Lessons in Loss

Lessons on Loss

Date: Time: 14:00 Location: Blackbox, Esplanade building, Tilburg University

Grief is the suffering you feel when you lose something or someone you love. You can even feel grief about health issues, being away from your homeland or climate change. How do we deal with grief? Let’s find out during this symposium on loss and grief. (English / SG-Certificate*)

Follow-up tips by our speakers

As a follow-up of this in February 2022 held symposium, for those who are interested, our speakers selected some tips for you (books, video’s, websites, podcasts).

Publications by our speakers



Tips from Ellen Dreezens
Tips from Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

Things to read in English:

Things to read in Dutch:

  • Frits Spits: Alles lijkt zoals het was
  • Edith Eger: The Gift or Het geschenk. This book helped me a lot.
  • Fokke Obbema: De zin van het leven. ‘De zin van het Leven’ (the Meaning of Life) is a book full of inspiring answers to questions we all ask ourselves from time to time, but rarely answer explicitly.

Things to watch:

  • Truly Madly Deeply. A film that made a deep impression on me at the time: It's from 1990, but yes, beautiful, and lighthearted, and with Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson.
  • Rouwnetwerkjong.nl. Dutch website with lots of viewing, listening, and reading tips.
Tips from Gijs van der Sanden

Things to read in English:

  • Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking. Famous memoir by American essayist, journalist, and writer Joan Didion in which she describes the year following the sudden death of her husband John Gregory Dunne. Time seems to be a holdover for Didion, it is one of the few tools she has at her disposal to make the loss manageable.
  • Megan Devine: It's OK That You're Not OK. One of the best books I've read on grief in recent years. In this book, American author and psychotherapist Megan Devine explains in great detail what is wrong with the way we have come to approach grief in a world obsessed with self-improvement and happiness: as a problem we can solve.
  • ModernLoss.com. A website on grief for young people. Popular online community founded by American Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner with also ironic articles such as ‘There’s no Will, What the *Bleep* Do I Know?’ en  ‘My Grief is F*cking Funny’.

Things to listen to in Dutch:

  • Dag voor Dag. Podcast by Liesbeth Rasker with ordinary conversations at the kitchen table about grief and death.

Things to watch in Dutch:

Tips from Bernice Brijan

Things to read in English:

  • www.griefyork.com. This is a website of a project on grief at the University of York. Several public lectures given as part of this project have been recorded and made available on this. These tie in well with the way I brought attention to grief during my session.

Things to watch in English:

Tips from Hannah van den Bosch

Things to read in English:

Things to watch:

  • I am Greta - 2Doc.nl. Documentary. For me, Greta Thunberg is one of the key examples of someone who experiences eco-grief. From that emotion she undertakes everything she possibly can to tackle climate change, inspiring other young people to go on the streets as well and ‘climate strike’ for a future on this planet.
  • Our Planet | Officiële Netflix-website Documentary “Our Planet”, especially the second episode called “Frozen Worlds”. This documentary, narrated by David Attenborough, features on of the most striking scenes in nature documentary history in my opinion. During this scene we see walruses falling from the top of a cliff, because they can no longer access sea ice due to it being melted by rising temperatures. A moment of eco-grief for many.

Grief is all around us

During this symposium we will explore the many different shapes and forms of grief that people can experience. This is because grief is not just limited as a reaction to the loss of a (grand)parent, partner, sister, brother, or friend, but it is also something that you can feel when your parents’ divorce, when you have to say goodbye to your student life after graduation, when you break up with someone, when the world changes due to climate change and many more… As grief is a perfectly ‘normal’ response to experiencing loss, the goal of this symposium is to get a better understanding of the process of grieving and how you can apply these “lessons on loss” to your own life.

Perspectives on loss and grief

Our speakers will discuss different theories and insights on grief and loss in an interactive setting.  Next to theory, you will also hear a personal story on how art can be used to cope with grief.


  • Ellen Dreezens

    Ellen Dreezens

    Psychology Lecturer at University College Tilburg

    Ellen Dreezens is a psychologist and teaches at Tilburg University, where she uses her expertise in the field of psychology in different courses, such as psychology, entrepreneurship, social innovation and consumerism. As a grief counselor, she works with both adults and children. She lost her mother at a young age, and decided to write a book that would help children aged between 6 and 10 to deal with loss.

  • Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

    Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw


    Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw graduated in 2005 from the FotoAcademie Amsterdam. Twenty years after her mother died of ALS disease, Gerdien did what she hadn't dared to do until then. She opened her mother's box of 'life signs': notes she wrote because she could no longer speak and she sought out people who had known her mother well. This inspired her to take associative photos that resulted in the photo essay “Zul je met mij” (will you be with me). It depicts illness, loss, farewell and (postponed) grief, but also love, family, connection and life.

