(5) Outside Your Comfort Zone

When travelling you meet a lot of people, many … many people. People with different shades of color, from different cultures, using different languages, from various ages and having different backgrounds and what they all have in common is that each of them is a beautiful person with a beautiful mind and with an interesting story of their life.

When travelling you meet a lot of people, many … many people. People with different shades of color, from different cultures, using different languages, from various ages and having different backgrounds and what they all have in common is that each of them is a beautiful person with a beautiful mind and with an interesting story of their life.

People have become important to me. I changed from steel and ships to people. I got used to people just started talking to me … even about personal things. Met once a woman with a child on a 9 hour flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam. They were sitting next to me. We started talking to each other. She talked about her life, her issues, her anxieties, her hopes and the fun she had in live. It took us over 7 hours. This was one the best flights I ever made in my life.

I have no idea how this works. Maybe I am open to others, or maybe it’s the chemistry between people or maybe I transmit a signal that says “Hey I’m here and am open to have a chat with you. Don’t mind the topic.” That some people are sensitive to this signal; a signal that is non-visible. None the less they seem to receive it. On the other hand I used to find that people could be afraid of me. I used to be above average in length and can easily fill out a door frame, so what could I expect.

The reverse “I don’t want talking to you” also occurs. I assume that people are much more sensitive for signals like those or they themselves want to be left alone, or don’t feel like talking, or don’t feel safe or … maybe it’s me and I’m just boring. In itself this is strange because with today’s technology (mobile, web, text) the whole world can be reached; at any time and any place you can reach any person in the world; maybe that is what people do because they don’t talk to each other but text to each other. Or is it because one feels much safer anonymously … or is it that they have something on their mind, … or is it they want to stay within their own comfort zone?

Yet, as soon as you touch base with young people, not only young people but with people from any age, from any religion, from any culture, or with aggressive people, or with weird people, and with weird I mean outside your comfort zone, and when you start talking and discussing with any of them a lot of beautiful things will happen.

We were on holiday and drove from Big Bend National Park to El Paso, Texas, US and were looking for a plaid and some leather articles made by local Indian people. We had received an address and we had a road map, but we lost our way completely. OK, that can happen but the area is huge and you hardly see people around the place. Eventually we ended up in an area where people at home would strongly advise you not to go there; however we did. We explained where came from, what we wanted and … that we were lost. Yeah they could see that. We started chatting, had some drinks, we stayed talking, we had fun, we enjoyed lunch and they gave us a very detailed explanation how to drive to the place where we wanted to go originally. Looking back, a place and people that we found really scary in the beginning, that day became one of the best experiences and one of the best days during our trip.

You probably started wondering what this post has to do with mourning and grief. Well, actually, it has a lot to do with mourning and grief.

In my previous post “It’s All About Ourselves, Isn’t It?” from October 20th I raised the question why we have a tendency to avoid the discussion about separation or death. My statement was at the end of the post that, whether we want it or not, as a result of a separation or a death we have to change and sometimes we have to change the hard way; most often a very emotional one. That is something we really don’t like and which is most of the time an understatement.

In my Dutch version of this blog a comment was given by somebody that it is in our human nature to live and that we do not want to be confronted with death. But death came very close to her when her husband died and when her life was threatened by a terminal decease. Imagine when she was confronted with death she started thinking about death and loss and she started to feel and understand what it means to be mortal. Her last sentences say it all “And I started to live! Really live!!”

In other words, come out of your comfort zone and try to learn and understand. Don’t be afraid and discover new possibilities and new horizons. Opportunities you couldn’t even imagine before. These don’t appear by themselves, you have to do something for it. Do you need to have guts for that? Maybe … but later on you will say “gosh, I wished I had done this earlier.”

Please talk to me. Do you recognize this? Or … do you have a different opinion?

Talk to me.
There are two ways you can “talk” to me. Thru “contact us”; in that case your response is not posted in the blog. Or via this post in which case your comment is posted and it is visible to everybody.

(4) It’s All About Ourselves, Isn’t It?

When you start talking about separation or death people tend to avoid the discussion because … Because of what actually? Why do people respond that way?

When you start talking about separation or death people tend to avoid the discussion because … Because of what actually? Why do people respond that way?

After some research on data from the Dutch Bureau of Census and based on some checklists related to dealing with stress I found that on average at least 1 out of every 30 to 35 persons is dealing with grief one way or the other. Hence look around you and start wondering why people tend to respond that way.

Listen to the news. Things happen to all of us all the time (e.g. a separation, the death of a partner, a child, a lost job, a terminal decease, war). It’s not if but it’s when. We don’t like it and we do want to stay far from it. However reality of life shows different. Hence look around you again and start asking yourself why you respond that way.

So, do we better prepare for it when it happens to ourselves and we would be able to deal with it … somehow? I don’t know. I have lost quite some people who were very close to me. Each time it was different and it felt different; not just a bit but actually a lot different. Hence, preparing for it would be difficult if not impossible.

What can you expect? Yes you can prepare yourself for the rituals that need to be carried out after a separation or a death. But from an emotional point of view? It’s not a stage act where you are an onlooker. No you are personally involved and the script is different each time and depends on many factors that are in force like the people around you and their interpersonal relationships and each with their own way in dealing with their loss. Family and in-laws may start emotionally and passionately arguing in dividing material items; discussions that can become a far cry from “professional” behavior. The more people are involved the more complex the situation becomes. So how would you be able to prepare for a situation like that? My personal view is that you can’t, but … that doesn’t mean we can’t try to do so.

The first hurdle to take is that we are not comfortable to talk about mourning and grief. It is about the sad side of life and it has a high emotional load. It is about the fact that we do not really want this happening to us, but is does at some point in time. It might be that we are afraid from this, afraid for the change that is going to happen to us, afraid of the unknown.

For whatever the reason, we lost somebody and this has definitely an impact on our life. Then we must change and sometimes we have to change the hard way.

So, it’s not about the one who left us but actually it’s about ourselves …Is that why we don’t want to talk about it?

Please talk to me. Do you recognize this? Or … do you have a different opinion?

Talk to me.
There are two ways you can “talk” to me. Thru “contact us”; in that case your response is not posted in the blog. Or via this post in which case your comment is posted and it is visible to everybody.

(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