(60) Alone, But Not Lonely

Grief is like a wound. Grief leaves also scars, and those are visible too, even after years. Also the pain and hurt from grieving becomes less and disappears eventually… for most people. It may take a while before you hardly feel the pain anymore. And yet, in an unguarded moment, the pain is there again as intense as it was originally, and in those moments you think you are back to square one.

HPF_4779Your partner deceased recently. Family and friends want to comfort you and to help you. But, you are not in the mood for it. You want to come to your senses, but it fails. You feel lonely because in everything around you, you still feel the presence of your partner. Sometimes you think seeing your partner from a distance… you are shocked… hold your breath… your heart skips… At those moments sounds diminishes… and time seems to stop. Then… when coming closer… you see it is somebody else… and slowly everything is getting normal again.

Slowly you start realizing your partner will never be in your live again. The same is true for the people around you. But by the issues of everyday life, and also because personally there distance to the deceased is larger, the shock to most of them begins to recede soon… not with you though. Until you meet them again. For them the meeting is a just moment, after which they move on again. That is not the case for you! In the beginning you tell your story to almost everyone and to some even more often. Although you tell your story and to some maybe even more times, you start feeling it does not seem to resolve anything. Or, maybe you do not feel anything at all. Or, maybe you do not even want to talk about it with others.

You want to bring your house in order, but you do not get anything done. And those times you manage, you think at your partner again and in your mind you return to the time you were both together and happy. Precisely those moments you feel alone. Days go by without anything really happening. You want to, but you do not get it done.

You still have a long way to go in learning how to cope with your loss, your grief and your loneliness. Learn to cope? But you have not reached that stage yet. You have no idea how to advance with your life. You have not even an overview of this, let alone to get a grip on it.

The world keeps on turning, and the people around you keep dealing with their issues all day. You get the feeling that the distance between you and the people around you is getting bigger and bigger. For them it seems you withdraw more and more. On the other hand, you get the feeling there exist two worlds; your world and the one for everybody else.

In “The Light We Chase” I found an appropriate text that says it all: “I would rather stand alone than being lonely in a crowd.”
The book is currently being written under the pseudonym Jaymich90 on Wattpad.

It is important you learn to deal with loneliness somehow. When you are alone that is OK, as long as you are not lonely. When you are lonely occasionally that is not bad either, but it should not be every day.

People who are close to you start to suggest that you should go out and meet people again. That is easier said than done. To go to the theater or the movie alone, is quite a step. When you visit couples you often stand before a glass door. Yes, you will be invites one or two times and then it seems you do not exist anymore. When you run into one of them they cannot make an appointment. They need to compare agendas first at home. They promise to call back, but they never do. Yes, you see people in the office, but the priorities there are different. When you go shopping people see you, but most of the time you are occupied with searching for the things you need, and you are so self-centered that you do not pay any attention to your surroundings. Occasionally you hear that people have seen you at some place, but why didn’t they have a chat with you in that case? Well, it goes both ways.

You get tired of this and withdraw; some even burn one’s boats.

Eventually it is noticed. Friends and colleagues urge you to meet people again… otherwise you get lonely. But are you ready for that? It was not so long ago that your partner, the love of your life, deceased.

Lonely? As long as “lonely” translates to “alone” then sooner or later it turns out to be alright. You are alone anyway. Whether you are with your family or at work, or between thousands of people, or maybe you are even the center of attention… you are alone. Alone, because your partner that was so important to you, is not there anymore. There are people who claim that your partner is with you indeed as spirit… but at that moment that is of no use to you. You cannot touch the other. No more that chat. No more that hug. No more that laughter. No more the togetherness.  No more enjoying together. In those moments the wound of loss opens again. And as with all wounds, that hurts. It is all OK as long as you are not constant feeling lonely.

Wounds heal eventually. It can take a while, but they heal. Wounds leave scars, and you can still see these years after. Although you do not feel the pain anymore, sometimes you get those undefined sensations at your scar. As if you are reminded to that moment again… that moment when you felt the wound… in all its intensity.

Grief is like a wound. Grief leaves also scars, and those are visible too, even after years. Also the pain and hurt from grieving becomes less and disappears eventually… for most people. It may take a while before you hardly feel the pain anymore. And yet, in an unguarded moment, the pain is there again as intense as it was originally, and in those moments you think you are back to square one.

