(57) Future

DSC01548 - BAfter the loss of a dear one your life can be devastating, like it is hit by a hurricane. The impact can be so immense that you decide to do completely different things in life then at the time your dear one was still with you. I have seen people flourishing in the end after a huge loss. They seemed to have got a completely different personality, as if they are really alive now. As if the path of life they walked on, had changed its course.

The loss of a dearest is not the only event that can change your life. To name but a few examples: meeting your first love or your new love, your marriage, or the birth of your child or your grandchild. But it does not have to be about others though. It can also about yourself like: the successful completion of your training, or your resignation from a job, or a bankruptcy of your employer or perhaps your own, or just a casual event. Events that may result in getting new friends, or maybe losing friends. Events that give you understanding in who your real friends actually are, or what is of real importance in your life. Although you may realize this afterwards, it is about events that change your life (sometimes dramatically).

What matters in my opinion is that as a result of these events, you make totally different choices or decisions then you used to do.

Didn’t we used to be happy in those days and do we think we are happy today because we make totally different choices in life? I don’t think so! People used to be happy too and at present people can also be unhappy. Yet, I wonder the choices they earlier made were based upon.

Often the answer is given that today’s opportunities are quite different or more advanced than they used to be, or that values and norms changed. In my opinion that’s a cliché. When I used to travel around the world for my job, I sometimes felt like being a time traveler. Sometimes I ended up in places that felt to me as if I traveled back in history. At other times I visited companies, and saw products and processes that were so advanced that it felt as if you arrived in the future. In my opinion the rate of change of the world and the culture in which we live is determined by the degree of acceptance of the people living within that culture. It even can be the case that forces are at work that a culture becomes less advanced than it used to be. However, cultures cannot be compared one-to-one on all aspects. What we think is important in our culture does not necessarily mean that others living in a different culture than ours have the same opinion. That is OK though, as long as we accept each other!

No, the reason that people, especially after an immense personal loss, make totally different choices lies within themselves. In my line of thinking (almost) nothing happens by chance. Those people needed to learn several lessons. Lessons that at the time were important to them and maybe even still today. Lessons they needed to learn first, and above all gave them insight before they could continue on their path of life. These people literally start anew, as if they are again at the beginning of their life, only this time with a lot of knowledge and experience. These people live, as it were several lives in one human lifetime.

These people know better what they want to do today and with much more passion than before. They better assess the consequences of their choices today. Yes, they still make mistakes and they will continue to do so, but the difference is they are now better able in dealing with these. Moreover, risks that may occur to them are assessed at a lower level than they used to do. In the old days they were responsible for their family. In particular the financial responsibility and / or severe and prolonged illness of family member(s) could sometimes be a limiting factor in what you and your loved one wanted to achieve together. And especially when your children are self-supporting, you have to account to no-one anymore and you can do as you chose.

I have learned that you should seize the opportunities that you are offered. It is not so easy as that, obviously you have to see the opportunities first. It usually feels like a gift and afterwards it feels sometime as if a miracle has happened. The thing is that you should not only be aware of the things that are happening around you, but you should also be aware of your emotions, your thoughts, your feelings and the interactions between all of this. That is asking a lot of yourself.

When you have a busy job or you have a family or a relation, then many things happen concurrently. To say it gently, you are not always in a position to assess the interaction of your environment and yourself. You have rather the feeling that you are firefighting then living consciously. Let alone that you see opportunities that are occasionally offered to you. And even then it is questionable that you accept the consequences or the changes thereof. The consequences of those decisions are of a totally different order when you are in a relation then when you are on yourself. After the loss of a dearest your “environment” totally changes which actually forces you to think anew how to proceed with your life. Maybe that is the reason people start doing completely different things in their life than they used to do, especially when children are self-supporting.

What I have learned also is that as soon as you start looking ahead in your life the harsh side of your loss and your mourning goes off, everything becomes softer, and you can handle it much better. It also makes it easier to see your real personality.

Dear Reader, a ready-made recipe for everyone that leads to immediate results after the loss of a dearest, does not exist. But the light at the end of the tunnel is when you become receptive and that only happens when you are well on your way with processing your grief. And added to that, you should also be aware of what happens around you as well as the interactions with your emotions, thoughts and your feelings. When you are able to do so, you are able to look forward, and to work on your future… it is a way of living.

(55) They Say It Will Wear Off

HPF_0019_updatedThere you are. It has been a while since your partner, your child or your loved one has died. You think that all your emotions are over and your mourning is processed. Then, unexpectedly, you have those moments that you have to think back to him or her again. There is nothing wrong with that. He or she was important in your life and that will always remain so.

