We spoke to people who had to deal with the loss of friends at a young age and asked them to share their thoughts on how to accept death, get rid of guilt and not dwell on the feeling of emptiness created after the death of a loved one.

“I felt embarrassed and perhaps guilty that I was alive”

Denis Bykovsky

23 years old. Denis’ friend got into a car accident 9 years ago.

How did you meet? What kind of relationship did you have?

Sanya has been my best friend for a long time. We met when we were very young. Our mothers were friends, and at some point I was simply confronted with a fact: “This is Sasha. Play.” We didn’t see each other every day because we went to different schools. But every weekend his parents brought him to me.

When I talk about Sanya, I try to remember only the good. This is a man who slept upside down. This is the man with whom we constantly demolished the basement. There was a trampoline, and the height from its surface to the ceiling was about one and a half meters, so the plaster was constantly crumbling.

At our last meeting, Sanya brought his dog to show me. I had a pug, and Sanya always wanted one for himself. On that day, he finally managed to beg him from his mother. Sanya was very happy. And he died a few days later.

How did you find out about his death?

It was summer. I woke up late—maybe at one or two. I ate what I found in the fridge. Played Minecraft. The day started as usual. True, for some reason I got up with the thought: “I wonder what is the difference between“ died ”and“ died ”? I never thought about death and did not even know that Sani was gone. Maybe it’s some sort of cosmic connection.

And then my grandmother called me to her place. We lived very close, six houses apart, and I thought she just wanted to talk.

Grandmother was sitting in the garden, on a swing chair. She said, “Well, sit down.” I sat down next to her. He sighed, then again. I could not stand it and said: “What happened?” And then she, in a grandmother’s way: “And Sasha died!” I didn’t understand anything, I asked: “What do you mean?” She replied: “That’s it, he died. Do you know him?” I was shocked: “Yes, grandma, I know …”

My parents were not at home; at night they left to help my mother’s friend. Sanya was her only child, and she raised him alone.

As I found out later, it all happened on a night fishing trip. At first, my mother did not want to let him go there, there was a big skirmish, after which she still allowed him to join.

At that time, the relatives had already left, they had to return for Sanya. They then said: “Bad omen.”

In addition to this car, the guys from the company also had a second one – it seemed that the headlights were broken or something like that. At some point, they decided to overtake her. Sanya, it seems, was standing behind the trunk of the first car, and the driver did not notice him. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but he ended up between two cars. He received a severe injury, after which he immediately died. His coffin was not opened.

Would I like to know about Sanya’s death in some other way? Maybe yes. I didn’t understand at all why my grandmother told me all this, because she couldn’t have given me any support. I thought she just wanted to share the news.

When you are informed so casually – well, a person died and died – you do not understand what emotions you should experience. So at first I didn’t feel anything. I think I was in shock. Then I began to realize that I was sad.

Ever since kindergarten, I had this bullshit that “boys don’t cry.” I was embarrassed to cry next to my grandmother. We just sat in silence.

Then, when I came home, I told my elder brother about everything. I hoped that he, unlike my grandmother, would be able to support me, share my emotions. I was waiting for him to say at least: “Wow, Sanya is dead.” But he didn’t react either. I just sat all day and didn’t know what to do. It was not clear to me how to experience these emotions. I had a block. Only later, when my mother arrived, did I feel better.

She entered the room, sat on the bed, and I burst into tears. Very much. I got hysterical. I lay with her for a long time, and we talked.

She was shocked that the child had died. She had such an existential … question, or something. She resented the actions of God: “Why does he bring a child, and then at the age of 15 he takes him away?”

At the funeral, I constantly watched Sanya’s mother. I wanted to help her, to do something to alleviate her suffering, but I could do nothing. I felt embarrassed and perhaps guilty for being alive.

She was hysterical when the coffin was lowered. Even jumped on it. I cried constantly. A terrible picture.

But I also expected her to understand that Sasha was not only her son, but also my friend. I wanted to hug her, share this feeling, but, of course, it was not up to me.

