How many people did you see die?

Coping with grief: I only got up briefly to close the window


Read on one side

How do people deal with the fact that everyone has to die? We ask in the series "Death is great" according to the role of dying in life and in society.

My friend is dead. We knew each other for 433 days when he called me and said that doctors had found a shadow near his heart. I was standing in a changing room, clothes from the winter sale in my arm, the cell phone with its insecure voice on my ear.

"What does shadow mean?" I asked. "Is that cancer or what?" In retrospect, I feel uncomfortable about the volatility of my question. But I missed the chance to apologize and explain to him that when I heard "Shadows" I immediately thought of illness stories from films in which doctors show their patients dark spots on CT images and their I-have-bad news -Look on.

We met at a party. I danced, he stood on the side. We looked at each other very often for a long time. A short time later we met at a concert, got on really well and were soon in love with each other. We were a couple who read science fiction stories to each other, liked to be silent at breakfast in the morning and had even more to tell each other in the evening. We made sure that we could imagine "anything" together. That was our code for a common future. Then death intervened.

When I returned, his breathing could no longer be heard

People say that a quick death is a gift. My friend had to die slowly. I saw him dragging himself down the stairs, gasping for air and in great pain, because his lungs were full of water. How he couldn't brush his teeth anymore. Cancer and chemotherapy had destroyed his body, he was too weak to hold the toothbrush. How his stomach swelled, his eyes turned yellow, and his hair turned gray.

At one point he told me that he would really like to just work a day or do his tax return. Then that he would see small children and a cradle standing next to his bed - "Do you see them too?" After all, that he wanted to jump out of the window.

He died in the hospice. I sat next to his bed, held his hand and only got up briefly to close the window. When I returned, his loud, wheezing breath could no longer be heard. We both let go. I his hand, he his life.

My parents picked me up in the evening. I remember my mother running up to me and hugging me so compassionately that I still feel comforted today. A little later I was sitting with them in the living room. My father brought me a cheese sandwich and a glass of brandy. The writer Connie Palmen once wrote that she would simply cook soup for a grieving person and sit down with him. I understand you well. When I did something as normal as chew my cheese sandwich, I realized that I actually had some strength left. For myself.

There is no advisor

When a person dies, there are many choices to be made. Flower arrangements, funeral appointments, obituaries, invitations. There is no guidebook how to tell someone their best friend has died. How I would have loved to evade these tasks.

After my friend's death, I initially fell into an extrovert phase. I can cope with the loss, I thought. After all, people around me had reassured me often enough that I was strong. At the same time, I felt cut off from people around me, who kept going to the supermarket or who decided in the morning which sweater to wear. At first, this everyday life no longer existed. A few days after the funeral, I stood in front of a drugstore because I wanted to buy a new shower gel. But that was too much, too banal, too exhausting.