Joal Fadiouth, Senegal, Januari 2019


If I may be so bold as to suggest some advice to a widow who just recently lost her other half and now must cope with it, my first and main message would be: “Stop feeling guilty about the things you should have done or avoided.” It is what I always tell patients, who struggle with mourning and bereavement and invariably turn the fault at themselves.
To feel bereft is bad enough, so why should we add to the burden, by holding ourselves accountable for what happened, or cry over all that we didn’t do when there was still time for it. Everybody does it and I don’t mean to reprobate. It is perfectly normal to ask yourself this kind of questions, but some of them lead nowhere.
Get rid of the guilt and get used to the pain. That is all we can do about it. Add piety towards the loved one who disappeared. Cherish his belongings, and all the little things he left in your life. The objects, the smells, the music. It may hurt the first time, each time, but in the end, they are the little helpers. Involuntary memories will rise along your path.
The love story is not over when one of the two dies. The more you have loved, the more you will suffer during your journey of mourning. The greater the love, the deeper the pain. It hurts excruciatingly bad, but not accepting this pain, or rejecting it, would be worse, as it would betray the very truth of the union between your souls.
A big, fat ‘real love’ is not given to all people in their lives. I suppose many died without knowing what this means. ‘Being in love’ is given to everyone all the time, but that is not what I mean. ‘Being in love’ is temporary whereas ‘real love’ is perpetual, not to say eternal. If your love for him was real, it will go on beyond death because it has no limits in space or in time.
You must trust your guts and go on one day at a time. The dust will settle, and soon you will see clear and far. After all the anger and the moments of despair, all anguish and anxiety your soul will rise towards the light and the two of you will meet again in spirit.
There is a long way to go before your reach that stage, and you should start with abandoning all the ballast that weighs you down and get rid of the guilt questions to start with. It is not your fault and it is never a mistake to really love, but only if one loves oneself at the same time.

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  • Dear Peter/Dirk
    I have read this text numerous times during the past year.
    The first time I read it, I was very angry and did not agree with your advise.
    Slowly, I start to feel a certain comfort when I read the words, but it depends on the day.
    Anyway, thank you for writing this article.