But despite all that has changed, all you have been through, felt and experienced, suddenly there are those days where you feel free and happy, despite you are alone. Days where you might feel yourself like a butterfly fluttering in the Sun from flower to flower. People are unique, for the one it takes a little longer than the other, but you will be fine… eventually.

(59) Listen To Your Heart

I didn’t see it coming. Based on the questions I got during the various examinations, I slowly discovered that all kinds of complaints I used to have could be related to problems with my heart. The moments I had those complaints though, I thought the cause was related to the job, the many hours I worked, the stress, the trips I made and the fatigue as a result of this. No moment I was considering I had a problem with my heart.

shutterstock_176080721During communication training sessions and during spiritual gatherings you often hear the phrase “listen to your heart.” In contrast with your thinking, your head, your feelings are meant. My best days turn out to be those days when my feelings and my thinking are in balance. Some people swear by it and others find it rubbish or even vague. But that aside.

The phrase “listen to your heart” has also an interpretation that is overlooked by many people. An interpretation in the literal sense of… How is your heart beating? Does it beat regular? Not too fast or not too slow? Do you hear some noise maybe? Is your blood pressure fine? Are you easily tired or out of breath? Don’t you fancy anything to do or don’t you get anything done?

It happened to me. On a sunny morning that promised much for the day, I woke up and lazily stretched myself. Bang it did on the left side of my chest. It didn’t even really hurt, but it did feel annoying. During my life I’ve felt worse pain; those moments I took a painkiller and after a short time everything was fine again. This time I took a painkiller too and during the day I forgot about the pain.

The next morning I woke up again with that little bit of pain on the left side of my breast. Furthermore I had dreamt that night that I would die in a couple of months. In the preceding weeks I had that dream more often. Only this time the dream was more insistent, as if it was a last warning. Still today, this dream is very clear in my mind.

People often dream. Me too, but the difference is that each time I can remember my dream the next day in all its details, it is a portentous dream to me. Yes you can laugh about it, but those type of dreams most of the time turned out to be true.

Because of the seriousness of the dream, in combination with the pain in my chest, I decided to call the family doctor. After some explanation I could come for a consultation immediately. From the examination the doctor could hear some noise from the heart and I was referred to a center for cardiologic examinations were I also could go to immediately. That same day I was admitted into hospital and almost 5 weeks later I came home again after having had two open heart operations. As soon as my breast bone is completely healed a heart revalidation process starts that takes weeks, maybe months.

The 5 stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) of Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ process of mourning.

Not everybody may agree with me, but for me it is comparable with bereavement. It is the same quest from denial to acceptance and again a central theme with questions like: do I become my old self again, because this moment, two weeks after the last operation, it doesn’t feel that way. And if not, what are my limitations? In short, how to proceed from here?

At this moment I have no idea how to proceed. When there is one thing I have learned in the past, is to adopt a positive attitude. And today I learn and have learned again that your attitude not only strongly determines how you walk through your process of grieving, but also determines the speed at which you go through the grieving process. The faster you go through the process the sooner you can go on with your life; not only that, it also improves your healing process. It is said in a few words, but it does the job; I know it all too well from experience. It’s like a dance, two steps ahead and one back. Eventually you will arrive where you should be.

I didn’t see it coming. Based on the questions I got during the various examinations, I slowly discovered that all kinds of complaints I used to have could be related to problems with my heart. The moments I had those complaints though, I thought the cause was related to the job, the many hours I worked, the stress, the trips I made and the fatigue as a result of this. No moment I was considering I had a problem with my heart.

Let this be a warning to you. Listen to your heart! In particular when you feel quickly tired or you are short of breath! In particular when you don’t get anything done! Especially when you have pain in your breast, even if it’s just a little bit! Discuss it with your family doctor. It could happen to you too that you be at home again after days, if not even weeks.

(3) Somebody I Met

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 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. Eventually we started to talk. She was traveling on business and she missed her children. She told me that as a result of a car accident she had lost the love of her life years ago. She was still devastated. The relationship lasted about eighteen months. “Only eighteen months” she said.

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 that she actually had no right to grief because the sadness of another was many times worse than hers.

She lost me for a moment. How can you even think like this? Finally I found the words. Mourning or grief is not a competition! 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 concrete and just as deep as mine. Who is the person that says there is a difference? There is no difference!

It doesn’t matter. Her sorrow was just as deep as mine. She felt a bit relieved, a bit happier. Her sorrow did not change but, more importantly it helped her to put things in a different perspective, to be able to talk about it and to share.