(112) Her world stopped turning

No matter how great your loss and sadness are, how you react to it, no matter how long ago it was, what one thinks of it, there is usually a way to get out that deep valley of that great loss and sorrow. Of course, you don’t have to find the way alone. If you allow it, you can get support. However firstly, it must be realized that there’s a need for support. This can be because you, the grieving, finally begins to understand that you cannot process your loss or mourning by your own strength. It is also possible by all of us to ensure that we do not let the griever, you, not alone in processing your loss or grief.

Her world stopped turning

Her world stopped turning … and … maybe even started turning not yet. Due to breast cancer Monica’s breast was removed. For clarity, Monica is a fictitious name. About a year later she also lost her son to cancer, just before his 8th birthday. How harsh life can be. It’s so unfair.

How harsh can life be!

In the meantime, again a year has passed in Monica’s life.  She is still struggling with dealing of that great loss and sorrow. Yeah, who doesn’t? She is still getting tired quickly and still can’t concentrate. Everything in life around her seems totally insignificant … especially when you compare that to her huge loss.

“Yes,” she says, “I can’t get anything out of my hands. Keep me good, I would really like to continue my life … but … I just can’t get it done. “

Panic

Panic strikes when the company doctor thinks Monica should be able to work again. Does he not understand that I am tired quickly, that I cannot concentrate?

Panic strikes when people around her have an opinion about just everything. The death of her son is almost a year ago … the removal of her breast even longer. Why would you still have such an immense sadness? You should have processed your grief by now anyway, right?

Panic strikes when Monica wonders how to handle all those reactions. To her it seems that there are two worlds … the world in which she lives … and … the world in which the people around her live. At times she can feel so lonely.

Loneliness

It has been a while that managers and colleagues from the company she works for, regularly contacted her or stopped by. It seems as if Monica no longer exists for them. Apart from the occasional contacts with the company doctor and human resources, nobody contacts her anymore. She must find out everything by herself and even resolve it.

Why don’t they see me?

“Don’t they understand what’s going on with me, and … with me?” says Monica. “Can no one give me a helping hand? Is that so much to ask? Is there no one who even understands how hard I am now? The question ‘how I am doing,’ they ask out of (social) courtesy rather then they really do want to know. Can no one even yield any empathy? “

“I’m struggling more than enough in coping with my loss and sorrow. Why do I have to consider someone else? Why doesn’t they take account of me? Is that too much to ask?” Monica asks herself. “There’s no one who hears me. No one who really listens to me. Help! “

Cry for help

On the one hand, for Monica, everything in life around her seems utterly insignificant… when you compare that to her huge loss. Not only that, but on the other hand Monica is too proud to ask for help.

And yet … Monica wants, as she said before, to continue her life … but … she just can’t get it done. Her cry for help is loud and clear! A cry that should never be ignored … by nobody!

Monica is finally heard, and people have gone along with her step by step. The way things look now, Monica will be fine in some point in time. However, the “scars” of her loss and sorrow will never go away, with as result that Monica comes to life in a different way than before. It’s just the way it is.

Conclusion
Hope glimmers on the horizon!

No matter how big your loss and grief is … no matter how harsh and emotional you react to it … no matter how long ago it happened … whatever people in your area think about it or how they respond to it … and how you respond to this (complex) entirely … there is usually a way to get out of that deep valley of that great loss and sorrow.

Of course, you don’t have to find that road alone. There are countless people who can help you with this. People like family members, dear friends, experiential experts, professional caregivers or people from your immediate environment. Central to this is that you are willing to ask for and accept their help. It is also central that they can and want to give you that help … and continue to give that to you if you indicate you need it.

However, before that happens, it must be clear that help is needed. This is possible because your world is starting to move again and you, the grieving person, eventually start to realize that you cannot handle your loss or grieving on your own. That it is also possible for all of us to assure that we do not leave the grieving, you, alone in processing loss or grief.

In a nutshell, no matter what happens, all of us should, without exception, stay in touch with each other … if only to help each other when one of us needs help.

