(120) Without Parents

Without parents, I was the only daughter responsible for the things that had to be arranged. I had to learn a lot without their guidance.

Without parents

As an only child, I grew up with my mother and father. The bond with my father was better than the bond with my mother. How bad that bond was, became clear later when she suddenly left with the northern sun, on her way to a new life with another family. I stayed behind with my father. The years went on when my father unexpectedly died in his sleep. I was 29 at the time.

On paper I still had a mother, of course, but there had been no contact with her for years. That meant that without parents I was the only daughter responsible for the things that had to be arranged

What I bumped into

My father’s funeral

The first thing to start with was arranging the funeral. I had no idea what was involved and knew nothing of the things that had to be done. It was quite intense to decide what the service should look like, which coffin and card to choose, and many other things. Often you do that together with your mother or maybe a brother or sister, but there were none.

After the funeral, my father’s house had to be delivered. I came across a lot of stuff with memories attached to it, which made it difficult to choose which stuff went away and which did not. It was not possible to keep everything myself; I simply didn’t have room for that in my own house. After a month, the house was empty.

I remember the last time I closed the door. It was a difficult moment, because from now on my father’s house was gone. I didn’t have a home anymore where we had so many memories together. After that, the estate had to be settled. I had no experience with this either. I learned a lot of things from this that I didn’t know yet.

The contact with my family

My dad had a big family. Most of them soon went back to normal.  I kept in touch with three uncles and aunts. We had regular contact for about the first two years. We called each other and came to visit each other. That was nice. Especially because family feels familiar and I have known them all my life. When my uncle smiles, I always see my father’s face in him. From time to time they told stories about the old days, about things my father did and what they had experienced with him. That was nice to hear.

But they too had their own lives, and the contacts became less and less. It was exceedingly difficult for me when an aunt with whom I had a lot of contact ran out of time when she had grandchildren. She wanted to because she was so busy that I would always contact her. She didn’t see or understand that I missed it the other way around. By now I haven’t heard anything for a couple of years. Now, after ten years I can say that I still have contact with one uncle and aunt of the three occasionally.  I don’t hear or see the rest of my family anymore.

My peers

Another point I quickly encountered was that my peers did not understand my grief. Often in their twenties or early thirties, they still had their immediate family around them and with that an unconditional network. Holidays, birthdays, fun and less fun things were still experienced together. They had no idea what it was like to do this on your own.

If they didn’t know something, or needed help with something, they asked their parents. I couldn’t do that. I tried to bring it up but was often told that they didn’t see their parents very often either. Or that you must make something of it yourself. While in my opinion they didn’t do that themselves, because if they wanted to, they could still rely on their parents. It also happened that people distanced themselves from me when I tried to bring it up. It was something I think they would rather not be confronted with.

The birth of my daughter

Five years after my father died, my daughter was born. I gave birth in the hospital, but my parents didn’t come to see her. They didn’t call to see how things were going. Of course, I knew in advance that they wouldn’t be there. But once the moment was there, it was extremely hard. Our daughter had to stay a little longer in the hospital. During Easter we were still there, but nobody came to visit us those days, we didn’t get any calls. That felt very lonely.

Lack of immediate family members

I’m sure it’s not meant to hurt. But it does indicate what happens when you’re nobody’s daughter or sister. Often your immediate family is close to you. They know you your whole life, are involved with you.

Your family members who are further away like your uncles and aunts, cousins, but also your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. All these people are often further away from you than your immediate family. Of course, they also have their own lives in which you do not fall into their immediate family. Often, they don’t feel the need or ‘pressure’ to take an extra step. Something that does happen to an immediate family member.  After all, they are already busy with their own family and relatives. You just have contact now and then or talk to each other from time to time. This means that not everything is seen. In recent years I have often noticed this.

The lack of grandpas and grandmas

Just like when my daughter’s throat and nose tonsils were removed. In the recovery room the other children were called by grandpa and grandma. No one called my daughter. A few days or weeks later people did ask how it had been. But not on the day itself, which is so important.