I also realized that I would never in my life wish anyone a presentation with photographs accompanied by sad music at a funeral. This is the worst thing imaginable. I remember exactly that I was ready to fall into hysterics at that moment. But I was ashamed to cry again.

Immediately after the funeral, when I got into the car, it became easier. Everything is over. It’s such a strange feeling – as if you abruptly let go of the situation. Later, of course, I often thought about Sana. His social media profile flashed before my eyes. And I often went there to look at the photos.

Is there a way to experience death less painfully?

I think the “recipe” depends on the age. Then one thing would help me. Now it might be different. But if you look at the situation in general, I can advise a couple of things.

First, don’t be afraid of your emotions. If you need to cry, cry.

Secondly, it is worth going to the funeral. I have been there and it helped me. I am not a fan of any rituals and traditions. But the funeral process itself helps to come to terms with the idea that the person is no more.

Thirdly, replay good memories in your head more often – I tried to return to positive stories associated with Sanya.

Well, advice for those who want to report the death of a loved one. My grandmother’s approach – just sigh and say how tragic everything is – definitely does not help. If you understand that you will not be able to support the person to whom you are reporting this news, then you should not do this.

“I posted on VKontakte a picture of a coffin with the caption: ‘I’m just waiting to finally be there’”

Vera Lapina

21 years old The name has been changed at the request of the heroine. Vera’s friend committed suicide 5 years ago.

How did you meet? What kind of relationship did you have?

We started talking with Katya (name changed) when we were 13. I then moved to a new school, I was quite withdrawn and did not understand how to make friends. I noticed her right away. She was silent, dressed in all black and constantly drew something in a notebook. I felt that we have some kind of connection.

One day I sat down with her in English and asked her to show the sketches in the sketchbook. She shrugged her shoulders and gave it silently. There were drawn thin girls with cut hands, monsters, skulls, withering flowers. I was a little scared, but it made me even more intrigued. True, I remember, I thought: “Maybe she is a goth. Now being a goth is no fun.”

On one of the pages of her notebook, I saw a grave and an inscription next to it: Can you hear the silence? It was a phrase from the song Bring Me The Horizon, and I said that I also love this group.

As a result, we began to communicate, began to visit each other. It turned out that she was not a Goth at all, but an ordinary girl with her own oddities. When we were alone, we could chat and giggle a lot, and she did not seem to me gloomy and unhappy, as at first.

Katya rarely talked about her family. But I remember a time when after school we had to go to her house. And now Katya had already opened the door for me to come in, when she suddenly froze and asked me to stay outside. Through the wall I heard her screaming at someone, she was abruptly interrupted by a rough male voice. Then, the sound of breaking bottles. Sharp cotton.

It turned out that her parents sometimes went into drinking bouts. They would drink for a week, bringing alcoholic friends into the house, and would only stop when they ran out of drink or money. But Katya did not like to talk about it.

When we were 15, I increasingly began to hear how she was “fed up with life” and how she “wished she had never been born.”

But, to be honest, I myself sometimes had such thoughts, so I did not attach much importance to it. After all, we had fun together.

At that time, I did not have enough knowledge and experience to notice that something was going wrong. I felt that Katya became more pessimistic. But it seemed to me that she was just playing the fool on purpose, trying to create the image of such a “misunderstood artist”, and this annoyed me.

Once, Katya posted on VKontakte a picture of a coffin with the caption: “Just waiting to finally be there.” I basically didn’t like her, but dropped this post to her in a personal message and answered (as it seemed to me, with humor): “I don’t want to take tomorrow’s test either))”. Katya didn’t answer.

The next day we talked again as if nothing had happened. Katya always slipped jokes on suicidal topics, and I learned to perceive them as part of our relationship. Now I would react to them in a completely different way.

How did you find out about her death?

