(9) Painting The Landscape Of Grief

Let’s try to start “painting” the landscape of grief today. Not in black and white only but, in the full spectrum of colors we observe. We can see and interpret colors in various ways. Rationally, when we talk about the colors themselves e.g. blue, red or green. Emotially, when we say that a color is warm, cold, dull or merry.

An introduction

Let’s try to start “painting” the landscape of grief today. Not in black and white only but, in the full spectrum of colors we observe.

We can see and interpret colors in various ways. Rationally, when we talk about the colors themselves e.g. blue, red or green. Emotially, when we say that a color is warm, cold, dull or merry.

Grief

The concept of “grief” has a wide range of interpretations. Those interpretations though, may vary from culture to culture or from language to langue. For this blog I will use the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary” where grief is defined as a “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement” but, also as “an unfortunate outcome”. In other words the concept of “grief” varies from the loss of simple addressable items such as the loss of a necklace up to the loss of the person who is most dear to you.

When you are acquainted with someone you like you become related to each other, you get a bond with each other. Overtime the bond gets stronger as more and more facets (or colors) introduce themselves in the relationship.

The bond is broken by the loss of your dearest. It is not only the loss of the person but also missing the hug in the morning, the happiness and love you received, or simple things as a cup of coffee that was ready for you when you arrived at home. And then suddenly there is nobody standing next to you and you have to do everything yourself. All those things cannot be replaced because nobody means to you what the other meant to you, the one you lost. And then there are the things that remain which will deepen the loss of your dearest. The strength of that special bond also relates to the level you was dependent from the other. The greater the strength of the bond the more difficult it will be and the longer it takes to get “free” from it.

When “grief” is related to an “unfortunate outcome” then there will be the emotion of the loss but it won’t go as deep as with the loss of your dearest. You can address this emotion much easier and you are much more able to find a rational cause and resolution for your loss. The 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) from Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model will be dealt with in a (very) short time. Often we even do not realize we are going through a process of grieving.

The two sides of a coin

Personally the concepts of emotion and ratio form the two sides of a coin. When I observe myself I can see two things all the time. I see an emotional side that is busy processing grief as a result of the loss of my two loved ones. I miss the conversations, their love, the hugs, the jokes, and the “I love you” we said to each other regularly every day. We not only told this each other, is was the way we lived. My emotional side looks inward, feels all those emotions that are dealing with my loss and my grief and follows the heart. Despite the loss my emotional side is essentially warm, cheerful and full of love and the decisions it takes are through the heart.

I also see an observer, my rational me, which not only observes but also protects my emotional side. It also observes my friends, the people who support me, the people I meet and the world in which I live. My rational side is cold, bleak and mainly business like; decisions are motivated by the brains. My rational side would love to be more friendly but doesn’t understand how to do this.

It’s not always easy to live simultaneously with both my emotional and rational sides. Sometimes the emotional side has the upper hand, sometimes the rational one. In retrospect, I think my rational side is protecting my emotional one from going down in grief. I am not sure, but I suspect that the time I need for the processing of my grief this way will take a bit longer. But, I have to admit that the days that I am happy and sad at the same time, when I am in harmony, are in most cases my best days. It’s who I am.

Bizarre … happy and sad at the same time. Once I realized this it turned out that it happened much more often in my life. The loss of a job because the company I worked for went bankrupt, but also the joy of a new job. It had to be that way when I discovered in retrospect that I should have taken the new job much earlier. My daughter who, when she realized she was going to die, was sad because she would leave us, but at the same time she was happy because she finally got rid of a disease where she had suffered from all her life.

Happy and sad at the same time, it’s more common than you think and I assume most of us recognize this. By this simultaneity we can, despite the loss, change the cold and bleak colors of sorrow into warm and merry colors.

The start of processing grief

The processing of grief starts as soon as you realize this. Someone who is ill gets sicker and sicker and eventually realizes that the disease affects her/his life. A relationship between partners is getting worse and worse and eventually both realize it ends with a divorce. An adopted child is searching for its biological parents but realizes they can’t be found anymore.

The processing of grief doesn’t start when the loss happens but it starts as soon as you realize this, which can take days, weeks, months, even years. My processing of grief for the loss of my daughter started 13 years after her death, and at that same time started the processing of my grief for the loss of my wife who deceased 2½ years earlier and also at that same time a new phase in my life began. It was the beginning of one of the roughest and most stormy periods in my life that I wish on anyone.

