There will always be a small black edge visible, but if you can shine your sun again, even with help from others, yellow will dominate again in your life. A golden yellow sun brings beautiful new sparkles in your life.
Divorcing twice from the same man, didn’t I learn my lesson? Was going through that deep valley full of tears once with intense pain and hellish conflicts to divide our possessions not enough?
No, apparently, I
wasn’t ready after my first divorce and I had to give our family another
chance. At the time I put a line through our past, and bravely stepped into our
relationship again with a clean slate. After all, wouldn’t it be great if we were
to grow old together. I had to do it for our family, for our relatives and for
our surroundings who always saw us as the perfect family. I myself wanted to
give my dream of growing old together with our little family another chance and
bring it back to life.
To my sense I fought and fought for our marriage
until I almost collapsed. My head told me every day … come on you can do it,
and you belong together, right? But more and more my body started to protest,
and again I had
health problems. My body had
been telling me for quite some time that daily stress, tensions and quarrels
weren’t good for me. After all, your brain, body and soul work together and
they send signals. When I realized where my health problems came from, and that I pulled
our children into our daily tensions and disagreements, this awakened me from
my dream, and I had to choose for myself. It was the hardest choice in my life. A sense of having failed as a mother, and as a
partner, but also having to deal with fears and uncertainties, and how to
proceed on my own. Because the financial de-entanglement was very
complex, the separation process took a long time and that made my grieving
process even more raw. Living in uncertainty, high costs hanging over your head,
and not knowing what to expect in the divorce process, means that you will hardly be able to process
your grief, because after I made my choice I ended up in a mourning process.
you are in a mourning process is very important for processing your grief.
Awareness ensures that you dare to admit your grief and pain, and that you
don’t run away from it. The fears and uncertainties that look around the corner,
that make you falter to run back to the old familiar life. This is because your brains are so used to
your old life and have been programmed in such a way that they think that that
old life suits you best. Don’t sit in resentment and anger either, because that can also
hinder you and prevent you from seeing anymore the beautiful things in your life. In order to proceed, to persevere and to stay with your choice, it is
good to regularly ask yourself the following question in your grieving process:
What positive points have emerged from my divorce so far? My answers to
this question show me that I am not only concerned with what I have lost. Insight
into the positive developments strengthens you to see your future in a sunny
I am still sad sometimes and I still must deal with uncertainties, and
fears, but I also notice that I have grown enormously as a person after the
breakup of our family. The entire divorce process has made me stronger as a
person, and the development process has made me grow. Dealing with setbacks in
your life will strengthen you if you can give it a positive twist. It helps you
to move on.
Grief may be there, but don’t let grief be the predominant factor for the rest of your life. Seek help if you find yourself getting stuck. As a Mental Coach myself, I have not walked this path alone. I too have enlisted help from others to vent and organize my thoughts. It is so important not to get stuck in your own processes and to allow yourself to be broken by your grieving process.
There will always be a small black edge visible, but if you can shine your sunshine again with any help from others, yellow will dominate again in your life. Yellow stands for optimism, growth and energy. Being able to see joy again and zest for life. And a golden yellow sun in your life even brings beautiful new sparkles in your life.
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Becoming aware of mourning is important because in the literature it is described how grief represents a change in health status and well-being. Just as healing in the physiological area is necessary to restore the homeostatic balance in the body, the grieving needs time to restore the psychological balance.
Becoming aware of mourning
Becoming aware of mourning is
important since it is described in the literature how sadness represents a
change in health status and well-being. Just as healing in the physiological
area is necessary to restore the homeostatic balance in the body, the griever
needs time to restore the psychological balance.
In an earlier blog I wrote about an overwhelming loss immediately after a loved one or dear one had died. This blog is about the run-up to becoming aware of grief as a result of that overwhelming loss.
A few terms
The following terms are used in this
indicates the experience of someone whose loved one or dear one has died. Grief
consists of a collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physiological
changes that can vary in combination and intensity over time.
Bereavement defines the loss to which the person is trying to adjust and the
experience of having lost a loved one or dear one.
is the term that is applied to the process that people go through to adapt to
the death of their loved one or dear one. The finality and consequences of the
loss are understood and integrated into the life of the griever.