You meet people who say that they have an understanding of grief and bereavement. People who say they have empathy with what you feel. Those same people are stunned when they notice that you still have strong emotions when you think about your loved one.

You meet people who absolutely do not want to talk about what bothers them. People who say there is nothing wrong with them, but where everyone can see and hear at their voice that they push away emotions, or hide these, or are ashamed off these, or even deny these for themselves. People who do not understand, and may find it even scary, that you (dare to) show your emotions.

You meet people who are willing to help and guide you with the processing of your greave. How well they mean it, and how well they may have been educated in this profession, for you at that moment it seems as if these people follow a kind off “standard” approach. In itself, nothing is wrong with that, but for you it feels like they are not really listening to you.

From the above you might think that I am negative towards people who want help you and guide you with your bereavement. On the contrary. This group of people, and in particular when they have lost a partner, a child or a loved one themselves, understand perfectly what you are experiencing and have experienced. They are in an excellent position to help and guide you. However, why do not most of us make use of their services?

I think I understand this at last. In the following brief outline, I will try to explain this. In doing so, I realize that this outline is just one of the possibilities which can be different for every human being and even for each event. Every human being is unique as a person, from his upbringing, from his cultural background, from his training, the environment in which he lives and so on.

Now my outline of one of the possibilities.

In the beginning, just when your partner, your child or a loved one has died, you have many things to arrange and to think about. Everything focusses mainly on saying goodbye to the deceased. Not only that, you also get a lot of attention from family, friends, your environment and your colleagues. At that point, you have not realized yet that you will never see, speak, hug or embrace your loved one anymore.

Later on, you might be handling the finances and cleaning up the belongings of the deceased. Activities that require your attention and that repeatedly will force you to think back to your loved one. All moments where your emotions run high. These are also the moments where you not really are waiting for someone who could help you or guide you in processing your mourning; let alone that you even may think about it.

Later on, when you get back to work for the first time, or go to (family) meetings, or just go shopping, people sympathize with you and you get a lot of attention. However, it could also be possible that people avoid you because they do not know what say to you. Maybe it is because people are afraid of emotions that may occur, not only yours but also theirs. As if, people are ashamed to show emotions.

In spite of all your sadness, the world does not stand still. For everyone except you, it is business as usual. For them the deceased is further away and hardly, if not at all, affects their lives. Occasionally they dwell too on missing your deceased loved one. Usually that does not take a long time though, and their grief begins to recede. They look from their point of view when they meet you later. They do not give it a moment’s thought that you still may have strong emotions about the loved one you lost. It will never be the same as it used to be because that person, which took such an important place in your life, is not there anymore. It will therefore also take more time for you to continue your live in a for you acceptable way without that loved one.

The first year after the death of your loved one, is usually the hardest. The first time during your and your loved one’s birthdays. The first time on vacation, maybe alone or with a friend. The first time during the holidays. The first time to a party. These are moments when you miss your loved one the most. During that first year, you discover that you need to move on with your live, and maybe you even realize that you can do so all by yourself. You may miss the other badly, but it is not a necessary condition for you to move on. You resume your life, and why would you need help in that case in processing your grief.

It may be the case at some point in time,  that you get a feeling of being more often sick than you used to be. Moreover, when you feel sick you have vague or undefinable complaints. You may visit your family doctor and you may even get some remedies. However, those vague complaints could also be signs that you are quite busy with processing your grief. Even then, you take it for granted that you may require support and guidance for processing your grief. It just does not register with you.

The time comes when people around you start thinking that you should have processed your grief by now and that it is done and dusted. I think that is a cliché. Yes, it might be the case that you think less often about your loved ones, however when you do so you see everything in your mind so clearly as if it is the day again when you lost your loved one. People around you may start to suggest that it would be a good idea to seek help to process your grief. You hear what they say, but still you ask no help. You can do it yourself, you think.

Maybe you hesitate to seek help because you are unfamiliar with asking for support or guidance, or you do not know who to approach. Maybe you do not want to admit to yourself that you need support or guidance, or you are afraid to be stigmatized. Maybe you feel embarrassed. Moreover, why would you ask for support or guidance just now? You got quite a way on your own.

One thing I know for sure, mourning and bereavement can last a long time. It can last as long as you live, until your death. Do not hold this against me, I wish everybody a long life though. Nevertheless, the longer it takes the more difficult you find it to seek support or guidance simply because the world around you is not aware anymore that your request is about processing your grief.

