(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 Anne Birgit had an enormous impact on my life. As sad as this is, it is a new experience. Nevertheless, I would have preferred her to be alive now. But who am I to determine that?

My 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 for me. Strange things happened that I could not explain at the time. On the one hand, I was incredibly sad and felt the raw pain of loss. On the other hand, I was arranging everything … “cold” and without any emotion. It all felt very ambivalent. I had no idea how to deal with this. As a family, the days passed like a haze. What was crystal clear was that it felt different for each of us. It was difficult to talk about it with each other, that was also clear to us. We tried, but it didn’t work out.

After months we got structure in our life again

Months later, little by little, everything started to fall back into place; I started to become myself again. The sadness translated into the story about Anne Birgit that I told to everyone who wanted to hear it. Well … somehow the conversation, unconsciously or not, usually turned out to end up with that.

13 years later

One would expect that, after more than 13 years, let me put it thoughtfully, the emotions would be less. On the contrary.

Almost every day I still thought of Anne Birgit and remembered her as she was. The memory turned out to be a very beautiful thing at those moments: all emotions, colours, smells, warmth, conversations, environments became available again down to the smallest details … as if they were photos or film fragments … as if you were reliving it again.

At present

What surprises me most is that there are people who do not think it is normal for me to be saddened by the loss of Anne Birgit. After all, time heals all wounds, doesn’t it? Surely the grief will pass. The answer is yes … and no.

Yes, the raw pain of grief has changed into the gentle pain of grief. No, because I meet friends of Anne Birgit from time to time. Friends who are married and have children. Then, at those moments, you realise what you are missing, and you remember your own daughter and the family and children she could have had. That hurts!

Did I find myself pathetic then? No, on the contrary! I did not find myself pathetic then, as I do now. I was and am proud to be present at the death of Anne Birgit and to say goodbye to her. Am I still sad now? Yes … yes … until my death, I assume. Am I a happy person? Oh yes, I am!

Text updated: 22-10-2020

(1) Her last wish

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 wish

My daughter Anne Birgit knew she was going to die. Her last wish was that I would coach and guide people who had lost a loved one.

My daughter Anne Birgit knew she was going to die. Her last wish was that I would coach and guide people who had lost a loved one.

Anne Birgit died in 2000, at the age of 21. Shortly after her birth it was already known that she suffered from Cystic Fibrosis. It had an enormous impact on us as parents. Not only because she suffered from this disease, but especially because she was expected to die at a (very) young age. The result was also that from year to year we wondered whether that year would not be her last.

A broken heart

My wife and soul mate Mary Anne died in 2011. She struggled with the loss of our daughter. She did not want or could not accept any form of help and support to deal with the loss. And certainly not from me because I too was struggling with the loss of our daughter. In the end my wife died of a broken heart.

In the week before her death I received a card from a woman I had coached. She indicated that she found me a special and beautiful light on her path in life. I remember talking to my wife about this over the weekend before she died. She suggested, no… even insisted that this form of coaching should become my future life path. At the same time, in her usual way, it was a subtle reminder to fulfil our daughter’s last wish.

The end of my professional life

In 2013, I retired after a working life that gave me enormous satisfaction. However, there was one disadvantage to that working life: I was very much away from home. I no longer have any idea how often I travelled around the world, how many cities I saw, let alone how many hotels I slept in. As a result, I consider myself a citizen of the world.

As a management consultant and as a project manager, I had always been able to see not only the fun but also the stress in my environment. I could see this in others … but not in myself. The result was that after I retired 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. This became clear when I accidentally discovered in mid-2013 that my process of mourning had finally begun … after years!

It was time to finally fulfil my daughter’s last wish. Promising is one thing, doing it was of a completely different order.

All beginnings are difficult

You are not the only one who must deal with mourning in one way or another. Through this blog I would like 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 am still learning.

My journey, or perhaps better, my path to mourning, runs along subjects such as understanding, letting go, you thought it was over and there’s always some residue of pain left. In my opinion, the core of mourning comes down to get everything out of life and, despite all the suffering, also a little bit of enjoyment.

In addition to this blog, in accordance with her last wish, a foundation was set up in the Netherlands under the name Stichting Jouw Rouwverwerking. The aim of the foundation is to help others in coping with loss and to help them with their grief and mourning. Outside the Netherlands, the foundation is called Mourn & Grief Foundation.

It is clear to me that I cannot do this on my own. I cannot change the world on my own. What I can do is change myself and hopefully I can also teach others that things can be done differently. Hopefully, you will spread the news. You never know what will happen in the future, but I hope I can make a difference with the foundation, even if it is only a small difference.

For the writing of the blogs in the field of grief and mourning, the foundation has received contributions from several authors.

Text updated: 21-10-2020