(111) Becoming aware of mourning

Becoming aware of mourning is important because in the literature it is described how grief represents a change in health status and well-being. Just as healing in the physiological area is necessary to restore the homeostatic balance in the body, the grieving needs time to restore the psychological balance.

Becoming aware of mourning

Becoming aware of mourning is important since it is described in the literature how sadness represents a change in health status and well-being. Just as healing in the physiological area is necessary to restore the homeostatic balance in the body, the griever needs time to restore the psychological balance.

In an earlier blog I wrote about an overwhelming loss immediately after a loved one or dear one had died. This blog is about the run-up to becoming aware of grief as a result of that overwhelming loss.

A few terms

The following terms are used in this blog:

Grief indicates the experience of someone whose loved one or dear one has died. Grief consists of a collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physiological changes that can vary in combination and intensity over time.

Bereavement defines the loss to which the person is trying to adjust and the experience of having lost a loved one or dear one.

Mourning is the term that is applied to the process that people go through to adapt to the death of their loved one or dear one. The finality and consequences of the loss are understood and integrated into the life of the griever.

As you would expect, notions such as grief, bereavement and mourning are not limited solely to aspects related to the death of the loved one or a dear one. It can be drawn much wider. For example, in relation to a terminal illness, a divorce, the loss of work, the loss of physical functions, etc.

Why should grief be dealt with after a big loss?

Research has shown that within normal mourning, also referred to as uncomplicated mourning, much of the behaviour can resemble that of depression. However, the cause is different and so does the approach to address its behaviour. The current understanding is that while most of the depressions during mourning are transient and do not require special attention, the idea is nevertheless emerging that a persistent depression during the first year of mourning does indeed require professional or clinical attention. Seen from this perspective, it is believed mourning after the loss of a loved one or a dear one is important.

But whatever you think about it …

The choice of whether to handle your grief after a major loss is entirely up to you. You are free to process your grief or not. You may not even consider it because sadness is part of life and many in your area die. You could choose to repress your sorrow (after a short time) into the background simply by continuing with your daily life “as usual.” You could even choose to replace it with someone else shortly after your partner’s death.

“Mourning? Do I mourn? No, not at all! Should I? Why would I want to do that?” These are questions and reactions from a young man from Nigeria whose family member had died. He explained that mourning does not matter to him because death is part of daily life. After all, many people are dying around us. A reformulation of the question could also be: if it is normal for (many) acquaintances to die or disappear in your environment every day … how do you look at your loss or mourning?

How do I become aware of my grief from that great loss?

Personally, I became aware of my grief after many years. After the death of my wife, Mary Anne, I returned to work quickly, maybe too quickly. My work was intense, the teams worked all over the world and as a result my working hours were quite bizarre. However, it was a fantastic job from which I could get a lot of energy. Until that moment when I retired a few years later. I got several of those indefinable ailments, felt gloomy, could not sleep, was tired, and reading a page of a book took me days and still I had no hunch what it was about. Ailments no physician could put a finger on. Occasionally there were days when all went fantastic … at least that added a bit of hope to the little that was left of it. It all simmered a bit until during a vacation with my son, Mervyn, we suddenly had to rush to the hospital, I could barely breathe anymore. They saw it happen in the hospital, but they couldn’t find the cause. Eventually everything returned to normal and we went on with our vacation. Once at home they could not find a cause in our hospital either. However, once I started writing my blogs about grief and mourning, those “ailments” started to disappear slowly. Gradually I became aware that I had finally started processing my grief.

But could you also become aware of your mourning … instead of by chance?

In general, mourning involves a collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and physiological changes that can vary over time in combination and intensity. To name just a few:

Bereavement and emotions

Sadness, anger, blame, guilt and self-blame, fear, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, yearning for the deceased, emancipation or relief, numbness, hollowness in the stomach, chest tightness, tightness in the throat, hypersensitivity to noise, a feeling like you are no longer yourself, breathlessness, shortness of breath, weakness in the muscles, lack of energy, dry mouth, disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, sense of presence, hallucinations, sleep disorders, eating disorders, distracted and absent behaviour, withdrawn into oneself, dreams about the deceased, avoiding memories of the deceased, searching or calling for the deceased, sighing, restless, hyperactive, crying, visit places that remind of the deceased, collect or carry objects that belonged to the deceased.

