for you!

Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

With Love,

Ope

When you don’t know what to say or do?

When someone close to us, for example, a friend, a relative, a work colleague or an acquaintance, lose a loved one through death, we are often lost for words. 

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say …

 

“I just don’t know what to say”… so guess what they do, they stay away. They avoid their grieving friend, for fear of saying the ‘wrong’ thing or causing them to breakdown in tears. 

What I know from personal experience is – what you do is often more important than what you say. 

Here are 5 simple things you can do to support a grieving friend/colleague/relative:  

  1. Do call them if you can, you’d be surprised that they may end up doing more talking than you. Sometimes a grieving person just needs someone to listen.
  2. Send a text message if you can’t call or you’re not sure how to handle the silence or emotions over the phone.
  3. Just show up and give them a warm hug. Nobody refuses a hug at such difficult times. Sometimes your physical touch can be more consoling than any words you utter. 
  4. Show up bearing gifts. If the person lives alone and you’re close by, I strongly recommend checking on them every now and then. 
  5. Send a card that captures your heart and/or a gift of hope.

You can order a Hope Box from www.lettersofhope.org.uk, or send an email to hello@lettersofhope.org.uk for a bespoke gift package.

All our gift-boxes include a sympathy/encouragement card, with the option of including your personalized message.

*Follow Letters of Hope Instagram account or  Facebook page where I’ll be sharing next week, 5 text messages of sympathy you can send to a grieving friend.*

 

{Image courtesy of Unsplash}

Inspiration from ‘Diana Our Mother’

Last night, after I finally got both kids to bed AND asleep, I caught up with the ITV documentary –#DianaOurMother
(Still available on ITV player for those in the U.K if interested)

 

The first thing that caught my attention, was the lovely happy memories the Princes have of their mum!
I was inspired to create happy memories for my own children to look back on, in years to come. It’s so easy to get caught up with household tasks, 9-5 responsibilities, mission work, and not actually spend quality time having FUN with the children God has gifted us with.

 

One of my favourite moments watching the documentary, was when Prince William said ” I give thanks that I was lucky enough to be her son and know her for the 15 years that I did,” he continues. “She set us up really well. She gave us the right tools, and has prepared us well for life not obviously knowing what was going to happen.”  That is so true of my own mum too, very grateful to God for bringing me forth into this world through a very special woman!

 

I admire Prince William’s attitude of gratitude even whilst still grieving the loss of his mum.

In ALL things let’s remember to give thanks 🙏

#BeEncouraged
#KeepMemoriesAlive
#Inspirationalstories
#StoriesofHope
#attitudeofgratitude
#intentionalparenting

Abiodun’s Story of Hope

Hello there,

Hope you’re having an amazing week and if not, I pray things turn around for your good.

I got an email recently from DaySpring, asking me to ‘help others by sharing my experience’. What they meant was for me to write a review of my purchase, to help other potential customers with their decision making.

That email was a reminder of my promise to share stories of those who have experienced bereavement and how they are coping with their loss.  As I have mentioned in the past, you don’t ever get over your loss, at least that’s my personal experience after 20 years.  However, you find ways of coping with missing your loved ones.  One of such ways is by connecting with people on a similar journey, once you realize that you’re not alone, that the pain and grief you experience is not unique to your situation, it makes each day a little easier.

One of my desires for this platform is to share not just my own experience, but the experience of many others who have lost people very dear to them.  This month, another friend of mine, Abiodun Deinkoru, has kindly offered to encourage others through her own ‘Story of Hope’.

Happy Reading and #BeEncouraged!

 

 

 

♥ Please tell us about yourself, the person you lost, your relationship with them?

My name is Abiodun Deinkoru nee Olaboyin. I lost my dad about a month after I clocked 9 years. My father was a strict dad, a disciplinarian but very nice and deeply committed to his family both immediate and extended. As young as I was when he died, I could remember we were very close. He would help with my homework and made sure my needs were met .

 

♥ Describe how you felt in the early stages of grief and in subsequent weeks, months, perhaps years?

