(94) It’s Time to Change Course

What I have learned in the recent years while writing these blogs for the Mourn & Grief Foundation is … that at the beginning of my journey on the path of mourning I absolutely could not see and could not realize what it would take and what I would experience… a journey with moments in which I no longer knew what I should to do in order to get back on track in my life… moments in which I would rather prefer to die and to go Home, to be able to see my great love again and to hold her in my arms again… and yet … and yet, during those same moments there was always something that, or someone who motivated or, stimulated me in some way to go on… and moments when I really could not go any further in my life and everything seemed against me, my guardian angels made me feel that if I asked them for help, I would receive help in some way.

In retrospect, when I looked back during those years so now and then, I was always amazed what I had achieved in the meantime. I never noticed that during the day-to-day affairs. However, when looking back over a period of several months I could clearly see this. It provided me also with the extra strength to continue my life’s path.

In retrospect, I should’ve asked for help with processing my grief sooner than later. Apparently, it must have been the case not to do so, because the path of life on which I find myself now feels very good to me. It is what it is!

It’s time to change course because the processing of grief means to go on in life. Usually going on means to go on in a different way than you used to do so before. To go on with those things that are important to you in your life. Despite that huge loss. Despite that raw pain. To go on with your life… you must!

Realize that the closer you were to the dear one you’ve lost and, realize that the more you have loved her or him, the rawer and the deeper your grief of the loss will be. On the one hand that hurts you a lot and the other hand it is a huge compliment to the dear one you’ve lost and… it also is an indication how deep the love to each other was… or… still is.

But by going on, on your life’s path you also set your first steps in processing your grief. By going on you also begin to look ahead again, although you may or may not realize your destination yet. Hence, yes, it’s time to change course.

Yes, for me too it’s time to change course. Somehow, I feel I’ve fulfilled my daughter’s last wish I promised to carry out. Lately, it became more like a personal need to do this kind of work

As for the Foundation’s website it is also time to change course. A plan is being developed to add a discussion forum to the website for you to use later this year. It is obvious that the forum will be placed in a secure environment. I would like to receive any suggestion you have for the structure or content of the forum. You can contact me via this link.

(93) Awareness

Our life had to be the way it was!

After completing my previous blog [A Broken Heart] I was left with a vague feeling. A feeling I couldn’t really touch. That feeling was emphasized by my question at the end of that blog:

“What if we would have been able to process our grief, under guidance or supervision… would my soulmate then still be alive?”

It took a while until I got an answer to that question.

The sooner you are aware of your grief, the sooner you will be able to process it and… in my opinion, the less are the possible consequences. Whether you want to process your grief is a choice… that choice is entirely up to you.

It was only after the death of Anne Birgit, our daughter, that we realized we had to do something with the grief we had suppressed those 21 years our daughter lived. Suppressed… because we both constantly were in a survival mode.

Suppressing grief all those years became a second nature for us. It became a habit… yes… a habit! In the end, unprocessed grief will consume you from the inside. It starts with those undefinable ailments… ailments of which no one can find the cause… to even, as happened to me, two open-heart operations right behind each other… or even worse when my wife died of broken heart. These were signals from the body that something was off and that I needed to arrange my life differently… or even drastically. During the years that our daughter lived we weren’t aware that we needed to process our grief… and after her death we couldn’t… or didn’t know how to… a missed opportunity.

But… how do you become aware of your grief?

You could listen to the family, friends and the people around you. But, you may not want their view at those times.

You could keep a journal in which you summarize every 3 or 6 months what you’ve experienced in the past period… how you’ve felt and how you’ve dealt with it. When you’ve done this several times you may discover a trend on how you feel at that moment in relation to the beginning of your grief or loss. If your loss at that moment feels just as intense as in the beginning… that may be an indication it is time to seek help… seek help on how you could deal with that loss.

At this moment I’m quite sure that if we had kept such a journal, every 3 or 6 months, right from the birth of Anne Birgit, we would’ve become aware at an early stage of our daughter’s life that we needed to process our grief (all the time) one way or the other with or without help or guidance. Our life would’ve been very differently indeed.

Our life had to be the way it was!

(92) A Broken Heart

What if we would have been able to process our grief, under guidance or supervision… would my soulmate then still be alive? A question I probably will never get answers to.

On a warm afternoon in October 1978, our daughter Anne Birgit was born in a hospital. We rejoiced that our long expected first child was born.

Our happiness was short lived however. That same evening the surgeon contacted me and asked if I could come over to the hospital immediately. The meconium, the first excrement of a newborn child, was stuck and there was also a first indication that our daughter might have Cystic Fibrosis. Mary-Anne, my partner, wasn’t informed yet and the surgeon asked us if the three of us could discuss the various options… and then decide how we would proceed from there. Time was of the essence. There you are, being parents for the first time of your life… thrown into the deep.

That same evening, our newborn daughter, hardly 8 hours old, had her first operation in her life.