As you would expect, notions such as
grief, bereavement and mourning are not limited solely to aspects related to
the death of the loved one or a dear one. It can be drawn much wider. For example,
in relation to a terminal illness, a divorce, the loss of work, the loss of
physical functions, etc.
Why should grief be dealt
with after a big loss?
Research has shown that within normal
mourning, also referred to as uncomplicated mourning, much of the behaviour can
resemble that of depression. However, the cause is different and so does the
approach to address its behaviour. The current understanding is that while most
of the depressions during mourning are transient and do not require special
attention, the idea is nevertheless emerging that a persistent depression
during the first year of mourning does indeed require professional or clinical
attention. Seen from this perspective, it is believed mourning after the loss
of a loved one or a dear one is important.
But whatever you think
about it …
The choice of whether to handle your
grief after a major loss is entirely up to you. You are free to process your
grief or not. You may not even consider it because sadness is part of life and
many in your area die. You could choose to repress your sorrow (after a short
time) into the background simply by continuing with your daily life “as usual.”
You could even choose to replace it with someone else shortly after your
“Mourning? Do I mourn? No, not at
all! Should I? Why would I want to do that?” These are questions and reactions
from a young man from Nigeria whose family member had died. He explained that
mourning does not matter to him because death is part of daily life. After all,
many people are dying around us. A reformulation of the question could also be:
if it is normal for (many) acquaintances to die or disappear in your
environment every day … how do you look at your loss or mourning?
How do I become aware of
my grief from that great loss?
Personally, I became aware of my
grief after many years. After the death of my wife, Mary Anne, I returned to
work quickly, maybe too quickly. My work was intense, the teams worked all over
the world and as a result my working hours were quite bizarre. However, it was
a fantastic job from which I could get a lot of energy. Until that moment when
I retired a few years later. I got several of those indefinable ailments, felt
gloomy, could not sleep, was tired, and reading a page of a book took me days
and still I had no hunch what it was about. Ailments no physician could put a
finger on. Occasionally there were days when all went fantastic … at least
that added a bit of hope to the little that was left of it. It all simmered a
bit until during a vacation with my son, Mervyn, we suddenly had to rush to the
hospital, I could barely breathe anymore. They saw it happen in the hospital,
but they couldn’t find the cause. Eventually everything returned to normal and
we went on with our vacation. Once at home they could not find a cause in our
hospital either. However, once I started writing my blogs about grief and mourning,
those “ailments” started to disappear slowly. Gradually I became
aware that I had finally started processing my grief.
But could you also become
aware of your mourning … instead of by chance?
In general, mourning involves a
collection of thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and physiological changes that can
vary over time in combination and intensity. To name just a few:
Sadness, anger, blame, guilt and self-blame, fear, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, yearning for the deceased, emancipation or relief, numbness, hollowness in the stomach, chest tightness, tightness in the throat, hypersensitivity to noise, a feeling like you are no longer yourself, breathlessness, shortness of breath, weakness in the muscles, lack of energy, dry mouth, disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, sense of presence, hallucinations, sleep disorders, eating disorders, distracted and absent behaviour, withdrawn into oneself, dreams about the deceased, avoiding memories of the deceased, searching or calling for the deceased, sighing, restless, hyperactive, crying, visit places that remind of the deceased, collect or carry objects that belonged to the deceased.
Yes, there are quite a few and on top
of that you must be able to be consciously involved with this matter for a
while after that overwhelming loss. Maybe you suffer from absent behaviour or
you have no energy to do anything. Maybe family members or friends can assist
you when you are not able to do so yourself.
How to proceed
Personally, I was able to conclude
that I had started processing my mourning much later. In retrospect, I would
much rather have had direct help with the processing of my grief. It would have
given me more peace and I could have enjoyed life more. Maybe even … it is
what it is…
Anyway, you can become aware of
mourning, after the death of your loved one or dear one, when you keep track of
your thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physiological changes from the above
collection on say a monthly basis by indicating how these vary over time in
combination and/or its intensity. You could draw the conclusion when:
• The combination and/or intensity diminishes:
that you are processing your mourning and that you can handle the loss of your
loved one or your dear one.
