(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.

(107) Good Watch

This time a contribution from the district nursing services. No matter how professional the employees are towards their clients, it is and remains human work. This is most evident when the daily work extends to palliative care. Besides profession, emotions also come into play. After all, it is and remains work for people carried out by people and everything that comes with it. For all these employees it is nothing but praise from me!

And now follows Nella’s contribution… a contribution from a district nursing service, somewhere in The Netherlands.

“Good watch,” these were the words I have heard for years. During the night shift, after I gave you the care you needed.

The bond I had with you was special, our age difference of 40 years did nothing to that. You called me your friend. Not so much that I visited you outside my working hours … though. The many conversations about life itself, such as the struggle you wanted to continue to work as a highly educated woman at the time when you were married and had children. That was very unusual at the time and took a lot of struggle. But you persisted and never gave up on what you believed. Those were the powerful stories. Keep developing yourself, don’t stand still, because that was decline by definition. Being and staying independent as a woman, leading your own … That was one of the many stories and lessons and learning moments about life itself. Also, the love for your deceased husband, who supported you in those years of struggle to follow your own path as a woman. The many grateful moments with your husband, children and grandchildren together. The visits of your children, who came frequently and the grandchildren you called gifts.

It is May 4, 2019, commemoration day of the dead. Your health deteriorates very quickly when I arrive around midnight as usual. As always, the TV is on, but not now with the news sections, but the Second World War is proceeding. The bombs and all that goes with it, illuminates and engulfs your living room with sound, from a TV screen that is currently far too large. I can see that the WWII is not only on TV but also in you. With a somewhat tearful face, which I have rarely seen in all those 7 years with you, you tell me that I may go and that if it suits me, I may return later in the night or even in the morning. Your voice trembles. My doubt about leaving is great, but because you say it so emphatically and you don’t like fuss, I am starting off in the first place. But before I go out through the door, I walk back and ask, “Can I watch with you so that we are together …” “If you want it so much” and “Do you have time for that?” you asked in a snappy voice to me. For some situations I like to make time free. I know you and understand that you quickly perceive it as pity or too much involvement. I need to phrase it gently. The thought alone. That you would need someone, or that you would feel sorry. That did not suit you at all and straightened your hair. I knew that. “I always come and sit next to you” was my answer, usually going through the day. “That was true,” you confirmed. The tone became much milder again. Once next to you, I felt the quivering in your hands, and as so often I grabbed them for a moment, just like now. Because your hands were shaking so, I enclosed them with my second hand. We watched the movie together without saying anything. Despite our very close relationship, I know that you absolutely do not want to talk about the war. That era is a closed book for you. Once the movie is over, I give you the care that we give you every night.

“Didn’t it bother you that you stayed?” was your question to me. “No, being together with you right now is so much more of significance to me.” “For me too,” you say. “You don’t know how much you mean to me, because I don’t actually say it so often. Rarely actually.” “You don’t have to. Some situations you can just feel the empathy,” was my answer. This is the essence of providing care. I have known that for a long time, but now I felt it so emphatically.

In the last week of your life, you become increasingly narrow, restless and anxious. I happen to have the night shift myself that week. I was with you during the many hours of fear and unrest. I asked the questions that always must be asked in situations like this. And what we talked about much earlier, when nothing was wrong. You wanted to die peacefully, preferably asleep. The conversations become more intense, your sensitivity and your soft side are showing much more, just like the satisfaction about a completed life. It was such a beautiful valuable time together in the last week. The cocktail of medication that someone receives when the person is severely oppressed or restless (at a certain stage) and wants to do so, as would have been the case with you that evening, is started. And, as promised, I will still take care of you.

The peak of our relationship and contact was reached for me, when your son called me and asked if I wanted to stop by so that you could say goodbye to me when you were conversant. Of course, I would come over. With heavy shoes, I went to you. To be honest, I found it difficult, but once with you, I was surprised of the peace you showed. There was no sign of fear and unrest. You were ready for the last journey. Almost cheerfully you asked me if you could give me something. You have often asked me that question. Like now, I don’t need anything from you. “Everything you would like to give me fades in the contact and the bond we have had”. You smiled at me. “You are right, what we had together was unique in every way”. With a final farewell and a kiss on your cheek I leave your home. On my way home, tears roll down my cheeks. Not because you die quickly, but because of the beautiful and many memories we had together. I realized: this is and was LOVE. I feel love and gratitude for the time together with you. And a huge loss for the time to come when I must miss you.

Farewell dear friend!

(104) There are those moments in your life

There are those moments in your life, even after many years, that you’re back at that time … that time you had so much grief and pain … grief, because you lost a loved one … hurt, because you were seriously ill … that you thought that you were healed and it turned out that you have cancer again … or …

You have such moments when processing your grief … even though that may have been years ago. At moments like that you jump back into your grief again … you may cry just as intensely as then … it might hurt just as much as then. That is allowed, even though it may be after years, there is nothing wrong with that!

