(3) She thought she had no right to grieve

She asked me about my children and my relationship. I told her about the loss of my two buddies. My daughter, when she was 21 years and my wife, my Soul Mate, after 35 years of marriage. She was shocked and she was deeply impressed. She wanted to understand how I dealt with a situation like that.

The encounter

She thought she had no right to grieve. Dealing with grief exists in many forms. As soon as we are amongst people, we try to hide our grief. However, when a sensitive chord is hit, grief can come up unexpectedly. This blog is about an encounter during one of the business trips I made.

The restaurant I had chosen for dinner was full. There was a long waiting queue. That’s what you get when you don’t make a reservation. Anyway, there was one seat free at the bar and the waitress suggested to take that one. I was alone and the choice was easily made.

The free seat was sitting between a man and a woman. The man next to me was in a deep business conversation with his partner and nobody seemed to exist around them. The woman next to me turned out to be alone and was in deep thought.

The conversation

Eventually we started to talk. She was traveling on business and missed her children. One moment she told me that as a result of a car accident she had lost the love of her life. The relationship lasted about eighteen months. “Only eighteen months,” she said. You could clearly see she still devastated.

She asked me about my children and my relationship. I told her about the loss of my two buddies. My daughter, when she was 21 years and my wife, my Soul Mate, after 35 years of marriage. She was shocked and she was deeply impressed. She wanted to understand how I dealt with a situation like that. What had happened to me was so much worse than in her case, she told me. She thought at that moment she had no right to grief because the sadness of another was many times worse than hers.

She thought she had no right to grief.  She considered the grief of somebody else many times worse than hers.

She lost me for a moment. How can you even think like this? How can you think that someone’s loss is worse than that of somebody else? Finally, I found the words. One has not more or less grief than somebody else. It feels how it feels. It doesn’t matter how long it was ago and it doesn’t matter how long the duration of the relation was between them. Her sorrow was just as real and just as profound as mine. How can you say that someone’s loss is worse than that of somebody else? Yes, as an outsider perhaps, but not those who have experienced grief. For them, there’s no difference! For them, grief is extremely concrete and sometimes they don’t even know how to cope with the raw pain of grief.

Dealing with grief

Her grief was maybe different, but just as deep as mine. After the conversation she felt a bit relieved, a bit happier and might be able to deal with her loss a bit better. Her sorrow did not change … but, more importantly it helped her to put things in a different perspective … by talking about it … and most importantly to share it with somebody else.

Text changed: 14-08-2019

(2) A new experience

You would expect that after over 13 years, let me say this mildly, my emotions due to the loss of my daughter would be have been lessened by then.

Confusion

The death of my daughter Anne Birgit had a huge impact on my life. However sad this is, it is an experience richer. Nevertheless, I would have preferred her to live now. But who am I to determine this?

My deceased daughter Anne Birgit
Private collection of Hans Fransen
My daughter Anne Birgit

The period around the death, in June 2000, of my daughter Anne Birgit was confusing to me. Strange things happened I couldn’t explain at the time. On the one hand, I had a lot of grief and I felt the raw pain of loss. On the other hand, I was arranging everything… cold and without any emotion. It all felt very ambivalent and I had no idea how to deal with this. As a family the days passed by in a haze. What was crystal clear though was that it felt different for each of us. However, it was difficult to talk to each other about our loss, even that was clear to us. We tried but didn’t succeed.

After months we got structure in our life again

Months later, all the pieces began to fall in the right place … little by little; slowly I became myself again. The sadness translated into the story about my daughter Anne Birgit and told it to everyone who wanted to listen to me. Well yes wanted to listen … one way or the other, the conversation usually, consciously or unconsciously, turned out to be so.

13 years later

You would expect that after over 13 years, let me say this mildly, my emotions due to the loss of my daughter would be have been lessened by then.