On February 17, 2017 (I think she specifically chose this date – 02/17/2017), I received a message from Katya: “Sorry, it’s hard for me, I love you ????”. I saw him only half an hour after sending. Katya was no longer online. Then I felt a strong anxiety, because it was no longer like her. I didn’t know what to do. At first I scribbled a bunch of messages to her: “What ??”, “Can you explain?”, “Katyayaya au”, “I’m worried.” Then I started calling her. She didn’t answer.

Then I approached my mother and tried to explain the situation to her. She answered honestly that she herself would not know how to react to this. And she added that if this is a joke, then my friend is a fool. I asked her to take me by car to Katya’s house. It was already around 10 pm.

When we arrived, I saw an ambulance. Nearby were Katya’s parents, policemen, some people – apparently neighbors.

It seems to me that subconsciously at that moment I did not want to get out of the car and find out why everyone was crowding here. Sometimes I think, maybe it would be easier for me if I found out about Katya’s death in some other way? Without dramatic scenes and all that. Not that evening, but the next morning. For example, if her parents called me before school and said: “Katya died.”

Even at that moment I thought: “It’s good that I’m not alone and my mother is next to me.” She asked the policeman, “What happened here?” He replied: “The girl cut her wrists in the bathroom. Died.”

I don’t remember that evening very well, as if in a fog. And sometimes I think, all of a sudden it wasn’t with me at all, what if I spied this scene in some movie?

I came to school the day after her funeral. Classmates constantly approached me and asked: “Is it true that Katya cut her veins? And why?” I couldn’t answer. Even in the first days, her name was not deleted from the magazine, the teachers simply went along the list, and after they called her last name, silence hung. It was depressing. I asked my mother to get me an exemption so that I could at least not go to school for a while.

In general, I am very grateful to her. Mom treated me with understanding, made some kind of fake certificate so that the school administration would not have questions for me, and even found a psychologist, with whom I then studied for another six months. She didn’t push or try to lecture.

All the time I thought: “What if I had answered right away then? What if it wasn’t for that thirty-minute delay?” But I also blamed myself for not taking Katya’s statements about suicide seriously. It was so strange to me that she still took it and did it. I was angry with myself.

Sessions with a psychologist helped me a little to remove the blame for what happened. But it seems that now I will tell everyone: if you notice suicidal behavior in loved ones, then please do not ignore it. Try talking to them and asking for help. Say: “I’ll be by your side, please call when you feel that you are very ill.”

Is there a way to experience death less painfully?

I do not think that I had the opportunity to survive this death easily. But I am sure that time heals. They are also treated by psychologists and psychotherapists. Well, the realization that death did come and now you just need to live with it.

“There was a theory that he faked his death”

Varvara Ivanova

25 years. The name has been changed at the request of the heroine. Vari’s friend died of cancer 2 years ago.

How did you meet? What kind of relationship did you have?

I started going to fight club and got into a community of people with whom I had a lot in common. We constantly saw each other, chatted. Sometimes we went to other branches of the club. And if it was a joint trip, then we rented a hostel (for 8–16 people), where we laid out deck chairs and slept like in a barracks. It was a full-fledged friendly community.

In this community was Dis (name changed). Very wonderful, erudite, all so “for a healthy lifestyle”, with a specific sense of humor. In general, he had all the prerequisites in order to live a normal human life.

At one point, he wrote to us in a chat: “Joke me, I have cancer.” Reported this in the manner of Deadpool – apparently, it was a psychological defense.

I was then with my boyfriend, one of the members of the club. We were shocked, but, of course, immediately began to scribble to him: “What?”, “Tell me how you found out”, “Do I need help?”

My first thought was: “Maybe this is some kind of joke? Maybe he’s joking like that? And, probably, we did not believe that it was real – until we all arrived together for chemotherapy. I remember that there was such an oppressive atmosphere in this oncology center. Everything is sterile, lifeless. Literally: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.” But we tried to cheer him up, cheer him up.

Then, when he was discharged from the hospital, I went to his house, brought all sorts of goodies. Apparently, at some point, Dis took my sincere kindness and friendly concern as a sign that he could use this. Then he made an attempt of physical influence – he began to sexually harass.

