How can a man comfort a woman
As a consolation
RITA K. * fell ill with breast cancer two years ago and has undergone several operations and chemotherapy.
“When I was crying, I didn't need anyone to hand me handkerchief after handkerchief. But someone who was just with me and endured the fact that I let everything out. The more you try to stifle it with comfort, the more it builds up. I have learned that when someone comforts in such an overwhelming way, they cannot deal with the pain of the other and rather comforts themselves. I found it much more helpful than being wrapped in cotton wool when one of my friends does something uncomfortable said. After the last chemotherapy, when my hair had already partially grown back and I had started to leave the wig off, a friend said: 'My God, how does that look like, please put the wig back on!' That sounds like that at first hard, but it was important to me that at that moment he didn't treat me as a poor cancer patient who had to be spared. "
Half a year after the wedding, the husband of the Dutch writer CONNIE PALMEN died. The book about the beloved and the loss has just been published in German: Log of a merciless year.
“Everyone tries to comfort you. Family and friends can hardly bear how bad things are. But in the first few months after Hans ’death, I didn't want to be comforted. The grief was the only thing left - it was my connection to him. Still, I found it important not to be alone. You can't take care of yourself, others have to do that. It is best to endure people who understand sick animals. Who are not ashamed of touching you, hugging you, treating you like a child. They just do it and don't ask anything. Because someone who is in mourning has no answer to the questions “How are you?” Or “Are you hungry?” I tried to remain a conversation partner and not completely lose my sense of humor. You also want to be a bit yourself, not just the sick animal. The body has a kind of thermostat that indicates when enough has been suffered. Then suddenly you can laugh and eat something, maybe for half an hour. If someone in my circle of friends now loses their husband or wife, I know what I'm doing: I make a large pot of soup, pack a few things, drive there and say next to nothing. I receive the visitor so that the mourner can remain seated. I make coffee, get wine, all the simple things. "
PHILIPP LAHM is the captain of FC Bayern Munich. When the team loses games like the 2012 Champions League final, millions watch.
“You are incredibly disappointed after a game like this. It is almost impossible that anyone can comfort you there. Of course you try to build up your fellow players. Often opponents also come up to you. Immediately after the game, however, none of this makes any sense. One cannot be comforted there. You don't want to either. I actually want to be alone there. “After the game is before the game” or “Then stop next year” are totally out of place. No sentence, no word changes the result. It takes days to process a defeat in such an important game. With a little distance you only realize what chance you have missed. It takes time before you can look ahead again and tackle the next goals. These days, it is good for me to be with my family and friends. Especially when the subject of football is not in the foreground. "
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MEIKE M.s * husband died of cancer a year ago when her daughter was two years old.
“I knew right away that he was dead. So strangely sunken as he lay there. The ambulance and I both cried, my daughter snuggled up against me. For the first few hours, it reassured me that he died at home. While sleeping. Without pain. With me and his daughter nearby. After years of chemos, the coma and the operations, I found that kind of gracious. After a week I went back to work. This day-to-day work was also comforting. Normality catches up. Just like the empathy of colleagues. One of them had lost his father himself as a child and wanted to know: ›Do you think it's stupid that the sun is shining now?‹. Not a banal question for me. Of course, it can seem unfair when the flowers start to bloom everywhere, but you are deadly sad yourself. I found the good weather rather nice. After the winter, in the last cold week of March he died, finally came spring! My maid of honor also found the right words: ›Meike, we'll still have a good life for ourselves!‹ She decided. Such a sentence is good, simply because it shows that maybe not all the beautiful things in my life are behind me. "
Angelika Kindt's daughter broke off contact with her six years ago with an email: The mother was taking her breath away.
“I come from a Protestant family in Lower Saxony, people don't tell about family matters. In the first few years I strictly adhered to it. At some point my friends said: ›You don't have to protect her, nor did she protect you.“ I've been talking ever since. And the friends who keep listening to this and who continue to stand by me are my great consolation. "
The combination of the genes from ANNE-DAUPHINE and LOÏC JULLIAND led to a rare defect in two of their four children: metachromatic leukodystrophy. The disease gradually paralyzes the nervous system, and one daughter, Thaïs, has since died. The other, Azylis, is severely disabled. It is uncertain how long she can live.
