(106) The shadow side of mourning

The loss of a dear one

The shadow side of mourning? Is there a light one then? Everything is relative, you could see it as the difference between dusk with a brilliant sunset and the oncoming night as the shadow side.

The mourning process about the loss of a loved one can become complicated, without talking though about complex mourning. No, about a form where many things play a role in the periphery of mourning. That I call the shadow side of mourning. A form that can lead you to deferred mourning and everything in between.

Mourning, imaged as a sunset

When you consider a sunset as an image for a mourning process, then mourning is limited to the processing of the loss of a loved one by you and by you only.

The image of the sunset is not just about the (sometimes) difficult moments in your life … but also including those great moments that you shared together. It’s about a life, that when someone asks you if you would be willing to live that life all over again … including all those sad and great moments … your answer would be an immediate yes!

It maybe is a meagre consolation, but the deeper the grief the greater the love that existed between you. At the moment of realization, it doesn’t console you though … because the other one isn’t there anymore and you can’t give him or her a hug or a kiss.

The shadow side of mourning

The shadow side of mourning is about a loss that can become an even greater one by aspects that play a role in the periphery of the grieving person.


Besides the loss of your loved one, you will also have to deal with aspects that are the result of how others manage the same loss. A disagreement between family members during the preparations for the memorial service could cause this … or just after that. Or the handling of the inheritance became an issue … and consequently, family ties could be lost. The so-called “glass door” effect for mourners results to the loss of friends. After the memorial service of your dear one, almost everyone promises to invite you. Only a handful honour their promise though.

The loss of a dear one might even lead to anger. Anger because you are so sorry that your last words didn’t reflect not even close what you felt for the other. You may feel abandoned because you now must deal with all those things and issues your loved one always did. You may find out secrets about your dear one that were hidden from you all the time. It could be even that your anger turns into hatred.

You may feel compelled or even forced to take over the position in the company of your loved one. A position you never wanted to have because you don’t have the knowledge or skills. But now you should do so.

When the shadow side plays an important role in your loss, then mourning becomes convoluted. It’s clear though, like everyone else, that only you can process your mourning. But that is not to say that a helping hand can’t be offered … a helping hand in the form of support or guidance.

Finding support … but how?

Support and guidance should primarily be directed to raise awareness and the understanding of what is happening to you (in other words, to understand the parts of your puzzle) at that moment; and what parts are important to you; and what could be done to resolve those parts of your puzzle.

Secondly, you should find out what parts of your puzzle could be resolved by yourself or by somebody else. And, not to forget, why and for which items of your puzzle support or guidance would be required. As normally would be the case knowledge and experience are important factors, but with grief or bereavement trust is the most important factor. The rule of thumb that should be used is: “When in doubt, out!”

Personally, I find it important that the grieving person should become self supporting as soon as possible. That means that all assistance or guidance provided is only of (very) short term nature!


Mourning is not just about the loss of a loved one. Parallels could also drawn for mourning as a result of a treatable but incurable disease up to and including a malignant terminal disease.

(83) Dilemmas

The dilemma at a choice between different interests with respect to dear ones could be that this requires key decisions from which future happiness depends. It is choosing between two dear worlds and you must make the best of it. Sometimes, afterwards, you regret your choice. But you can never know where that other choice would have lead to. Maybe you would’ve regret that choice too in the end. And at that moment, when the awareness is there, you suddenly step into a grieving process.

The past few blogs I’ve asked the readers if they could help me by providing me with their experiences they’ve had, experiences they are still going through perhaps and, what their opinion was about that. The story of one of the readers triggered something deep inside me. The blog is not just about her story alone, but also about others.

I would like to thank again all readers for their contribution.

What is the story about in this blog?

Kathy, a fictional name, and her partner have a son and a daughter who lead their lives for a long time.

The son lived alone and passed away a few years ago. The son had often visited his parents and his sister. Kathy and her partner took comfort in walking and music… and they took comfort from their daughter’s family. The daughter had much grief about the loss of her brother. From personal experience, I know all too well what the impact is when you lose a child. It doesn’t matter how you explain it, only people who have experienced this themselves will understand you. You’ll carry your sadness for the loss of a child for the rest of your life.

