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Hi, I’m Sacha Verheij and 25 years old. Currently I’m finishing my master in Gender & Diversity in Brussels. I write about marginalized groups, taboo subjects and whatever needs to be talked about.

Weightlifting of loneliness

27 September 2021

Out of nowhere, tears roll down my cheeks. Without understanding it, it is just there. An indefinite emptiness that I can’t seem to fill up. I feel like a dot in the horizon that nobody can reach. Everybody can see me, but nobody is making contact with me. Waves crashing as attempts to connect. I try so hard, but I can’t for some reason.

The social butterfly that I used to be has become a caterpillar. A metamorphosis in reverse. As I crawl, I struggle to find the connections that make me feel less lonely. It is something strange, this loneliness. It is not the same as my depressions, it is something else. It’s wanting to party, but nobody comes to your party. I’ve got the music, but nobody to dance with. 

Photo via Unsplash
Lonelier than lonely

I am looking for a community in which I can quietly bathe. A group in which I can ground myself. People around me who want to fill the days with me. Time as our best friend, serving as a bedspread of possibilities. 

There is so much in life to be lived. But when the ticking of the clock is echoed with silence, the emptiness makes it almost impossible to come alive. I feel lonely. Where once my agenda was full, now the pages are whiter than white. I ran from one place to another. I absorbed life to the core. Every day again. But now, I don’t know where to begin.

When I wake up, the desire to go back to sleep overwhelms me. Because then I don’t have to worry about how to spend my days. The irony is that I know there are so many wonderful things to do. But being on your own gets lonelier than lonely after a while. 

Photo via Unsplash
People around me

I wish to wake up with people in my house, saying good morning to me in the living room. I wish to come home to a warm welcome, where people ask me how my day was.

I wish to fill evenings with cooking new dishes with people who want to taste. I wish to spend weekends with others, lazing around because sometimes life can be that simple.

I wish to make memories with companions who excite me for the future. I wish to be part of a group I can belong to.  

But for now, I float alone in my little boat. I am looking for ways to get my engine running. To move myself out of this ocean of loneliness. I wonder where the coast is, where my mainland is to be grounded.

Ça va aller

As I wander through the streets of Brussels, I walk past a group of people. I hear them laughing together in French, gracefully and melodiously. A young woman with her hair shorn to the side is holding a glass of vin rouge. The young man next to her speaks with big enthusiastic arm gestures, as if his words come out quicker that way. 

Photo via Unsplash

I am beginning to get used to the sounds of the French language. The language barrier has diminished considerably, but at the same time, the social distance between me and the people around me seems to have increased. Speaking someone’s language does not automatically mean making contact with them. So I continue walking and I sink deeper into my thoughts, French thoughts.

Ça va aller, ça va aller. It will be fine, I repeat several times in my head. As a kind of mantra to remind myself that it will be fine. At the same time, I wish I could feel the lightness of this French sentence in the fibres of my body, because the loneliness I carry feels like I am lifting weights every day. 

Somewhere in the back of my mind I know that I don’t have to lift this heaviness on my own. “You are not alone,” my girlfriend says with a troubled look in her eyes. I can see from the way she looks at me that she is distraught. 

She wants so desperately to be able to take away my loneliness. Even if it’s just to carry a piece of it, so that I don’t have to feel so heavy all the time. 

But I don’t know how she can help me. I wish it would be possible, that she could strip me of my loneliness. Like a winter jacket that is too tight, that she unzips for me so that I can breathe normally again. If only it were that easy.

to be continued…

Grief doesn’t know time

28 September 2020

The age thirty is slowly getting closer and it’s scaring me. Not because I need to have my life in order, like my peers struggle with the approaching thirty. The thirty worries me for a different reason. When I pass thirty, I’ll be longer without than with a father on this earth. I was fifteen years old when my dad passed away and I really wish to go back to that time.

Back to that time when I still had a father. Back to the arm-wrestling, back to playing football in the garden, back to his dry green beans with chicken meals, back to swimming together in the ocean. Back to his big strong hands, that carried me as if I were a light feather.

He knew how to carry me effortlessly, he knew how to protect me, he knew how to make me laugh, he knew how to tell me how to live. Only at a certain point he himself no longer knew how to live, so I now have to live life without my father by my side.

Photo by Sacha Verheij
No one sees my grief

It’s been nine years and grief still keeps me in its grips at times. At the most unpredictable moments, the pain can occur violently. It grabs my throat, it puts weight on my heart, and it makes my face wet from the tears that I’ve been trying to keep inside.

“Don’t be such a drama queen, it’s been so long ago,” I tell myself. I am amazed at how vivid the loss can still feel at times. As if it was yesterday that I received the news that my father had been found lifeless. It cuts through my skin. I’m bleeding, but no one sees it. And when I let my tears flow, I get questions that I myself do not know the answer to.

