(107) Good Watch

This time a contribution from the district nursing services. No matter how professional the employees are towards their clients, it is and remains human work. This is most evident when the daily work extends to palliative care. Besides profession, emotions also come into play. After all, it is and remains work for people carried out by people and everything that comes with it. For all these employees it is nothing but praise from me!

And now follows Nella’s contribution… a contribution from a district nursing service, somewhere in The Netherlands.

“Good watch,” these were the words I have heard for years. During the night shift, after I gave you the care you needed.

The bond I had with you was special, our age difference of 40 years did nothing to that. You called me your friend. Not so much that I visited you outside my working hours … though. The many conversations about life itself, such as the struggle you wanted to continue to work as a highly educated woman at the time when you were married and had children. That was very unusual at the time and took a lot of struggle. But you persisted and never gave up on what you believed. Those were the powerful stories. Keep developing yourself, don’t stand still, because that was decline by definition. Being and staying independent as a woman, leading your own … That was one of the many stories and lessons and learning moments about life itself. Also, the love for your deceased husband, who supported you in those years of struggle to follow your own path as a woman. The many grateful moments with your husband, children and grandchildren together. The visits of your children, who came frequently and the grandchildren you called gifts.

It is May 4, 2019, commemoration day of the dead. Your health deteriorates very quickly when I arrive around midnight as usual. As always, the TV is on, but not now with the news sections, but the Second World War is proceeding. The bombs and all that goes with it, illuminates and engulfs your living room with sound, from a TV screen that is currently far too large. I can see that the WWII is not only on TV but also in you. With a somewhat tearful face, which I have rarely seen in all those 7 years with you, you tell me that I may go and that if it suits me, I may return later in the night or even in the morning. Your voice trembles. My doubt about leaving is great, but because you say it so emphatically and you don’t like fuss, I am starting off in the first place. But before I go out through the door, I walk back and ask, “Can I watch with you so that we are together …” “If you want it so much” and “Do you have time for that?” you asked in a snappy voice to me. For some situations I like to make time free. I know you and understand that you quickly perceive it as pity or too much involvement. I need to phrase it gently. The thought alone. That you would need someone, or that you would feel sorry. That did not suit you at all and straightened your hair. I knew that. “I always come and sit next to you” was my answer, usually going through the day. “That was true,” you confirmed. The tone became much milder again. Once next to you, I felt the quivering in your hands, and as so often I grabbed them for a moment, just like now. Because your hands were shaking so, I enclosed them with my second hand. We watched the movie together without saying anything. Despite our very close relationship, I know that you absolutely do not want to talk about the war. That era is a closed book for you. Once the movie is over, I give you the care that we give you every night.

“Didn’t it bother you that you stayed?” was your question to me. “No, being together with you right now is so much more of significance to me.” “For me too,” you say. “You don’t know how much you mean to me, because I don’t actually say it so often. Rarely actually.” “You don’t have to. Some situations you can just feel the empathy,” was my answer. This is the essence of providing care. I have known that for a long time, but now I felt it so emphatically.

In the last week of your life, you become increasingly narrow, restless and anxious. I happen to have the night shift myself that week. I was with you during the many hours of fear and unrest. I asked the questions that always must be asked in situations like this. And what we talked about much earlier, when nothing was wrong. You wanted to die peacefully, preferably asleep. The conversations become more intense, your sensitivity and your soft side are showing much more, just like the satisfaction about a completed life. It was such a beautiful valuable time together in the last week. The cocktail of medication that someone receives when the person is severely oppressed or restless (at a certain stage) and wants to do so, as would have been the case with you that evening, is started. And, as promised, I will still take care of you.

The peak of our relationship and contact was reached for me, when your son called me and asked if I wanted to stop by so that you could say goodbye to me when you were conversant. Of course, I would come over. With heavy shoes, I went to you. To be honest, I found it difficult, but once with you, I was surprised of the peace you showed. There was no sign of fear and unrest. You were ready for the last journey. Almost cheerfully you asked me if you could give me something. You have often asked me that question. Like now, I don’t need anything from you. “Everything you would like to give me fades in the contact and the bond we have had”. You smiled at me. “You are right, what we had together was unique in every way”. With a final farewell and a kiss on your cheek I leave your home. On my way home, tears roll down my cheeks. Not because you die quickly, but because of the beautiful and many memories we had together. I realized: this is and was LOVE. I feel love and gratitude for the time together with you. And a huge loss for the time to come when I must miss you.

