(38) Passion and Drive

I would like to add to the model of Elisabeth Kübler Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) also ‘passion and drive.’ According to my opinion these two factors are determining the progress of the process of grieving. Two factors with which you can redirect negative aspects in your life into positive ones, which makes you stronger.

Zapping through the TV channels I ended up in a documentary about Stephen Hawking. From the documentary I understood that he was diagnosed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at an age of 21 years and that he would not live much longer. At the writing of this blog Stephan is 72 years old, has a brilliant mind and has much scientific work on his name that has (had) a great influence on our understanding of the universe. How big the impact of ALS was and is, he doesn’t give up and keeps going on. At the end of the documentary I was struck by a comment from him: “I’m not afraid to die…but not just yet.” When I look back at the documentary and see how he fought against the disease ALS over a period of about 50 years then words as “passion” and “drive” come to my mind; two words that in my opinion summarizes the essence of his character.

A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), her husband died a few years later and, as if that wasn’t enough, 8 years later she got breast cancer. She didn’t give up and fought her way back into life. At the moment we are 7 years on and one can only conclude that she has come out of this stronger and is in touch with things in a passionate way.

When I look at my deceased daughter then I see a woman who was told at a very young age that she had not long to live because of her illness cystic fibrosis (CF). A woman who has achieved everything she could and wished for. When I look back at her life, I come again to the conclusion I have expressed during her funeral: “She has, during her 21 years long life, achieved at least as much as someone of 40 years or older.” She was also full of passion and drive.

Looking to myself I see a man who lost his daughter; 2 years later the company he was working for went bankrupt; 8 years later he lost his wife; now he is ‘retired’ and, because it was his daughter’s last wish, he founded the Mourn & Grief Foundation. Others find me driven, a man for which his family was and is important, who fulfills his daughter’s last wish with passion and who despite all sorrow and setbacks every time manages to emerge stronger.

Dear reader, there are so many more people who are able to change poison into nectar eventually. And don’t think these people are always passionate and full of drive in life. No, they have their ‘bad’ moment too, moments in which emotions run very deep; their life is as an emotional roller coaster over high mountains and deep gorges. When they go deep, they don’t throw in the towel but pull through again and again. It seems as if they temp fate in the sense of “we’ll see” and make the impossible happen. When you go for it with passion and drive, then things will work out OK; it is a long-winded path though.

I would like to add to the model of Elisabeth Kübler Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) also ‘passion and drive.’ According to my opinion these two factors are determining the progress of the process of grieving. Two factors with which you can redirect negative aspects in your life into positive ones, which makes you stronger.

See also: (8) What can we do with models?.

(34) With Love

What has helped me is the knowledge that when you do something with love will always be felt

After the death of my husband I have resumed my life by now. What has helped me is the knowledge that when you do something with love, it will always be felt. The story below tells how I have learned this.

Five weeks after the death of my husband I made an appointment with the doctor he consulted. I would like to talk about everything that had happened and also in a way as a closure of a period for myself. Going to the hospital was hard, there were after all so many horrible and sad memories…

When meeting the doctor he seemed just an old acquaintance, almost a friend, I almost had the impulse to hug him and yet I didn’t do this. This man who had been so important in our life. He who dealt with the life and death of my husband. All crucial decisions about medication, treatment, admissions, about the outcome of many MRI’s, have been decided by him.

But who was our doctor really? I didn’t realize before. Never asked about it and even never thought about that. Finally I got the opportunity to talk this over. About how we both had experienced this and what it meant for both of us, for him as the treating doctor and for me as a partner.

He very much appreciated that I had come to see him. It was an excellent, intense, honest and open conversation. It was the first time I had an eye and attention for the doctor and he for me. We concluded we were a good team, each from our own role and from a deep respect for each other. We have acted as best as we could with as ultimate purpose to maintain the quality of life. We did everything to stretch life and to keep it especially endurable.

The doctor advised me to resume my life again, how difficult that even would be. To start working again, being between people, to practice sport again and to do nice things again. When leaving he told me he had treated my husband with love.

Yes, with love and that’s what my husband and I also have felt. Sometimes words are not needed at all.

The doctor retired shortly after my visit. In the meantime I resumed my life again. What has helped me is the knowledge that when you do something with love will always be felt.

(20) Can You Prepare Yourself For An Impending Departure?