People around you … even dear ones such as family and friends … may not understand anything anymore of what is happening to you at that moment. When you are asked what is going on … and you just can’t find the words to describe how you feel at that moment … yes, then that’s OK too.

Maybe it helps when you don’t know the words … as an answer to their question … that you play this music by Lili Haydn – The Last Serenade. Tears and understanding come naturally. Maybe they understand … or maybe they feel … what’s going on with you. And maybe not. Only if you understand the emotions you feel!

Bereavement may take quite a while. That is very normal. After all, everyone mourns in their own way.

But mind you, it should not be that you linger in your grief. The raw mourning of the past must have changed into the gentle pain of the sorrow and the missing of people today. Because if the raw pain of the past … now, after years, still is present … then it would be good to seek help. Then indicate that it is about processing your grief! Many people assume that you have processed your grief by now. After years, not everyone immediately makes the connection that you are still dealing with (delayed) mourning.

(102) The Waiting Room

It was quiet in the waiting room of the Outstation Clinique for Radiotherapy. Despite the soft talk between the people sitting there, the silence was almost serene. You started to unwind. For some people is was necessary considering the therapies they came for.

Some were withdrawn and had something like… yes, I must do it… it is what it is… I have cancer… I must see if it can be cured… I’ll go for it and see how far I come. Others flipped through magazine pages or were absorbed in the messages on their phone. Occasionally, there were small groups who didn’t know how to act, talking loudly amongst themselves while the patient they accompanied was quietly sitting there… was not involved in the conversation at all… as if he was simply not present. But the serene atmosphere in the waiting room ultimately resulted in starting everyone to unwind.

It was not always easy to see the difference between the patients and the ones who accompanied them. But sometimes it was crystal clear who the patient was … when you looked into his or her eyes, it just seemed… whether that other person was looking at a different world… a breath-taking, beautiful world where harmony and true love are central themes. At such a moment it was as if my world literally came to a standstill… as if I was again looking into the eyes of my daughter… in the days before her death. As soon as I became aware again of my surroundings, I could see in the other person’s eyes that we understood each other… and in one way or another… were also connected to each other.

The atmosphere in the waiting room changed… it became restless. Two women came in… busy talking to each other. The one withdrawn, silent and inner-directed. The other restless and somewhat agitated. It was almost impossible not to listen to their conversation.

The conversation was about the fact that the patient did find it very enjoyable and was very grateful to the other person to bring her to this Clinique every day, the patient wanted to do something as a token of appreciation. But even though the other person did it with love without expecting anything in return, the patient felt kind of uncomfortable.

I could sympathize with them, because I also accompanied someone and occasionally, we discussed the same topic.

In the meantime, I believe that it should be celebrated that people are willing to help each other without expecting a compensation. And it should also be celebrated that a (seriously) ill patient is willing to accept the help of another… because that too is difficult for the patient (sometimes) to accept.

Personally, I am also of the opinion that such moments should not be celebrated because the patient is still alive! No, in my view, everyone, whether he is healthy or ill, must celebrate each day and get everything out of life what is humanly possible.

But the best thing I still think is that with me the impression arose, from several conversations, that in difficult situations you get help from people of whom you wouldn’t have expected this in the first place.

So, you see, it turns out, there are many angels among us.

(100) Moments that determine the course of your life

It might happen to you

Moments that determine the course of your life’s path.

Those moments just after the birth of your child or just during a conversation

Whatever the reason, the paediatrician is of the opinion after collegial consultation that your new-born child does not have long to live and gives advice not to send birth cards to family and friends. How do you cope with this as brand-new parents?

Dad, why do I always have to take those pills and need to check at the hospital every time? How do you explain to your eight-year-old daughter that this is necessary to keep her body in good condition because her life expectancy is so short? How does your daughter deal with the fact that she has not been granted a long life in this world?

Those moments where dying is eminent

We have found bone cancer that is at an advanced stage. We expect you may have another 3 months. What goes through you when you get such a message? How do you deal with this? How do you explain that to your partner and your family? How does your partner cope with such a message… and your family?

Dad, do you want to help me, I’m so tired… no matter how much I want to stay with you, I do not have the energy anymore. How do you answer your daughter’s question of 21 years young who has given everything she possibly could give and has arrived at point on her life’s path where she really can’t go any further? And how do you help her while you yourself… are deeply hurt and grieving because you can feel and see that she is deteriorating fast and will die soon.

Those moments where you get a serious warning

You are dreaming a few times in a row that if you do not go to the doctor you’ll die soon. How do you deal with such dreams? Do you just ignore the dream as pertinent crap… or are you going to see the doctor?

You consult a specialist … and at the end of the consult you are told that it would be a good idea to prepare for the worst. How do you deal with the fact that the risk of unwanted side effects or that you may even die during surgery, are highly probable?

And then the questions keep coming

And then the questions keep arriving… there seems to be no end of these. Questions you don’t know the answers to. Questions where you have no idea how to act upon.

