Dear Ms. Peirano,

I am 33 and have a 9 year old daughter with a previous husband. I have been with my husband Justus since 2018 and we wanted to slowly try to have children together. It didn’t work for over a year and I then had a medical check-up.

Lung cancer was diagnosed in 2021. A shock! I didn’t know anyone who had cancer and then me! I was numb for weeks and couldn’t believe that my future was suddenly ruined. At first it looked like it could be cured. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation, which I tolerated reasonably well, and I reduced my work and made more time for things I really wanted to do.

Jupiter was incredible. He always took the time to accompany me to the doctor, always listened to me and put himself aside. He took even more care of my daughter and took over everything in the household that could burden me. We traveled through New Zealand for a long time and managed to let the cancer rest for a while and live and enjoy life consciously again.

Then things looked pretty good medically for a while. I had completed the treatment, had no symptoms and had to have regular follow-up care. Things went well for two years and we had hope. I trained in sound therapy, found new friends and had an even more intimate time with my family than before because we felt that life is not a given, but a gift. Justus and I tried to have a child again.

But at the end of 2023 everything turned around. The cancer had spread and after a few tests it was clear that I should be prepared to live a maximum of five more years. Our world collapsed. At first we couldn’t believe it, but when it turned out to be true, it was like the plug had been pulled on us.

The problem is that Justus was able to handle it very well when there was still hope for healing. He is a fighter and did everything to beat cancer. But now that it’s clear that I’m going to die, he doesn’t know what to do. He has sometimes said to me whether we can just forget about the cancer and spend normal time together. On the one hand, that hurt me a lot because I can’t just take a break from cancer. But on the other hand, I also learned a lot about positive thoughts from yoga and I’m grateful to Justus for that when he wants to take a break from cancer and enjoy life with me. I try my best not to think about it all the time. Surprisingly, life has become even more intense now that I know I don’t have much time left.

Nevertheless, I have the feeling that Justus somehow remained stuck in the time when there was still hope for healing. He keeps saying that the doctors may have been wrong and that new treatments are constantly being developed. Or that I live so healthily and there are always patients who survive.

I can understand him, but I feel left alone to die. And even worse: I also feel guilty because he imagined our life to be so different and it’s my fault that now he can’t start a family and live a normal life like our friends. I didn’t choose this either and it’s damn hard to deal with it. I’ve recently had therapeutic support, but I don’t know if it’s the right one for me.

I would really like that Justus and I could face my death together and also talk openly about it with my daughter.

Do you have any advice for me?

Best regards, Lene G.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at

Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on

Dear Lene G.,

Your story is very touching. Because it is so sad that a young woman has to die so early, because you obviously love and are loved very much and have to say goodbye, because you had a completely different plan for your life and because ultimately you are now quite alone in dying .

I have heard several stories in my practice where loved ones had died, and one of the most distressing aspects was not being able to say a proper goodbye.

I had a patient whose sister was ill for a long time, but then suddenly died at a moment when my patient was simply out to dinner with a friend. She suffered for decades because she couldn’t say goodbye until we made up for it through hypnosis. She saw herself, her parents and her sister in a quiet hospital room and the sister said, “I have to leave you.” Everyone became very sad and cried for a while, then held each other in each other’s arms for a long time until the sister died. This idea in hypnosis helped my patient enormously to find peace with the farewell that never happened.

Another patient, in her mid-30s, had lost her mother to cancer ten years earlier. Her father and mother had trivialized the illness for years, pretending that it was a small, harmless routine treatment and that everything would be fine. A few days before her death, the mother had renovated the patient’s apartment and gritted her teeth. Even after her mother’s death, her father and brothers never spoke about her, but everyone mourned alone. Until we suggested talking about the mother in therapy. After much hesitation, my patient plucked up the courage and spoke about her mother. And then the floodgates opened for the father and brothers, feelings that had been numbed by alcohol came to light, and the family found each other emotionally again after ten years of internal distance.

A friend of mine was in a similar situation to you: she knew she was dying, she had a husband and a teenager. But your husband didn’t want to accept your death. And so she died very alone inside because everyone told her that things would turn out okay for her and that she shouldn’t give up hope. Her husband didn’t really come to terms with her death for years and started drinking.

In my opinion, the essence of these stories is that we should definitely talk about dying and the strong feelings that it triggers in each individual. We should go through grief, anger and despair together, even if everyone experiences these feelings in different phases. You should look for a way together to spend the remaining time intensively without overwhelming yourself. And maybe finish some things you always wanted to do. Your New Zealand trip is a great example of living now and not putting off your desires.

It is also helpful to be able to talk about the time after death. What do you want for your husband and daughter? Would you allow your husband to find a new wife? What would you like to tell your daughter? Maybe you could do other things for her, such as buying an instrument that she wants to play, planting a tree that she can care for, writing down recipes that you have always cooked for her, creating photo albums or writing down your shared story?

The more said, the easier it is to leave. And the easier it is to let someone go. Although of course it is not at all easy to die in your situation, so midway through life and with a young daughter and many unfinished plans!

You could also think about planning your funeral service together, just as you plan other celebrations together. My grandmother, for example, had dealt with her death in a very practical way: she wanted an oak coffin, had chosen a beautiful grave and had spoken to her sister, with whom there had been radio silence for years. She had distributed some of her books and plants among the family and so she was able to die peacefully and quietly. Of course it’s completely different if you die at an old age after a long life, but the idea is the same. Your husband and daughter would feel more connected to you on the difficult day if you thought about the time together, planned it and talked about it intensively. One of the most painful things about dying is feeling lonely and no longer feeling the inner connection to a loved one.

It is very clear to me that dying is and will remain a difficult process with many ups and downs. But maybe it will feel different and leave a different mark if you deal with it together.

Here’s another book tip: “Empathetic conversations at the end of life: A help in speechless moments. A guide for relatives and the dying.” By Anke Nolte and H. Christof Müller-Busch.

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano