When someone dies

When someone or something dies, there is no right or wrong way to feel - the experience is different for everyone
Two young women standing by a grave

When someone or something dies, it is a shock. Your feelings may overwhelm you. Or you may feel nothing at all. People who have lost a family member, friend, pet or someone they know report all kinds of feelings:

Shaky - Sad - Different - Awkward - Helpless - Angry - Scared - Cold - Lonely - Tired - Guilty - Relieved - Numb - Anxious - Confused - Shocked - Empty - Abandoned - Bitter - Surprised - Tearful - Sensitive - Low

This mixture of feelings is called grief. Grief is different for everyone, and moves through different stages. But there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Signs of grief

When you are grieving, you might:

  • Get angry more than usual
  • Want to be alone, or find it difficult to be around people
  • Be forgetful, disorganised or find it hard to concentrate at school or work
  • Find it harder to eat, sleep and take care of yourself
  • Feel sad and cry a lot more or less than usual
  • Feel numb, find it hard to enjoy things
  • Feel restless and want to keep busy and occupied
  • Want to go out, take risks or act in risky ways
  • Have problems with friends

Grieving can take a long time. Every situation is different. But you always need to take care of your mental and physical health. This can be difficult, but it will help you recover.

Crucial: Oxfordshire charity Seesaw can provide grief support for children (up to the age of 18) when a parent or sibling (brother or sister) has died.

What you can do to help yourself

There are things that you can do that might help you feel better. These include:

  • Talking about how you feel to anyone you trust and can be comfortable with
  • Crying – don’t try to push it down or hold it in
  • Exercising – this releases endorphins which are natural chemicals that make you feel happier
  • Treating yourself to something you like – a magazine, a bunch of flowers, a CD
  • Listening to music – if it makes you feel better
  • Reading a good book, watching films, playing games
  • Writing about how you feel in poems, letters or a diary
  • Having fun with your friends – don’t feel guilty about it!
  • Punching a pillow or shouting into it if you’re feeling really angry
  • Reading about grief on the internet or in special books.

Sometimes you can find that that nothing you do makes you feel good, or that things that usually make you happy make you feel nothing, or feel worse. This is a normal part of grief. It is difficult, but people who have been in this situation have this advice to give:

  • Don't give up on the things you enjoy; carry on doing them, and you will feel better - eventually
  • Try doing something different, especially something active; I started running every morning and it helped
  • If you are finding it too difficult, ask for help - from friends, family members, your doctor, or at school

Crucial: Feeling sad after someone has died is normal, but if you are feeling desperate or thinking about suicide, then you need to talk to an adult you trust now. If you can't think of anyone call Childline on 0800 1111.

How long does grief last?

There is no right or wrong length of time to feel grief. In a sense, you never stop feeling grief, because the feelings stay with you. But in time, the feelings are less intense, and you can remember the good things, without being overwhelmed by sadness.

Feeling better may take longer than you think but you should start noticing that the good days outweigh the bad in time. .

Experience: Pets are important too! If a much-loved pet dies then you can still grieve for them in the same way as you would a person. Lots of people think it doesn’t count if an animal dies but of course it does. They were part of your family and you loved them. If they have to be put down or they die suddenly it can leave you feeling terribly sad. You might also get angry if people say ‘You can always get another cat/dog/fish’. They mean well when they say this but it doesn’t help, does it? You want your pet back, not a new one. - Anon, Oxon

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