Almost daily I thought about Anne Birgit and I remembered her as she was. At those moments the memory turned out to be a beautiful thing: the smallest details, emotions, colors, scents, warmth, conversations, and scenes presented themselves again … as if these were pictures or movie fragments … as if you relived it completely.

At present

What amazes me is most, is that there are people who think that it’s not normal that I’m still sad about the loss of my daughter Anne Birgit. After all, didn’t time heal all wounds? Isn’t grief healed eventually? The answer is yes… and no.

Yes, the raw pain of grief has changed into the mild pain of sadness. No, because occasionally I meet Anne Birgit’s friends. Married friends … with children. Those moments you realize what you’re missing and remember that my daughter could have had a family with children. That really hurts!

Did I find myself pathetic at the time? No, certainly not! At the time and today I am proud I was present when Anne Birgit deceased, and I could say goodbye to her. Am I still sad today? Yes … sure … until my death I expect. Am I a happy person? Yes indeed!

Text changed: 01-05-2019

(1) Her last whish

You are not the only person who needs to process grief or loss one way or the other. With this blog I want to share with you the journey I’ve made and am still making. I want to share with you the lessons I’ve learned and am still learning.

Her last whish

My daughter Anne Birgit knew she was going to die. Her last whish was that I would coach or guide people who lost a dear one.

My daughter died in 2000 at an age of 21 years young. Shortly after her birth it was discovered that she had Cystic Fibrosis. The impact to us as parents was huge. Not only she had this illness, but mostly the expectation that she would die a (very) young age. Almost every year we asked ourselves if it would be her last one.

A broken heart

My partner and soul mate Mary Anne deceased in 2011. She struggled with the loss of our daughter. Any kind of help and support in dealing with her loss she wanted or could not accept. And not at all from me because I too struggled with loss of our daughter. Eventually my wife died of a broken heart.

In the week before her death, I received a card from a woman I had coached. She wrote that she found me a special and beautiful light on her path-of-life. The conversation with my wife about this in the weekend before she died, I can still remember well. She suggested, no … she insisted that this form of coaching should become my future path. At the same time, it was, in her usual manner, a subtle reminder to fulfill our daughter’s last whish.

The end of my professional life

In 2013 I retired after an active life that gave me great satisfaction. However, there was one drawback to that working life: I was very much from home. I have no idea how many times I have travelled around the world, how many cities I have seen, let alone in how many hotels I have slept. As a result, I consider myself a citizen of the world.

As a management consultant and as a project manager I was always able to see not only the pleasure but also the stress in my environment. I could see this with others … but not with myself. The result was that after my retirement my body was tired and wanted to recover from all the stress I had built up in recent years. Of course, there was also the loss of my wife and my daughter. That turned out when I discovered by chance mid 2013 that my bereavement had finally begun … imagine, after years!

It was finally time to carry out my daughter’s last whish. To make a promise is one thing, to make it happen is something of a completely different order.

All beginnings are difficult

You are not the only one to process grief one way or the other. With this blog I want to share with you the journey I have made so far and still make. I want to share with you the lessons I have learned, and still learn.

My journey, or perhaps better, my path to bereavement, runs along topics like understanding, letting go, you thought it was about to finalize and there’s always some pain remaining. In my opinion, the core of bereavement comes down to get everything from life and, despite all the suffering, also to enjoy a little.

Besides this blog, according to my daughter’s last whish, a foundation was set up in the Netherlands under the name Stichting Jouw Rouwverwerking. The purpose of the foundation is to help others in dealing with their loss and help them with their bereavement. Outside the Netherlands, the foundation is called Mourn & Grief Foundation.

It is clear to me that I can’t do this alone. I can’t change the world on my own. What I can do though is to change myself and hopefully I can also teach others to see that there’s a different way in dealing with your grief. Hopefully you will spread the news. You never know what can happen in the future, but I sincerely do hope that I can make a difference with the foundation, even if it’s only a small difference.

Several authors have already contributed blogs to the Foundation

Text changed: 01-05-2019