(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.

(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.