But I know one thing for sure. My rational side protects my emotional side so it can continue to work on the processing of my grief. The friends around me who are listening to me all the time are helping in the way they can. I know it for sure, I will come out OK.

To be continued.
[signoff]

(6) Mourning … Why Don’t We See It Brighter?

Life is made up of opposites and we are always looking for a balance. Everything in life should be in balance. No ugliness without beauty. No evil without good. No profit without loss . No darkness without light. No past without future. No happiness without grief . No hate without love. These are all examples of a opposites that are balanced, you also could interpret these as the two sides of a coin. One side doesn’t exist without the other.

Life is made up of opposites and we are always looking for a balance. Everything in life should be in balance. No ugliness without beauty. No evil without good. No profit without loss . No darkness without light. No past without future. No happiness without grief . No hate without love. These are all examples of opposites that are balanced, you also could interpret these as the two sides of a coin. One side doesn’t exist without the other.

Then why do most of us at the loss of a loved one go so deep in mourning? Why would you not be happy and proud that you both were allowed to walk jointly a part of your life paths? Why would you not be pleased that you have enjoyed with each other? Why would you not be pleased with everything you may have learned from each other? It’s just not fair to the other, there is so much to share. It is also not fair to yourself that you are not aware of or do not remind the beautiful things you have shared or were allowed to do for each other. On top of that, there remains of course the physical loss of a loved one, the proximity, the loving attention to each other, no longer being able to see or touch someone who was close to you, to get used to the fact that you now have to do everything yourself .

When I look back in my life to my two buddies that I lost then I can’t perceive so well anymore the negative things and the sadness. The positive things and beautiful things are very relevant and very bright in my memory. That realization did not only clear my head but also gave me much joy. It made me able to look ahead, to look forward to the future.

Life is like driving a car. You look through the windshield at what is on your way and at what that is coming at you and you also look regularly through your rear view mirror to see what is behind you and to determine whether that may have an impact on your path. Although you are regularly looking backward when driving the car, you don’t do this continuously.

Hence, when driving a car you are typically looking ahead, i.e. most of the time. When that is not the case and you are only looking through your rear view mirror, while drivingforwards, then accidents happen. The same is true for bereavement. So every now and then looking backward is good and even important you should not forget what happened there, though not all the time, not continuously.

When start looking at the future and see its possibilities and the opportunities that are there for you, then you don’t only help yourself but you also give the loved one who you left you a huge compliment. A compliment in terms a of thank you for all we have shared together and for everything we have enjoyed together. Thank you for what I have been able to learn from you. Thank you that you have kept me or brought me on my path of life. Thank you for the confidence in me that I now can continue on my path.

Unfortunately, your dearest has left you. The farewell was emotional. Looking back, you have enjoyed a lot of things and have learned a lot from each other. Please, as an ultimate thank you to your dearest, let all the lessons you have learned from each other not have been in vain.

In my humble opinion, this is what it’s all about. In my humble opinion this is true love and the meaning of life.
[signoff]

(5) Outside Your Comfort Zone

When travelling you meet a lot of people, many … many people. People with different shades of color, from different cultures, using different languages, from various ages and having different backgrounds and what they all have in common is that each of them is a beautiful person with a beautiful mind and with an interesting story of their life.

When travelling you meet a lot of people, many … many people. People with different shades of color, from different cultures, using different languages, from various ages and having different backgrounds and what they all have in common is that each of them is a beautiful person with a beautiful mind and with an interesting story of their life.

People have become important to me. I changed from steel and ships to people. I got used to people just started talking to me … even about personal things. Met once a woman with a child on a 9 hour flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam. They were sitting next to me. We started talking to each other. She talked about her life, her issues, her anxieties, her hopes and the fun she had in live. It took us over 7 hours. This was one the best flights I ever made in my life.

I have no idea how this works. Maybe I am open to others, or maybe it’s the chemistry between people or maybe I transmit a signal that says “Hey I’m here and am open to have a chat with you. Don’t mind the topic.” That some people are sensitive to this signal; a signal that is non-visible. None the less they seem to receive it. On the other hand I used to find that people could be afraid of me. I used to be above average in length and can easily fill out a door frame, so what could I expect.