It was also the first time in my life that my world was completely destroyed. Even today, over 40 years after Anne Birgit’s birth, I can still see the images with my mind’s eye how a beautiful future was shattered in one blow! Not only mine world was shattered, Mary-Anne’s too. I can still see the fear in her eyes… I can still hear her crying from the depth of her soul… searching for words. That evening changed both of us forever.

While our daughter was being operated we took an impulsive oath to each other… that, whatever would happen during our lives… we would always stay together and face whatever was thrown to us in the future… we would always be there for each other. At that moment it felt it was important so that a higher power would allow Anne Birgit to live. One way or the other, that oath to each other gave us peacefulness… gave us an unfamiliar energy… no… power to continue. That power was really needed because at that time we hardly couldn’t imagine what was in store for us… how we later had to struggle in guiding our daughter… and that we would get the privilege to bring Anne Birgit to the Light.

Not many people can imagine what we had to live through those 21 years during the life of our daughter. How high the stress levels were and how lonely we were. Anne Birgit became a beautiful young woman who knew very early in her life that she had not many years to live.  Early in her life she made conscious choices and, she tried to get everything out of her life that was humanly possible. Buy because she would have a short life and because she was good looking… at the outside… we met frequently people who couldn’t or didn’t want to accept her illness. It didn’t make sense in our eyes, but we had to deal with it one way or the other. As if our daughter’s illness wasn’t bad enough, the misunderstanding from others did a great job on top of it.

Looking back, that oath we took to each other during the operation of our 8 hours old daughter… that oath kept us together during our 35 years of marriage. Just now, I realize that the energy and the power we received stands for True Love. It guided us through our darkest and lightest periods of our relation. What I also realize is that from all the problems we had to solve, I’ve learned that whatever happens in your life… and it doesn’t even matter how bad it is… you always get support somehow from the spiritual world… eventually, you always get your feet firmly on the ground. It doesn’t happen by itself though… you have to work very hard to make it happen… and you’ve to devote over 100% of your effort all the time… always!

Life was for Anne Birgit one long rollercoaster ride. Just as unusual life was for her… just as unusual was the period around her death for us… and just as unusual was our bereavement… that is, how it felt for me.

It is said that parents who lose a child are marked for life. That’s true for Mary-Anne and myself, nonetheless different. Isn’t it often said that the loss of a child is not even something you whish to have for your worst enemy? Yes, we agreed with that too… but… on the other hand, the stress levels we had to deal with during the life of our daughter… the angst and the worry that was always there… after her death… that angst and worry… was gone! We didn’t have to survive anymore. Our house became hushed… very silent! And step by step… we got rest in our system… and at the same time… the realization sunk in that our daughter wasn’t there anymore.

With that rest also came unrest again… but this time from a completely different order… the unease to cope with our loss and grief somehow. During Anne Birgit’s life we always had hidden our pain and grief. We had hidden it so deep that we were unable to find and touch it after her death. We understood we had to do something about it… but what, and how… and whom to approach? The family was there too and began to demand attention with as result that nothing came of our mourning… and again… we deeply buried our grief. Yes, burying our grief, we were very good at that… unfortunately.

Slowly but surely our grief began to seep through the cracks from the deepest of our being. And in the period that followed we often went through emotionally deep valleys… and at the same time also over emotionally high peaks because we were together and although we had a deceased daughter we have a healthy son. Too bizarre for words… at the same time to go through emotionally deep valleys and over emotionally high peaks. The result was that our family and the people around us couldn’t see… or didn’t understand… that we went through severe times… so severe that in the end something broke. Mary-Anne, my partner and soulmate, died in 2011 of a broken heart.

Was it so intended or… what if we would have been able to process our grief, under guidance or supervision… would my soulmate then still be alive? A question I’ll probably never get an answer to.

(86) Closure, a Follow Up…

Each of us experiences bereavement differently. For all of us the way we deal with bereavement is unique. And what’s more when you lose a child in my opinion you also lose a part of your future.

In my previous blog I described the closure of my bereavement regarding my wife’s death. In responses to the blog a valid question was raised: “And what about your daughter?”

Yes… what about my daughter?

Right now, I’m not sad about my daughter’s death in 2000. Yes, you’ll be thinking, at the time of writing it’s been 17 years ago. That’s a long time, hence it’s not surprising you’re not sad anymore about her death.

You may think this is bizarre… but, that I’m not sad about her death today is not because it’s a long ago. And yes, time doesn’t heal all wounds and certainly not this one. However, it’s not the time that passed… from my point of view it’s something completely different.

In my opinion, it’s because we knew from the day one that she wouldn’t live long. The pediatrician advised us not to mail her birth announcements. We did this anyway, she was born… so, it should be possible for her to live. During her life though, we regularly wondered if she would be able to celebrate her next birthday. In the end, she reached an age of over 21 years which is, although far too short to us, a respectable age for a person having Cystic Fibrosis. Our daughter knew and understood when she was eight years young that she wouldn’t live long. She made the decision to get everything out of her live that was humanly possible. And from my point of view, she succeeded absolutely.