I did not like it. But inside there was a contradiction: damn it, suddenly a person has little left to live and I shouldn’t resist? But, on the other hand, I am also a person – and this is my body.

It was one of the few times I felt so embarrassed and uncomfortable standing up for my boundaries. However, I still stopped it and hurriedly left there.

I understood that the disease had a strong effect on him and it clearly affected his mental health. But I also realized that I did not want to meet him. I then wrote to him: “I’m sorry if I gave a reason to somehow misinterpret my friendly motives.”

He asked, “Is it because I’m sick?” I answered: “No.” Although this thought was also in my head. I was afraid that I would become attached to a person who, perhaps, would soon be gone. And I felt guilty about it.

Because of this situation, our communication deteriorated. Yes, and soon I moved away from the fight club community, because I broke up with a young man from there. With Dis, we stopped communicating closely, only occasionally corresponded. Soon I learned that he went into remission.

I was sometimes invited to some common parties where we saw each other. And with him there was a metamorphosis. If earlier he was always for a healthy lifestyle, then after the illness he began to lead a completely different lifestyle: he drank, took illegal substances. But I tried not to get into his life.

How did you find out about his death?

In February 2020, someone from the company accidentally noticed that Dis had a story that he was again in the hospital. But he did not personally report anything, and we did not attach any importance to this.

Several days have passed. I was sitting at home, playing The Witcher. And then I get a message from a friend from the club: “Dis all.” I asked again: “What is it?” A friend wrote: “Dead. Remember, he put stories out of the ward?

I started having a panic attack. I began to choke, climbed out the window to take a breath of air. I felt bad.

When I am under a lot of stress, I become withdrawn. I can sit in an unfilled bath, like in a bunker, hide under the covers. And at that moment, I crawled under the clothes dryer and sat there, corresponding with people who knew Dees.

I remember writing to a close friend. And—this is the worst part—she didn’t even know what to say to him. It seems like you want to say something, but phrases like “I’m sorry for your loss”, “I sympathize” sound very impersonal.

I probably wished that at that moment the people with whom I corresponded were with me, and we went through this together.

But I didn’t go to the funeral. I felt unwell, and then the pandemic began. I told the guys that I didn’t want to infect anyone. Although I think I have a problem with avoiding death.

As I found out later, no one from the club went there. We tried to get the contacts of the parents from a friend, to find out where the grave was when the wake was held. They, as we understood, were against us coming. As a result, people who did not know Dees well had a theory that he faked his death. Although, perhaps for them, it was also a way to avoid death.

Now there is a quote on Dis’s page in the profile description: “Live and rejoice, bloom and smell, but remember – one day you will die for ** d / in twenty years, or maybe tomorrow – your bones will become ashes and ashes.”

Is there a way to experience death less painfully?

I am not the best example of how to experience death less painfully. After this and several other situations that overlapped at the same time, I fell into a depression. Dees’ death triggered a lot of emotions in me that I should have experienced in a timely manner, but instead put it off. She took a loan from her nervous system.

Death is generally a process of grief. The brain adapts to the fact that the person who occupied a certain place in the head no longer exists. That is, a certain number of neural connections gradually “dies”. It’s very hard and painful.

The best option to experience the death of a loved one most painlessly is to be in a resourceful state at the time of it.

The timely experience of emotions, roughly speaking, will not give complications, will not bury this feeling somewhere deep, and then it will not accidentally emerge anywhere.

Now I go to psychotherapy and take antidepressants. The topic of working through the trauma associated with loss is quite deep, and it requires a large resource, which I neither then nor now did not have and do not have. But I know that someday I’ll have to rip it open and replay it again.

I also think that attending funerals and commemorations would help me, because they give the realization that you really say goodbye to a person. It is rightly said that these rituals are needed not by the dead, but by the living. You can deny death as much as you like, push it out of your life, but it won’t get any better.