(117) Hans … 20 years later

I hope I can provide a handle so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning whatever may be the cause.

Hans … 20 years later

20 years later? What happened in those 20 years? Most of the blogs I have written are about the period after the death of my daughter, Anne Birgit, in 2000 and of my wife, Mary-Anne, in 2011. Now I don’t want to write about that previous period. This time I want to share with you how I look at my life today … what I am going to do with the lessons I was allowed to learn during that period … how I want to proceed with my life … in a nutshell, how do I see the future today and am I happy with that now.

I hope I can provide a handle with this so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning … whatever the cause may be.

The way I look at it now

The way I look at it today, I am pretty happy with my life. Satisfied in the sense that I have learned to deal with my loss. The raw grief of the past has turned into the gentle pain of mourning. Both Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne are no longer in my mind every day … but we are connected from heart to heart in a different way. As if we know each other when we think about each other. And when a feeling of sadness comes up, it’s like they’re just sitting next to me.

However, there are still times I suddenly go back in time … when Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne were still alive. I still don’t understand how that can happen… maybe because of a smell, a colour, a voice, an image … but in those moments it’s like it’s all real again. Like the way you watch a movie … including all the emotions and feelings that were present at the time. It is true that these kinds of moments have become less frequent in recent years. But when it happens, it is still exactly as it used to be.

The way I look at it, there is immediately a positive thought for every negative thought. As if these are the two sides of the same coin. What strikes me is that in recent years that positive thought has come more often and is stronger than that negative one. That feeling … that positive feeling makes me a happy person. But I should remark that the joy in me goes much lighter and emotionally much deeper than before … more subdued.

I am very sure I would not have been on the path of life I’m walking now, if Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne would still be alive. Paradoxical as it may sound… on the one hand I would like to have both around me again… on the other hand the path I am on now gives me a fantastic but at the same time also an ambivalent feeling. Presumably that feeling will always stay that way.

What do I do with the lessons from that period

The biggest lesson from that period is that I’ve become an experience expert in dealing with loss and grief. People around me are amazed at this. Because for them dealing with loss and grief is about how you deal with it? Isn’t that completed? Time heals all wounds … right? Yes, you have lost a child… that’s like a rollercoaster … we know that. You have now finished your mourning? When I answer that it’s not about that at all, but that it is about guiding others in coping with their loss and their grief … they become silent … then they slowly start to understand. And at the same time, they also indicate that that would never be their choice. But that aside.

In my previous professional life in industry, organizational consultancy and IT, I have learned to look at processes … at people how they use those processes … how possibly could done this better, more convenient, more user-friendly. In this way, I’ve also observed those past 20 years at how I dealt with coping with my grief and my loss. I used that knowledge to write my blogs.

In the meantime, I have started the training “dealing with loss” at the Dutch organization “Land van Rouw.” The amazing thing about this is that the knowledge I have gained from my experience can often be found in the literature used in the course. Does that mean that my training is wasted energy and money? No, that’s not it! It gives me insight from different angles, perhaps other disciplines. With the help of that training, I can even become a professional experience expert, where I can combine theoretical and practical knowledge of others with that of my own.

How I look to the future now

As I look to the future, I envision a path where, in addition to completing training courses, I use my knowledge and experience to assist people in coping with their loss and their grief in the broadest sense. You also should imagine that people become aware that they are in a narcissistic relationship and that they eventually decide to do something about it… no matter how difficult that can be. Or, people who lose their jobs, are terminally ill, or divorce…

I don’t walk that path alone. Together with others I want to guide people with the aim that grief and loss in any form is the most normal thing in the world and that we can talk about it without taboo. I would love that.

As I now look to the future, I also see that I am also moving the common thread of groundbreaking work from my previous profession into this field. For now, I’m just translating it into the form of giving presentations about mourning and loss in any form, writing articles and writing books.

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As I now look to the future, it will end for me eventually sooner than later … I am currently 72 years old. In the coming years I also want to enjoy myself and have fun. Somehow, I feel like I’m going to accomplish that. And what I would love is for others to continue my work in their own way.

In this blog I wanted to show how I eventually “can” deal with my loss and grief. Yes, “can” … because there are times when I can’t. It is what it is. I wanted to show you that it can be a long stretch, but in the end, there is light at the end of that process.

I hope I have been able to provide you with a handle so that you can also learn to deal with your loss and grief… whatever the cause may be.

(114) I want to be like I used to be …

Mila had set a goal for learning how to cope with her grief; she wanted to be the woman she used to be. In my experience, that goal is subjective. How could you measure that? How could that goal be met in a for her acceptable way?

I want to be like I used to be …

I met both, busy talking to each other, in a cafe somewhere in a village along the Belgian coast. Mila, a fictitious name, was about to burst into tears, her friend had put an arm around her comfortingly. Mila’s friend turned out to have left her, after for her happy years, for another, a younger and wealthier woman. It just wasn’t fair. It turned out she had accepted that he wouldn’t return. Her grief was no less about it. She was deeply unhappy and that was obvious when you looked at her. It seemed like the light had disappeared from her eyes. She wanted to be that woman again she used to be, happy, with a rich smile, sparkling and enjoying everything that life gave her.

I want to be like I used to be
It seemed like the light had disappeared from her eyes
It’s about more than just accepting the loss

Mila had in fact set a goal for learning how to deal with her grief; she wanted to be that that woman again she used to be. In my opinion that is a subjective goal. Because how could you measure that? What if she only achieved a little of the desired result. Is that acceptable to her or not? To what extent should that goal be met for her to be acceptable at all?

Mila made her mourning unnecessarily complex by setting that goal. Why not start processing your grief and see where you end up? And then, depending on the course of the process itself, adjust here and there somewhat. Maybe she even discovers life paths and results that are much more attractive afterwards than what she had initially conceived.

It’s about making choices

To move forward in life and at the same time achieve her goal, Mila will have to make choices. Which choices? That’s not for me to decide, that’s up to Mila! If she does not make a choice however, she literally stands still and does get any further in her life. And you know, you never get absolute certainty for making your choices. After all, once you have taken the first steps after a choice, everything changes because things that were previously hidden from you now become visible. In short, it makes no sense to consider in detail which choice you should make. Mainly focus on your feelings.

You change yourself through the choices you make in your life. Similarly, you change because of the choices loved ones make in your life. All those choices changed the person you were to the person you are today! Some choices leave scars. The scars that you feel or see in the beginning eventually become less tangible or visible, but they never disappear.

Conclusion

Mila may want to become she used to be again, and maybe come a long way, but what is today will never be the way it used to be. And just as Mila had accepted that her ex-partner would not return to her, she also could accept that she had changed by learning to cope with that loss.

Can Mila then never the one she used to be, happy, with a bright smile, sparkling and enjoying everything that life gives? Paradoxical as it sounds, and especially when she is open to it, of course you can. But then different. Different because emotions go deeper through the experiences she has gained; more understanding has emerged; experiences that have made her emotionally richer; perhaps even a warmer personality; and maybe even doing things that she had never thought possible in her wildest dreams. And maybe, just maybe, she does thank her ex-partner at some point in time in the future because she ended up on a path of life that feels she should have walked on from the beginning. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!