The lesson I have learned is that grief does not go away in reality. Yes, the rough parts will get smoother, you can deal with it, and sometimes you cannot. It really does not matter. Life made you the person who you are today and you do not have to be ashamed of that. When you want to talk about the loss of your loved one, you can always do so with your real friends. That is OK. What I also realize is that the deeper your grief the more you have loved your loved one. That is in my point of view, the best and most beautiful compliment you can give.

They say that grief will pass off, but that is not the case. Some people think that the second year is more difficult than the first. Imagine, my wife died of a broken heart 10 years after the death of our daughter. The Flemish psychologist Manu Keirse says it with fine words. Mourning is like a shadow that follows you all your life. Sometimes the shadow is large, and sometimes it is smaller. And, sometimes you think for a moment the shadow is not there, but it is still waiting for you around the next corner and it catches you again… unaware.

I have learned that writing does help a lot.. Write not so much about your grief, but about the good memories you have of your loved one, or write about the new things and more importantly about the beautiful things you have learned and are doing today because you have to walk on alone. I can recommend it to all of you.

If you want to communicate about your experiences, calling may not be a real option since we may live many time zones apart, but yes, if you want to call that is OK. However, you can always email or write me. I will treat our communication as private and confidential.

(53) News and… Schoolchildren in Africa

During the period following my blog of 23 October 2014 I have received much support. I would like to thank everyone who phoned or emailed me from the depth of my heart.

In 2015 I will continue with posting my blogs and the activities of the Mourn & Grief Foundation. This time not every week, but every 15th of the month at 19:00 hours CET.

 

I would like to draw your attention to the following initiative:

Please, help my son Mervyn Fransen and the AfrikaPAK’t Foundation for supporting local school on their route through Africa!

For more information see: Giving Schoolchildren Means To Go Forward.

 

I do hope to see you in the near future.

Yours sincerely,
Hans

(51) Wish

(UK-51) Post ImageI wish…
that everybody…
and everything that lives…
here on Earth…
as well as in all Universes that exist…
apart from any faith you may have…
will know peace and happiness…
and have the wisdom to see the good things in life.

I also wish,
That everyone who mourns, can take comfort from the understanding that grief cannot exist when there was no love.

(49) ‘There Is No Way To Happiness, Happiness Is The Way’ (The Buddha)

It’s about the road and the way, it’s there where it happens. Those beautiful flowers, or that naughty child, or the smile by just anyone. That’s what it’s about.

El CaminoI was visiting a friend who just returned from her two-month pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. The hike to Santiago is also called ‘el camino de Santiago’ which translates as ‘the road to Santiago’.

In 2008 I hiked ‘el camino’ myself, and while talking with my friend and looking at the pictures I was engulfed by the memories of my own Camino. I expect that anyone who hikes the Camino enjoys the simplicity and love that is there for the picking. You don’t even need to collect this because you can’t escape it. Life is about food, sleeping, walking, and communicating with your fellow pilgrims. Inevitably you run into inconveniences and confrontations but those are also easily and quickly resolved. I strongly experienced that I felt being carried by everything around me. No one wonders what your origin or position is. But what is important: what motivates you, what brings you here, what do you want to experience and what you do experience. To ask for help or support is not needed, it’s all around you. Life flows all by itself.

It’s about the way, where it happens. The colour of the earth and the landscape is changing while you walk and every day there are new encounters and challenges. Every encounter gives you something new inspired by each other and the surroundings of that moment; there’s so much recognition. That there is so much recognition, I think, is because we walk in the same direction.

Everyday’s life is no different, we all actually walk in the same direction. We all do it on our own way, but when you really communicate with each other than those different ways turn out to be very recognizable, they appear to be based on the same reasons.

The Camino taught me the simplicity of life. During two months the content of my backpack were my only possessions. And I was lacking nothing. Well, sometimes I longed for a hot bath, but then I promptly found one on my path.

Actually we all have the same goal and that is to be happy. Happiness is not in finding money, position or status or power. Wouldn’t it be great that we all would come to understand that life is actually quite simple. That there are no differences at all and that we all can be happy in a very simple way on the way to where we are travelling to. Listen carefully to the other, he may have a hidden message for you which exactly could be what you need at that moment. Live in simplicity, full with respect and love for each other without any distinction in status or origin.

It’s about the road and the way, it’s there where it happens. Those beautiful flowers, or that naughty child, or the smile by just anyone. That’s what it’s about.

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.