The daughter has a family and a child and lives abroad because of het partner’s work, it’s at about 6 hours flying distance. It’s a happy family. Despite all communication tools we have in our today’s world, Kathy misses direct contact with her daughter. The distance doesn’t make it easy either.

The daughter misses her brother, he often came to visit her. She also misses her parents and would love to have them living near her so they could see each other more often.

The relationship between Kathy and her mother was never optimal. Nevertheless, Kathy is doing a lion’s share of the care of her mother. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Kathy to keep it up. There are other family members who could help her mother. Her mother, however, considers it Kathy’s job to take care of her. Her mother doesn’t ask anything from the other family members.

When Kathy is with her mother, they never talk about Kathy’s deceased son. When Kathy is with her daughter, they can talk about him. Here Kathy feels herself complete again… as if her family is one tight set again.

Kathy and her partner are not one of the youngest anymore and have so their shortcomings. Moving to her daughter is not easy and how do you arrange the care for your mother? And all the acquaintances and friends that they have now… all those that you’re going to miss? It would be a whole new start… and that at her age.

And there you are… how to proceed from here?

Everyone wants everything from Kathy. If Kathy stays here for her mother, then Kathy will eventually blame her mother she can’t be with her daughter. When Kathy choses for her daughter then in the end, her mother will start complaining to Kathy she’s not with her.

An almost obvious question that is not asked to Kathy, in my point of view… “What does Kathy want?” In my opinion this a form of hidden loss and hidden grief, one of the variants of a mourning process.

What is it you want when you need to make such a choice… where nobody realizes what’s going on and because of that the question is not asked… or… is everyone afraid to ask that question to you? But most important is… “What do you want?”

The dilemma at a choice between different interests with respect to dear ones could be that this requires key decisions from which future happiness depends. It is choosing between two dear worlds and you must make the best of it. Sometimes, afterwards, you regret your choice. But you can never know where that other choice would have lead to. Maybe you would’ve regret that choice too in the end. And at that moment, when the awareness is there, you suddenly step into a grieving process.

A choice like that is rarely a simple one, but once made you should totally go for it. Never look back with the idea you should have taken the other choice. It’s about you and your partner and more important… it should feel if not great, it should feel good. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

(75) Impossible Choices

A choice that is made with love and that is accepted by all involved with their heart is not a choice at all… but a matter of course! To me that is unconditional love!

They love each other. But the thing is… her parents are not really happy with her relationship. They do not stand with her! And that she finds very difficult. She finds it difficult because she loves the other deeply… and she also wants her parents no sorrow because of her. She feels lonely… all alone… but she’s being forced to make one of the most difficult choices in her life.

A choice? Can you even speak of a choice in this case? Essentially it’s almost impossible to make a choice! After all, whatever the choice is, as long as it is not accepted by all involved with their heart (emotionally), there always will be people who consciously or unconsciously do not agree with it.

How often does it happen that you have a bad feeling about the choice that was made… but you don’t understand why? How often does it happen… that you are aware that you do not agree with the choice made? In all these cases, loss, whether it’s hidden or not, plays an important role in our life. Loss that translates itself into helplessness, sadness and in extreme cases even into bereavement.

One way or the other, we always have to be aware of that loss before we can accept it. And with that we end up in one of the many variations of processing grief. It also means that in this particular case loss has a (completely) different meaning for all involved. Because of that each person involved processes the resulting grief in a different way.

An illustrative example.

They both agree that they get divorced.

They both used to work at the same company and when at home they could discuss what they experienced during the day. They were a happy couple. She started to work with another company. A company where everything that was carried out was confidential and one was not allowed to discuss this with other people. Their relationship started to deteriorate because of that. She, on the other hand, was pushing hard to maintain their relationship on the level it used to be. He was promoted and the company needed him to work abroad for prolonged periods. The job required to work closely with others, so closely that a relationship emerged with one of the staff.

The both agree that they get divorced… but for different reasons. He, because he felt he couldn’t close the gap between his wife and himself. She, because he was cheating her.

Processing their grief will be different for each of them. Not just because they have different personalities and cultural backgrounds, but also because the staring points of their loss (the divorce) is different.

Now back to the choice at the beginning of this blog.

