(101) As if it should have been the case

On 3 December 2018 the Mourn & Grief Foundation (the Foundation) celebrated its fifth anniversary. Yes, 5 years already, time flies.

The Mourn & Grief Foundation is one of the results of the fulfillment of the last wish of my daughter Anne Birgit, when she died in 2000 at the age of 21 years young. She wanted me to use my experience to help people to deal with their grief. The moment, when I promised her to realize her wish, I can still remember clearly, as if it had happened yesterday. But at the time I had no idea what it would mean for me personally. Let alone that I had an idea of how I could make the turnaround from managing complex multidisciplinary projects to helping people with bereavement, but I rarely shy away from challenges. A once made promise is “sacred to me”, especially when it concerns the fulfillment of your daughter’s last wish.

Just before her death in 2011, Mary-Anne, my wife, insisted on realizing our daughter’s last wish.

It lasted until 2013 though, before I had the guts to start fulfilling my promise. In retrospect, that long period was necessary. In that period I was allowed to manage complex international projects with a sometimes impossible high workload. The employees came from all over the world, with different backgrounds, languages, cultures and different interpretations of words, opinions and concepts. The same was true for the customers for whom we worked. After the death of Mary-Anne, in the years that followed, I was increasingly longer and further away from home. It seemed like I was fleeing in my work. It was not only fleeing, it was also a challenge. During that period I mainly managed people in the most diverse situations … it was also the period I was able to create my golden teams. As if it should have been the case … that period turned out to be a preparation for the last wish of my daughter Anne Birgit, the experience gained was how to deal with the most diverse people.

In the summer of 2013 I finally started writing about my grief and my bereavement. It was also the time I happened to see articles of Gijsbert van Es about bereavement in the Dutch national news paper NRC. The central theme of Gijsbert’s articles was how 10 to 15 years later people dealt with their loss of a loved one. In the run-up to the interview at the end of 2013, ideas also emerged about how I could fulfill the promise to my daughter. The result was that in December 2013 the Mourn & Grief Foundation was established and an interview by Gijsbert in the NRC was published about how I dealt with my grief 13 years after the death of my daughter and how I wanted to realize her last wish. As if it should have been the case … at that moment pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

In 2013 the starting point for the Foundation was described in 2013 as:

“The personal loss that people have can hardly be imagined other than by those who have experienced this earlier and are willing to share the lessons they have learned,  and to show that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.”

A few years later I found that the light at the end of the tunnel is not important, but the light that is in yourself. That light in yourself is important, however, and it will always bring you to safety.

In the summer of 2017 I noticed that I had arrived at a point where I could actually say that I had let go my deceased loved ones and that they could continue on their path in the universe where they were at the time. I can no longer feel their presence, but in one way or another I realize that we always stay connected. At the same time, my feeling also clearly indicated that although my bereavement  was over, but that in my opinion this would never be completed. There are still times when I think back to Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne, my sadness then feels like a soft pain.

What I also discovered that summer was that I skipped unnecessary hassle, nonsense conversations or nonsense discussions. It felt like I had to compress a completely new life on that part of my life’s path on which I walked then. It also became clear to me that using all the lessons I had learned, I could definitely continue with a life of joy, opportunity and, above all, new challenges.

Now, in December 2018, my experience and the image of that summer in 2017 have only been strengthened. Almost every day I am amazed by the new opportunities and possibilities that I encounter on my life’s path. As if it should have been the case … personnaly, it is a confirmation that the Foundation’s approach has worked for me … and at the same time it is a confirmation to me that I am working on the correct things.

In retrospect, yes easily said when most is done … in retrospect, I have become stronger … and during the processing of grief it is not just about grief … but also about love, joy and happiness.

(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!

(98) Letting Go

Letting go. Have confidence in yourself, believe and trust that nothing is for nothing… sometimes the difficult things in our life make the choice to look at ourselves. It’ll be fine.

Ask for help, to restore yourself. Everything is a choice… the choice is what you decide… you, and only you, allow that choice… or not.

Letting go is very hard and challenging… but nobody else can solve that part for you. Hence, it is better to face this as soon as possible… to create new room for new things… positive things.

The old energy… the fear… the care… the must do’s… the criticising … the judging… the imposed feeling of yourself or the other… the emotions… the believes… all that’s now allowed to let go… all, that you can let go.

Be thankful and see this as a blessing… as an enrichment to proceed… to embrace yourself again… to love yourself. That’s the key that opens the new door… but, be watchful.

