(13) Nothing Remains, Everything Passes Away

It is inevitable, everything changes.

In 2009 I walked from the South of France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, known as “Camino de Santiago”. A journey of 900 km. One of the things that hit me was while walking the color of the earth changed under my feet from color to color. From red to brown, to grey, to yellow and to all shades in between. The surroundings changed, one moment I walked between the vines, the other along wheat fields and then all of a sudden thru a small authentic village or an industrial area of a big city. Even if I sat quietly everything was changing; the sunlight, the wind, passers-by, thoughts, nothing remained the same.

It is inevitable, everything changes.

It is the same with mourning, every day mourning is not the same, mourning changes contuously of color and intensity. One moment you think you never will be happy again and the other moment you feel strong and you do believe in a better future. One moment you’re not to comfort and the other moment you dream away at a beautiful memory.

During the walk to Santiago de Compostela, I met a German singer. He sang for me: “Nichts bleibt, nichts bleibt, alles geht” (Nothing remains, nothing remains, everything passes away).

I never forgot those words, and when if I feel myself a bit down or sad then I remember those words again and they give me comfort and confidence. It does not remains this way they say to me, there will be better times.

In the beginning of my mourning it seemed as if I was walking in the mountains, one moment I was sitting in the Valley and the next I was sitting on the top. I felt myself like an injured animal.

Nothing remains, the valleys became less deep and the peaks less high. Now I walk in the Sun through a beautiful rolling landscape. And when it’s raining sometimes then that’s OK with me because I do know that the Sun is shining again the next day.

Nothing remains, everything passes away.

As is with your mourning.
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(12) A Déja Vue … I Am Sad And Happy Again

We lost a great man in Nelson Mandela this week. And again I have this sad and happy feeling at the same time.

We lost a great man in Nelson Mandela this week. And again I have this sad and happy feeling at the same time.

I am happy because…

  • He set an example to many people in the world.
  • He was teaching us how we can change the world for the better, even in desperate times.

I am sad because…

  • He is not able any more to further advance or to further develop his teachings to us.
  • We cannot meet this exceptional human being any more although he will always be in our heart.

The best way we can honor Nelson Mandela is by maintaining his lessons (his inheritance) to us as he would do and make this world a better place.
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(11) Mourn & Grief Foundation Launched

A major milestone has been completed. In the Netherlands a “Stichting Jouw Rouwverwerking” (The Foundation) was established and is located in Wassenaar. The Foundation operates outside the Netherlands under the name “Mourn & Grief Foundation.”

Hans Fransen Founder Mourn & Grief FoundationA major milestone has been completed. In the Netherlands a “Stichting Jouw Rouwverwerking” (The Foundation) was established and is located in Wassenaar. The Foundation operates outside the Netherlands under the name “Mourn & Grief Foundation.”

Things can happen to people in life e.g. the death of a next of kin, a child, a divorce, a terminal decease, the loss of a job.

Our customer’s personal loss can hardly be imagined, other than by those who have been there already and are willing to share their lessons learned and showing that there is a light at the end at the tunnel. Our approach therefor is aimed to help people in a very practical way. It is aimed to help people change their line of thinking, help them expanding their capabilities, help them broaden their scope into the unexpected, help them opening new horizons, help them create new opportunities, help them in coping with their loss.

The Notary signs-off the by-laws
The Notary signs-off the by-laws

The by-laws define The Foundation’s objectives of the Foundation as follows:

  1. To offer assistance to people and to support people who lose or have lost someone.
  2. To provide or carry out any activities related to the previous in the broadest sense or can contribute to this.

The Foundation will try to satisfy these objectives by:

  1. Providing support, or support in the process of grief, or talking or discussing about grief.
  2. Giving workshops, lectures and presentations.
  3. Doing publications and research, giving guidance and training (coaching).
  4. Giving mail support and giving advice and providing a listening ear through a call center.

When exercising its activities and pursuing its objectives The Foundation should have a non-profit-making aim.

In order to comply with the Foundation’s objectives it is looking for Board members that can make an active contribution to these in Netherlands. One of the conditions is that Board members have empathy and affinity with the objectives of the Foundation and as a result can provide support to the Foundation’s aid workers in order to obtain a better ownership to better guide and advise its customers. It should be obvious that Board members in The Netherlands should be able to speak, write and discuss in the Dutch language fluently.

