(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.

(85) Closure

With the closure of my grief, I would also like to tell you that bereavement is not only about grief, loss and sadness… but also about joy and happiness.


In my first blog, I wrote that you’re not the only one who must deal with grief one way or the other. I wanted to share with you the journey I had made so far because of the loss of my daughter and my wife. I also wanted to share with you the lessons I had learned in the hope that you might be able to apply these to yourself.

In the 72th blog, I looked back over a period of almost 3 years and described how I was consciously and unconsciously processing grief. Looking back, I realized at the time that the raw pain of grief had changed into the soft pain of sadness, that I had found new opportunities on my path and that despite my sadness I had become a happy person again.

When publishing the 84th blog, it became clear to me that it was OK to be sad… because my wife had died… and I missed her. But, I should let her go in order to be able to get on with my life! And not only that, I also should fully accept the person I am deep inside including all limitations and possibilities! In retrospect, I also realized that I had changed so much that deep inside me I had become silent… almost serene.

With the publication of this blog, I’ve come to a point where I truly can say that I did let go my deceased wife and because of that she is able to continue her path in the universe where she is right now. Although I can’t feel her presence anymore, somehow, I understand that we always will remain connected with each other.

At the time of writing, my feeling clearly indicates that my grief has come to a closure. However, it’s my opinion that it never will come to a finality. There will always be moments in the future that I recall my late wife. During those moments however, my sadness will not hurt me anymore. A partner will understand that and will be there for me during those moments… just as I will be there for her.

The serene silence inside me, I wrote about in my previous blog, is still there. Although at the time of writing it feels more like… inner peace. Probably that’s because I truly accepted who I am… with all my abilities… and all my limitations. I also notice that I, much more than I used to do so… that I ignore unnecessary hassle, nonsense conversations and nonsense topics. It feels as if I need to squeeze a full new life into that part of my path of life that I’m walking right now. It’s obvious to me that while using all lessons I’ve learned I can finally continue with a life full of happiness, opportunities and most of all new challenges.

With the closure of my grief, I would also like to tell you that bereavement is not only about grief, loss and sadness… but also about joy and happiness.