Can You Prepare Yourself For An Impending Departure?  It helps tremendously when you have experienced this before.

Dear Readers,

The question arises regularly, whether it is possible for yourself or each other to prepare for an imminent departure. Paradoxical as it is, many answers can be given to this and many approaches are available, and yet… when that question is raised… then you don’t know how to respond at that moment… let alone how to answer.

Suppose that either of you, or perhaps both, would like to talk about the impending departure, then about which topics do you want to talk or discuss. Is it about the everyday things like how to manage your finances or … do you want the other for looking for another buddy or … how do you prepare yourself for the emotions of an impending loss and subsequent grief and bereavement for each of you, or … is it that you do not want to deal with these issues all together and you just whish to get everything out of life while you still can?

I myself have often told how I would respond in a situation like that. And you know what… once that happened, I reacted in totally differently way than I initially thought and expected.

Nobody knows how he or she responds when the fact is there, and the other has left. It could just be that you respond completely differently than you expected or was intended to respond as a result of your preparations. That you therefore think that you do not respond the way you should as you were taught by following a procedure or a standard. It would only provide you with more grief because you think for yourself: “Do I have besides the sadness and emotions of the departure of the other also that I do not respond in a ‘normal’ or expected way. As if my grief is not yet big enough. ”

From the foregoing, you could conclude that a preparation for the impending departure of the other person has no use to you other than getting most out of your life. The latter you should be doing every day anyway.

It is indeed possible to prepare yourself for an imminent departure. My daughter knew that she would not live long. We tried to prepare her for what would eventually happen. Our daughter was also spiritually minded and knew very early in her life that much more existed between Heaven and Earth. She was not afraid of death. At the end of her life she even looked forward to be allowed to leave to the other universe because she would get rid of a disease she had to carry her whole life. My daughter considered her departure as a party. And we, we were happy for her, for us it was in a way also a relief because we had the feeling throughout her life that each year could be her last. And yet, there was also sadness even though all what should be said, was said, and everything that should be done, was done. It was OK the way it was.

We all were always conscious preparing each other for the departure of our daughter. Each method is good as long as it’s your method, your way of working, your way of processing and there is only one who knows how to do that and that’s you.

Looking back to the time when my deceased wife was still alive, I would like to address things quite differently now. Only, at that time she would have none of it, did not want to talk about it. And with that I also come to the conclusion that if you want to prepare for the impending departure, then both of you should be willing to do so from deep within your hart.

A conclusion I also would like to draw, maybe it’s a lesson, is that it helps tremendously when you have experienced this before.

(8) What Can We Do With Models?

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic control or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic control or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Many models exist in today’s world. A model like Newton’s Law, remember the apple falling from the tree, is pretty accurate but has its flaws. We have models for traffic management or navigating ships. Models predicting the stock market, the climate or the heating in our house. We have models for human behavior or assessing your type of personality. We have many … many models in use today in almost every aspect of our daily live.

Models may be modern but not necessarily new. Many models we use today were developed decades ago, some even ages ago. Once there is a model which can applied in your area of expertise it can be used for assessing the situation you are in, or for suggesting options to choose from for improving this, or predicting the outcome of actions taken… or… actions you are intending to take. Applying a model this way provides security, certainty.

A model has its downsides though. Just to name a few, a model is a simplification of reality, sometimes a far cry of the real thing. Or people use a model as a tool without understanding its background and its limitations. Or people have become so reliant on a model which controls a process, like flying a plane, that as soon as it demonstrates unexpected behavior they don’t know what to do anymore in order to quickly take control of it themselves.

I have met many people who are using models as the sole truth. They see it as reality, that is their reality, and anything else is either not true, not possible or even considered beyond normal. So, don’t be shocked when a model does not work for you, especially when you need to deal with… grief.

A famous model in dealing with grief is “The 5 Stages of Grief” developed by Elisabeth Kübler Ross. The 5 stages i.e. (i) Denial, (ii) Anger, (iii) Bargaining, (iv) Depression and (v) Acceptance are not intended to be worked through and ticked off. The stages could be used as sign posts to help understand what you feel, or where you are in your bereavement. The model also describes what is meant by each stage, what could be felt or observed. More importantly by using it this way the model provides guidance.

Another model that is more generally applied is the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator” which defines your personality type. The model characterizes your preference (i) of the general attitude, extravert vs. introvert, and (ii) your preferences within your mental functions, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving. Once you understand your type of personality the model provides behavior and communication guide lines in relation to other people.

