ArtZuid – “A pot of tear-water tea”

ArtZuid – “A pot of tear-water tea”

Klaas Gubbels, Zijwaarts 2021

I saw this 3rd sculpture and immediately thought of “a pot of tear-water tea”, which I once read in a children’s book written by Arnold Lobel.

Everybody who knows me, knows that I love my tea and I regularly drink it with clients. After my partner Paul died and later during my bereavement study at ‘Land van Rouw’, I shed many tears. During this study I was touched by several topics, mostly because they brought about something that related to me, like attachment, loyalty, divorce and safety. I could show my vulnerability and work on my themes of loss. During my study I came across the book ‘Owl at home’ written by Arnold Lobel, which captured my imagination. Just beautiful how Owl fills the kettle on his lap with tears to make a salty tea and that all the tears stand for certain parts of his grief.

The story is written for children and very suitable to investigate with them how grief is and if you can taste it, share it, visualize, draw it……

Do you like tear-water tea? If you need some support with making a pot of tear-water tea then contact me for an appointment.

Below the fragment of the book
Owl took the kettle out of the cupboard.
“Tonight I will make tear-water tea,” he said. He put the kettle on his lap. “Now,” said Owl, “I will begin.” Owl sat very still. He began to think of things that were sad. “Chairs with broken legs,” said Owl. His eyes began to water. “Songs that cannot be sung,” said Owl, “because the words have been forgotten.” Owl began to cry. A large tear rolled down and dropped into the kettle.
“Spoons that have fallen behind the stove and are never seen again,” said Owl. More tears dropped down into the kettle. “Books that cannot be read,” said Owl, “because some of the pages have been torn out.” “Clocks that have stopped,” said Owl, “with on one near to wind them up.” Owl was crying. Many large tears dropped into the kettle. “Mornings nobody was because everybody was sleeping,” sobbed Owl. “Mashed potatoes left on a plate,” he cried, “because no one wanted to eat them. And pencils that are too short to use.” Owl thought about many other sad things. He cried and cried. Soon the kettle was filled up with tears. “There,” said Owl. “That does it!” Owl stopped crying. He put the kettle on the stove to boil for tea. Owl felt happy as he filled
his cup. “It tasted a little bit salty,” he said, “but tear-water tea is always pretty good.”

ArtSouth, The world upside down

ArtSouth, The world upside down

Ronald A. Westerhuis – Shine 2021

Part 2 of the ArtZuid series

This second sculpture reminds me of a world upside down. When grieving you can experience this, as due to a drastic loss your life has changed forever. Your world is quite literally upside down.

The American grieving expert William Worden distinguishes four grieving tasks, which you possibly might recognise. 

Task 1: Facing the reality of your loss
The loss feels so unreal, that our mind suppresses it in the first instance. Some denial can serve a purpose in that it allows you to slowly absorb the full weight of the loss. Mentally you know it, but the emotional awareness comes later. A friend once told me that when her father had passed away, she was angry at the world and the trees, as they went on living through the seasons and got new leaves. The world around her continues and her life stood still and felt upside down. After a while you will realise that the loss has occurred, which is the first step towards adapting and moving forward. 

Task 2: To work through the Pain of Grief
Acknowledging your feelings and working through a range of different emotions is important. Among others sadness, fear, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, anger, guilt, blame, shame and relief. Also physical pain can be a way to express your feelings.  These complex feelings can be confusing, tiring and also painful. 

Task 3: Adjust to an Environment without the Deceased
The permanency of being without what has been lost can be overwhelming. In the beginning everything will remind you of your loved one. With every song I heard, I could relate the lyrics to Paul, my partner who had died and I felt the absence. Interactions with others change as the environment reacts differently to a couple than to a single person. You may need to learn a wide array of new skills and tasks or outsource them. You miss the atmosphere you had together and also the future goals are not the same anymore. You have to adjust and adapt to the new normal, which entails reorienting and restructuring what you do without your loved one.

Task 4: To integrate the loss in your life.
This is about finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life. Your loved one will always be a part of your live, only physically your loved one is not there anymore. The connection will be shaped differently, they also call this the symbolic bond. Do you carry for example something symbolic, which reminds you of your loved one?
The grief will become less and doesn’t control your whole life anymore. Of course there will still be difficult days but you can begin to meaningfully engage in things that bring pleasure and open up to new relationships. 