Five days a week I stand in the schoolyard between the many grandparents, but my parents are never there. These are two of the many examples that the lack is everywhere and what is often not seen by the environment. My experience is that the older my daughter gets, the more it is missing. Who comes to visit when she is sick? Who will be there when she gets her swimming certificate? For many people the answer to these questions is obvious, not for me though.

Without parents, I was the only daughter responsible for the things that had to be arranged. I had to learn a lot without their guidance.
Assistance?

I find the lack of an unconditional network and involvement exceedingly difficult. Eventually I also got complaints and went to the doctor. Then you enter the path of help. But that’s not always blissful. Often you must deal with a waiting list. Before you qualify for an interview, this can take a long time.

On several occasions during those conversations, it emerged that the authority in question could not offer me any help. The lack of a support figure, they could not help me. The process was then not even started. They also investigated the deployment of a volunteer. It was concluded that this was no solution. A volunteer is often only temporary, and after one year for example, an unconditional network is still lacking.

Then you can see that a counsellor doesn’t understand the problem. For example, I was with a lady who kept stressing that I had to think positively. She also had exercises for it. When I discussed those exercises with her, it always turned out that a support figure was missing. She had no answer to that. You can still be so positive in life, but at the bottom of the line I don’t have a network to fall back on, and most people around me do. She sent me to a psychologist.

The psychologist in turn concluded that positive thinking did not help in this situation and that he could not help me because he could not do anything about the lack of a support figure. It was a social thing, he said, that people are focused on themselves today. This was also what the last professional I had conversations with said.

In the end I concluded that people who at a young age no longer had parents could run into certain problems, but that at the moment there is simply no help for that. There is no body that can do this.

What would have helped me

Understanding

What would have helped me now, I guess?  It would have helped me a lot of people had understood how intense it is to suddenly be without parents and that this is missing in everything. And that it is so important to take care of it. And that can be done with, I think, quite simple things.

A phone call or message on special (party) days. Not for lengthy conversations, but just to let people know that those days are difficult. Even after ten years.

On the anniversary of my father’s death, I always put something on my Facebook page and people respond to it. I think if I didn’t post something people wouldn’t know it was his dying day. While it is so nice to know that people want to remember that day for you and let you know to think about you. One time asking about my dad, how things went at our house. Just to reminisce.

Also, for my daughter and for us as a family it would help if there would be a little more involvement. A little more contact. If you don’t speak to each other for 6 weeks, you also miss certain things. And of course, we can contact people ourselves. But also, here it is important that people understand that there is a lack of interest and involvement for us and that this is precisely why regular contact is so important.

Last week my daughter celebrated her birthday at school. Because of the corona crisis, it couldn’t be done sooner. Nobody asked what it had been like. Just because people didn’t know. This is another example I can give, which often causes me to lose connection with the people around me.

Binding

After being without parents for ten years, I can say that at 29 you are old enough to take care of yourself, but too young to be without an unconditional network. There are so many things you have to do on your own unlike your peers. What so often is not seen or understood. I have gained a lot of knowledge about handling an inheritance. Something I didn’t know about before.

Unfortunately, I have also often felt alone and lonely. Due to the lack of bonding with people, I have been unemployed for a long time and have had an eating disorder. Probably people have not noticed this, precisely because I am not their daughter or sister. And then the story is over.

The trick is to have people around you who can and want to move around in your situation. And therefore, want to take that extra step for you. If you have none or too few such people around you, it can be difficult to give the lack a place.

How nice it would be if…

It would be nice if in the future there would be a body that focuses on people who at a young age no longer had parents to fall back on. What impact this can have on someone, especially if the environment does not see this. So that they will get the understanding and support that may be so desperately needed.