It does not necessarily mean that all of us “walk through” Elisabeth’s model in the same way. By applying Myers-Briggs we can conclude that all of us will respond differently to each stage. It could be that you are not even aware of one or more of the stages. It also does mean that the duration in dealing with our grief is different for each of us. Some of us will not even complete the process. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be happy and enjoy life.

Be careful though, your partner, children, family and friends are different personalities, living and raised under different conditions, within different timeframes and hence are dealing with their grieve in a different way than you do. There is no doubt about that, it’s a fact of life.

The first hurdle you need to take is becoming aware of what is happening with you. That could take weeks, months, sometimes even years; it all depends on your personality and how you live. Once you are aware of, or observe your feelings then the models can explain what is happening to you. Then you begin to understand … and to look forward again and… and you start dealing with your grief.

So does that mean that you have dealt with your grief at this point, that it is done and dusted? No, not even close. Does it mean that you can ever deal with your grief, that it will be closed in a foreseeable future? Yes, maybe… but… maybe not.

Personally I am certain that I will take my grief with me in the grave. Does that mean that I am unhappy? Certainly not, I am a very happy person but sometimes … when you hear that special sound again, that special tune again, when you smell that special perfume again, when … then I travel back in time to those moments we were happy together. I feel all the pain again … but… differently … it’s as if I am sad and happy at the same time … it’s an ambivalent feeling.

Hence, yes we can use models for guidance but, we cannot predict how you specifically will respond.

It is what it is. It is has made me the person I am today; as will happen to each of us at some point in time.

(6) Mourning … Why Don’t We See It Brighter?

Life is made up of opposites and we are always looking for a balance. Everything in life should be in balance. No ugliness without beauty. No evil without good. No profit without loss . No darkness without light. No past without future. No happiness without grief . No hate without love. These are all examples of a opposites that are balanced, you also could interpret these as the two sides of a coin. One side doesn’t exist without the other.

Life is made up of opposites and we are always looking for a balance. Everything in life should be in balance. No ugliness without beauty. No evil without good. No profit without loss . No darkness without light. No past without future. No happiness without grief . No hate without love. These are all examples of opposites that are balanced, you also could interpret these as the two sides of a coin. One side doesn’t exist without the other.

Then why do most of us at the loss of a loved one go so deep in mourning? Why would you not be happy and proud that you both were allowed to walk jointly a part of your life paths? Why would you not be pleased that you have enjoyed with each other? Why would you not be pleased with everything you may have learned from each other? It’s just not fair to the other, there is so much to share. It is also not fair to yourself that you are not aware of or do not remind the beautiful things you have shared or were allowed to do for each other. On top of that, there remains of course the physical loss of a loved one, the proximity, the loving attention to each other, no longer being able to see or touch someone who was close to you, to get used to the fact that you now have to do everything yourself .

When I look back in my life to my two buddies that I lost then I can’t perceive so well anymore the negative things and the sadness. The positive things and beautiful things are very relevant and very bright in my memory. That realization did not only clear my head but also gave me much joy. It made me able to look ahead, to look forward to the future.

Life is like driving a car. You look through the windshield at what is on your way and at what that is coming at you and you also look regularly through your rear view mirror to see what is behind you and to determine whether that may have an impact on your path. Although you are regularly looking backward when driving the car, you don’t do this continuously.

Hence, when driving a car you are typically looking ahead, i.e. most of the time. When that is not the case and you are only looking through your rear view mirror, while drivingforwards, then accidents happen. The same is true for bereavement. So every now and then looking backward is good and even important you should not forget what happened there, though not all the time, not continuously.

When start looking at the future and see its possibilities and the opportunities that are there for you, then you don’t only help yourself but you also give the loved one who you left you a huge compliment. A compliment in terms a of thank you for all we have shared together and for everything we have enjoyed together. Thank you for what I have been able to learn from you. Thank you that you have kept me or brought me on my path of life. Thank you for the confidence in me that I now can continue on my path.

Unfortunately, your dearest has left you. The farewell was emotional. Looking back, you have enjoyed a lot of things and have learned a lot from each other. Please, as an ultimate thank you to your dearest, let all the lessons you have learned from each other not have been in vain.

In my humble opinion, this is what it’s all about. In my humble opinion this is true love and the meaning of life.
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