A loss of a close person is a point in one’s life when significant change comes. Overcoming it is as important as the loss itself is devastating.

Along with the close person, clarity passes away. It is natural that the one who loses a best friend faces confusion – beliefs may die too. And many questions appear that were not so drastic, cruel and crucial before.

The first question is, of course, why.

In The Boarding School, a famous Russian classics for children, readers observe not only a story of loss, but also a story of coming face to face with death. Death is told through two different perspectives: the eleven-year old Princess Nina, who is dying and knows about it, and Mila, who is about to lose her newly found friend.

Their whys are different. Mila does not understand why her dearest friend has to die when she is so young and so full of life. Nina’s why is even more affecting. She lays out the why me question, asking “why will I never see the Caucasus again?” It is her direct, straightforward encounter with the mysterious eternity as she stands on the threshold of the unknown.

First, Princess Nina dreads it and deliriously mumbles about dancing elves, and a Caucasian eagle grasping her with its talons. (“Ah, it’s scary… scary… it hurts! Talons… talons!”) But when she gets close to the final moment, she seems to accept what is about to happen, and her last words to Mila are “Forgive me, dear.”

And then there is only Mila left – alone with her whys.

This coming of age novel is told in a simple, matter-of-fact narrative as it recounts the death of the Princess and Mila’s loss. Its distanced stance allows readers to witness and observe the events from an unbiased point of view. Readers are free to interpret the mechanisms of grief and its dialectics in their own way.

Mila is offered a potential explanation for Nina’s death: it is the will of God that humans are down here and acceptance along with time will cure everything.

We do not know if she accepts this explanation or not, but right after that we see that Mila has cheered up: she is told she would probably be the best student in class. Mila feels some satisfaction for the first time since her friend’s death. Her ambition serves as a kind of consolation. Later, though, she cannot enjoy her achievements as she constantly thinks about Nina.

This simple story cannot detail the probable severe depression Mila would get after Nina’s death, the feeling of guilt that would dramatically change her life or the fanaticism Mila would lapse into in her attempt to answer her why’s. However, instead of indulging in Mila’s grief, we find her character making an effort to cherish the loving memory of her friend who supported her, dispersing the confusion brought on by her loss.

“I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love. This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love, which cannot be stopped or constricted. It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and, ultimately, our enemy.

It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself… What do we know of it?”

 Rainer Maria Rilke

Loss of a Close Friend by Sergei Viatchanin from