(112) Her world stopped turning

No matter how great your loss and sadness are, how you react to it, no matter how long ago it was, what one thinks of it, there is usually a way to get out that deep valley, the valley if that great loss and sorrow. Of course, you don’t have to find the way out alone. You can get support, that is, if you allow it.

Her world stopped turning

Her world stopped turning. One of Monica’s breasts was removed because of breast cancer. For clarity, Monica is a fictitious name. About a year later she also lost her son to cancer, just before his 8th birthday. How harsh life can be. It’s so unfair.

How harsh can life be!

In the meantime, again a year has passed in Monica’s life.  She is still struggling with that great loss and sorrow. Yeah, who doesn’t? She’s still getting tired quickly and still can’t concentrate. Everything in life seems totally insignificant to her … especially when you compare that to that huge loss.

“Yes,” she says, “I can’t get anything out of my hands. I would really like to continue my life … but … I just can’t get it done. “

Panic

Panic strikes when the company doctor thinks Monica should be able to work again. Doesn’t he understand I’m getting tired quickly, that I can’t concentrate?

Panic strikes when people around her have an opinion about just everything. The death of her son is almost a year ago … the removal of her breast even longer. Why would you still have such an immense sadness? Shouldn’t you have processed your grief by now, right?

Panic strikes when Monica wonders how to respond to all those reactions. To her it seems that there are two worlds … the world in which she lives … and … the world in which everyone else is living. At times she can feel so lonely.

Lonelyness

It has been a while that managers and colleagues from the company she works for, regularly contacted her or stopped by. It seems as if Monica no longer exists for them. Apart from the occasional contacts with the company doctor and human resources, nobody contacts her anymore. She must find out everything by herself and even resolve it.

Why don’t they see me?

“Don’t they understand what’s going on with me?” says Monica. “Can no one give me a helping hand? Is that so much to ask? Is there no one who even understands how gruelling times are now for me? The question ‘how I’m doing,’ they ask out of social courtesy rather then they really do want to know the answer. Can no one even produce any empathy? “

“I’m struggling more than enough in coping with my loss and sorrow. Why do I have to consider someone else? Why don’t they have any consideration for me? Is that too much to ask?” Monica asks herself. “There’s no one who hears me. No one who really listens to me. Help! “

Cry for help

On the one hand, everything in Monica’s life seems utterly insignificant when you compare that to her huge loss. But on the other hand, she’s too proud to ask for help.

And yet … Monica wants, as she said before, to continue her life … but … she just can’t get it done. Her cry for help is loud and clear! A cry that should never be ignored! By nobody!

Monica’s cry is finally heard, and people have gone along with her step by step. Her world that stopped turning, got into motion again slowly but surely. The way things look now, Monica will be fine in some point in time. However, the “scars” of her loss and sorrow will never go away, with as result that Monica will look at the world differently than before. It’s just the way it is.

Conclusion
Hope glimmers on the horizon!

No matter how big your loss and grief is … no matter how harsh and emotional you respond to this … no matter how long ago it happened … whatever people in your area think about it or their opinions are … and how you respond to this (complex) entirely … there is usually a way to get out of that deep valley … the valley of that great loss and sorrow.

Of course, you don’t have to find that road alone. There are countless people who can help you with this. People like family members, dear friends, experiential experts, professional caregivers or people from your immediate environment. Central to this is that you are willing to ask for and accept their help. It is also central that they can and want to give you that help … and continue to give that to you if you indicate you need it.

However, before that happens, it must be clear that help is needed. That could be because your world is starting slowly to move again and you, the grieving person, eventually start to realize that you can’t handle your loss or grieving on your own. That it is also possible for all of us to assure that we do not leave the grieving, you, alone in processing the loss or grief.

In a nutshell, no matter what happens or how long it takes, all of us should, without exception, stay in touch with each other … if only to help each other when one of us needs help.

(106) The shadow side of mourning

The loss of a dear one

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 sunset

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 mourning

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.

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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!

Afterword

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.

(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.