Yes, there are quite a few and on top of that you must be able to be consciously involved with this matter for a while after that overwhelming loss. Maybe you suffer from absent behaviour or you have no energy to do anything. Maybe family members or friends can assist you when you are not able to do so yourself.

How to proceed

Personally, I was able to conclude that I had started processing my mourning much later. In retrospect, I would much rather have had direct help with the processing of my grief. It would have given me more peace and I could have enjoyed life more. Maybe even … it is what it is…

Anyway, you can become aware of mourning, after the death of your loved one or dear one, when you keep track of your thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physiological changes from the above collection on say a monthly basis by indicating how these vary over time in combination and/or its intensity. You could draw the conclusion when:

• The combination and/or intensity diminishes: that you are processing your mourning and that you can handle the loss of your loved one or your dear one.

• The combination and/or intensity kind of persists: then it is wise to seek help for your mourning at a practice for grieving and loss guidance.

• The combination and/or intensity increases: then it is wise to seek help from your doctor as soon as possible for guiding you with your mourning. In the latter case, based on your feelings, you may have already considered the idea of ​​seeking help in an earlier stage.

Summary

This blog may be a bit on the boring side, but it is my intention to help you in becoming aware of your grief after the loss of a loved one or a dear one. From own experience, experience of others and from the literature it appears that processing of grief is important. In a nutshell, body and mind must be healed, must be brought back into balance. However, realize that that balance will no longer be the same as before. Mourning also means that you are “marked” by the loss … like in my previous blog with Kathy who rarely shows the brilliant light that she really is and with Tanja where you can see the necessary setbacks she has had when you look deep into her eyes.

It is my wish that this blog can help you with becoming aware of your grief. It is my experience that only then your mourning begins.

A final comment

There is a lot of literature available in the field of grief and mourning. The Dutch version of the Foundation’s website contains a literature overview that is regularly updated. The book that I find most rewarding to read and understand is “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy”, 5th edition, by J. William Worden (ISBN 9780826134745) published by Springer Publishing Company, LLC.

(110) Don’t leave me alone

Two people who each have their own point of view, their own opinion and no matter how you look at it, both are right. That is allowed and there is nothing wrong with that. But when with one of the two violent emotions play a major role, like sadness, fear or pain, then it’s important that both are willing to understand the other’s point of view. Understanding, so that the bond between the two is not severed but strengthened!

Introduction

The current blog, “don’t leave me alone,” is about two people with the fictitious names Kathy and Tanya. Both have a different even opposite view of the same situation. That is possible and should be okay. But when intense emotions play a major role at Kathy … then it is important that both can talk to each other … and … can understand each other’s opinion. “And then what,” you may think. “Can’t you have a difference of opinion?” Yes, you can. But it becomes a different story when intense grief or a serious illness play a role with Kathy. Relationships can sever or even end; as with Kathy who is afraid of being left alone. Whatever you think, it happens in daily life and it “hurts people.” Nobody wants that, right?

Kathy

Kathy has no shortage of friends and, just like my daughter Anne Birgit, she’s a beautiful young woman. However, on the outside, you can’t see she’s seriously ill. And Kathy too had to cope with the necessary blows in her life with the result that the brilliant light she really is, rarely comes out.

Kathy has undergone a whole range of chemo treatments and radiation treatments. During the last consultation with the specialist, he indicated that the treatments will continue to work in her body for months before something can be said about the result.

It is already the second time for Kathy in her life that she has undergone such a series of treatments. She can still clearly remember the first series. How relieved and happy she was after she was told that she was free of tumours … that she could celebrate life again.