• The combination and/or intensity
kind of persists: then it is wise to seek help for your mourning at a practice
for grieving and loss guidance.
• The combination and/or intensity
increases: then it is wise to seek help from your doctor as soon as possible for
guiding you with your mourning. In the latter case, based on your feelings, you
may have already considered the idea of seeking help in
an earlier stage.
This blog may be a bit on the boring side, but it is my intention to help you in becoming aware of your grief after the loss of a loved one or a dear one. From own experience, experience of others and from the literature it appears that processing of grief is important. In a nutshell, body and mind must be healed, must be brought back into balance. However, realize that that balance will no longer be the same as before. Mourning also means that you are “marked” by the loss … like in my previous blog with Kathy who rarely shows the brilliant light that she really is and with Tanja where you can see the necessary setbacks she has had when you look deep into her eyes.
It is my wish that this blog can help
you with becoming aware of your grief. It is my experience that only then your
A final comment
There is a lot of literature available in the field of grief and mourning. The Dutch version of the Foundation’s website contains a literature overview that is regularly updated. The book that I find most rewarding to read and understand is “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy”, 5th edition, by J. William Worden (ISBN 9780826134745) published by Springer Publishing Company, LLC.
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An overwhelming loss just happened to you. At that moment you are in deep pain and don’t know what to do, but in the end, you get it resolved somehow. Be aware that it can often be a long and arduous journey, a journey in the unknown, with love and joy at the end of that journey. However, never again it will be the same as before … there will always be some pain left.
Suddenly there it was … an overwhelming loss
Recently you suffered an overwhelming loss that has a huge impact on you. It seems as if you have fallen into a deep hole, that your world stopped turning, that you are so stunned you don’t know what to do anymore.
Preferably you would want to put the clock back to the time, which might not be perfect, but in which you were happy. To the time you had the job of your life and didn’t realize that the company you worked for would eventually go bankrupt. Or perhaps to the time when that loved one was with you, who was always there for you, who always supported you, and gave you courage, who was the one your world revolved around, but who is deceased now. Or maybe to the time when you felt good and healthy and had no suspicion that you were seriously ill. After many intensive treatments the doctor informed you eventually that there wasn’t any other existing follow-up or trial treatment available for you to help.
The enormous emotional impact of the loss can raise questions like “does my life still makes sense” or “how do I proceed with my life from here” or “what is (still) the purpose of my life?” These questions will certainly not reduce the impact of the loss, on the contrary.
Your overwhelming loss and the ensuing grief and mourning can also be intensified by the opinions and attitudes of the people around you. People who, like you, are involved with the same loss but are trying to process this in a different way within their own realities. People who may not realize that everyone is mourning in their own way.
They are custom examples, or so you wish cases, which have happened to me and my family. When you happen to recognize yourself in one of these, I hope that this blog can help you.
It starts with the acceptance that what happened … did happen
Mourning or processing grief is a process that lasts as long as it takes, and which runs differently for everyone. Before the process of mourning can begin, however, you first must be able to acknowledge that this great loss that has happened is irreversible. That you accept that there is no way back because the company for which you worked is bankrupt or … that your loved one has died or … that your illness is terminal … and that what others think of your loss and your mourning is rather a mirror for themselves than that you have to do something with that.
Your acceptance of your loss does not mean that the processing of your grief is going “smoothly.” There may be times when at one point it seems you have accepted your loss while at a different moment it seems that it is not nearly the case. You may not even be aware of that but changing the acceptance of your loss from one moment to the next may generate the necessary additional emotions in you. Emotions that can translate into reactions in your body and also in your behaviour towards others. The same applies to the people in your immediate environment who are processing their grief too. It does not make it any easier.
And that was just the beginning. Yes, mourning requires a lot of energy. Jung said it back then, mourning, or processing your grief, is hard work.
Then come the questions, the life questions, on which answers are needed
Answers to life questions such as
“does my life still make sense” or “how do I continue with my
life” or “what is the purpose of my life” help in accepting the
reality of the loss. In my blog I cannot give answers to such questions because
the answers are influenced by who you are, by your background and culture, and
how you were formed during your life.
“Mmmmm …” I can hear you
think … “but how can I, as a reader, get answers to these, although
basic, but for me personally … important questions?”