  • Hannah van den Bosch

    Hannah van den Bosch

    MA Philosophy graduate

    Hannah van den Bosch studied International Studies at Leiden University and Philosophy at Tilburg University. In 2020 she graduated from Tilburg University with the Master thesis “Grieving nature in a time of climate change”, for which she won the Philosophy Department Thesis price for best thesis of the year 2019-2020. Her field of interest is eco-philosophy, sustainable development, cultural diversity, emancipation and social entrepreneurship. Hannah is program maker at Studium Generale Tilburg.

  • Gijs van der Sanden

    Gijs van der Sanden


    Gijs van der Sanden (1986) studied Dutch Language and Literature at the University of Amsterdam. He works as a journalist for several Dutch newspapers, such as NRC Handelsblad and Het Parool and is a part time lecturer in creative writing and journalism at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. Having lost both his parents at a young age - when he was in his twenties - he published his non-fiction book De Dingen Die Je Vergeet (The Things You Forget About) in 2021. In his book he reflects on his own grief and the place of grief in a society that is primarily  focused on success and happiness.

  • Bernice Brija

    Bernice Brijan

    PhD Candidate

    Bernice Brijan studied Theology at Tilburg University and Religion and Culture at Groningen University. Currently, she is a PhD student and lecturer at the Tilburg School of Catholic Theology and at the University of York. Her research focuses on a phenomenological approach to grief, loss, and recovery in the context of mental illness, as she argues that existential changes often also involve grief and that the loss that comes with psychiatric illness is even integral to the condition. Other fields of interest include existential philosophy, early Judaism, phenomenology, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.


14:00   Lecture on Coping with Grief  by Ellen Dreezens

14:45  Parallel Sessions

               1: Session by Hannah van  den Bosch
                    Beyond the Bygones of Nature: Grief in a Time of Climate Change

Grieving is something that you do when losing a loved one. But what if this loved one is not a person, but instead a piece of nature, a particular animal species, or an entire eco-system that will be (or already is) forever gone because of climate change? This new form of grief, also called eco-grief, is the pain, sadness or suffering that many people nowadays experience, and is especially common among younger generations, climate scientists and indigenous cultures. Do you recognize this feeling of eco-grief? Or not at all? How should we deal with this climate change-induced emotion? Can it help us to tackle climate change or does it prevent us from doing so? Let’s discuss it together during this session.

               2: Session by Gijs van der Sanden
                    Talking Grief

How do you stay afloat when both your parents are no longer there? Why is it so difficult to share a loss with others? Is grief ever done? A conversation about personal grief and the place of grief in a society that is primarily focused on success and happiness. Over the past five years, more and more books, podcasts, and initiatives about grief have appeared. Is there a turnaround going on? Is there more room in everyday life for feelings of loss and grief? Gijs van der Sanden will be interviewed. And of course, as a listener, you are more than welcome to join the conversation.

               3: Session by Bernice Brijan
                    Exploring the Two-Sidedness of Grief

All of us who care deeply for another person and outlive that person will experience grief. Experiences of grief often affect all aspects of life; they can be bewildering, disorientating, and isolating. However, the complexity of what it is to experience grief remains poorly understood. On the one hand, grief is often directed at the death of a particular person or the loss of a relationship with that person. On the other hand, grief can involve all aspects of one’s relationship with the world as a whole. The latter often results in a diffuse sense of the world as somehow lacking. Moreover, grief does not always have to do with the loss of a loved one, but it may also occur in other situations. In this contribution, the so-called two-sidedness of grief will be explored in an interactive way. The aim of the session is to arrive at a deeper understanding of how grief can be understood as being about something specific while it, at the same time, encompasses everything.

15:40  Will You Be with Me - A journey of creativity and grief  by Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

16:15  End

Training grieving together

This symposium takes place in the context of the new training “Grieving together”. During this training, which consists of 5 meetings every two weeks, Tilburg University offers students a safe space to grieve, give room to thoughts, feelings and experiences and find support from their fellow students in a light and non-judgmental way. These sessions will be led by professional trainers Ellen Dreezens & Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw, who will both speak during this symposium as well.

More information

This symposium is organized by Studium Generale in cooperation with Student Development.

Contact: Annelieke Koster and Hannah van den Bosch  (Studium Generale).

Picture © Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

* For students, this symposium may count towards the SG-Certificate. Check the SG-Certificate website for all the terms and conditions. 

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