(117) Hans … 20 years later

I hope I can provide a handle so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning whatever may be the cause.

Hans … 20 years later

20 years later? What happened in those 20 years? Most of the blogs I have written are about the period after the death of my daughter, Anne Birgit, in 2000 and of my wife, Mary-Anne, in 2011. Now I don’t want to write about that previous period. This time I want to share with you how I look at my life today … what I am going to do with the lessons I was allowed to learn during that period … how I want to proceed with my life … in a nutshell, how do I see the future today and am I happy with that now.

I hope I can provide a handle with this so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning … whatever the cause may be.

The way I look at it now

The way I look at it today, I am pretty happy with my life. Satisfied in the sense that I have learned to deal with my loss. The raw grief of the past has turned into the gentle pain of mourning. Both Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne are no longer in my mind every day … but we are connected from heart to heart in a different way. As if we know each other when we think about each other. And when a feeling of sadness comes up, it’s like they’re just sitting next to me.

However, there are still times I suddenly go back in time … when Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne were still alive. I still don’t understand how that can happen… maybe because of a smell, a colour, a voice, an image … but in those moments it’s like it’s all real again. Like the way you watch a movie … including all the emotions and feelings that were present at the time. It is true that these kinds of moments have become less frequent in recent years. But when it happens, it is still exactly as it used to be.

The way I look at it, there is immediately a positive thought for every negative thought. As if these are the two sides of the same coin. What strikes me is that in recent years that positive thought has come more often and is stronger than that negative one. That feeling … that positive feeling makes me a happy person. But I should remark that the joy in me goes much lighter and emotionally much deeper than before … more subdued.

I am very sure I would not have been on the path of life I’m walking now, if Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne would still be alive. Paradoxical as it may sound… on the one hand I would like to have both around me again… on the other hand the path I am on now gives me a fantastic but at the same time also an ambivalent feeling. Presumably that feeling will always stay that way.

What do I do with the lessons from that period

The biggest lesson from that period is that I’ve become an experience expert in dealing with loss and grief. People around me are amazed at this. Because for them dealing with loss and grief is about how you deal with it? Isn’t that completed? Time heals all wounds … right? Yes, you have lost a child… that’s like a rollercoaster … we know that. You have now finished your mourning? When I answer that it’s not about that at all, but that it is about guiding others in coping with their loss and their grief … they become silent … then they slowly start to understand. And at the same time, they also indicate that that would never be their choice. But that aside.

In my previous professional life in industry, organizational consultancy and IT, I have learned to look at processes … at people how they use those processes … how possibly could done this better, more convenient, more user-friendly. In this way, I’ve also observed those past 20 years at how I dealt with coping with my grief and my loss. I used that knowledge to write my blogs.

In the meantime, I have started the training “dealing with loss” at the Dutch organization “Land van Rouw.” The amazing thing about this is that the knowledge I have gained from my experience can often be found in the literature used in the course. Does that mean that my training is wasted energy and money? No, that’s not it! It gives me insight from different angles, perhaps other disciplines. With the help of that training, I can even become a professional experience expert, where I can combine theoretical and practical knowledge of others with that of my own.

How I look to the future now

As I look to the future, I envision a path where, in addition to completing training courses, I use my knowledge and experience to assist people in coping with their loss and their grief in the broadest sense. You also should imagine that people become aware that they are in a narcissistic relationship and that they eventually decide to do something about it… no matter how difficult that can be. Or, people who lose their jobs, are terminally ill, or divorce…

I don’t walk that path alone. Together with others I want to guide people with the aim that grief and loss in any form is the most normal thing in the world and that we can talk about it without taboo. I would love that.

As I now look to the future, I also see that I am also moving the common thread of groundbreaking work from my previous profession into this field. For now, I’m just translating it into the form of giving presentations about mourning and loss in any form, writing articles and writing books.

shutterstock_1029171697-resized

As I now look to the future, it will end for me eventually sooner than later … I am currently 72 years old. In the coming years I also want to enjoy myself and have fun. Somehow, I feel like I’m going to accomplish that. And what I would love is for others to continue my work in their own way.