Farewell dear friend!

(104) There are those moments in your life

There are those moments in your life, even after many years, that you’re back at that time … that time you had so much grief and pain … grief, because you lost a loved one … hurt, because you were seriously ill … that you thought that you were healed and it turned out that you have cancer again … or …

You have such moments when processing your grief … even though that may have been years ago. At moments like that you jump back into your grief again … you may cry just as intensely as then … it might hurt just as much as then. That is allowed, even though it may be after years, there is nothing wrong with that!

People around you … even dear ones such as family and friends … may not understand anything anymore of what is happening to you at that moment. When you are asked what is going on … and you just can’t find the words to describe how you feel at that moment … yes, then that’s OK too.

Maybe it helps when you don’t know the words … as an answer to their question … that you play this music by Lili Haydn – The Last Serenade. Tears and understanding come naturally. Maybe they understand … or maybe they feel … what’s going on with you. And maybe not. Only if you understand the emotions you feel!

Bereavement may take quite a while. That is very normal. After all, everyone mourns in their own way.

But mind you, it should not be that you linger in your grief. The raw mourning of the past must have changed into the gentle pain of the sorrow and the missing of people today. Because if the raw pain of the past … now, after years, still is present … then it would be good to seek help. Then indicate that it is about processing your grief! Many people assume that you have processed your grief by now. After years, not everyone immediately makes the connection that you are still dealing with (delayed) mourning.

(74) Communication

When you want to communicate with a grieving person you will need to embrace her or him figuratively, you have to listen carefully to the other, you need to understand what is said and you have to show interest in the other. What is more, topics could be discussed which you personally may find difficult to talk about.


The way we mourn or grieve is unique for each of us. Standard solutions are not available for bereavement or for people who find themselves in difficult situations outside their control. But the first thing we need to do, in order to reach out to or to help these people, is to be able to communicate with them.

Provided that someone who grieves or is in a difficult situation is able to talk to you or even is willing to talk to you, you can safely assume that it won’t be an everyday conversation with each other, but that it’s much more about to let the other do the talking about the issues that she or he finds important at that moment. During those moments you will need to be able to show a lot of understanding… a lot of insight of the problems the other is coping with… that you especially have a lot of empathy and… maybe even a good dose of patience. You also need to be able to cope with the (long) silences that fall into the “conversation.”

SJR (NL-077) en MGF (UK-074) shutterstock_163706276What is more, during a conversation with a grieving person charged topics can be often touched upon. Topics of which we have a preference in our culture not to talk about. Topics such as death, life after death, faith and the loss of the other and all the emotions that go along with it. Topics of which you may have opinions of your own. And your opinions aren’t necessarily aligned to those of the other.

In a nutshell, if you really want to communicate with a grieving person you will need to embrace her or him figuratively… you have to listen carefully to the other… and you need to understand what is said… you have to show interest in the other. What is more, topics could be discussed of which you personally may find difficult to talk about. And that is exactly the problem in communicating with people who grieve.

It’s too crazy for words that it often turns out that communication between people is inconvenient or difficult at times. How often do you find that the other understood your message differently than you actually meant it to be… that you didn’t understand the other… or that without further asking you assumed you understood the other? Yes… it’s too crazy for words… we learned very early on how to talk and to communicate. We all should be experts in this field, the thing is… why isn’t that the case?

It would be a major step for all of us when we would learn how to communicate with each other in a better or more effective way. It’s something we can use almost every day and every moment. Communication is not just about the words we say to each other, it’s also about the long silences or… the not telling and the poses of our body that sends silent messages to the other. Communication is also about learning to understand each other, to have empathy for each other and… to accept who we are! Communication also means that we don’t avoid difficult situations (anymore) but that we are willing to communicate with someone who struggles in life or we offer support.

Perhaps at this time it’s too much to ask in our world… but nevertheless… I believe that we must dare to face the challenge together!

Personally I’m committed to this challenge. No matter how hard I find a conversation, I always try to learn from it so I can do better next time. It comes with much trials and errors… but I keep pushing myself to improve!