ArtZuid – Which one of the three?

ArtZuid – Which one of the three?

Hans van de Bovenkamp – vlnr Spire 2008, Menhir Tower 2010, Ode to Mingus 2006

There used to be a Dutch television program, called: ’Which one of the three’. This program was about a son or daughter, and 3 mothers or fathers. Through the questions to the 3 mothers or fathers and the answer of the son or daughter, you had to guess which one of the three was the real parent. In my blog I make the reference to this program, as I saw three similar sculptures, which reminded me as well of the story of the three trees. Each tree deals with loss in their own individual way. How do you deal with your loss?

This is the story.
There were once three trees, who got badly damaged in a heavy storm and all of them lost a big branch. Each one of the trees dealt differently with the loss of the branch. Years later I searched for the trees again and yesterday I found them and spoke to them.

The first tree was still grieving over the loss of his branch and every time the sun invited him to grow, he said: ‘No, I can’t as I am missing an important branch.’ I noticed that the tree had remained small and was standing in the shadow of other trees. The sun couldn’t reach him anymore. The scar was clearly visible and looked sore. It was the highest point of the tree and he hadn’t grown further.

The second tree was so shocked by the pain that he quickly decided to forget all about the loss. It was difficult to find the tree as he was laying on the ground. A spring storm had blown him over, his roots were not deep and strong enough, he had lost his grip on the earth. The place where the lost branch used to be was difficult to find. It was hidden at the back of the fallen tree.

The third tree was also shocked by the pain and the emptiness in his bark and he mourned for his loss. The first time the sun invited him to grow, he said: ‘Not yet’. After a few invitations from the sun, he finally said:’ Yes sun, warm me so my wound can heat up, so I know that the branch is still part of me. After a while, when the sun came back again, the tree said: ‘Yes, sun, warm my scar and let me grow as well. I know there is so much to grow for. The third tree was also difficult to find, as I hadn’t expected it to be standing so strong. Luckily I recognized him by the scar, that was standing proudly in the sunlight.

This story of the three trees tells us how somebody can deal with their grief and loss. Do you recognize something of yourself in one of these three trees? If you would like to talk about it or need support, don’t hesitate to contact me.

ArtZuid – Burdened by….

ArtZuid – Burdened by….

Erwin Wurm – Big Psycho X 2010

When I saw this sculpture I had to think of the saying: ‘burdened by or suffering from …’. As a bereavement counselor, what came to mind was somebody suffering from grief or burdened by guilt, shame or regret. And these latter feelings are very heavy, something I know all too well. Do you recognize this as well?

‘If only….”, is a question that keeps running through your head. It did with me after my boyfriend died. For sure in the beginning you often think, if I had done this or that, then it would have played out differently or it would not have happened at all. I called Paul (my boyfriend), from the office and the phone was already ringing as a colleague approached my desk with a question for me. I hung up the phone and thought I’ll call back later, not knowing that there would be no later! In hindsight Paul died around that time, so I always wonder whether I would have been just in time or just too late. I will never know…

You can feel guilty that you could have done something differently or have omitted to do something to prevent the loved one from dying. We may unrealistically blame ourselves for things over which we had no control. Know that feeling guilty doesn’t mean that you are guilty.

Those feelings may need some attention, and it is important to acknowledge them, but remember to look at the big picture. They are a part of a larger picture that may capture more aspects of the relationship. In case you have these feelings and you would like to talk about it, feel free to contact me directly or leave a message under this post.

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.