Those who can and are willing to apply may do so by filling in the form at “Are You Interested?“. Please motivate why you are suitable in terms of knowledge and experience to serve on the Board. Upon receipt, we will contact you in which we also indicate how you can email your CV to us.

Hans Fransen
Founder

(10) My Path To Bereavement

Imagine that I was aware of starting my bereavement much sooner than 13 years after the death of our dear daughter. I am still wondering whether my wife would still be with me in that case. So to all of you who lost a person who is dear to you, seek support the sooner the better.

I used to see images I could not explain to myself. Later it turned out that these images showed me moments in my future. I didn’t understand them and was not able interpret these images, so you can image they weren’t of any help to me and in other words it scared me a lot. Our daughter saw much more images and people of which she was not afraid. She discussed these with us and she was even able to interpret them. My wife didn’t like this at all, but I saw a few pieces of the puzzle of my life starting to fall in place.

After the death of our daughter she showed me many more images. She knew I was visually oriented, hence, she communicated to me by showing images only. Brilliant images with indescribable beautiful colors. The shades, their intensity, the warmth and emotions these colors showed were indescribably beautiful. It was something I had never seen before. And then the peace those images radiated. Words like brilliant and impressive, all words with which you try to describe these colors and these images were a far cry from what I was allowed to see. The images gave me support, they also indicated that there is much more after our lives on Earth and because of this I was able to scramble back little by little.

Both, my wife and me, were looking for much distraction to release the stress in our bodies caused by the death of our daughter. We had a massage every week. I went to the Sports Center and later yoga. My wife played tennis several times a week, exercised Tai Chi and later also went to the Sports Centre. My wife cried quietly at night while during the day she was the happiest person you can imagine. My body slowly de-stressed, she couldn’t relax. I tried to help her by instinctively doing those things that could release her stress, but she didn’t accepted this because she didn’t want me to deal with all her emotions that came free. She wanted to protect me because I had much grief too. She didn’t want me to feel her sorrow and grief in all its intensity.

My wife accepted no help at all and tried to resolve it in her own way. Eventually she died of a broken heart. We both foresaw her death but she didn’t want to talk about this, with nobody.

Despite his grief, my son kept me up and running. The teams at my work kept me up and running. In addition to the daily puzzles during our work we had a lot of fun. I have treasured friends who kept me on my path. Wherever I was, the teams gave me much support all the time; they were my Golden Teams. We have been on vacation a few times my son and me, which was fun and brought us closer than we ever had been. But when I was alone I became a different person.  In the two years after the death of my dear wife I have never been so ill in my life. There were moments I didn’t want to live anymore; I obviously didn’t know how to cope with my grief.

My employer didn’t want me to retire. My job was awesome so I didn’t. However, the last project spoiled all the fun and love for my job. Yet there was always that huge urge that I had still to do something that is important for my future and for all of us in this world.

After my retirement, some 13 years after the death of our daughter and about 2 years after the death of my wife, it became very difficult for me. My energy disappeared, felt depressed and whatever I tried to do didn’t work out; I was so … tired. By chance, not sure whether chance exist, I found a document that explained how people deal with processing loss. There were statements and comments that were also applicable to myself. At that moment I recognized and acknowledged that I was working on or maybe starting the bereavement due to the loss of my daughter and my dear wife. The first step was finally taken.

Now imagine that I was aware of starting my bereavement much sooner than 13 years after the death of our dear daughter. I am still wondering whether my wife would still be with me in that case. So to all of you who lost a person who is dear to you, seek support the sooner the better.

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(9) Painting The Landscape Of Grief

Let’s try to start “painting” the landscape of grief today. Not in black and white only but, in the full spectrum of colors we observe. We can see and interpret colors in various ways. Rationally, when we talk about the colors themselves e.g. blue, red or green. Emotially, when we say that a color is warm, cold, dull or merry.

An introduction

Let’s try to start “painting” the landscape of grief today. Not in black and white only but, in the full spectrum of colors we observe.