Every person is responsible for their own choices. But the other one, who loves her deeply… can only observe with all the love that person has… and can only be there for the one who makes the choice. Whatever you may think of this, however deeply they love each other, it’s my opinion that you are never allowed to influence the choice of your loved one. The parents are important too. And it’s my opinion that also the parents are not allowed to influence the choice of their daughter when it relates to love. Whatever happens, they may only observe and be there for her.

Isn’t it sad? On the one hand you do not want to grieve your parents and on the other hand you do not want to lose your loved one. You’re in a dilemma… it’s just not fair… it’s hardly possible to make a choice. And… should you even make a choice?

shutterstock_223648765The person who makes the choice, should do this with the heart. And it doesn’t matter how bad it is for the others… they are only allowed to watch and be there. For one thing is sure, when they interfere with the choice it’s my opinion that that choice is the wrong one.  Either the relationship ends or… the relationship will be infected one way or the other with the choice that was made… or there is a feeling that choice is enforced by one of the persons that are involved. The person who makes the choice should be able to do this freely, with the heart and without influence from anybody.

When everyone involved cannot accept the choice that was made with their heart then it’s my opinion that every person involved will end up with a mourning process from bewilderment through helplessness, awareness and hopefully understanding to a kind of acceptance. Because one way or the other, whatever the choice is that was made, the relationship with her and her loved one is damaged. And, also the relationship with her and her parents is damaged.

We really don’t think about it when we make these kind of decisions. Whatever the choice is, relationships will never be the same again. It’s my point of view that when this kind of choice is either influenced or enforced you cannot speak of true love between the one who makes the choice and the one who influenced whether it is the loved one or (one of) the parents. It is certainly not fair to the one who was “forced” to make the choice… and not only that… this person is scarred for life!

The alternative… a choice that is made with love and that is accepted by all involved with their heart is not a choice at all… but a matter of course! To me that is unconditional love!

(72) My Journey from Grief to Sorrow

While I was processing my grief in the past period consciously and unconsciously, I can now see the huge change I’ve made. A change that transformed the raw pain from my grief into the forgiving pain of my sorrow. In addition, I have found new opportunities on my path and despite my sorrow I became a happy person again. In retrospect I can conclude that what I have achieved now and the way I feel now … I couldn’t even imagine that in my wildest dreams three years ago!

In my first blog, on the 23rd of September 2013, I mentioned that you are not alone in processing your grief in some way. I also informed you that I want to share with you the lessons I have learned and am still learning during my personal journey of bereavement. Yes, that was then.

At the moment, that is the 15th of June 2016, it’s almost three years later and from my point of view it is a perfect moment to review what happened in the meantime and, what lessons we could learn from this.

Should I make a comment against your preconceived notions, your beliefs or violate personal beliefs, accept what is true for you and let the rest go.

When you read my latest blogs, I’m also using a spiritual approach. With spiritual I do not mean that mediums are telling me the messages that deceased dear ones are giving to me… no… not that way! Practical as I am I cannot do much with such messages. Everyone knows that no matter how well we do our best, communication between people is difficult to say the least… let alone between a deceased dear one and we as human beings. That is why I try to get to the core of such messages to see whether I can do something with it in a very Earth like and in a for me very practical way. My blog titled Light is such an example.

In my first blogs I wrote about the bleak experiences… about experiences during your mourning… about the raw grief. Today, the 15th of June 2016, I talk about love… true love. Love not only on Earth, but in another universe… where both my deceased dear ones are… where my spiritual guides are… with an infinitely grander sensation or emotion… than we experience here on Earth. Michael Newton’s book “Journey of Souls” describes what I already unconsciously knew for a long time.

In retrospect, I can say that I have experienced somehow all stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross. And not only that, “passion” and “drive” are factors that determine the course of your bereavement. Two factors with which you can transform negative things in your life into positive ones and as result it makes you “stronger”. What I also did learn in the past is to adopt a positive attitude. A positive attitude not only largely determines how you walk through your process of grieving; it also determines the speed at which you walk through this. Bereavement is like a dance… two steps forward and one back. Eventually you’ll arrive where you need to be.

