(8) What Can We Do With Models?

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic control or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic control or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic management or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, the climate or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Models may be modern but not necessarily new. Many models we use today were developed decades ago, some even ages ago. Once there is a model which can applied in your area of expertise it can be used for assessing the situation you are in, or for suggesting options to choose from for improving this, or predicting the outcome of actions taken… or… actions you are intending to take. Applying a model this way provides security, certainty.

A model has its downsides though. Just to name a few, a model is a simplification of reality, sometimes a far cry of the real thing. Or people use a model as a tool without understanding its background and its limitations. Or people have become so reliant on a model which controls a process, like flying a plane, that as soon as it demonstrates unexpected behavior they don’t know what to do anymore in order to quickly take control of it themselves.

I have met many people who are using models as the sole truth. They see it as reality, that is their reality, and anything else is either not true, not possible or even considered beyond normal. So, don’t be shocked when a model does not work for you, especially when you need to deal with… grief.

A famous model in dealing with grief is “The 5 Stages of Grief” developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross. The 5 stages i.e. (i) Denial, (ii) Anger, (iii) Bargaining, (iv) Depression and (v) Acceptance are not intended to be worked through and ticked off. The stages could be used as sign posts to help understand what you feel, or where you are in your bereavement. The model also describes what is meant by each stage, what could be felt or observed. More importantly by using it this way the model provides guidance.

Another model that is more generally applied is the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator” which defines your personality type. The model characterizes your preference (i) of the general attitude, extravert vs. introvert, and (ii) your preferences within your mental functions, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. Once you understand your type of personality the model provides behavior and communication guide lines in relation to other people.

It does not necessarily mean that all of us “walk through” Elisabeth’s model in the same way. By applying Myers-Briggs we can conclude that all of us will respond differently to each stage. It could be that you are not even aware of one or more of the stages. It also does mean that the duration in dealing with our grief is different for each of us. Some of us will not even complete the process. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be happy and enjoy life.

Be careful though, your partner, children, family and friends are different personalities, living and raised under different conditions, within different timeframes and hence are dealing with their grieve in a different way than you do. There is no doubt about that, it’s a fact of life.

The first hurdle you need to take is becoming aware of what is happening with you. That could take weeks, months, sometimes even years; it all depends on your personality and how you live. Once you are aware of, or observe your feelings then the models can explain what is happening to you. Then you begin to understand … and to look forward again and… and you start dealing with your grief.

So does that mean that you have dealt with your grief at this point, that it is done and dusted? No, not even close. Does it mean that you can ever deal with your grief, that it will be closed in a foreseeable future? Yes, maybe… but… maybe not.

Personally I am certain that I will take my grief with me in the grave. Does that mean that I am unhappy? Certainly not, I am a very happy person but sometimes … when you hear that special sound again, that special tune again, when you smell that special perfume again, when … then I travel back in time to those moments we were happy together. I feel all the pain again … but… differently … it’s as if I am sad and happy at the same time … it’s an ambivalent feeling.

Hence, yes we can use models for guidance but, we cannot predict how you specifically will respond.

It is what it is. It is has made me the person I am today; as will happen to each of us at some point in time.

(7) I Will Not Leave You

The doctor was leaving. At the front door he took her by the shoulders and said, “You need to understand that it won’t be much longer.” In despair she returned to the room and sat next to the bed.
“Dearest,” she asked. “Are you leaving me?”

The doctor was leaving. At the front door he took her by the shoulders and said, “You need to understand that it won’t be much longer.” In despair she returned to the room and sat next to the bed.
“Dearest,” she asked. “Are you leaving me?”

“No,” he replied resolutely, “I will not leave you.”

“Then tell me what you feel.”

“It’s odd, he said. “I can’t explain it.”

He was too tired to talk any more.

The next morning, Friday,  she could see that he had taken a turn for the worse. His breathing was irregular. His words, “I will not leave you,” kept resonating with her, giving her comfort even though she didn’t understand them.

Sophie, their cat, stayed with him during his last few days, sitting closer and closer at his side. That evening, he was restless but around midnight he became calmer. His sister offered to watch over him so the others could get some sleep.  After a brief hesitation, she accepted the offer.

Upstairs in bed, she hit her pillow again and again in anger and grief. Some time later, just as she had fallen into an exhausted sleep, her sister-in-law woke her.  It had happened, he had stopped breathing.  Together, they had fallen asleep but only she woke up again.  It was Saturday 1.25am.

With all the arrangements that had to be made, it was only on Sunday that she had a moment to rest in her bedroom for a while.  With her family there, she had not yet shed a tear.  Even though he was in the other room, she felt that they were together. She was sobbing, gently, when she felt three kisses, one on each eye and one on her lips, just as he had always done when she was sad.  Bewildered, she opened her eyes and there was Sophie, with her muzzle close to her face.  It happened again a few days later, and a third time exactly one week after his death.  Through her grief she felt his tremendous support and warmth, even though he was physically gone.

Sometimes she asks Sophie for a kiss from him but no more have come. Still, she is convinced that he was with her when she needed him and she no longer doubts what happens to us when we die. Her husband, although physically gone, still stands right next to her, surrounding her with his warmth.

And of course there is sadness at the loss of his touch, but love conquers all.

[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.

(4) It’s All About Ourselves, Isn’t It?

When you start talking about separation or death people tend to avoid the discussion because … Because of what actually? Why do people respond that way?

When you start talking about separation or death people tend to avoid the discussion because … Because of what actually? Why do people respond that way?

After some research on data from the Dutch Bureau of Census and based on some checklists related to dealing with stress I found that on average at least 1 out of every 30 to 35 persons is dealing with grief one way or the other. Hence look around you and start wondering why people tend to respond that way.

Listen to the news. Things happen to all of us all the time (e.g. a separation, the death of a partner, a child, a lost job, a terminal decease, war). It’s not if but it’s when. We don’t like it and we do want to stay far from it. However reality of life shows different. Hence look around you again and start asking yourself why you respond that way.

So, do we better prepare for it when it happens to ourselves and we would be able to deal with it … somehow? I don’t know. I have lost quite some people who were very close to me. Each time it was different and it felt different; not just a bit but actually a lot different. Hence, preparing for it would be difficult if not impossible.

What can you expect? Yes you can prepare yourself for the rituals that need to be carried out after a separation or a death. But from an emotional point of view? It’s not a stage act where you are an onlooker. No you are personally involved and the script is different each time and depends on many factors that are in force like the people around you and their interpersonal relationships and each with their own way in dealing with their loss. Family and in-laws may start emotionally and passionately arguing in dividing material items; discussions that can become a far cry from “professional” behavior. The more people are involved the more complex the situation becomes. So how would you be able to prepare for a situation like that? My personal view is that you can’t, but … that doesn’t mean we can’t try to do so.

The first hurdle to take is that we are not comfortable to talk about mourning and grief. It is about the sad side of life and it has a high emotional load. It is about the fact that we do not really want this happening to us, but is does at some point in time. It might be that we are afraid from this, afraid for the change that is going to happen to us, afraid of the unknown.

For whatever the reason, we lost somebody and this has definitely an impact on our life. Then we must change and sometimes we have to change the hard way.

So, it’s not about the one who left us but actually it’s about ourselves …Is that why we don’t want to talk about it?

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.