In this blog I wanted to show how I eventually “can” deal with my loss and grief. Yes, “can” … because there are times when I can’t. It is what it is. I wanted to show you that it can be a long stretch, but in the end, there is light at the end of that process.

I hope I have been able to provide you with a handle so that you can also learn to deal with your loss and grief… whatever the cause may be.

(116) Narcistic relationships

Keep focus on yourself in a narcistic relation. Find you own empowerment again because then narcists loose their power and control.

Narcistic relationships

I got the question; how do you recognize a narcissist? That question is not so easy to answer, but I can describe the process, because how does a strong, independent woman who owns two companies end up in such a relationship?

How narcistic relationships start

Looking back, I can say that it starts with red roses, many conversations (this is the basis for the narcissist to get to know you well, to analyse your strengths and weaknesses, to absorb your fears and your wishes) . In the beginning you think that you have come to know someone who understands you, meets you and gives you exactly the things you were hoping for. They present themselves as what they have seen your need. Hence, trust is created.

How narcistic relationships further develop

In the next phase, this trust is exactly what they will abuse. Because in the first phase of the relationship they have built up a kind of “credit”, created a certain form of dependence (because they do everything for you). Without you noticing, the relationship will change. They are increasingly determining what the “rules” within the relationship are. How you want to dress, what you eat, who you interact with, etc. They are also very manipulative and jealous.

You will notice that the longer the relationship lasts, the more rules are created unnoticed and the smaller the circle around you becomes. This is very gradual, so in the beginning you don’t even notice that people are slowly disappearing from your life, you think contacts are watering down or just not working anymore.

What happened to me

In my case it became a problem at some point to meet with customers, because the jealousy was everywhere, and this obviously has major consequences for your companies. For me it started with a kind of emotional abuse. Your limits are being crossed little by little … and from that point onward it goes further and further downhill. Because I remember the first time, I got it into my head to go against it … that was punished because he literally flew at me and pulled the hair out of my head … totally unexpected and out of nowhere. Then I hear people think, dear, why don’t you immediately leave such a person? But no, you don’t. Because fifteen minutes later they are crying in front of you, they also didn’t understand what happened … so bad … come on, we go out to dinner, I want to make it up to you. Despite the fright, you put the incident aside. Until the next one, a few months later … just when you think it was a real one-off and a little bit of confidence started building again … the next outburst comes.

What people around me only saw

The difficulty with narcissists is that they will never do this in front of other people. So, to the outside world they only see a partner who has always everything for you. Not the manipulative, jealous, controlling demon that the person really is. It’s getting worse and worse … and the abuses are also getting worse. In my case, one day I felt such a strong sense of “I don’t want to grow old this way” that I found the strength to confront and break the relationship.

Terminating a relationship with a narcissist is easier said than done. Because you are now (almost) completely isolated from your environment, so you can’t count on support from your environment. And the people who are left after such a relationship don’t believe you. They only see you upset and the narcissist always loving and helpful, so it will be up to you. Because yes, if you react angry, sad and frustrated if someone always does everything for you, then it’s your fault.

Braking narcistic relationships is difficult … but not impossible
Lonelyness within a narcistic relationship
Lonelyness

The problem is that narcissists have an incredibly large ego. Hence, it is unthinkable for them for you to leave them. After the relationship was over, it still took me 7 months before it was really over. They really come up with everything to keep control over you and fuel your fear (which you have already built up). You must be damn strong in your shoes to push through, but it’s worth it! In my case it went so far that he was inside my house with the keys he had made, when after a night out I came home with a girlfriend (after 6 months apart) I found him sleeping in my bed … you don’t feel safe anymore. With me it finally escalated so much that the last time he was in my house, I became so terribly angry that he was literally knocking on me with his fists … I couldn’t go outside for a week and as a result I’ve a hearing damage. The only advantage of that last experience was that the abuse was now visible to the environment, because my whole face was bright and blue. This was the moment where I finally received help and support from my environment. So, 7 months after the relationship ended, it was finally over.

