death of a loved one

Experiencing Grief

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Experiencing Grief

A closer look at mourning the death of a loved one

Experiencing grief

Losing someone

If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re probably experiencing a lot of different emotions. Each feeling you experience is another step in your grieving process. The grieving process is like a journey—it takes you from the starting point of your bereavement to another stage in your life.

Stages of grief

Everyone grieves differently; some people become very quiet and thoughtful, others cry a lot. No one way is better than the other. Some experts believe that most people go through similar stages of grief depending on how far into the grieving process they are. These stages include:

  • Denial: You might not believe that your loved one has really died or perhaps the news hasn’t really sunk in yet.

  • Anger: You might be angry at yourself, your family members, a higher power, or even the person who died.

  • Bargaining: You might try to negotiate with yourself or if you are religious, the figure you pray to in order to get your loved one—or even some piece of mind—back.

  • Depression: This might be an emotional low point for you, when you don’t care about anything or anyone. You might go through feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or might even stop caring about anything or anyone. Our Depression article will have more information if you feel you may be depressed.

  • Acceptance: At this point, you may begin to make peace with the fact that your loved one has died.

Everyone grieves at this or her own pace because there isn’t a fixed amount of time that you have to go through these stages.

After the memorial service

The time after a funeral (or other type of memorial service) can be hard. Attending the service might help you feel connected to the person you’ve lost or a sense of closure with their death. But after the service, you might also start to feel empty, lonely and sad. You might have to start thinking about returning to your everyday routine including school or work.

It’s likely that you’re still grieving, which can make it hard to get back into a balanced routine. Sometimes it can be difficult to do day-to-day stuff. Other times, you might want to throw yourself back into work or school as a helpful distraction.

Everybody is different, and you’re the only one who can judge what you’re able to handle. It’s a good idea to get back into your routine at a pace that suits you. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have some days that are tougher than others. Over time, it’s likely that you’ll get back into the swing of things.

When friends and family are moving on

Your friends and family may have started to get back to their normal routines, or maybe they never really got out of them in the first place. Because you’re all in different emotional states, it might be that your friends and family aren’t able to support you in the way that you need or that they are experiencing their grieving differently. It might be hard for your friends and family who weren’t connected to the person who died to know what to do and how to help you. It’s a good idea to keep your friends and family in the loop with how you’re feeling. Let them know what you need and how they can help. The odds are that they’re waiting for you to ask for support and will support you in the way that you need.

Making it through the grieving process

Managing grief is hard but here are some suggestions that may help you to get through the process:

Accept your feelings. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after losing someone you care about. Accepting the feelings you have and acknowledging that you’re going through a stressful experience can help you manage your reactions. Sometimes you might feel overwhelmed with your thoughts and feelings, which might make you think you’re going crazy. Don’t fret because this isn’t the case at all. It’s just another stage you go through when grieving.

It’s important for you to manage how you’re feeling. It might be helpful to set aside some time in the day to deal with your thoughts. During this time, you might want to write in a journal, draw, punch a pillow or exercise to let off some steam. Check out the Express Yourself or Developing Coping Strategies for more ideas.

Allow yourself to cry. It’s OK to cry. If you feel uncomfortable crying in front of other people, you might want to make a plan to leave and cry in a private place. This could be in a quiet room, in your parked car, at the park, at school, or in a campus counselor’s office.

Talk to your teacher or boss. If you’re going back to school and/or work, it might be a good idea to talk with your teacher or boss about what you want others to know about your loss. This will make them aware so they can help support you in the best way possible. Discussing your workload with your teacher or boss might also help you ease back in. It’s OK to ask for some consideration on homework or your work responsibilities.

Also, keep in mind that difficulties with concentration and memory are common during the grieving process, and they might affect your performance. If this happens, it may help to discuss it with your teacher or boss.

Smile. Many times we focus on the sadness of losing a loved one, but it may be helpful to talk about the memories and good times you’ve had with the person. It’s OK to enjoy those memories and laugh about the fun times you shared. This isn’t a sign that you miss the person any less.

Saying goodbye. Part of the grieving process is letting go of the person who died. It’s important to say goodbye in your own way in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way. Some ways that can help you say goodbye to the person is by:

  • Writing a letter

  • Going to the funeral

  • Having a memorial service by yourself in your own way

  • Honoring your memory of the person who passed

It’s important to say goodbye in your own way and in your own time. There’s no right or wrong way to doing this.

Avoid bottling up emotions. Keeping things to yourself might build up tension inside you. Finding a way to express how you are feeling might help you to feel better. You might want to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, or punch some pillows.