In the early stage, though I cried like others, I didn’t quite understand what was going on. However, I became very sad and withdrawn in my teen years. I guess the sadness was because we lacked a lot. Life was difficult at home. The resources were scarce and my mum was just a hustler. I believe that death altered my personality also. I that was once very expressive became quiet . I think it became worse because I had to go live outside my comfort zone with my aunt and later my big cousin.
♥ What was your greatest or most helpful resource in getting through the tough days and/or nights?
May be things would have gotten worse if I wasn’t introduced to Jesus .  Thank God for the comfort I experienced in him. My favourite verses then were in Psalm 68.
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
O God, when You went out before Your people, When You marched through the wilderness, Selah You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, Whereby You confirmed Your inheritance, When it was weary.
Ps 68:5‭-‬7‭, ‬9 NKJV.
That Scripture comforted and encouraged me through the years
 ♥ Do you still have tough days/nights now and how do you get through these?
Hardly in recent times. I believe God has been good to me despite what happened. I used to wish my life was all a dream especially in my teens and I would just wake up to that time before my dad died. I don’t wish for that anymore. I do not want to wake up to life when I was 9 years old.
♥ If you could leave an encouraging message for someone who has just recently lost a loved one, what would that be?
Trust in God. God makes a lot of difference. You may not understand why but trust God to bring beauty out of ashes. Time doesn’t heal wounds but positive actions in the right directions do. Good support system. Faith in God.

 

If you’d like to support and encourage others by sharing your own Story of Hope, please send an email to hello@lettersofhope.org.uk and we’ll follow-up within 48 hours.

Thank you

Get Your Praise On!

 

“What the Lord has done for me, I cannot tell it ALL”

Aside from saving and redeeming my soul, I am grateful for the countless blessings in my life, for His unmerited favour over my me, my immediate family and extended family.

God has been so good to me and I love to shout about it!

Having recently completed the #HallelujahChallenge – first I am thankful for the lady who drew my attention to this challenge, I was on a break from social media at the time but knew I couldn’t miss this for anything – for my God has been too good to me and I also know that when praises go up, blessings will surely rain ☔️ down on us 🙏🙏

Thank you Father, for doors of opportunities that have started to open, for your supernatural provision, for your grace, for your joy that strengthens me, for anointing to fulfill Kingdom assignments.

I declare that I will do with ease what God has planned for me, including ‘Letters of Hope’ in Jesus name … 🙏 (Amen)

Whether you’ve been part of the #hallelujahchallenge or not, this week I encourage you to start with an attitude of gratitude – get your praise on.

Thank God for the blessings you see, Thank Him for prayers yet to be answered, Thank Him for He is Sovereign, Thank Him for ALL power belongs to Him in heaven and the earth.

Thank Him for the gift of life! Only the living can praise Him, infact in the past week, I know of two people who have completed their journey on earth. Whilst you’re still here, praise Him!

If you struggle to get the words out of your mouth, I encourage you to:

  • Simply listen to Praise and Worship songs, Listen to Hymns and meditate on the lyrics. He will fill you up with strength and courage 
  • Write your praise down in a journal/notebook. (If you’d like a copy of LOH journal, visit our estore @ www.lettersofhope.org.uk)
  • Recognize and celebrate the free gifts all around you that bring you joy. We take so much for granted, for example – the glorious sunrises and sunsets. Just last week, I had been planning to wash my car (just the outside), but I had struggled to find the time amidst other balls I was juggling, when I woke up to find out it had rained and my car was looking much cleaner – I said a small prayer of thanksgiving.  Jot down these little things you’re grateful for, one at a time on a piece of paper and store up in an empty jar. 
  • Still struggling….. say this out loud a few times …. “God is good, He has done me well, He will do me well. My soul – rise up and praise the Lord”

Do what you can to get your praise on this week!

#BeEncouraged

5 Practical Ways To Support A Grieving Child

As we approach Father’s Day, I thought to share some practical ways which can make a real difference in supporting bereaved children, specifically fatherless children in your circles.

Growing up in a culture that often avoids talking about grief and tends to disregard the need for a counselor.  These are some of the practical ways I found most helpful as a teenager and also with the children I have worked with:

 

  • Make time to listen and talkIt’s important  to recognize that children also grieve.  Children and teenagers are often neglected when it comes to dealing with grief.  We assume they will be fine. That elephant in the room must be addressed.  Everyone has different coping mechanism but it is important not to shy away from the topic unless the child has specifically requested not to talk about it.  This is usually because they may be processing all the emotions  they’re experiencing internally and may not be ready to deal with them just yet.

