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When someone dies

When someone dies, there's no right or wrong way to feel. 'Bereavement' is the word used to describe the loss that people feel. 'Grief' is the emotion that people go through when someone they're close to has died.

How does it feel when someone close to you dies?

Girl sitting in a field- looks sadThe death of someone you care for can be very difficult. It's natural to have strong reactions when someone you love or are close to dies.

You might feel:

  • like you can't handle things
  • confused
  • scared, numb or that you have lost control
  • worried that you may never feel okay again.
  • These feelings will change over time. It's important to accept how you feel. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to feel better straight away.

    You can also be upset about the death of an animal or pet. This can hurt as much as a relative or friend dying.

    Someone I care about has died. How am I going to cope?

    It’s important to remember that feeling upset, scared or worried is normal. It's natural to feel this way if someone has died. You might find these emotions very tough to deal with but there are things you can try which can help you cope.

    Talk to someone who will listen to how you feel. It may feel difficult to talk to people who are close to you, who are also grieving. You might worry that you will upset them more. If your family can share their feelings then that can be helpful, but if not you can always talk to ChildLine. After some time your family may feel ready to talk about things.

    Try to accept your feelings and cry if you feel like it. Nobody can tell you how you should be feeling about the death of someone close - everyone has their own way of dealing with loss. Crying is one way, and is not a weakness. It can be a huge relief to cry your feelings out. If you don’t feel like crying, don’t worry. That's also okay. There are many different ways of grieving, so go with how you feel and be patient with yourself. It may take time for your feelings to settle.

    Try to look after yourself. Do your best to eat well and get plenty of rest. You may find that you want to sleep more, especially soon after someone has died. You may also have dreams about the person who has died. This is your body’s way of coping with what has happened. If you can't sleep, you could have a look at our problems with sleeping page for helpful tips. If you feel like it, doing some exercise may help you to de-stress and cope with tiredness and anxiety.

    • What can I do if the death was an unexpected shock?

      Sometimes people die very unexpectedly. You might find that as well as the pain of losing someone you love, you are also dealing with severe shock, anxiety or fear.

      If the person you love ended their own life, it can be a very confusing and frightening time for you. If they died as a result of an accident or an attack, you might find that you are also processing the shock of what happened for a while.

      It’s important to get support if you’re dealing with this kind of bereavement.

    • How do people react to losing someone they love?

      Everyone reacts to death in different ways. Some of the ways that people react include feeling:

      Shocked or numb - You might have trouble believing that the person has died, or feel like you can't take it in. You might have thoughts and feelings which you haven't felt before.

      Angry - You might be angry at other people, or at the person who has died. It's also normal to be angry with anything else, even normal things that you aren't usually bothered by. All of these feelings are natural reactions to losing someone you love.

      Guilty - You might be blaming yourself in some way for what has happened. Maybe you had an argument before they died or regret something you said or did. There might be something you wish you could have done. It's normal to be left with these difficult feelings but it's important not to blame yourself. 

      It might be helpful to ask yourself what the person you have lost might say about your feelings. Would they want you to feel responsible for things in the past which can no longer be changed? What might they say to you if they were still able to talk to you?

      Scared - It may seem like everything has changed very suddenly. This can feel very scary. You might also be worried about practical things like money or where you're going to live. Things may not be the same but that doesn’t mean there won’t be happier times in the future.

      Relieved - If someone was very ill or was suffering you might feel relief that their pain has stopped. You might feel relieved or happy if someone who was hurting you or abusing you has died. All of these thoughts and feelings are normal. It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you feel.

      Sad - Sometimes you might feel like you can't stop crying. Other times you may not feel able to cry at all. Some days may be good and some bad. It's important that you don't try to rush yourself towards feeling better. Try not to compare yourself to other people who seem to be coping better than you. Be patient and in time you may find it is easier to cope. It can take time for this to happen. Everyone deals with grief differently.   

      Depressed - You might feel like life has no meaning anymore, and that you don't know how to go on. You may feel that you want to be with the person who has died.  Sometimes people you are close to find it too difficult to hear about these thoughts and feelings.

      No matter how you feel, you can talk to ChildLine at any time. You’re not alone. Talking to us can help you to get the support you need. You can also find out about asking an adult for help.

    • Who can I talk to about how I'm feeling?