There’s no timeline or deadline. Don’t worry about how long grieving should last, or any judgments that you should be “over it” by now. Everyone experiences grief in their own way and on their own timeline. And you may feel better for a while and then experience a fresh wave of grief—especially if something happens that reminds you of the person, or as a significant holiday or anniversary approaches.

Talk to someone. It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a family member, friend, mental health professional, minister or other spiritual leader. If you’re in need of crisis services, check out our crisis helpline and resource directory.

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

  • The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation

  • The American Society of Clinical Oncology website, “Coping with Change After the Death of Someone You Love”

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Grief: Holidays & Special Occasions

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Handling grief on special occasions

A closer look at processing grief over the holidays and on special occasions

Holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries may be a time when you get together with family and friends. Often, if you’ve lost someone you love, you might be reminded that this person isn’t around. This can be a hard and each person will cope with this differently.

Here are some ideas that may help you better manage these special occasions:

Plan for the day. Treat the anniversary or special occasion in the same way as you do other important days. Plan ahead. Talk with your family and friends about the best way to remember your loved one.

Allow yourself to be sad. These occasions might have been a time you spent with someone you’ve lost. It’s normal to feel sad that this person is no longer with you. It may help to take some time out for yourself to remember the person you love. You might want to:

  • Find a quiet spot to remember all the good things about the person

  • Do something that you used to do with that person

  • Write a letter to the person

  • Revisit a favorite spot that you shared

  • Share some of the memories with people who were also close to the person

It is O.K. to enjoy yourself. It might be hard to celebrate when you’re missing someone you love. It’s not uncommon to have a whole lot of different feelings, like sadness, guilt or excitement. Getting together with family and close friends can be a chance to remember the good times with the person who’s died, and it’s O.K. to relax and have a laugh. Having fun is not necessarily a sign that you miss that person any less.

Look after yourself. This might be a tough time for you, so remember to take care of yourself. Avoid making major decisions until after holidays are over. If possible, treat yourself to something you enjoy doing. Here are some ideas to help you relax:

  • Go to the beach

  • Go for a walk

  • Play a sport

  • Listen to music

  • Go shopping

  • Get a massage

  • Hang out with friends

Check out the Relaxation article for more ideas.

Talk to someone. It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust—like a family member, friend or teacher. If you’re finding it hard to cope with day-to-day stuff, it might help to talk to someone like a counselor or other mental health professional. You can also get information on local mental health professionals from your medical doctor.

If you’d rather talk to someone immediately, try Lines for Life’s YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491. This hotline is free and staffed by trained volunteers who are available 24/7 to talk to you. They also have texting and online chat options available. If you’d like more resources, check out our crisis helpline directory.

Avoid bottling stuff up. Getting stuff off your chest is important. Tension can build up if you keep your feelings to yourself, and finding a way to get it out can help you feel better. You may want to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, cry or punch some pillows. Check out the Express Yourself article for more ideas about how to get stuff off your chest. The Developing Coping Strategies may also be worthwhile to check out.

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Communicating About Grief

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Navigating grief and conversation

A closer look at how to connect with others after the loss of a loved one

Telling family about your loss

After someone dies it can be hard for everyone to adjust. Family members might argue with each other more often, and sometimes being with your family can be uncomfortable for you. However, it can also be a time when you can grieve together.

Try to be understanding of your family’s reactions. Doing things together like having dinner, playing a sport, or hanging out and talking about some of the things you’re feeling might help you all to better understand how each other grieves.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. You might not want to mention that person for fear of upsetting others, but don’t forget that your family members and friends are probably already upset, even though they might not be showing it. The silence created by not talking about the person who has died might make your family members feel like that person was not significant, or that this person didn’t exist at all.

Telling friends

Friends of the person who has died might have deep feelings of grief as well. Like you, they may also want to have something of their friend’s. Try and be sensitive to their requests.

Including these people into your grieving might help you get through your own loss. Friends may also be a great source of support and good people to talk to about some of the major decisions you need to make.

Coping with other people’s reactions

Chances are your friends won’t know what to do or say to make you feel better. This can be difficult for both you and the people who are trying to support you. It may help to let them know how you’re feeling and that it might take time for you to get back into your normal routine. If there are things that your friends and relatives could do to help you out, it may be a good idea to let them know.

People may ask you a whole lot of questions that you may not want, or are not ready, to answer. It’s O.K. to tell people that you aren’t ready to talk, and that you’ll let them know when you are ready.

Get Support

While it’s important to get support from your friends and family, you might find that you need to speak with someone who’s removed from the situation, like a mental health professional or minister or other spiritual leader.

If your grief has become overwhelming and you’d like to talk to someone, you can always call a crisis helpline. They will listen to you and offer support. Never feel afraid to reach out.

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com