How do I explain that sometimes I can’t breathe because the loss of my father hurts me so much physically? How do I explain that sometimes I want to be dead myself, so that I can be with him again just for a moment? No matter how much I love life, how loved I feel by my friends, how happy I am to be here. Sometimes I just want to float upwards, towards him. But most people don’t get that. 

“Because on some days it might feel like your cup is overflowing”
Illustration and text by Verlieskunst
Grief and time are strangers to each other

Most people say things like ‘Have you still not given it a place?’ and ‘Time heals all wounds’. Sometimes, my devilish self wishes them to lose someone themselves so that they realize that what they say is nonsense.

Giving it a place implies that I can put my father aside. As if it is a book that after reading so many times, I really have to put back on the bookshelf at some point. As if my father is simple a scrape that disappears by giving it time.

However, grief has no time. Grief doesn’t know time. Grief and time are strangers to each other. Just like grief has never heard of predictability. Grief is unpredictable and contradictory at the same time. It is endless sorrow for the end of someone who’s in your heart forever. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past nine years, it’s that I continue to mourn all my life.

Photo by Sairia via Unsplash

Some days the grief is more present than other days, but it’s always there. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by grief, as if all my swallowed tears have accumulated and decide to roll over my face after all. Other times I am embraced by the rich fond memories of my father, then I laugh heartedly to the many jokes he used to make.

Another time I feel a stab in my heart, because I suddenly see a father tie his daughter’s shoelaces on the street. How I would love to share such simple moments with my father again. I want to call him when I break my bike for umpteenth time. “Daddy, can you come fix my bike?” I ask this question in my head, hoping for an answer.

No longer a cute little girl

I want to show him who I have become, what kind of woman I have grown into. I am no longer a cute little girl. I am also not a professional football player, which we both wanted so badly. I no longer eat meat, so I no longer eat his dry green beans with chicken meals. I am still a perfectionist, but fortunately I no longer have fear of failure.

Family photo (Sacha’s father, Sacha herself and her twinsister)

I also don’t have boyfriends anymore, because I actually don’t like guys. Sometimes I wonder if maybe he knew this part of me already. Hopefully I’m just as funny as my dad was. Secretly, I sometimes use his old jokes, but only you and me know that.

A woman, that’s what I am. My father only knows me as a 15-year old girl and younger. Crazy to realize that. He was never able to experience how I developed further after that age. Sometimes I hope he’s still watching from above. Proud and happy, looking at his three children, how they continue to live life. Life in all its facets. Victories and setbacks. Milestones and failures. Joy and happiness, pain and sorrow.

Sometimes the pain and sorrow overshadow my daily life. It makes it hard for me to focus on my work, because my head is completely reserved by my father that day. On those days I just wish to have him with me, because I remember how good it was to have a daddy. Then I just really want to hit him in the face, because he left my life way too soon.

I always am still a child of my father

I didn’t know that love could hurt so much. So much, that I feel it in my body. Now a-24-year-old-body, and soon a-30-year-old-body. The age of fifteen is ebbing away. The age thirty is coming closer and closer. The grief for my father, I take with me every year. It’s always there and it will always be there.

Even when I’m eighty years old and I’m walking with a cane. He never had to do that. He never passed the age of sixty. I am going to get older and in seven years I’ll be over thirty. Then I will be here longer without a father than with a father on earth.

time is not a measure for your pain
grief is not a competition
memories won’t stay the same
tears don’t need permission

rain it out
speak out loud
not necessarily to be heard
but for the illiterate world to see
how it is to be mourning

how you cry
in the middle of the night
because a memory came to your mind

how you freeze
by a mundane sight
of another dad helping his child

how you feel
a snippet of his presence
but all you’ve got is his absence

how you scream
but the world doesn’t reply
to your question why

Poem by Sacha Verheij

Photo by Saira via Unsplash

Fortunately, it doesn’t feel like that, because secretly he’s still with me. In my memories, in my genes, in my family, in his old friends, in the mountains he loved to cycle, in the beers he loved to drink, in the classic cars he loved to drive and in the jokes he loved to make.

Like when he asked for a Kid’s Menu at the McDrive and got the response ‘But you are not a child anymore.’ He replied flamboyantly ‘But I am a child of my mother, right?’. Likewise, I always am still a child of my father.

Reflections of Amsterdam – Sacha

Tisja Jansen, New Amsterdam Surf Associaton

The series ‘Reflection of Amsterdam’ was born out of a need for exposing a hidden reality. Most surf brands are portraying surfing as blue water, bikini babes and perfect waves. Something that we in Amsterdam experience differently. The mainstream image does not reflect reality. We of New Amsterdam want to create visibility for all surfers. For this episode we had the honour to capture and chat with Sacha Verheij.

Read the interview here.

Photography & concept by Nina Moerdijk and Patrick Rietvelt

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