(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.

(88) How Do You Proceed When All Seems to Collapse (Part 2)

If I dare to live with complete surrender to everything that comes my way, then I really live, and that’s what I’m learning now

To read part 1 of this blog click here.

I had finally made my choice. I surrendered myself to the expertise and knowledge of the present day regular medicine. Now was the moment for my breast mastectomy. I always used to say that I would never choose an internal prosthesis. But now, I really had to make a choice. I wondered if I was really prepared to live with a flat chest for the rest of my life. Due to the surgical removal of my armpit glands in 2007, I knew what it was like to feel your hard ribs directly beneath your skin without the normal layer of fat in between. Because of my job I also knew how a body looked like after a breast amputation. For someone else It didn’t bother me, but the beauty was gone, and now it concerned my own body! My beasts had always been my pride. I could enjoy the feeling of their soft curves. And now I had to miss one breast. The surgeon presented me with four different operations I could choose from. The choice I wanted was not an option though, whatever choice I would make I would lose my own familiar breast. How can you make a choice when deep inside your heart you don’t want any of these choices? When I realized once again that when an internal prosthesis would be applied I always would walk with “a strange and cold thing” in my chest with all risks involved, this choice fell off. In the end I chose for a reconstruction from my own tissue where a large muscle from my back would be folded forward and would form my breast. My new breast would become a little bit smaller, but it was my own tissue and I would remain my décolleté. Furthermore, fat from my back would be sucked away to make my breast as big as possible. This operation was less intrusive than a full reconstruction from my own tissue. With full confidence I went into the operation and I felt supported by everyone who loved me and everyone that was around me. However, I remained doubtful until the last minute about the profound choice I had made, even though I had compared all cons and pros with each other and I had taken a well deliberate decision.

During the operation and the period of 6 weeks that followed, it felt like I was being carried. I was surrounded by a warm blanked of friends, family, relatives and angels and I was so relieved that I was freed from the tumor. There was a moment where I thought “what if I had made the decision for the operation earlier.” But in that case, I wouldn’t have had the experience I’ve now. I did it my way and as far as was possible I listened to what I wanted.

Now I want to get used to my new body, my chest and my back that do not feel like mine anymore. In addition, again I lost confidence in my body and I also need time now to rebuild confidence in my body for the future.

Fortunately, the assessment of the tumor concluded that this tumor was a new one and had nothing to do with the previous one.

I am thankful that I’m doing well and that I may continue to enjoy life on Earth including all ups and downs that belong to this. If I’ve learned something over the last two years, my desire to death is as great as my desire to live and, the fear to live is as large as my fear to die. If I dare to live with complete surrender to everything that comes my way, then I really live, and that’s what I’m learning now.

(87) How Do You Proceed When All Seems to Collapse (Part 1)

I couldn’t ignore it, I knew it, again a tumor was sitting in my breast.

It’s May 2015 when I feel a bump in my breast for the second time. This time just a bit outside the area of the surgery that was nine years ago. I felt a twinge a few weeks ago that remembered me of the previous time. After that my breast felt a bit more firmer and a bit more sensitive. I just couldn’t believe it. I hardly could feel the lump because it was sitting so deep inside. But I couldn’t ignore it, I knew it, again a tumor was sitting in my breast.

The replacement General Practitioner didn’t feel anything which gave me a bit of hope. Nevertheless, given my previous experience, we decided that it would be better to have it checked by the surgeon.

In the hospital, a mammogram and an ultrasound were made and before I realized it a needle was in my chest to take a puncture from the tumor that was deep inside. I was in shock! Freezing cold and trembling I walked back to the surgery. Again, my body let me down, that’s how it felt for me. The surgeon told me that she would discuss this with the oncology team, first surgery and then chemo- or hormone therapy or the other way around. In any case, it would be an amputation, because to operate upon the same breast twice was not an option. Stunned, I listened to what she told me.

I went home and started wondering what I wanted to do. An operation… is that what I wanted… a chemo therapy… or a hormone therapy… had I still confidence in the hospital? In the end, I decided to request a second opinion at a specialized hospital.

Further research was carried out to determine the exact location of the tumor and to see if the rest of my body was tumor free. No metastases were found fortunately. The present tumor could have been from a remnant of the previous one perhaps, but it could be a new tumor too. In the meantime, I had decided to try to get rid of the tumor by my own mindpower, adjusted nutrition and the use of supplements. Even though I found it exciting, I wondered if I my willpower would be strong enough to see this through. I told the oncologist what I wanted and together we decided to try this in combination with a hormone therapy. The oncologist gave me a year’s time, then we would see how to proceed from there. I was very grateful to her that she was willing to give me this opportunity.

I meditated and visualized that all my cells were energetic and vital and functioned as was originally intended, I visualized that the immune cells were recovering each and every irregularity that had occurred. In addition, I skipped all sugar and meat form my diet and supported my body with dietary supplements that increased my natural resistance. The tumor reduced steadily in size, but continued to suffer from anxiety attacks in which I saw the tumor growing and spreading in my body. After nine months, the tumor was shrunk by more than half. Proud as I was with the result, I had my 3-moths check with the oncologist when she remembered me that the year was almost over and that she found this an excellent moment for scheduling a breast amputation. In addition, she said, despite my good intentions, usually the tumor starts growing again after a year. My world collapsed, fear and panic overwhelmed me and I lost all power to proceed with this approach. Three months later it appeared that the tumor had increased again. I decided for the operation.

Had I failed? Of course, this thought occurred to me. But I know now two things 1) I can influence my health and 2) it requires rock solid confidence and discipline. In addition, you can only go against the regular order with guts and perseverance . I’m happy I’ve listened to my wish and that I dared to do it my way first.

To read part 2 of this blog click here.