The results of the second series will take months to come. Until then, Kathy is not really in a party mood, let alone to celebrate life because the treatments have been completed. She can still remember the enormous disappointment and especially her anger when the tumours returned for the second time. Until then, Kathy is full of hope that the treatments have achieved the intended effect. On the other hand, she is so afraid of being disappointed again because she realizes what that will mean for her sooner rather than later.

Tanya

Like Kathy, Tanya is a beautiful young woman who is full of energy and who is always ready to throw a party as soon as there is anything to celebrate.

Tanya also had the necessary setbacks in her life … yes, who didn’t. But when you don’t know it or don’t look deep into her eyes, everything indicates that life seems to be one big party for Tanya, and she enjoys it to the fullest.

Tanya and Kathy are close friends. The treatments Kathy had to undergo for almost a year took a great toll. She was more often in bed than not and too tired to do anything. Tanya made sure that at least Kathy was eating … that is if she could keep in that little bit, she was able to eat … and … take care of herself.

When Kathy returned after all those intense treatments from the last consultation, it was just natural for Tanya that this should be celebrated. That’s what you do … it makes sense … you have completed a phase … you can go on with life, right?

Don’t leave me alone

Kathy had a different opinion. She still remembered the conversation with the specialist, the uncertainties expressed in it and Kathy also remembered the result of that first series of treatments. The enormous relief and joy she felt at the time when they told her that she was free of cancer, and a few years later the intense sadness, the anger and the fear that the tumours had returned. Now Kathy is afraid, so afraid of being disappointed again.

“What do you mean, party? There’s nothing to celebrate” Kathy says to Tanya who doesn’t agree with her. For Tanya there definitely something is to celebrate. The treatments are completed, aren’t they? And with this difference in thinking … this difference in opinion … a difference in point of view that is so logical and obvious for each of them … that it’s impossible for them to understand each other’s point of view.

don't leave me alone, sad, afraid, disappointed
Don’t leave me alone!

And at this point the relationship between Tanya and Kathy starts to wane and Kathy’s cry for help, “don’t leave me alone,” becomes a reality eventually.

But on the other hand, maybe Kathy’s fear has made Tanya as frightened as she is. Or … there is something that Tanya has been touched by or afraid of … which dilutes the relationship. Or … maybe … yes, you can think of and accept anything, but it’s not something you can get along with it.

How to proceed from here

For me it is crystal clear that Kathy and Tanya should discuss this with each other … and … keep talking to each other so Kathy doesn’t feel left alone. Yes, it’s clear to me, but do they think so too?

In my opinion, it is necessary that Kathy and Tanya sit together at the table and each tells her story about … what is felt … missed … should be celebrated … or not … or what they might be even afraid of.

It would also be beneficial to do this together with a “mediator” so that, in addition to helping in expressing each other’s words to the other, at the same time he or she can foster the understanding that both look at the same situation in their own unique way.

Both have a point, but it is important that they can understand each other’s point of view … so that the relationship between Kathy and Tanya does not gets diluted … but instead … becomes stronger.

Conclusion

It’s my experience that people start from their own opinion, or their own view they have of the another. That’s obvious, you might think, but in my opinion, it will be something completely different when that image is based on a series of assumptions. The reality regarding others is usually different and much more complex than we initially thought or assumed. That is why it is wise to keep talking to them in order to get a better understanding for each other. The same applies to people we think we know very well or for a long time.

You could also assume that everyone is correct. To illustrate this, imagine you are standing in a mountain landscape. The image that you see is determined from where you look at it. When you let everyone tell you what that landscape looks like, you will hear different stories depending on where these people were standing … in that same landscape.

In communicating with the other person, it is important that we are prepared to adjust our own opinions about the other person if that should prove so during the conversation. And there is often another bottleneck because not everyone can just do this or want to do this.

Epilogue

The core of the case used in “don’t leave me alone” is not unique. There are countless examples in which communication between people is the cause that they do not understand each other … with all possible consequences … like the one in “Farewell“.