In my opinion, it is important that you do not end up in a negative energy
spiral, because the longer it takes the harder it will be to reverse it again. But not everyone
recognizes or acknowledges that to themselves.
It is also important to adopt a positive attitude, so that problems become
opportunities, lessons become obstacles, and your worries are just a part of
My point of view is also that people can change … you too can change … using your heart and all the unconditional love that is available in our universe.
Easy to say but doing and continuing to do so is quite something else. It takes a lot of energy and above all perseverance. But not everyone is willing to devote that.
How do you tackle that … dealing with loss?
It reliefs when you are distracted
from that overwhelming loss. For example, you have children who need your care,
time and attention. Or you have people in your immediate environment who depend
on your help. Or you have a job. But not everyone has that.
It is easier when you do away old things. When you are open to other ideas,
other signals, other observations. But not everyone can do that.
It reliefs when you start recognizing that your fear has to do with
your thoughts that tell you that something is not possible, but that when you
can think in opportunities and challenges you can develop further and create
new opportunities. But not everyone wants that.
It helps when you dare to leave the trodden
path, and while you struggle over the path that is unknown to you, you
eventually discover a new path with new and more possibilities than you ever were
able to dream about. Opportunities that become a new reality for you. But not
It reliefs when you ignore what others think you should do, but that you listen to what your heart tells you … that you listen to your feelings. But not everyone has the courage to do so.
To provide you with some support while
processing an overwhelming loss, I can offer you some perspectives from my own
When you at length go through your
mourning with falling and getting up again, you discover at a certain moment
that the raw grief you experienced in the beginning has changed into the soft
pain of sorrow. That the pain has become a viable and essential part of you …
it has made you who you are at that moment.
It may even be the case that you have
changed so much that people around you wonder how that happened, while you
wonder why you did not start the activities you are currently engaged in much
earlier in your life.
In retrospect, you may consider that the great loss you have experienced
was necessary to put you on the path of life you are currently walking on … that
you can be proud of yourself on who you have become … on what you do now in
and with your life. What another thinks of that is like a mirror for the other
and not relevant to you.
In retrospect you may still vaguely remember any negative aspects and moments before and during that great grief, but later you remember mostly the beautiful things in your life. It gives freedom in your head, in your mind … it relieves.
Looking back in time…
An overwhelming loss just happened to you. At that moment you are in deep
pain and don’t know what to do, but in the end, you get it resolved somehow. Be
aware that it can often be a long and arduous journey, a journey in the
unknown, with love and joy at the end of that journey. However, never again it
will be the same as before … there will always be some pain
For that job of your life you’ve lost, eventually another occupation came in its place that gives much more satisfaction. For the loved one you lost and of whom you are missing the intimacy from human to human … maybe it even still hurts deeply … you are somehow still connected with the other from heart to heart. And because of that (terminal) disease you eventually learned to live and enjoy moment by moment.
Dear reader, I have learned to approach life in a positive way. That did
not happen by itself. Two intense mourning processes contributed to this. It
was hard work and there were times when I no longer knew how to continue in
life or how I could find the answers to my life’s questions. But when someone
asks me now, “if you would have the choice with the knowledge you possess now,
to completely relive your life? What is your answer?” then I would answer
wholeheartedly with … Yes!
I hope this blog is useful in helping you while processing your grief.
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The shadow side of mourning? Is there a light one then? Everything is relative, you could see it as the difference between dusk with a brilliant sunset and the oncoming night as the shadow side.
The mourning process about the loss of a loved one can become complicated, without talking though about complex mourning. No, about a form where many things play a role in the periphery of mourning. That I call the shadow side of mourning. A form that can lead you to deferred mourning and everything in between.
Mourning, imaged as a
When you consider a sunset as an image for a mourning process, then mourning is limited to the processing of the loss of a loved one by you and by you only.
The image of the sunset is not just about the (sometimes) difficult moments in your life … but also including those great moments that you shared together. It’s about a life, that when someone asks you if you would be willing to live that life all over again … including all those sad and great moments … your answer would be an immediate yes!