We can see and interpret colors in various ways. Rationally, when we talk about the colors themselves e.g. blue, red or green. Emotially, when we say that a color is warm, cold, dull or merry.

Grief

The concept of “grief” has a wide range of interpretations. Those interpretations though, may vary from culture to culture or from language to langue. For this blog I will use the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary” where grief is defined as a “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement” but, also as “an unfortunate outcome”. In other words the concept of “grief” varies from the loss of simple addressable items such as the loss of a necklace up to the loss of the person who is most dear to you.

When you are acquainted with someone you like you become related to each other, you get a bond with each other. Overtime the bond gets stronger as more and more facets (or colors) introduce themselves in the relationship.

The bond is broken by the loss of your dearest. It is not only the loss of the person but also missing the hug in the morning, the happiness and love you received, or simple things as a cup of coffee that was ready for you when you arrived at home. And then suddenly there is nobody standing next to you and you have to do everything yourself. All those things cannot be replaced because nobody means to you what the other meant to you, the one you lost. And then there are the things that remain which will deepen the loss of your dearest. The strength of that special bond also relates to the level you was dependent from the other. The greater the strength of the bond the more difficult it will be and the longer it takes to get “free” from it.

When “grief” is related to an “unfortunate outcome” then there will be the emotion of the loss but it won’t go as deep as with the loss of your dearest. You can address this emotion much easier and you are much more able to find a rational cause and resolution for your loss. The 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) from Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ model will be dealt with in a (very) short time. Often we even do not realize we are going through a process of grieving.

The two sides of a coin

Personally the concepts of emotion and ratio form the two sides of a coin. When I observe myself I can see two things all the time. I see an emotional side that is busy processing grief as a result of the loss of my two loved ones. I miss the conversations, their love, the hugs, the jokes, and the “I love you” we said to each other regularly every day. We not only told this each other, is was the way we lived. My emotional side looks inward, feels all those emotions that are dealing with my loss and my grief and follows the heart. Despite the loss my emotional side is essentially warm, cheerful and full of love and the decisions it takes are through the heart.

I also see an observer, my rational me, which not only observes but also protects my emotional side. It also observes my friends, the people who support me, the people I meet and the world in which I live. My rational side is cold, bleak and mainly business like; decisions are motivated by the brains. My rational side would love to be more friendly but doesn’t understand how to do this.

It’s not always easy to live simultaneously with both my emotional and rational sides. Sometimes the emotional side has the upper hand, sometimes the rational one. In retrospect, I think my rational side is protecting my emotional one from going down in grief. I am not sure, but I suspect that the time I need for the processing of my grief this way will take a bit longer. But, I have to admit that the days that I am happy and sad at the same time, when I am in harmony, are in most cases my best days. It’s who I am.

Bizarre … happy and sad at the same time. Once I realized this it turned out that it happened much more often in my life. The loss of a job because the company I worked for went bankrupt, but also the joy of a new job. It had to be that way when I discovered in retrospect that I should have taken the new job much earlier. My daughter who, when she realized she was going to die, was sad because she would leave us, but at the same time she was happy because she finally got rid of a disease where she had suffered from all her life.

Happy and sad at the same time, it’s more common than you think and I assume most of us recognize this. By this simultaneity we can, despite the loss, change the cold and bleak colors of sorrow into warm and merry colors.

The start of processing grief

The processing of grief starts as soon as you realize this. Someone who is ill gets sicker and sicker and eventually realizes that the disease affects her/his life. A relationship between partners is getting worse and worse and eventually both realize it ends with a divorce. An adopted child is searching for its biological parents but realizes they can’t be found anymore.

The processing of grief doesn’t start when the loss happens but it starts as soon as you realize this, which can take days, weeks, months, even years. My processing of grief for the loss of my daughter started 13 years after her death, and at that same time started the processing of my grief for the loss of my wife who deceased 2½ years earlier and also at that same time a new phase in my life began. It was the beginning of one of the roughest and most stormy periods in my life that I wish on anyone.

But I know one thing for sure. My rational side protects my emotional side so it can continue to work on the processing of my grief. The friends around me who are listening to me all the time are helping in the way they can. I know it for sure, I will come out OK.

To be continued.
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