 

  • Show that you care.  I love this quote “People who care, use words to express. People who care more, use their actions”. You can show you care by spending quality time with the bereaved child.  Depending on their personality, likes and dislikes, you can choose an activity they’re likely to enjoy.  Perhaps an activity they shared with their loved one before they passed away.  It could be a sport activity, watching a movie, visiting a museum or just sitting on a couch and chatting.

 

  • Write them an encouraging note. A short hand-written note to uplift them.  This could even be a poem, or a prayer.  It could be in the form of a letter to your younger self. I’ve always found hand-written notes very heart warming and a reminder that someone cares about my well-being.

 

  • Connect them with a mentor (or professional counsellor) – Someone who can help them open up to their fears and challenges.

 

  • Get them a copy of ‘Encouragement for the Bereaved Child’ book and the accompanying Letters of Hope Journal. (Click here)

 

This is a non-exhaustive list, and you will find the most effective approach by spending time with the child. What works well in one season may not be as helpful in another season, depending on what else is going in the child’s life and the intensity of their grief.

Question: Have you experienced bereavement yourself? Either as a child or a young adult…what support did you find most helpful, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Introducing Stories of Hope……

Hello there,

Happy New Week…Hope you’ve had a great start to this brand new week…

As promised, this year I hope to share stories of those who have also experienced bereavement, especially loss of a parent, to help with your own journey of grief.

If you would like to share your own story of Hope to support and encourage others, please feel free to contact me by emailing hello@lettersofhope.org.uk.

This month, our very first ‘Story of Hope’ is by a lovely friend of mine Ifeoluwa Iyaniwura.

Happy Reading and #BeEncouraged!

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Please tell us about yourself, the person you lost, your relationship with them?

My name is Ifeoluwa Iyaniwura. I am a child of the Most high, a mum to two beautiful children, a student nurse and a blogger.

I lost my dad 6 years ago; he was my hero and my friend besides him being my dad. He was an incredible man. He taught me kindness, how to be a woman of integrity and I learned quite a lot of life lessons from him. Growing up was fun, he would prepare dinner – very delicious meals. Even as an adult he would still iron my clothes and help with tidying up my room. Aww I love my dad he was the best.

 

Describe how you felt in the early stages of grief and in subsequent weeks, months, perhaps years?

Before he died, the doctors told us he wasn’t going to come out of his sickness, so I kind of really mourned and told the doctors he was going to live. When he eventually died, I felt numb and empty for the first week. However, I had to pull myself together as I needed to be strong for my mum who was very much devastated.

The day he was buried it finally dawned on me that he was truly gone, I thought he was going to walk through the door and somebody would tell me he’s back. But he was buried, dead, gone. I wept like a child. Later that evening, I went back to his headstone and knelt down, I cried for an hour, felt some sort of relief and left.

I relocated to the UK few weeks after my dad was buried to start a new life with my husband who was very supportive and helped me to grieve, as I would cry months afterwards because I really did miss him. When I had my daughter a year later, they both share the same birth month, I wanted my Dad to call, so I could hear the giggle in his voice but that call never came.  These were the things we had talked about and he wasn’t here to see these things unfold.

 

What was your greatest or most helpful resource in getting through the tough days and/or nights?

The bible saw me through, I would go back to the word and read journals about how to deal with grief. I would lie on my face and worship, sing songs of worship.

 

Do you still have tough days/nights now and how do you get through these?

Yes, I still have tough days especially on his birthdays, the day he died and the month he was buried. He was born in September, he died in October, and was buried in November. The months follow each other and it just reminds of what happened, how the events unfolded.

I still find it difficult however, I just decide to remember the good times and hold on to those memories which do make smile. I also take solace in the fact that he died a Christian and I will surely see him again.

 

If you could leave an encouraging message for someone that has just recently lost a loved one, what would that be?

It’s hard losing a loved one, it hurts, but it gets better. Time is a beautiful healer, hold on to the beautiful memories, it helps on bad days as these memories will make you smile rather than cry. Yes, bad days will come but you can pen down your feelings, hold a journal, write down how much you miss them. Cry if you need to, it helps.

Don’t ever forget the fellowship of the Holy spirit, he is your biggest comforter.