Therefore, I understand women who are in a toxic relationship. I understand the fear of leaving such a person, because it has consequences because they simply don’t accept it. Narcissists don’t think like healthy people and are just not susceptible to reason.

What I hope to accomplish with this post

I write this because I hope that my example, my story, gives other women the strength to choose for themselves. Because yes, even though it is a long way to break free from such a person, even if it has very unpleasant consequences, everything is better than the alternative. That is, stay with such a person and terrorize your life.

I hope that all women who find themselves in such a situation find the strength to choose for themselves. When you find your own power, they lose power and control over you and your life. Keep your focus on your ultimate goal: choosing for your happiness and your life, although it is something that is only rewarded in the long term.

You are worthy to be happy!!

(115) Thriving after narcistic abuse

A narcissistic parent is the perfect parent for the outside world. The reality is that when no one is there, there is only criticism … of who you are, what you do or don’t do. No opportunity is wasted to belittle you, humiliate you and make you feel guilty.

I grew up in a situation where one parent was not there since I was six (after my parents’ divorce) and that parent died when I was sixteen. The other parent is what they call narcissistic. I think the consequences of this are enormously underestimated.

To the outside world a narcissistic parent is the perfect parent. You will always be well dressed, well cared for, nice family outings and in company you will always be treated “lovingly”.

Narcissists are master of hiding the other side. The reality is that when no one is there, there is only criticism. On whom you are, what you do (or don’t do). They leave no opportunity to degrade you, humiliate you and make you feel guilty (because it is always up to you). To the point where your self-confidence and self-image are still a shadow of the person you really are. And this has serious consequences for the following years. After all, you are used to seeing it as ‘normal’ that you are treated that way, so that you also attract partners in your life who exhibit the same behaviour.

You have been taught that you are worthless, so that you unconsciously attract the people in your life who confirm this. In my life it has resulted in relationships full of abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse, physical abuse, etc. These are relationships in which you are completely isolated, because the moment people in your environment counterbalance, they lose control over you and that is of course not the intention …

Narcissists want control over your thinking, your feeling and being complete. They want to determine how you live and have the gift to achieve this very gradually. Because the moment you resist, you immediately bear the consequences, so you are adjusting more and more to the wishes of the narcissist, after all you really want to keep the peace. You get further and further away from yourself, until a moment comes when you literally hit the bottom.

In my case apparently, that was necessary. Because it wasn’t until that moment only that I realized that I no longer knew who I was, what I liked. All I knew was that I wanted to break through the negative spiral of agony, sadness and continuously being hurt. But how do you do so after so many years of living in pain and always walking on your toes? I got a burnout and afterwards that’s probably the best thing that happened to me.

I chose to withdraw completely, to break the contact and to unwind. My starting point during that period was my work, because business contacts went well for me … these didn’t affect me on a personal level. It’s been quite a process, slowly building energy again from the pleasure in my work and, there was opportunity to remember who I am, what I like and what makes me happy. And from that peace, that basic point in which I found a hold, I very slowly re-discovered myself again.

To the outside world a narcissistic parent is the perfect parent.  The reality is that they leave no opportunity to degrade or humiliate you.

And then finally growth starts. Because you slowly start to feel better, you’re also willing to go on a personal level to gently admit people who do see you for who you are and what you are worth.

It is the first step upward, to rebuilding your confidence and restoring your self-image. And when you see who you are again, you break the circle. Because that’s the moment when you’re going to choose relationships in your life (in all areas) that positively contribute to your well-being and happiness.

(110) Don’t leave me alone

Two people who each have their own point of view, their own opinion and no matter how you look at it, both are right. That is allowed and there is nothing wrong with that. But when with one of the two violent emotions play a major role, like sadness, fear or pain, then it’s important that both are willing to understand the other’s point of view. Understanding, so that the bond between the two is not severed but strengthened!