How do you deal with the fact that your life suddenly seems to be so much shorter than you thought it would be? How do you go about the fact that your life suddenly took a very different direction than you expected? You still want to do so much in your life, but your body simply can’t anymore. How does your family cope with this? And your friends, how do they deal with it? How do you support each other? Do you get support? Who supports who?

So, who supports each other? And how?

You just can’t offer support

When I think of my loved ones, I am there for them when they run into emotional issues with which their life suddenly seems so much more complicated? Does that mean I will be there for them spontaneously? On the contrary, they need to ask for support. They should have the need that I’m there for them. It also means that, as a positive answer to their request, I need to take up my commitment to the full 100%. After all, they should’ve the confidence that whatever happens, I’m there… always!

Not everyone understands what it means to offer help

People who offer their help with the best intentions often have no idea what it does mean for them; how they can help and above all continue to give support and what it takes of (emotional) energy to everyone. Energy the other one may have less, and less … and less … and less.

If you’re willing to be there for the other person, you should be able to establish empathy and you should be able to understand what that other person is experiencing, what the other feels. That’s easily said but certainly not easily done when you’ve never experienced what the other is going through now… certainly when you’re each other’s partner. It’s demanding when your partner is dying. Much is asked of you which you should be able to offer… to keep on offering… independent on how hard that may be. You must keep going for the full 100%… with all your heart.

You should be able to discuss tough topics with each other

You should be able to discuss issues about life and death, when the other wants to do so. Issues like is there a god and if so, who is that, is there a heaven and a hell, is there life after death…  issues you can perceive from different points of view depending on your faith and culture. What is important in any case is that you should not reject the other because he or she thinks or feels differently than you do. After all, that’s personal for everyone!

Don’t act inhuman

As an outsider you may not respond lightly to the situation (e.g. that it isn’t too bad, I you know how you are feeling, my aunt had a similar disease… much worse then you though…). Something that is very certain, is that you, as an outsider, have not the slightest idea what the other person is struggling with, what the other person is feeling and how much pain or sadness that can give him or her. In short, when the other person says that he or she is in pain, is afraid, or doesn’t know what to do … then it that’s the case!

Don’t be cruel

Don’t be cruel to the other when you don’t accept, are not willing to accept or even deny that the other is seriously ill when the other says so. It’s not always the case that you can see on the outside that someone is serious ill. When the other indicates that he or she is seriously ill, he or she apparently wants to talk about it with you. That does not always mean that you want to do so too… maybe you do not know how to deal with it… or just because you’re afraid to talk about it. That isn’t necessarily bad, but in order to be honest with the other… and with yourself… tell why you do not discuss this at that moment. In that case you create clarity.

Of course, you can make fun together

Of course, you can laugh, make jokes together, make each other happy so you can create and collect a diamond. A diamond means for me a moment of happiness, of warmth, of joy, of love, of friendship. When I can create or collect a diamond during the day, I consider that day a great day.

Answers are not always available

Not all questions can be answered… so don’t make up answers… be honest to each other. That’s not always easy though, because you may get the feeling that you let the other down… but that’s not the case… your honesty and being there for other sits at a much higher plan than not being able to answer the question.

In matters of life and death, self-interest may look around the corner

The person who is dying may finds it difficult enough for him or herself. His or her opinion or faith that there may be life after death plays a major role in this. Faith and cultural backgrounds are important factors in our daily life and can be even the driving force for wars. But at that moment, the moment you are sitting with the dying person, your faith and your cultural background are not relevant… those of dying one are!

Just like the person who is dying, the loved ones who are remaining have difficult times! It is my opinion that these dear ones, if they don’t do so already, should put aside their own interests about the dying person. Don’t come up with comments like he or she should make all the effort and should try to recover… to be healthy again. Why would you ask such a thing? Because you can’t live without the other? All options were already examined by the dying because he or she knew somehow that he or she was going to die.

Give (eventually) the dying permission to go Home. Personally, I experienced what it means for the dying when you give permission to leave… permission to go Home. I will never forget the moment I saw my daughter with a radiant smile on her face when she died.

Finally

I can add many more points to above list, but it’s in my opinion that the following points are the most important ones:

If you’re willing to be there for the other person, you should be able to establish empathy and you should be able to understand what that other person is experiencing, what the other feels. That’s far from simple, in particularly when you’ve never experienced what the other is going through at that moment.

That is even more applicable when you are each other’s partner. Especially when one you are the one that stays. You have not asked for it, but you as a partner are asked to fulfill your vow to the other… “Until death follows.” You must be able to do that… determined… however demanding that is. You must keep going with… with your courage high… for the full 100%. And as a partner you do that anyway… that’s quite ordinary, isn’t it?

Whatever happens in your life, there are always forces that help you further. It may not be the way you want to, but they will help you with whatever puzzles you encounter on your life’s path. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask though!