“We could have screamed on December 31st. It was clear that Thaïs would soon die. Most of our acquaintances have fallen into a shameful silence - if they even got in touch. They stammered and stammered something like 'that, if possible, everything would get a little better next year'. Why not just have a good and happy new year? Not just the best, but the very best, loudly and with all my heart! That would really have helped us. Because we were sure of the worst, we knew that. "
"A friend called once a week and always said the same thing on my mailbox: 'I'm there, I'm thinking of you, you don't even have to call.' That was really good for me, because at some point you don't feel like it anymore to tell the whole story again "
VALERIE B.'s * son had a serious car accident and was hospitalized with several skull fractures.
“There are two or three friends who heard about the accident but didn't come forward. The oven is out for me now. All of our other friends have somehow signaled that they are thinking of us. How they did it exactly, which words they chose, wasn't that important to me when I was in the intensive care unit with my son. Sure, I also know the idea that you don't want to tell empty phrases to someone whose child is struggling to survive. From the outside, however, it is difficult to imagine how big even the smallest gestures can look when one is traumatized. Normal sentences like “This is just so terrible, I don't even know what to say.” Or “I wish you a lot of strength” helped me. A friend called once a week and always gave me the same thing on my mailbox spoken: ›I'm there, I'm thinking of you, you don't even have to report.‹ That was really good for me, because at some point you don't feel like telling the whole story again. What the hospital pastor said was also helpful: 'Go out there and shout! Hit the wall with your fist! Don't be too bad for it. 'Later I learned how important it is to ventilate trauma physically. "
MARIA DAEBEL, 91, has been robbed on the street twice in the past few years. When she was in hospital for heart problems, burglars stole 3,000 euros that she had put aside as a death benefit.
Maria Daebel: When I got out of the hospital, my friend Irene had already made sure that everything was tidy and clean again. That helped me a lot, although the break-in didn't shock me that much.
Irene Roman (52): When I told Maria about it, she only said: "It doesn't give a shit, nobody was physically harmed."
Maria Daebel: The first robbery was different, when this stupid carrion tore my handbag off my shoulder and kicked me so hard that I hit the curb. I've lived in Berlin since I was 18, 35 years of which in Neukölln, but nothing like this had ever happened to me. Nevertheless, I still went outside afterwards. Staring at the white wall all day - I can't. I grew up in war. When Berlin was bombed, I was just pregnant. My daughter died at the age of nine months, overnight, zap, gone. I know what loss is
Irene Roman: Maria is a person from whom you have to cut a slice. She always thinks positively. She is the one who gives us comfort.
ARND B., master locksmith in Düsseldorf, went bankrupt with his steel construction company. The company's bankruptcy also resulted in his personal bankruptcy.
“At some point I couldn't postpone the inevitable any longer: I went to the district court and submitted my bankruptcy petition. That moment was terrible. I would have loved to disappear into a mouse hole and never come out again. I felt like a failure, no longer had any perspective. In the days that followed, I felt very bad, until I remembered a therapist I had met by chance. I asked her if I could come over for an hour to cry. In a short time, with your help, I have rebuilt myself. She helped me to realize that what defines me is not what I have or what I do in my job, but what I am. My being human in itself. It was just a few words, but they were crucial to me. I was lost, with their help I found my way again. "
DANIELA T.s * partner was beaten to hospital by a casual acquaintance two years ago.
“From one day to the next, Stefan was unable to walk, couldn't wash himself, couldn't go anywhere on his own. I had to be there for him around the clock. It is a little better now, but he is often tired and quickly overwhelmed. The drugs make him moody and aggressive. I hardly have any support. The White Ring helped us when Stefan was kicked out of his health insurance company for flimsy reasons. And a friend comforts me: ›It's great how you manage it all,‹ she says. ›Another would have collapsed long ago.‹ It's important that I be told that more often. Because I don't know how to go on. "
TINA K. is the sister of Jonny K., who was beaten to death on Alexanderplatz in Berlin in October 2012. Tina has been involved with the association ever since I am Jonny against violence.
“After Jonny's death, we were advised not to speak to the press. But I wanted the story to be told correctly. And that the perpetrators see my brother's photo. You should see who they did this to. There was enormous public sympathy for Jonny's death. People said: ›I wish you a lot of strength for the difficult times.‹ So I thought: What time are they talking about? There is no date the pain will expire. There is absolutely nothing that can take the pain away. But I received a lot of comfort from those around me. All were there. My friends went shopping and cooked and looked after us all, my parents, my little sister and me. After the funeral service, people took our memorial cards with them, set them up at home, next to them a candle, and then sent me photos of them. Or they say: 'I always have Jonny's memorial card with me because I know he will take care of me.' That might sound a bit freaky, but it means that Jonny is still there for me. "
ANDREA R. * from Munich has been suffering from breast cancer for a year.