The reverse “I don’t want talking to you” also occurs. I assume that people are much more sensitive for signals like those or they themselves want to be left alone, or don’t feel like talking, or don’t feel safe or … maybe it’s me and I’m just boring. In itself this is strange because with today’s technology (mobile, web, text) the whole world can be reached; at any time and any place you can reach any person in the world; maybe that is what people do because they don’t talk to each other but text to each other. Or is it because one feels much safer anonymously … or is it that they have something on their mind, … or is it they want to stay within their own comfort zone?

Yet, as soon as you touch base with young people, not only young people but with people from any age, from any religion, from any culture, or with aggressive people, or with weird people, and with weird I mean outside your comfort zone, and when you start talking and discussing with any of them a lot of beautiful things will happen.

We were on holiday and drove from Big Bend National Park to El Paso, Texas, US and were looking for a plaid and some leather articles made by local Indian people. We had received an address and we had a road map, but we lost our way completely. OK, that can happen but the area is huge and you hardly see people around the place. Eventually we ended up in an area where people at home would strongly advise you not to go there; however we did. We explained where came from, what we wanted and … that we were lost. Yeah they could see that. We started chatting, had some drinks, we stayed talking, we had fun, we enjoyed lunch and they gave us a very detailed explanation how to drive to the place where we wanted to go originally. Looking back, a place and people that we found really scary in the beginning, that day became one of the best experiences and one of the best days during our trip.

You probably started wondering what this post has to do with mourning and grief. Well, actually, it has a lot to do with mourning and grief.

In my previous post “It’s All About Ourselves, Isn’t It?” from October 20th I raised the question why we have a tendency to avoid the discussion about separation or death. My statement was at the end of the post that, whether we want it or not, as a result of a separation or a death we have to change and sometimes we have to change the hard way; most often a very emotional one. That is something we really don’t like and which is most of the time an understatement.

In my Dutch version of this blog a comment was given by somebody that it is in our human nature to live and that we do not want to be confronted with death. But death came very close to her when her husband died and when her life was threatened by a terminal decease. Imagine when she was confronted with death she started thinking about death and loss and she started to feel and understand what it means to be mortal. Her last sentences say it all “And I started to live! Really live!!”

In other words, come out of your comfort zone and try to learn and understand. Don’t be afraid and discover new possibilities and new horizons. Opportunities you couldn’t even imagine before. These don’t appear by themselves, you have to do something for it. Do you need to have guts for that? Maybe … but later on you will say “gosh, I wished I had done this earlier.”

Please talk to me. Do you recognize this? Or … do you have a different opinion?

Talk to me.
There are two ways you can “talk” to me. Thru “contact us”; in that case your response is not posted in the blog. Or via this post in which case your comment is posted and it is visible to everybody.

(3) Somebody I Met

She asked me about my children and my relationship. I told her about the loss of my two buddies. My daughter, when she was 21 years and my wife, my Soul Mate, after 35 years of marriage. She was shocked and she was deeply impressed. She wanted to understand how I dealt with a situation like that.

The restaurant I had chosen for dinner was full. There was a long waiting queue. That’s what you get when you don’t make a reservation. Anyway, there was one seat free at the bar and the waitress suggested to take that one. I was alone and the choice was easily made.

The free seat was sitting between a man and a woman. The man next to me was in a deep business conversation with his partner and nobody seemed to exist around them. The woman next to me turned out to be alone and was in deep thought. Eventually we started to talk. She was traveling on business and she missed her children. She told me that as a result of a car accident she had lost the love of her life years ago. She was still devastated. The relationship lasted about eighteen months. “Only eighteen months” she said.

She asked me about my children and my relationship. I told her about the loss of my two buddies. My daughter, when she was 21 years and my wife, my Soul Mate, after 35 years of marriage. She was shocked and she was deeply impressed. She wanted to understand how I dealt with a situation like that. What had happened to me was so much worse than in her case, she told me. She thought at that moment that she actually had no right to grief because the sadness of another was many times worse than hers.

She lost me for a moment. How can you even think like this? Finally I found the words. Mourning or grief is not a competition! One has not more or less grief than somebody else. It feels how it feels. It doesn’t matter how long it was ago and it doesn’t matter how long the duration of the relation was between them. Her sorrow was just as concrete and just as deep as mine. Who is the person that says there is a difference? There is no difference!

It doesn’t matter. Her sorrow was just as deep as mine. She felt a bit relieved, a bit happier. Her sorrow did not change but, more importantly it helped her to put things in a different perspective, to be able to talk about it and to share.