Like in the used case of this blog in which two people each have their own point of view or their own opinion. No matter how you look at it, both are correct. That is allowed and there is nothing wrong with that. But when one of the two experiences violent emotions, such as sadness, fear or pain, then it is important that everyone can understand the other’s point of view, so that one of them doesn’t feel left alone in the end!

(109) A Happy Feeling

Let the moments of sadness, of fear, of pain, of disappointment fly away like the Butterfly and let the joyful feeling, the sense of oneness, sense of belonging that you may give yourself, share in these seconds of being whole fulfil you.

Dear Soul, do you want to write for me?

In an unexpected moment of one second, when entering a hallway, I was surprised by a beautiful appearance that flew in my direction. In this one second, I pondered to catch it and to set it free from this Hall, because it should fly in nature. Everything during this one second made me catch this beautiful Butterfly and search for a window.

While searching I could not find a window, then went up towards to the terrace where I could let this beautiful appearance rest.

On the way to the terrace, my sister came upstairs and, in my enthusiasm wanted to share this feeling … by carefully opening my hand I showed the beautiful Butterfly to my sister, she was just as surprised by this wonderful spectacle what was given to us this morning.

While talking and searching for an attempt to give the Butterfly her freedom, my sister tried to grab her phone to capture her.

While filming the Butterfly stayed quietly on my hand, showing itself in her most beautiful outfit, a colour splendour that made us happy, that happy inner feeling you can’t explain had passed by a couple of times in a few seconds, in a deep respect, a deep appreciation, a deep togetherness, feeling a deep unity with this beauty from nature. She had closed her wings and, walking to the terrace, she opened it, this colour splendour warmed us up inside and amazed us in a way that was very special.

The beautiful butterfly sitting on my hand

Walking to the hydrangea to let her rest on the leaves and then to meet freedom, she sat very quietly and occasionally let her wings close and open. During this short period of connection with three creatures of nature we felt that this, this connectedness was necessary to make us realize that nature has so much to offer and that nature in ourselves needs so little to create this happy feeling for what it is.

At some point while talking to her she showed her wings spread on my hand where I said: “Go … go enjoy flying into nature … be yourself.”

The beauty she radiated during these few seconds made us marvel this moment for the rest of the day.

A moment of awareness with this beautiful Butterfly reminded us that every second of the day you can enjoy yourself, be yourself and because of all kinds of circumstances you can sometimes no longer see the beauty of this Butterfly, can feel it, can share it in the way that Nature you offer … for free and for naught.

This Butterfly stands for that bit of enjoyment, rejoicing yourself by looking through the eyes of this beauty that makes you surprise, rejoice and warm.

Think like the Butterfly, spread your wings, show off your colour splendour, and sometimes take a break to relax so that you can fly out the way you want and can fly out to a new place, a new feeling, a new encounter, a new experience! Embark on a voyage of discovery within yourself as the Butterfly did in this hall, and watch what you can see, be able to experience in a matter of seconds, which will make you stop for a moment in wonder, the admiration of nature around you, on Mother Earth, in nature and within yourself.

Let the moments of sadness, of fear, of pain, of disappointment fly away like the Butterfly and let the joyful feeling, the sense of oneness, sense of belonging that you may give yourself, share in these seconds of being whole fulfil you.

A happy feeling is that feeling where you press that Heart & Soul button to let the Light shine in a dark room. Be this button yourself, because anything is possible! A few seconds to rejoice your heart, rejoice your soul, and above all rejoicing your life, making other energies realize that we are all just seconds on Mother Earth to make this wonder, admiration, to be allowed to share as the butterfly did with me and my sister.

That’s where I’m this beauty grateful for.

(107) Good Watch

This time a contribution from the district nursing services. No matter how professional the employees are towards their clients, it is and remains human work. This is most evident when the daily work extends to palliative care. Besides profession, emotions also come into play. After all, it is and remains work for people carried out by people and everything that comes with it. For all these employees it is nothing but praise from me!

And now follows Nella’s contribution… a contribution from a district nursing service, somewhere in The Netherlands.

“Good watch,” these were the words I have heard for years. During the night shift, after I gave you the care you needed.