Introduction

The current blog, “don’t leave me alone,” is about two people with the fictitious names Kathy and Tanya. Both have a different even opposite view of the same situation. That is possible and should be okay. But when intense emotions play a major role at Kathy … then it is important that both can talk to each other … and … can understand each other’s opinion. “And then what,” you may think. “Can’t you have a difference of opinion?” Yes, you can. But it becomes a different story when intense grief or a serious illness play a role with Kathy. Relationships can sever or even end; as with Kathy who is afraid of being left alone. Whatever you think, it happens in daily life and it “hurts people.” Nobody wants that, right?

Kathy

Kathy has no shortage of friends and, just like my daughter Anne Birgit, she’s a beautiful young woman. However, on the outside, you can’t see she’s seriously ill. And Kathy too had to cope with the necessary blows in her life with the result that the brilliant light she really is, rarely comes out.

Kathy has undergone a whole range of chemo treatments and radiation treatments. During the last consultation with the specialist, he indicated that the treatments will continue to work in her body for months before something can be said about the result.

It is already the second time for Kathy in her life that she has undergone such a series of treatments. She can still clearly remember the first series. How relieved and happy she was after she was told that she was free of tumours … that she could celebrate life again.

The results of the second series will take months to come. Until then, Kathy is not really in a party mood, let alone to celebrate life because the treatments have been completed. She can still remember the enormous disappointment and especially her anger when the tumours returned for the second time. Until then, Kathy is full of hope that the treatments have achieved the intended effect. On the other hand, she is so afraid of being disappointed again because she realizes what that will mean for her sooner rather than later.

Tanya

Like Kathy, Tanya is a beautiful young woman who is full of energy and who is always ready to throw a party as soon as there is anything to celebrate.

Tanya also had the necessary setbacks in her life … yes, who didn’t. But when you don’t know it or don’t look deep into her eyes, everything indicates that life seems to be one big party for Tanya, and she enjoys it to the fullest.

Tanya and Kathy are close friends. The treatments Kathy had to undergo for almost a year took a great toll. She was more often in bed than not and too tired to do anything. Tanya made sure that at least Kathy was eating … that is if she could keep in that little bit, she was able to eat … and … take care of herself.

When Kathy returned after all those intense treatments from the last consultation, it was just natural for Tanya that this should be celebrated. That’s what you do … it makes sense … you have completed a phase … you can go on with life, right?

Don’t leave me alone

Kathy had a different opinion. She still remembered the conversation with the specialist, the uncertainties expressed in it and Kathy also remembered the result of that first series of treatments. The enormous relief and joy she felt at the time when they told her that she was free of cancer, and a few years later the intense sadness, the anger and the fear that the tumours had returned. Now Kathy is afraid, so afraid of being disappointed again.

“What do you mean, party? There’s nothing to celebrate” Kathy says to Tanya who doesn’t agree with her. For Tanya there definitely something is to celebrate. The treatments are completed, aren’t they? And with this difference in thinking … this difference in opinion … a difference in point of view that is so logical and obvious for each of them … that it’s impossible for them to understand each other’s point of view.

don't leave me alone, sad, afraid, disappointed
Don’t leave me alone!

And at this point the relationship between Tanya and Kathy starts to wane and Kathy’s cry for help, “don’t leave me alone,” becomes a reality eventually.

But on the other hand, maybe Kathy’s fear has made Tanya as frightened as she is. Or … there is something that Tanya has been touched by or afraid of … which dilutes the relationship. Or … maybe … yes, you can think of and accept anything, but it’s not something you can get along with it.

How to proceed from here

For me it is crystal clear that Kathy and Tanya should discuss this with each other … and … keep talking to each other so Kathy doesn’t feel left alone. Yes, it’s clear to me, but do they think so too?

In my opinion, it is necessary that Kathy and Tanya sit together at the table and each tells her story about … what is felt … missed … should be celebrated … or not … or what they might be even afraid of.

