(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.

(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.

(2) A new experience

You would expect that after over 13 years after the loss of my daughter, let me say this carefully, would be less emotional than in the beginning.

Looking back to the period around my daughter’s death strange things happened. Things that I couldn’t really explain. On the one hand I had a lot of grief and, on the other I was arranging everything for her … without any feeling or emotion. I felt quite ambivalent at it, didn’t really understand what to do with it and how to respond.

Months later, little by little I was becoming myself again. The grief translated into the story about my daughter I told to anyone who was willing to listen. Well willing to listen … it turned out that one way or the other the conversation usually, consciously or unconsciously, turned around to my daughter.

You would expect that after over 13 years after the loss of my daughter, let me say this carefully, would be less emotional than in the beginning. On the contrary. Lately my daughter is almost daily in my mind and, and the mental image I have is as she was at the time. On the other hand, I am lately remembering less and less of her death and the days that followed. During those moments the brain turns out to be a beautiful thing; all emotions, colors, smells, heat, conversations, environments come available again with the smallest details as if it were photos or film clips… as if you are re-living it.

Do I find myself pathetic? No, on the contrary! I am rather proud that I was present at her death and that we had been able to say farewell to each other. Am I sad? Yeah sure, up to my death I suspect. I’m a happy man? Most definitely!

(1) How it Started

My daughter died, at the time I’m writing this, about 13 years ago at an age of 21. She had Cystic Fibrosis, not sure if you are familiar with this genetic disease, but on average these patients die on a (very) young age. She knew she was dying and during the last weeks we (my daughter, my wife, the hospital staff and me) talked on what to do in the future. She would love that I would use my knowledge and experience as Management Consultant not so much in Health Care but in supporting or coaching and guiding people who lost a child or a dear mate; not sure if “mate” is the proper word here but I hope you understand what I try to say.

My wife and Soul Mate died about 2½ years ago. In the week before I received a card from a woman I had coached in which she stated that she found me an amazing and wonderful light on her path of life. I still remember our discussion, just a few days before she died, in which she suggested and even pushed me that this type of coaching should become my future path of life.

Earlier this year I retired after a great professional life which had only one downside; I completely lost count on how many times I travelled around the world, the places I have seen and the sheer amount of hotels I have slept in. But the effect on me personally was that I consider myself not as a Dutchman, not even as a European but much more as global person.

After my retirement my body was real tired and wanted to recover from all the stress and all the loss I had met. As a Management Consultant and as a Project Manager I was always aware of the fun and the stress around. I could always see this with other people but somehow I did not see these things for me personally. Until I discovered by happenstance that my process of mourning finally had started … after years.

You are not alone in this and through this blog I want to share with you the journey I made and am still making. I want to share with you the lessons I have learned and am still learning. Through this blog I want to set up a Foundation, my dream actually, that should be able to help others in coping with their loss and in guiding or supporting them with their process of mourning.

It is Obvious that this is not a one-man show. I cannot change the World in my own, but I can start with myself and hopefully others too and that they will spread the news. You never know what is in store in the future for us but I do hope we make a difference albeit it is a small one.