(117) Hans … 20 years later

I hope I can provide a handle so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning whatever may be the cause.

Hans … 20 years later

20 years later? What happened in those 20 years? Most of the blogs I have written are about the period after the death of my daughter, Anne Birgit, in 2000 and of my wife, Mary-Anne, in 2011. Now I don’t want to write about that previous period. This time I want to share with you how I look at my life today … what I am going to do with the lessons I was allowed to learn during that period … how I want to proceed with my life … in a nutshell, how do I see the future today and am I happy with that now.

I hope I can provide a handle with this so that you too can learn to deal with your loss and mourning … whatever the cause may be.

The way I look at it now

The way I look at it today, I am pretty happy with my life. Satisfied in the sense that I have learned to deal with my loss. The raw grief of the past has turned into the gentle pain of mourning. Both Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne are no longer in my mind every day … but we are connected from heart to heart in a different way. As if we know each other when we think about each other. And when a feeling of sadness comes up, it’s like they’re just sitting next to me.

However, there are still times I suddenly go back in time … when Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne were still alive. I still don’t understand how that can happen… maybe because of a smell, a colour, a voice, an image … but in those moments it’s like it’s all real again. Like the way you watch a movie … including all the emotions and feelings that were present at the time. It is true that these kinds of moments have become less frequent in recent years. But when it happens, it is still exactly as it used to be.

The way I look at it, there is immediately a positive thought for every negative thought. As if these are the two sides of the same coin. What strikes me is that in recent years that positive thought has come more often and is stronger than that negative one. That feeling … that positive feeling makes me a happy person. But I should remark that the joy in me goes much lighter and emotionally much deeper than before … more subdued.

I am very sure I would not have been on the path of life I’m walking now, if Anne Birgit and Mary-Anne would still be alive. Paradoxical as it may sound… on the one hand I would like to have both around me again… on the other hand the path I am on now gives me a fantastic but at the same time also an ambivalent feeling. Presumably that feeling will always stay that way.

What do I do with the lessons from that period

The biggest lesson from that period is that I’ve become an experience expert in dealing with loss and grief. People around me are amazed at this. Because for them dealing with loss and grief is about how you deal with it? Isn’t that completed? Time heals all wounds … right? Yes, you have lost a child… that’s like a rollercoaster … we know that. You have now finished your mourning? When I answer that it’s not about that at all, but that it is about guiding others in coping with their loss and their grief … they become silent … then they slowly start to understand. And at the same time, they also indicate that that would never be their choice. But that aside.

In my previous professional life in industry, organizational consultancy and IT, I have learned to look at processes … at people how they use those processes … how possibly could done this better, more convenient, more user-friendly. In this way, I’ve also observed those past 20 years at how I dealt with coping with my grief and my loss. I used that knowledge to write my blogs.

In the meantime, I have started the training “dealing with loss” at the Dutch organization “Land van Rouw.” The amazing thing about this is that the knowledge I have gained from my experience can often be found in the literature used in the course. Does that mean that my training is wasted energy and money? No, that’s not it! It gives me insight from different angles, perhaps other disciplines. With the help of that training, I can even become a professional experience expert, where I can combine theoretical and practical knowledge of others with that of my own.

How I look to the future now

As I look to the future, I envision a path where, in addition to completing training courses, I use my knowledge and experience to assist people in coping with their loss and their grief in the broadest sense. You also should imagine that people become aware that they are in a narcissistic relationship and that they eventually decide to do something about it… no matter how difficult that can be. Or, people who lose their jobs, are terminally ill, or divorce…

I don’t walk that path alone. Together with others I want to guide people with the aim that grief and loss in any form is the most normal thing in the world and that we can talk about it without taboo. I would love that.

As I now look to the future, I also see that I am also moving the common thread of groundbreaking work from my previous profession into this field. For now, I’m just translating it into the form of giving presentations about mourning and loss in any form, writing articles and writing books.

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As I now look to the future, it will end for me eventually sooner than later … I am currently 72 years old. In the coming years I also want to enjoy myself and have fun. Somehow, I feel like I’m going to accomplish that. And what I would love is for others to continue my work in their own way.

In this blog I wanted to show how I eventually “can” deal with my loss and grief. Yes, “can” … because there are times when I can’t. It is what it is. I wanted to show you that it can be a long stretch, but in the end, there is light at the end of that process.

I hope I have been able to provide you with a handle so that you can also learn to deal with your loss and grief… whatever the cause may be.

(108) An overwhelming loss

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.

An overwhelming loss results into grief and mourning.

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 your life.

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 everyone dares.

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.

A perspective…

To provide you with some support while processing an overwhelming loss, I can offer you some perspectives from my own experience.

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 left.

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.