Be yourself… be happy with yourself… laugh at yourself and with yourself… award yourself that which you grant to another… to really feel the new energy… the new energy, when you do realize: “This is not the way I want to go on!”

However, you must take this step, and only you can do that with all your new energy… with all your passion… all your Being… to really experience it… to really feel it, and permitted to share it.

It’s very simple.

Invite the new energy and say farewell to the old energy… thank the old energy and embrace the new one as if you hug a good friend.

You could do it… and you will feel relieved because you do not hold anymore the fear, the care, and the must do… the new energy that makes you feel again in a way as you are.

Sometimes, it’s not clear why things happen… are noticeably profound… for no reason. But, when we look deep within ourselves… then we see, or feel, that little place where you do not always want to go to… to really feel… because you assume: “Surely that’s no longer possible?”

It’s going well, however, you forgot what you saved in all your cells… in your deepest Being… in your Soul… because you had to go on… no whining, no squealing, just moving on. And just right now when everything goes fine… you don’t feel good… tired… not pleasant.

Letting go the piece that has hurt you so much, has disappointed you so much… is now surfacing… because you have the peace… have the (inner) silence… have the time… to really feel it now.

Feel, undergo and look where it hurts you. Look where it reveals itself when you look honestly through the eyes of your Soul, from the eyes you not always want to see and feel on that spot… that hidden spot… just very briefly, 5 minutes, that’s ok… and then just let it golet it go and see what happens.

It’ll be fine! Have confidence in yourself, believe and trust that nothing is for nothing… sometimes the difficult things in our life make the choice to look at ourselves… a crossroads with a choice… your choice, where do I want to go to.

Go there with your thoughts and live and enjoy this moment in the now. Especially, do not worry about tomorrow… no, there is so much beauty… so much good around you and within you.

Embrace your family, your work, your relatives, your friends, your house, your car … name it … and … beam it, express it!

(97) How Easy Can It Be

Lately it seems like I am meeting more and more Angels on Earth. Angels that show you… how simple it all can be… is granted to be… is. How beautiful the world is… how beautiful you, yourself, are… and… the people around you. How with a few words your world can tip… from rain to sunshine… from gloom to joy… from in and in grief to moments where you can forget that grief. How with simple insights… veils are removed one by one… making everything crystal clear… lighter… serene… happier… and you can in and in enjoy life again.

Those moments I consider the diamonds in my life.

My sincerest thanks to all the Angels around me… I love you!

(95) A Chance Encounter

When you pay close attention to the world around you… you regularly come across special things to enjoy… you meet people with whom you have special conversations. The more you are aware of this… the more beautiful life becomes… the happier you become… despite that great loss, or the dear one(s) you have lost.

We met somewhere by chance at an airport, waiting for the call to board the plane that would take us to our destinations. She went to Italy… a week to a painting course in Florence and then a week to Venice and Rome. I was on my way home.

The encounter had something magical. We both had the feeling that we knew each other for a very long time. But, that just wasn’t possible. She had grown up somewhere in Central America, and I somewhere in North-West Europe. During the conversation we found out that she had lost her husband and her son… and… I had lost my daughter and my wife. She had another daughter and I had another son. It seemed as if we were two halves of a whole. We recognized each other’s grief with which we struggled… we understood each other completely. Perhaps that’s why we felt we had known each other for a very long time.

Our conversation took less than an hour, but it felt so much longer. It seemed like we had to meet each other… we had to meet each other to make us aware that although you have a lot of grief because of your loss… that you’re not the only one.

When she walked to the plane that would bring her to Italy it seemed… as if she was dancing… as if she was relieved… as if she had become aware that she was not the only one who had lost precious mates. In my case it seemed a veil was being pulled away… making everything a bit brighter… happier… lighter.

(c) Stichting Jouw Rouwverwerking
Beauty is in the unexpected

It was just a short encounter, by happenstance. But still… by the peace and the joy it gave… afterwards… both to her and to me… you would (almost) think that this encounter was set up by a higher power. And just those little moments… those little moments that can stand in stark contrast to the life of all day… those little moments are for me the moments that make it worthwhile to take everything out of life what’s in for me.

When you pay close attention to the world around you… then you regularly come across special things to enjoy… then you meet people with whom you have special conversations. The more you are aware of this… the more beautiful life becomes… the happier you become… despite that great loss, or the dear one(s) you have lost.