Shortly before her death, our daughter told us that she would be very pleased when she finally could go Home. And we, although we would miss her a lot… we were happy for her too. Yes, it feels ambivalent… and it does. Certainly, for a stranger who doesn’t know or doesn’t understand our family.

Do I miss her? Yes and no! Yes, she’s no longer physically present and I’m not able to give her a hug anymore… like I used to do. And no, because I can often feel her presence and, one way or the other she writes sometimes a blog by using me, or we write a blog together.

For that reason alone, the closure of my grief due to her death is quite some time ago now. But sometimes… when I meet one of her friends… it’s tough again.

When I re-read the above, I understand why Irene, the author who responded to the Dutch version of my previous blog, feels the loss of her deceased son differently. He died unexpectedly. For that reason alone, her bereavement is different.

In my opinion, grief and the processing of grief is strongly dependent on how your dear one deceased. Was it suddenly or unexpected or, were you able to prepare for this over the years? Were you there during the death of your dear one, or were you told that the other died? Was the process of dying of your dear one a calm one… or, not? All these factors, and probably many more, influence how you experience your bereavement and how you deal with it.

Each of us experiences bereavement differently. For all of us the way we deal with bereavement is unique. And what’s more when you lose a child in my opinion you also lose a part of your future.

(83) Dilemmas

The dilemma at a choice between different interests with respect to dear ones could be that this requires key decisions from which future happiness depends. It is choosing between two dear worlds and you must make the best of it. Sometimes, afterwards, you regret your choice. But you can never know where that other choice would have lead to. Maybe you would’ve regret that choice too in the end. And at that moment, when the awareness is there, you suddenly step into a grieving process.


The past few blogs I’ve asked the readers if they could help me by providing me with their experiences they’ve had, experiences they are still going through perhaps and, what their opinion was about that. The story of one of the readers triggered something deep inside me. The blog is not just about her story alone, but also about others.

I would like to thank again all readers for their contribution.

What is the story about in this blog?

Kathy, a fictional name, and her partner have a son and a daughter who lead their lives for a long time.

The son lived alone and passed away a few years ago. The son had often visited his parents and his sister. Kathy and her partner took comfort in walking and music… and they took comfort from their daughter’s family. The daughter had much grief about the loss of her brother. From personal experience, I know all too well what the impact is when you lose a child. It doesn’t matter how you explain it, only people who have experienced this themselves will understand you. You’ll carry your sadness for the loss of a child for the rest of your life.

The daughter has a family and a child and lives abroad because of het partner’s work, it’s at about 6 hours flying distance. It’s a happy family. Despite all communication tools we have in our today’s world, Kathy misses direct contact with her daughter. The distance doesn’t make it easy either.

The daughter misses her brother, he often came to visit her. She also misses her parents and would love to have them living near her so they could see each other more often.

The relationship between Kathy and her mother was never optimal. Nevertheless, Kathy is doing a lion’s share of the care of her mother. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Kathy to keep it up. There are other family members who could help her mother. Her mother, however, considers it Kathy’s job to take care of her. Her mother doesn’t ask anything from the other family members.

When Kathy is with her mother, they never talk about Kathy’s deceased son. When Kathy is with her daughter, they can talk about him. Here Kathy feels herself complete again… as if her family is one tight set again.

Kathy and her partner are not one of the youngest anymore and have so their shortcomings. Moving to her daughter is not easy and how do you arrange the care for your mother? And all the acquaintances and friends that they have now… all those that you’re going to miss? It would be a whole new start… and that at her age.

And there you are… how to proceed from here?

Everyone wants everything from Kathy. If Kathy stays here for her mother, then Kathy will eventually blame her mother she can’t be with her daughter. When Kathy choses for her daughter then in the end, her mother will start complaining to Kathy she’s not with her.

An almost obvious question that is not asked to Kathy, in my point of view… “What does Kathy want?” In my opinion this a form of hidden loss and hidden grief, one of the variants of a mourning process.

What is it you want when you need to make such a choice… where nobody realizes what’s going on and because of that the question is not asked… or… is everyone afraid to ask that question to you? But most important is… “What do you want?”

The dilemma at a choice between different interests with respect to dear ones could be that this requires key decisions from which future happiness depends. It is choosing between two dear worlds and you must make the best of it. Sometimes, afterwards, you regret your choice. But you can never know where that other choice would have lead to. Maybe you would’ve regret that choice too in the end. And at that moment, when the awareness is there, you suddenly step into a grieving process.

A choice like that is rarely a simple one, but once made you should totally go for it. Never look back with the idea you should have taken the other choice. It’s about you and your partner and more important… it should feel if not great, it should feel good. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.