Grieving For Berna

Can’t believe that it has been a year ago already since we lost our sister. Wrote this back then:

So, we’ve said our last goodbyes to an intensely loved one a few days ago. And yes, it was heavy. Both sad and beautiful at the same time. ‘The day after’ was filled with numbness. Haven’t done anything that whole day, besides a lot of phone calls. And now, a few days later, I can honestly say ‘Yep, I’m OK.’ Somehow, I’m at ease. For a moment I felt guilty about that, but the next moment I thought “why should I?” My Late sister Berna wouldn’t want me to feel like a basket case at all.

Situations like this prove that there is some conditioning involved here. A feeling that a certain behavior is expected from us when it comes to loss, mourning and grieving. A cliché image of the sobbing loved one, sitting depressed in a corner. Don’t get me wrong, that’s OK too. Everybody grieves in his or her own way. However, the outside world sometimes seems to expect a certain way of grief. And before you know it, they can’t handle what they see: not sobbing but simply moving on.

Don’t get me wrong. I hurt. Right now it’s somewhere deep down inside. Invisible and inaudible on the outside. Not on purpose. This seems to be me. And who knows I’ll break down in tears at a very unexpected moment. Like I did for ten seconds, starting my eulogy. Using that glass of water to buy me some time and reset. After that I was OK and I said what I wanted to say. Without notes, straight from the heart. In English because non-Dutch folks watched it all on the funeral video livestream too.

Somehow I’m at ease. Easier for me. OK, Berna was my sister, friend, wingman and ‘parent’. Hard enough. But she was not my wife. She was husband Ton’s, and he has nobody left, besides us in-laws. He has lost his ‘better half’. And she was not my first-born child. She was to our parents, who are not supposed to outlive their own child. Even for me it’s hard to imagine what it must be like for all of them. Sheer horror, I guess. I am ‘lucky’ in a way. I am ‘spared’ a bit. I get off easy in some way.

Berna’s passing feels somewhat ambivalent to me. On one hand she has left us way too soon. Berna was by no means finished. Too many plans and prospects. She desperately wanted to live. With her Ton. After already having lived a ‘colorful’ life. A life that, next to the beautiful experiences, has by no means been easy on her. The life of a complicated personality, fighting her very own demons in her very own way. Some energy-consuming battles that she emerged from as a victorious true warrior.

She lost that last battle. And that’s the other side of my ambivalent sentiments. Berna is at ease now. I’m convinced of that. And you know, when she’s at ease, I’m at ease. She went where we, the living on this earth, can’t follow her. We would have loved to have her around a bit longer, but that’s a bit self-serving of us. I know that my sister is in a good place now. Where ever that is. She is at peace, I’m sure of it. No more inner struggles. Somehow, to me, that feels right too. Am I a bad person now?

I can hear Berna answer ’no!’ She wanted to bring light in the lives of others. In her very own complicated way she wanted peace, harmony, good times and especially, as a true Burgundian Kitchen Queen, great food for all of us. I’m not the New Age spiritual type, but I know that there is more between heaven and earth. And out there, somewhere, Berna is still hovering about, still having my back. As a sister, friend, wingman and parent. Taking care of her little brother. I’m OK.

Berna, sis, now, a year later, in 2022, I hope that you are still proud of me…

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