      However you are feeling, you don't have to cope on your own. You can get support by talking to people. You could try talking to:

      - someone you trust like a family member or close friend
      - a teacher or another adult at school
      - a ChildLine counsellor, by phone, 1-2-1 chat online or email
      - other people who may have experienced similar feelings by looking at our message board thread about bereavement.

      If you’re finding things difficult, it might be a good idea to visit your doctor. They may be able to give you some support with getting through the first few months as you adjust to such a big change. Remember you are not alone and ChildLine is here for you at any time.

    • How can I help someone else?

      It can be hard for you when a family member or friend is finding it difficult to cope with the death of someone.

      What you can do:
      - Let them know that you are there to listen to them.
      - Give them space if they want to be alone.
      - Be there for them if they want to cry or talk about their feelings.
      - Encourage them to think of the happy times they had with the person who died.
      - Remind them that it can take a long time to feel better and that this is normal.
      - Do things like make a cup of tea for them or help with chores. 

      Sometimes things at home can change when someone dies. Normal routines may be different – for example, there may be a different adult who looks after you. If you have a younger brother or sister, you may have to support them too. Get more support with family relationships and being a young carer.

      Remember that you can't be responsible for making them feel better. It can sometimes be hard to help someone and it's important that you get support for yourself too. You could do this by talking to a ChildLine counsellor or asking an adult for help.

    • What happens at a funeral and memorial service?

      Funerals can be scary, especially if you've never been to one before. There are many different kinds of funerals but usually a funeral is a ceremony for friends and family to celebrate the life of the person who has died. Often this is a religious event, but it doesn't have to be. Prayers might be said and family or friends may be invited to say a little about the person. Sometimes they will play music or read poetry which was special to them. Different religions have slightly different ways of holding this ceremony. It is a way of saying a final goodbye to the person who has died. Afterwards their body may be cremated or buried.

      If you don't go to the funeral or memorial service, you might feel sad or left out. You could think of other ways to remember the person who has died. Take a look at the bereavement thread on our message board to see how other people cope.

    • What happens when someone is buried or cremated?

      Often the person who has died is buried in a special place, usually a cemetery or churchyard. Usually a gravestone with the person’s name is put up to mark the spot. This is where family and friends can bring flowers or other things to show how much they cared for the person who has died. This is a comforting thing for people to do as a reminder of how special the person was to them.

      At a cremation the coffin will be taken away at the end of the service, usually behind a curtain or lowered down. The coffin and the body will be burned and later on the ashes that are left are given back to family or friends. Some time after a cremation the ashes are either buried or scattered in a place which the person loved.

      Often people try to make sure the funeral is what the person who died would have wanted. This is usually mentioned in a document called a will. A will is a list of instructions which people can leave to let their families know what they want to happen after their death. This is where they might have said whether they would prefer to be buried or cremated.

      If you want to talk about someone who has died, we are here for you.

    • How can I remember someone who has died?

      Think about the happy times you had together. You could collect special reminders such as photos or gifts which help you remember the good times you had together. You can keep these in a box or safe place so you will always be reminded of the person.

      You might want to do this straight away, or you may want to wait a while. You may not want to do it all. The  most important thing is finding what feels right for  you.

      You may find that birthdays and special events are times when you miss them most. Doing something to remember them can really help.

    • My online friend has died. How can I cope?

      It can be really difficult if you find out that one of your online friends has died.

      You might feel very upset but find it hard to explain this to others. Some people might think you should not feel so sad because you didn’t know this person in the ‘real’ world. Losing an online friend, especially one that you felt close to, can bring about the same feelings of loss and grief as losing a friend you know in person.

      If this happens, you might find it helpful to speak to other people who were also online friends with that person. You could also speak to an adult you trust about how you feel. The ChildLine counsellors are here to listen to you and support you.

    Other sites that can help

    A helpful site for young people who need support when someone dies.
    Hope Again

    Advice, coping tips, blogs and information for bereaved young people.
    Grief Encounter

    Support for bereaved children and young people.
    Winston's Wish

    If you have a family member with a life-threatening illness, Hope offer online support and a helpline you can call (01989 566 317).

    Feeling sad?

    It is natural to feel sad after losing someone you love. You can get support from others who are going through the same thing on the ChildLine message board.

    Bereavement message board

    Feeling lonely?

    Don't know who to talk to? Speak to other young people on the ChildLine message board who might be feeling the same way.

    Loneliness message board

    Anything missing?

    Is there any other information or advice you'd like to see about losing someone you're close to?

    When someone dies 


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