How do fearful people deal with grief

Living with death: "Ever since my dad died, fear has eaten into my life"

In the series “Living with Death” we record the experiences of people who had to deal with the death of loved ones. What helped them during the grief and did they learn something for themselves through the loss?

Lena, 25, Regensburg

I've lost several important people in my life so far. When I was eleven, my cousin died in a motorcycle accident. He was 18. A year later, my dad's heart suddenly stopped beating. The day before we were still in the amusement park, the next morning he was dead in the bathroom. He was 42 and I was twelve.

It took me several years to come to terms with that. I cried so much. Even when I was very young, I understood that these two people are no longer there. But the huge question that I couldn't get out of was why. Why was my papa and cousin stolen from me so early? Why so young Nobody could answer that for me.

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Fortunately, we talked about it a lot within the family. In all this helplessness, it was somehow comforting to see that a loved one was not just forgotten. On the other hand, it brought up the heavy feelings every time, warmed everything up over and over again. But at least that way we could comfort each other.

I also got consolation from my friends at school. In retrospect, it's unbelievable what sensitivity children can have. They were all my age and so considerate. They made me talk and cry and they hugged me when I felt bad.

On the day of my dad's funeral, I and my two brothers were assigned emergency chaplains to help us say goodbye. We were allowed to see him again without mom, put things in the coffin, touch him.

I am afraid that I will not be able to be with my family

The question of why still remained. I could not understand the suddenness of death, and so fear grew in me over the years. Not about myself, not at all. But about others. Afraid of losing someone again. Afraid something will happen to someone. Afraid of being out of control. It inhibits me so much that I align my life with it. If I have a great job offer in another city, I won't accept it because I'm afraid that I won't be able to be with my family. I couldn't bear the spatial distance, even if it was only a few kilometers. So I still live with my mom, just like my brothers. My protective instinct applies to the whole family. If someone says bad things about them, I can get really aggressive.

I am afraid of having to feel the pain of the past all over again.

I have long dreamed of doing round trips through other countries, for example a backpacking tour in Ireland. I haven't dared to go on more than a long weekend or a short beach vacation.

The same applies to relationships. My two previous partnerships broke up because of my fear. They only worked until the fear set in. If I had the feeling that we were growing apart or had different ideas about the future, I broke up. I shy away from problems. I'm so careful that I find it difficult to bond. And because I want to hide from everything that is painful, I won't let it get that far. My boyfriend at the time, for example, talked about getting married when I was 22. And because my parents were 21 when they got married, I panicked and only thought in what-if-sentences. I am afraid of having to feel the pain of the past all over again.

It doesn't work without help

In the meantime, fear is no longer so acute on my neck. I am not afraid that something will happen to someone as soon as they leave the house. But I still subconsciously worry. I don't think I'll be able to handle this without therapy or other help. It sits so deep in me, in the past 13 years the fear has eaten into me.

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This contradicts my goals in life, because I would like to have my own family one day. I would like to be a good mother who can balance job and housekeeping, a real power mom. I wish that. That's why I really want to get rid of the fear. A first step for me will be to move out of home soon. I hope that a little more distance may take away my worries.

I know I can do it

Of course, I'll never find a satisfactory answer to why. I am not very religious, I only go to church on the day my dad dies, and only for my grandma. I still think the saying “God gives you as much as you can carry” is beautiful. Maybe that's why I get burdened so much because other people are less able to cope with it. I have a great family that gives me support, a secure job and I know that I will overcome anything.

So let a good word be the last. Remember: The last thing could be forever.

Excerpt from the Good Word by Editha Theiler

I've been trying since then Good word to live on Editha Theiler and always think about what to say last. Be it before going to bed, before I leave the house, or as I say goodbye. Any word could be the last. I have found out for myself how true this saying is. That is why it was very important to me to part with my partners on friendly terms. The saying is now hanging in the hallway at home.


Part 1: "My family died of cancer and I made sense of it"

Part 2: "I wear a piece of jewelry from my deceased grandma every day"

Part 3: When grief ripens us