The bond I had with you was special, our age difference of 40 years did nothing to that. You called me your friend. Not so much that I visited you outside my working hours … though. The many conversations about life itself, such as the struggle you wanted to continue to work as a highly educated woman at the time when you were married and had children. That was very unusual at the time and took a lot of struggle. But you persisted and never gave up on what you believed. Those were the powerful stories. Keep developing yourself, don’t stand still, because that was decline by definition. Being and staying independent as a woman, leading your own … That was one of the many stories and lessons and learning moments about life itself. Also, the love for your deceased husband, who supported you in those years of struggle to follow your own path as a woman. The many grateful moments with your husband, children and grandchildren together. The visits of your children, who came frequently and the grandchildren you called gifts.

It is May 4, 2019, commemoration day of the dead. Your health deteriorates very quickly when I arrive around midnight as usual. As always, the TV is on, but not now with the news sections, but the Second World War is proceeding. The bombs and all that goes with it, illuminates and engulfs your living room with sound, from a TV screen that is currently far too large. I can see that the WWII is not only on TV but also in you. With a somewhat tearful face, which I have rarely seen in all those 7 years with you, you tell me that I may go and that if it suits me, I may return later in the night or even in the morning. Your voice trembles. My doubt about leaving is great, but because you say it so emphatically and you don’t like fuss, I am starting off in the first place. But before I go out through the door, I walk back and ask, “Can I watch with you so that we are together …” “If you want it so much” and “Do you have time for that?” you asked in a snappy voice to me. For some situations I like to make time free. I know you and understand that you quickly perceive it as pity or too much involvement. I need to phrase it gently. The thought alone. That you would need someone, or that you would feel sorry. That did not suit you at all and straightened your hair. I knew that. “I always come and sit next to you” was my answer, usually going through the day. “That was true,” you confirmed. The tone became much milder again. Once next to you, I felt the quivering in your hands, and as so often I grabbed them for a moment, just like now. Because your hands were shaking so, I enclosed them with my second hand. We watched the movie together without saying anything. Despite our very close relationship, I know that you absolutely do not want to talk about the war. That era is a closed book for you. Once the movie is over, I give you the care that we give you every night.

“Didn’t it bother you that you stayed?” was your question to me. “No, being together with you right now is so much more of significance to me.” “For me too,” you say. “You don’t know how much you mean to me, because I don’t actually say it so often. Rarely actually.” “You don’t have to. Some situations you can just feel the empathy,” was my answer. This is the essence of providing care. I have known that for a long time, but now I felt it so emphatically.

In the last week of your life, you become increasingly narrow, restless and anxious. I happen to have the night shift myself that week. I was with you during the many hours of fear and unrest. I asked the questions that always must be asked in situations like this. And what we talked about much earlier, when nothing was wrong. You wanted to die peacefully, preferably asleep. The conversations become more intense, your sensitivity and your soft side are showing much more, just like the satisfaction about a completed life. It was such a beautiful valuable time together in the last week. The cocktail of medication that someone receives when the person is severely oppressed or restless (at a certain stage) and wants to do so, as would have been the case with you that evening, is started. And, as promised, I will still take care of you.

The peak of our relationship and contact was reached for me, when your son called me and asked if I wanted to stop by so that you could say goodbye to me when you were conversant. Of course, I would come over. With heavy shoes, I went to you. To be honest, I found it difficult, but once with you, I was surprised of the peace you showed. There was no sign of fear and unrest. You were ready for the last journey. Almost cheerfully you asked me if you could give me something. You have often asked me that question. Like now, I don’t need anything from you. “Everything you would like to give me fades in the contact and the bond we have had”. You smiled at me. “You are right, what we had together was unique in every way”. With a final farewell and a kiss on your cheek I leave your home. On my way home, tears roll down my cheeks. Not because you die quickly, but because of the beautiful and many memories we had together. I realized: this is and was LOVE. I feel love and gratitude for the time together with you. And a huge loss for the time to come when I must miss you.

Farewell dear friend!