In retrospect, it is also my experience that I walked on two parallel paths at the same time… maybe I was doing so already all the time. One path is that of the heart or the soul. The heart mourns… for the grief… for the persons deceased and he is missing… for friendships he lost and is still missing… but also celebrates new friendships he obtained… and also celebrates others he met. The head is just busy to make sure the heart survives. Most of the time the head does this unconsciously and… maybe not always in a most elegant way… that is often not… but… the result is that I just can continue with life. Yes, unconsciously… but still I often find afterwards that the proper choices were made… and that those choices changed my path(-of-life).

The result is also that my heart and head are more and more balancing each other. The days I’m in balance, are great days in my life. And when there are also friends with me… yes… yes, then despite all my sorrow, I find such a day… awesome.

In retrospect, it also appears that my interests have changed… from engineering… to people and the behavior of people. Not that during my jobs people were not important, on the contrary, people were very important, but… in the knowledge area of grief and bereavement people are very important in a different way… more personal… and…vulnerable. Especially after my openheart-surgaries… it felt like a switch was pushed from on to off. I didn’t want to do anymore the work I used to do… and I used to love. But… that new focus area… people… I find infinitely more challenging and interesting than engineering. I wish I had started much earlier with this expertise… however, it is what is!
mijn reies van rouw naar verdriet - shutterstock_343539905
While I was processing my grief in the past period consciously and unconsciously, I can now see the huge change I’ve made. A change that transformed the raw pain from my grief into the forgiving pain of my sorrow. In addition, I have found new opportunities on my path and despite my sorrow I became a happy person again. In retrospect I can conclude that what I have achieved now and the way I feel now … I couldn’t even imagine that in my wildest dreams three years ago!

I sincerely hope that when you look to your path of bereavement in retrospect… that you can draw similar… and for you acceptable conclusions.

(42) Models… continued

It’s already the 42nd post, some more weeks and we celebrate the 1st anniversary of this website. When looking backward to all blogs that have been written on this website, a number of things related to bereavement are starting to stand out.

We discussed the five phases of grief ( (i) denial, (ii) anger, (iii) bargaining, (iv) depression and (v) acceptance ) as developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross in ‘Models… What can we do with models’. The phases do not form a roadmap that can be carried out and checked off, but they reflect the phases you are going through during your bereavement. In this regard it just looks like a project. There is cause or a reason for the project (the loss), a beginning (denial) and eventually there is an end (acceptance). After that, the project is completed and everyone proceeds to business as usual.  Most people around us seem to think like this.

But, does that apply to bereavement? Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model also suggests an outcome like that with phase (v) acceptance. Models are the outcome of much research and not only that, the starting points for a model are also very important. It makes quite a difference when the model is based on interviews with terminal patients, or the bereaved, or the divorced, or… Models are also (sometimes very large) simplifications of reality. The result is that good models can explain a lot, but not everything.

A few examples from my life.

Like everyone else, I expect, I had my first true love. Despite that our love was very profound, there were forces at work that eventually did end our relationship. After several relationships I married my wife, my great love. Our marriage had its lows and highs, but we stayed true to each other until my wife died. After several years my wife brought to my attention that I was going through a bad patch the same month every year. She had observed it, I hadn’t noticed it. After several discussions with her, the bad patch appeared to correspond with the day my relationship with my first true love ended. It took a while, but eventually the annual bad patch disappeared.

My daughter died mid-June 2000. And although life goes on I have to say that I have a considerable bad patch each year in June. This bad patch doesn’t seem to disappear though, on the contrary. When I discuss this with others, most often their response is “that’s a matter of course… it’s your daughter… you lost a part of your future… you guys were also thick buddies.” But, dear reader, do realize that I have seen all phases from “denial” to “acceptance” from Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model even before my daughter passed away. I realize that this may sound a ‘bit’ blunt, but I expect that you will understand this when you have read several of my earlier blogs like ‘How it started’.

My wife died January 2011. And although her death is still relatively recently, I can say that I have gone through all phases of Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model. Nevertheless, this year I had a bad patch again. This time not around the day of her death, but… during her birthday in May. Maybe it’s not just that I lost a part of my present, but also because we were having a lot of fun the two of us together around her birthday.

A conclusion I can draw from the above is that the process of grieving doesn’t have to be a linear one as indicated by Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model, but can also be cyclical; a regularly recurring phenomenon.

Apparently you can have acceptance and yet you can be regularly (very) sad because something has touched your soul in its core.

To be continued…