It would also be beneficial to do this together with a “mediator” so that, in addition to helping in expressing each other’s words to the other, at the same time he or she can foster the understanding that both look at the same situation in their own unique way.

Both have a point, but it is important that they can understand each other’s point of view … so that the relationship between Kathy and Tanya does not gets diluted … but instead … becomes stronger.

Conclusion

It’s my experience that people start from their own opinion, or their own view they have of the another. That’s obvious, you might think, but in my opinion, it will be something completely different when that image is based on a series of assumptions. The reality regarding others is usually different and much more complex than we initially thought or assumed. That is why it is wise to keep talking to them in order to get a better understanding for each other. The same applies to people we think we know very well or for a long time.

You could also assume that everyone is correct. To illustrate this, imagine you are standing in a mountain landscape. The image that you see is determined from where you look at it. When you let everyone tell you what that landscape looks like, you will hear different stories depending on where these people were standing … in that same landscape.

In communicating with the other person, it is important that we are prepared to adjust our own opinions about the other person if that should prove so during the conversation. And there is often another bottleneck because not everyone can just do this or want to do this.

Epilogue

The core of the case used in “don’t leave me alone” is not unique. There are countless examples in which communication between people is the cause that they do not understand each other … with all possible consequences … like the one in “Farewell“.

Like in the used case of this blog in which two people each have their own point of view or their own opinion. No matter how you look at it, both are correct. That is allowed and there is nothing wrong with that. But when one of the two experiences violent emotions, such as sadness, fear or pain, then it is important that everyone can understand the other’s point of view, so that one of them doesn’t feel left alone in the end!

(108) An overwhelming loss

An overwhelming loss just happened to you. At that moment you are in deep pain and don’t know what to do, but in the end, you get it resolved somehow. Be aware that it can often be a long and arduous journey, a journey in the unknown, with love and joy at the end of that journey. However, never again it will be the same as before … there will always be some pain left.

Suddenly there it was … an overwhelming loss

Recently you suffered an overwhelming loss that has a huge impact on you. It seems as if you have fallen into a deep hole, that your world stopped turning, that you are so stunned you don’t know what to do anymore.

Preferably you would want to put the clock back to the time, which might not be perfect, but in which you were happy. To the time you had the job of your life and didn’t realize that the company you worked for would eventually go bankrupt. Or perhaps to the time when that loved one was with you, who was always there for you, who always supported you, and gave you courage, who was the one your world revolved around, but who is deceased now. Or maybe to the time when you felt good and healthy and had no suspicion that you were seriously ill. After many intensive treatments the doctor informed you eventually that there wasn’t any other existing follow-up or trial treatment available for you to help.

An overwhelming loss results into grief and mourning.

The enormous emotional impact of the loss can raise questions like “does my life still makes sense” or “how do I proceed with my life from here” or “what is (still) the purpose of my life?” These questions will certainly not reduce the impact of the loss, on the contrary.

Your overwhelming loss and the ensuing grief and mourning can also be intensified by the opinions and attitudes of the people around you. People who, like you, are involved with the same loss but are trying to process this in a different way within their own realities. People who may not realize that everyone is mourning in their own way.

They are custom examples, or so you wish cases, which have happened to me and my family. When you happen to recognize yourself in one of these, I hope that this blog can help you.

It starts with the acceptance that what happened … did happen

Mourning or processing grief is a process that lasts as long as it takes, and which runs differently for everyone. Before the process of mourning can begin, however, you first must be able to acknowledge that this great loss that has happened is irreversible. That you accept that there is no way back because the company for which you worked is bankrupt or … that your loved one has died or … that your illness is terminal … and that what others think of your loss and your mourning is rather a mirror for themselves than that you have to do something with that.

Your acceptance of your loss does not mean that the processing of your grief is going “smoothly.” There may be times when at one point it seems you have accepted your loss while at a different moment it seems that it is not nearly the case. You may not even be aware of that but changing the acceptance of your loss from one moment to the next may generate the necessary additional emotions in you. Emotions that can translate into reactions in your body and also in your behaviour towards others. The same applies to the people in your immediate environment who are processing their grief too. It does not make it any easier.

