(103) She felt herself more and more abandoned

As if it should have been the case. Somewhere, on the way, during a coffee break, I got into conversation with Kathy, a fictitious name. The blog is about her and her partner John, also a fictitious name, who struggle with Kathy’s disease.

The story of Kathy

Kathy has breastcancer and its treatment is drastic and have the necessary effects on and in her body and on the image of her body. The consequences are not only physical, but also emotional and that is also perceived by her.

The changing body image and the emotional perception can be seen as a mourning reaction… at that which was… and now is. And that applies not only to Kathy but also to John.  It is important to note that both Kathy’s and John’s bereavement and the way they deal with it is different.

Now, while Kathy is recovering slowly step by step, John has fled in his work. And at the same time Kathy is only now beginning to realize what she feels … what has happened to her … and … how should she continue with her life. Right now, Kathy feels more and more abandoned by John.

Without having spoken to John

Yes, what follows are assumptions, but could it be the case that John has all kinds of feelings deep inside him… he doesn’t know how to phrase… or maybe even… doesn’t want to put into words.

It could also just be the case that while Kathy underwent the treatments and interventions, John only could be there for Kathy and only could give his support. He understood that her body was performing “top-sport” all the time and still does, while Kathy was physically too tired to be able to do much, or maybe even something at home. In that period was primarily the crisis manager in the house; worried about how her healing process was proceeding… worried about how the children and the family were dealing with her illness… arranged the house keeping… worried how his company or employer dealt with his absence. Has John even been able to take enough time for himself to realize what the consequences of Kathy’s illness could be?

And maybe it could be that John is scared … afraid because he does not know how to deal with her illness and its consequences … and how to proceed with Kathy … together … or …

Communication

John and Kathy must talk to each other and keep on talking. Yes, it’s clear to me, but it doesn’t have to be that it’s clear to John and Kathy.

In my opinion, it is necessary for Kathy and John to sit around the table together, and each one tells the story about … what is being felt … or missed … what the worries are … maybe is even afraid of.

In my opinion, it would be useful to do this together with a supervisor, so that in addition to helping to put everyone’s feelings into words, he or she can also cultivate understanding that both Kathy and John go through a grieving process in their own way. It does not matter how you go through that grieving process and how long it takes … what matters is that mourning process is run through!

(74) Communication

When you want to communicate with a grieving person you will need to embrace her or him figuratively, you have to listen carefully to the other, you need to understand what is said and you have to show interest in the other. What is more, topics could be discussed which you personally may find difficult to talk about.


The way we mourn or grieve is unique for each of us. Standard solutions are not available for bereavement or for people who find themselves in difficult situations outside their control. But the first thing we need to do, in order to reach out to or to help these people, is to be able to communicate with them.

Provided that someone who grieves or is in a difficult situation is able to talk to you or even is willing to talk to you, you can safely assume that it won’t be an everyday conversation with each other, but that it’s much more about to let the other do the talking about the issues that she or he finds important at that moment. During those moments you will need to be able to show a lot of understanding… a lot of insight of the problems the other is coping with… that you especially have a lot of empathy and… maybe even a good dose of patience. You also need to be able to cope with the (long) silences that fall into the “conversation.”

SJR (NL-077) en MGF (UK-074) shutterstock_163706276What is more, during a conversation with a grieving person charged topics can be often touched upon. Topics of which we have a preference in our culture not to talk about. Topics such as death, life after death, faith and the loss of the other and all the emotions that go along with it. Topics of which you may have opinions of your own. And your opinions aren’t necessarily aligned to those of the other.

In a nutshell, if you really want to communicate with a grieving person you will need to embrace her or him figuratively… you have to listen carefully to the other… and you need to understand what is said… you have to show interest in the other. What is more, topics could be discussed of which you personally may find difficult to talk about. And that is exactly the problem in communicating with people who grieve.

It’s too crazy for words that it often turns out that communication between people is inconvenient or difficult at times. How often do you find that the other understood your message differently than you actually meant it to be… that you didn’t understand the other… or that without further asking you assumed you understood the other? Yes… it’s too crazy for words… we learned very early on how to talk and to communicate. We all should be experts in this field, the thing is… why isn’t that the case?

It would be a major step for all of us when we would learn how to communicate with each other in a better or more effective way. It’s something we can use almost every day and every moment. Communication is not just about the words we say to each other, it’s also about the long silences or… the not telling and the poses of our body that sends silent messages to the other. Communication is also about learning to understand each other, to have empathy for each other and… to accept who we are! Communication also means that we don’t avoid difficult situations (anymore) but that we are willing to communicate with someone who struggles in life or we offer support.

Perhaps at this time it’s too much to ask in our world… but nevertheless… I believe that we must dare to face the challenge together!

Personally I’m committed to this challenge. No matter how hard I find a conversation, I always try to learn from it so I can do better next time. It comes with much trials and errors… but I keep pushing myself to improve!