It maybe is a meagre consolation, but the deeper the grief the greater the love that existed between you. At the moment of realization, it doesn’t console you though … because the other one isn’t there anymore and you can’t give him or her a hug or a kiss.
The shadow side of
The shadow side of mourning is about a loss that can become an even greater one by aspects that play a role in the periphery of the grieving person.
Besides the loss of your loved one, you will also have to deal with aspects that are the result of how others manage the same loss. A disagreement between family members during the preparations for the memorial service could cause this … or just after that. Or the handling of the inheritance became an issue … and consequently, family ties could be lost. The so-called “glass door” effect for mourners results to the loss of friends. After the memorial service of your dear one, almost everyone promises to invite you. Only a handful honour their promise though.
The loss of a dear one might even lead to anger. Anger because you are so sorry that your last words didn’t reflect not even close what you felt for the other. You may feel abandoned because you now must deal with all those things and issues your loved one always did. You may find out secrets about your dear one that were hidden from you all the time. It could be even that your anger turns into hatred.
You may feel compelled or even forced to take over the position in the company of your loved one. A position you never wanted to have because you don’t have the knowledge or skills. But now you should do so.
When the shadow side plays an important role in your loss, then mourning becomes convoluted. It’s clear though, like everyone else, that only you can process your mourning. But that is not to say that a helping hand can’t be offered … a helping hand in the form of support or guidance.
Finding support … but how?
Support and guidance should primarily be directed to raise awareness and the understanding of what is happening to you (in other words, to understand the parts of your puzzle) at that moment; and what parts are important to you; and what could be done to resolve those parts of your puzzle.
Secondly, you should find out what parts of your puzzle could be resolved by yourself or by somebody else. And, not to forget, why and for which items of your puzzle support or guidance would be required. As normally would be the case knowledge and experience are important factors, but with grief or bereavement trust is the most important factor. The rule of thumb that should be used is: “When in doubt, out!”
Personally, I find it important that the grieving person should become self supporting as soon as possible. That means that all assistance or guidance provided is only of (very) short term nature!
Mourning is not just about the loss of a loved one. Parallels could also
drawn for mourning as a result of a treatable but incurable disease up to and
including a malignant terminal disease.
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It’s all about ourselves. Is that why we avoid the conversation after a divorce or the death of somebody close to you?
When you start talking about divorce, death or grief, people tend to avoid the discussion because… Yes, why? Why don’t we talk about death? Why do people react that way?
After some research at the Dutch Bureau of Census and a couple of checklists on dealing with stress, it appears that in the Netherlands on average one in 30 to 35 people are somehow involved in coping with mourning. Look around you and wonder why people react in this way.
Listen to the news. Every day, people face divorce, death of a loved one, loss of work, an incurable disease or war. The question is not if, but when it happens to you or me. We don’t like it and we want to stay far away from it. However, life is different. Look around you and wonder why you react in this way.
Is it better, then, to prepare ourselves in some way in case something similar happens to us? I do not know. I have lost quite a few people who were close to me. Each time it was different and each time it felt different, not a little, but a lot different. In other words, preparing for it is difficult… if not impossible.
Yes, you can prepare for the rituals that are performed after a divorce or a death. But from an emotional point of view? It is not a play where you are a spectator. You are personally involved, and the script is different every time. It depends on many factors, such as the people around you, their relationships, and the way they deal with grief. Family and in-laws can talk very emotionally about the division of the estate; discussions that can go as far as breaking family ties. The more people are involved, the more complicated it becomes. In short, how should you prepare for such a situation? Personally, I believe this is not possible, but… this does not mean that we cannot try.
A first hurdle that could be taken is the taboo of talking about grief and mourning. It’s about the sad side of life, a side with an emotional charge. We don’t want it to happen to us, but it happens. We may be afraid of it, afraid of the change that is about to happen to us… afraid of the unknown.
But whatever the reason, we have lost someone and that has a significant impact on us and our lives. Sometimes that is a hard lesson and an extremely painful process that goes against everything we feel and want. Sometimes… we want… or we can’t adapt. And yet somehow, we will have to learn to live with it and find a new balance… or not… with all its consequences.
In short, it is not about the person we have lost, but about ourselves… is that why we do not want to talk about it?
Text updated on 23-09-2020
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