Why the death of my friend helped me find unexpected happiness.

I admit it, the title sounds harsh. Heartless. Loveless. Cold. But what I mean is the opposite.

I loved her so much!

She was a wonderful friend who will forever have a place in my heart. For the rest of my life I will think of her when I eat cheesecake (NY Cheesecake, which only she could bake!) and whenever I hear “It never rains in Southern California” I will remember our wonderful road trip down California’s Route No 1 and sing along at the top of my voice. Every dull “plock” (of a ball meeting racket) will remind me of our fun on the tennis court. I miss her very much. So much.

After her (way too early) death, something happened to me, something that changed my whole life. Something big. I will never say that my life is BETTER without her in it. But … my life changed considerably. How did it change? And why? This is what this article is about.

Her early death froze us all. Grief paralyzes the mind and hurts so much. The injustice of it only makes it harder.

“life goes on”…

… How much I hated this phrase at that time! I simply could not imagine HOW life could go on. But… it did. There comes a time after this state of shock. It cannot be otherwise. Despite the unfilled gap. Despite the continuous pain. Despite your resistance. Life went on, it did. And it was a very important moment for me.
Life must go on? Without her?

The wounds do not heal!

“Time heals all wounds”. I still do not believe that. The wounds do not heal! They stay. They change us. But change brings opportunities. The wounds remain, but the opportunities help us move on and change our view on things. That’s what time brings. Change. Not healing. So let’s focus on change.

Suddenly it was there. Automatically. I deeply felt the change. All at once I was more aware of my life, of the value of my life. I woke up in the morning and I was really happy to be me and to be alive. Sometimes I even touched my own arm, my skin and pinched myself to be sure that I was really there, alive. Strange, huh?

Do we really need to feel this terrible pain, the pain that comes from the death of a loved one? Do we need to feel this loss of life before we can appreciate and value our own?

This is what I’ve learnt:


  • Every day, yes, every single day is a gift!

    Although it sounds like a stupid calendar saying … Cheesy? Probably … But damn it – it is true! And I am thankful for every single day of my life! For the days, hours and minutes that are mine. And I work to make them as active as possible. I try to not let my life just happen. I’m in the driver’s seat, the driver’s seat of the bus of my life.

  • It is your health that counts.

    “There are thousands of illnesses, but only one health.” Ludwig Borne.

    Yes. It’s your health that counts. Oops, that’s another truthful calendar phrase. I take better care of myself, I listen to my body’s signals, allow myself breaks, time for beautiful things, even time for just me. If there is there something out of balance, I focus everything to get the balance back. Trust me, I am not one of those green-smoothie fanatics. I love them but I also love a glass of wine. I enjoy my life. And I pay attention to balance. It’s actually that simple.

  • What is the worst that could happen?

    Before difficult or important decisions I ask myself the question “What is the worst that could happen?” As you may know, I recently took a huge step into freelance life (read my personal story here). I left my safe and steady job in order to fulfil my “better work for life” dream. Why? Because there’s nothing wrong in trying. What I’m doing now has been my dream for a long time. So why should I wait? And what am I waiting for? A bonus payment? Which bonus exactly? There’ll always a next one. Just do it!

    Unfortunately, I can no longer ask her opinion. But I know her answer. She would have smiled, and then said: “If it feels good, do it. Just try it.” And … it really does feel very good. Thank you so much.

  • Let the voice of your heart speak.

    I talk about my feelings. I tell the people I love that I love them. Regularly. Maybe because I’m too afraid of missing the chance. The chance of having said it too rarely or never having said it. Anyone who is loved is delighted to know it.

  • "Relax, Nele"!

    Oh yes, I learned THAT from her. Sounds stupid, but how many times I have driven myself crazy even though only 3 people were coming to my place. Are there enough drinks? What can I cook? Aaah, I have to go shopping. And clean the house. I can still hear her saying: “Relax, Nele, there is no problem. Let’s have a look at what you have and haven’t got and if you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it.”

    Today, I am totally different. A spontaneous garden party? Sure! Everyone brings a bottle and – if time is short – we order pizza or sushi. We sit on rugs on the lawn and I lend sweaters and blankets when it starts getting cold. These have been the greatest evenings. Spontaneous. Funny. Without Stress. And: “If you haven’t got it, you haven’t got it.”

  • Honesty.

    I have become honest. With others and with myself. I have questioned friendships and love affairs, hobbies, jobs and rules. What actually suits me? What inspires me? What brings me down? This may sound selfish, but in the end it’s all about honesty. Because if I’m not really convinced, then I’m nothing but dishonest to my friends, love, hobbies, jobs and rules. And I don’t want to be like that. In addition I had to learn to say “no”. To appointments, job offers, enticing parties … If I do not feel like going but still go, I’m not being honest. So I am not being a kind and good companion, or employee. It’s all about quality time. Not quantity time. About authenticity. Not the facade.

  • My TV is silent.

    Yes, I rarely watch TV anymore. Most shows are nonsense (to me!) and feel like a waste of valuable (life)time. The TV stays off. Living instead!

An airplane falls from the sky. Rockets shoot people. Banks destroy peace. Change is everywhere. And so many wounds.

Often I look up and say “thank you”.

Thank you for making me so much more respectful of life. Of the value of life. Of your life. Of my life.

Yes I miss her. Yes, I do. However, due to these changes in my life I always have her with me. Every day. Even now. Thank you, Anni.

I love you.


Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.- Mark Twain

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