There are many grief theories and none are proven to be the absolute truth. These are certainly helpful and relevant tasks, but if you do not feel like you have completed them that is not a reason to panic. It may mean you are still working through the process or it may mean that this is not the model that best reflects your own experience.  Grief is unique for all of us. In case you want help or would like to talk about it, feel free to contact me.

ArtSouth – Which face do you show when grieving?

ArtSouth – Which face do you show when grieving?

This series is about connecting the sculptures of the ArtZuid route in Amsterdam with grieving. Loss is inseparably connected with life. We prefer not to think about it. Mourning is the reverse side of love and losing somebody we love hurts, it doesn’t matter whether we talk about dying, job loss, divorce, health or future expectations.

I start with the artist Joseph Klibansky, who made the sculpture of the goddess Aphrodite from Greek mythology wearing an African elephant mask.

Looking at this sculpture I think: ‘Which face do we see when you are grieving?’

We can all interpret how somebody looks, however that doesn’t mean that the person also feels that way. Of course it is great if it reflects the inner truth. When grieving you try to keep your chin up, you don’t want others to see how sad you are.
As a volunteer, I support bereavement groups where the participants are asked to make a drawing of their face. On the left side of the face how they feel from the inside and on the right side how they portray themselves on the outside. Mostly these are beautiful, but also sad drawings, with a lot of insight, which becomes clear when the participant discusses their drawing. It clearly shows that the grieving from within is different than that which is projected out-with and that we are not always willing to show our inner side.
How do you feel from the inside and do you also show this externally? What kind of mask are you wearing?

These Holidays are different

These Holidays are different

On Sunday evening I was dancing at home and Aquarius from the musical ‘Hair ‘was playing.

These lyrics really spoke to me:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions –
Mystic crystal revelation –
And the mind’s true liberation

The Age of Aquarius or ‘the Fish’ represents the transformation of the world towards more human values. The lyrics described this perfectly. This past year was clearly a year for me to come closer to myself and find meaning.
A year where we needed to listen to and respect each others’ opinion, and that can be difficult. A year where we had less air pollution and became more ‘one’ with nature.
Unfortunately a year where there was more isolation and loneliness and where sometimes people couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in the way they would have liked to.

Christmas is a time to spend with family and now we must spend it without them. In this situation the loss feels so apparent, you really wanted them here. Christmas and New Year will be different for a lot of people this year. Will you be able to still make it something special?
Whatever situation you find yourself in, whatever your belief, I wish you days of light, self love and unity in the New Age of Aquarius

The function of crying after loss

The function of crying after loss

Recently two women in my bereavement group shared; that since their husband died, there were many moments during the day where they felt a need to cry. This reminded me of my own tears during my grieving process. In this blog I’ll take a look at the cultural aspects and the scientific and psychological insights about the function of crying after loss.

Crying brings calm and relief
The psychologist Alex Goetz carried out research on the effect of tears on the body and mind. Sadness causes stress in the body and therefore crying can relieve this stress. The majority of people – me included, feel better after a good cry, I wonder if this is also your experience?

Are we allowed to cry?
This depends on the culture and the family in which we are raised and also how your parents dealt with emotions and crying. In your family or school was crying tolerated or not? Men and women have been brought up differently with regards to showing emotions too. Are we still saying “Boys don’t cry”? I think people are more aware of that label nowadays. In general I think to show your emotions these days is more acceptable and I think that this is a positive development.

Not able to cry
With loss there is a whole range of varying emotions; sadness, anger, fear. If we’ve learnt that we must keep our emotions under control there is a danger of repressing all these too.
My experience and that of other Psychologists know that a healthier approach is to acknowledge pain and emotions rather than to repress it, though this can be difficult. I support people with this in my practice. If you ignore emotional pain, it can disrupt your life by manifesting in other ways, such as physical pain, illness, stress and burnout.

Finding Balance
Sometimes it’s normal just to want to forget our grief for a while, so that we can put our tears to one side. To find a distraction like shopping or doing sport is a normal way of coping during grieving. Stroebe en Schut talk about a Dual Process Model where there is a seesaw effect between grieving and getting on with life. I wonder if you recognise that?

Communication and connection
What is often not talked about is that if you are sad and cry in front of someone , it reveals your vulnerability. It tells them how you are feeling, what you are going through and then they can give you the support that you might need. After all until you tell them, they don’t know the depth of your feelings. It can bring a deeper connection with those around you.

If anything in my blog struck a chord with you, and it would feel good to share this with a professional who can offer you a safe and confidential space to share . Please feel free to contact me on 0610144644 or drop me a line on for a free initial conversation.