“Are people really helping you or are they just talking about it? For me it is a great experience and a great consolation that my friends stand by me and accompany me through the illness. There is always someone I can call to listen to me or to help with practical things: for example, my friends would go shopping for me, drive me to chemotherapy or stay with me when I was afraid of being alone. I also think it's very important that they haven't lost their sense of humor despite the difficult situation. After all, you don't want to be pushed into a golden cage, according to the motto ›Oh God, poor people! Now we all have pity! ‹At first most of them should feel hesitant about making a joke or telling a funny story in the hospital room. Why actually? Everything in the hospital is sad enough anyway, so any change was welcome. In any case, my friends quickly realized that they needn't treat me so carefully in this regard, and we laughed a lot together. The disease has lost some of its horror. "
The Venezuelan German MARCELA N. * lost her sister Maria in a terrible crime: After the separation, Maria was murdered by her former partner.
“My mother, who came to Germany after the crime, really wanted to see how her daughter lived. But unfortunately we weren't allowed into the apartment - only once for half an hour to fetch clothes for my sister's funeral. My mother therefore had to stay longer than planned, but it was not easy for us financially. Friends have therefore organized a benefit party. No sooner had they posted the call on Facebook than an incredible number of people got in touch. Some donated cakes and cooked food, dance groups and bands performed, the sympathy was overwhelming - more than 700 people came. When I talked to Maria about death, she said: When I die, I don't want to see tears. I want my friends to say goodbye with a smile. It was very important for us that we could fulfill her wish. A big party with all friends - Maria would have wanted it that way. My mom was also very moved. Only the end was sad. When a video of Maria was shown, mom passed out. "
After 14 years of marriage, it ended in January: CHRISTIANE M.s * husband moved out, she stayed behind with her two daughters.
“After the breakup, I felt self-doubts and guilty. Was it me? Am i a difficult person Two people from my circle of friends helped me to cope with these negative feelings. My best friend Karin has repeatedly shown her loyalty and stressed that she simply cannot understand that a grown man thinks he has to change his wife. And would rather break it than leave it just as the rest of the world likes it. Udo had more spiritual advice: ›Don't see the separation as a defeat. See it that your time is up. 'After the separation, I also did retreats with him in everyday life, small religious meditation exercises that ultimately deal with the omnipresence of God. I find the thought that God is always with me very helpful. I am now at an age where it will be difficult as a woman to find a new partner, especially with two teenage daughters. The meditation exercises give me the feeling that I can be fine even when I'm alone because, like every Christian, I have a piece of divinity in me. "
WALTER OBERST found out three years ago that his wife was suffering from dementia.
“Back then, in the mental hospital, we were given the certainty that my wife was not only forgetful, but also suffered from dementia. I soon informed our friends and acquaintances. “What can we do?” Many have asked. "I don't know," I said. Today I know what I should have answered: “Call more often and stay in contact with Christina.” Because Alzheimer's disease has two realities: Beyond the already tough everyday life there is the certainty that everything will get much worse. After all, my wife still recognizes me, our daughters and the grandson, but she can no longer attend an appointment alone, she can no longer find her home. A number of friends have broken off contact, but some have intensified it and pick up my wife to go for a walk with her or to sit down with her in a café. This is a little relief for me, because I can then take a short breath and regain my strength. Above all, it comforts me every time to see my wife very happy doing such activities. Sometimes she laughs as relaxed as she used to. "
BETTINA W.gave birth to their first child, Leo, still eight months old. Her other children are now four and six years old.
“When I got home from the hospital there were a lot of letters. One came from a distant relative. She wrote to me about her fate: She once had a stillborn child. Strangely enough, that didn't comfort me at all. Although you think that things don't feel so cruel anymore when you know that others have already experienced and survived something like this. But my grief was unique to me. And at that moment it didn't seem to me that she had actually addressed the letter to me. What gave me a lot: my husband and our relatives who gave Leo a place in our family. And all of the work colleagues who wrote. A few words, no matter how awkward. You didn't have to do that. You know how difficult it is to find the right words in such a situation. When I went back to the office, I was happy about everyone who asked me about my child and my story. Because I think most of the mourners feel the need to speak, but are often not asked out of shyness. "
* Name changed by the editor
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