And that was just the beginning. Yes, mourning requires a lot of energy. Jung said it back then, mourning, or processing your grief, is hard work.

Then come the questions, the life questions, on which answers are needed

Answers to life questions such as “does my life still make sense” or “how do I continue with my life” or “what is the purpose of my life” help in accepting the reality of the loss. In my blog I cannot give answers to such questions because the answers are influenced by who you are, by your background and culture, and how you were formed during your life.

“Mmmmm …” I can hear you think … “but how can I, as a reader, get answers to these, although basic, but for me personally … important questions?”

In my opinion, it is important that you do not end up in a negative energy spiral, because the longer it takes the harder it will be to reverse it again. But not everyone recognizes or acknowledges that to themselves.

It is also important to adopt a positive attitude, so that problems become opportunities, lessons become obstacles, and your worries are just a part of your life.

My point of view is also that people can change … you too can change … using your heart and all the unconditional love that is available in our universe.

Easy to say but doing and continuing to do so is quite something else. It takes a lot of energy and above all perseverance. But not everyone is willing to devote that.

How do you tackle that … dealing with loss?

It reliefs when you are distracted from that overwhelming loss. For example, you have children who need your care, time and attention. Or you have people in your immediate environment who depend on your help. Or you have a job. But not everyone has that.

It is easier when you do away old things. When you are open to other ideas, other signals, other observations. But not everyone can do that.

It reliefs when you start recognizing that your fear has to do with your thoughts that tell you that something is not possible, but that when you can think in opportunities and challenges you can develop further and create new opportunities. But not everyone wants that.

It helps when you dare to leave the trodden path, and while you struggle over the path that is unknown to you, you eventually discover a new path with new and more possibilities than you ever were able to dream about. Opportunities that become a new reality for you. But not everyone dares.

It reliefs when you ignore what others think you should do, but that you listen to what your heart tells you … that you listen to your feelings. But not everyone has the courage to do so.

A perspective…

To provide you with some support while processing an overwhelming loss, I can offer you some perspectives from my own experience.

When you at length go through your mourning with falling and getting up again, you discover at a certain moment that the raw grief you experienced in the beginning has changed into the soft pain of sorrow. That the pain has become a viable and essential part of you … it has made you who you are at that moment.

It may even be the case that you have changed so much that people around you wonder how that happened, while you wonder why you did not start the activities you are currently engaged in much earlier in your life.

In retrospect, you may consider that the great loss you have experienced was necessary to put you on the path of life you are currently walking on … that you can be proud of yourself on who you have become … on what you do now in and with your life. What another thinks of that is like a mirror for the other and not relevant to you.

In retrospect you may still vaguely remember any negative aspects and moments before and during that great grief, but later you remember mostly the beautiful things in your life. It gives freedom in your head, in your mind … it relieves.

Looking back in time…

An overwhelming loss just happened to you. At that moment you are in deep pain and don’t know what to do, but in the end, you get it resolved somehow. Be aware that it can often be a long and arduous journey, a journey in the unknown, with love and joy at the end of that journey. However, never again it will be the same as before … there will always be some pain left.

For that job of your life you’ve lost, eventually another occupation came in its place that gives much more satisfaction. For the loved one you lost and of whom you are missing the intimacy from human to human … maybe it even still hurts deeply … you are somehow still connected with the other from heart to heart. And because of that (terminal) disease you eventually learned to live and enjoy moment by moment.

Dear reader, I have learned to approach life in a positive way. That did not happen by itself. Two intense mourning processes contributed to this. It was hard work and there were times when I no longer knew how to continue in life or how I could find the answers to my life’s questions. But when someone asks me now, “if you would have the choice with the knowledge you possess now, to completely relive your life? What is your answer?” then I would answer wholeheartedly with … Yes!

I hope this blog is useful in helping you while processing your grief.