The death of someone close to us is probably the most devastating experience that will ever happen to us. We can find ourselves bewildered by the unexpected strength and intensity of the feelings that overtake us.
The loss and pain can strike very deeply. People have described it as feeling like ‘being cut in two’, or as if they had lost some part of themselves. It is natural and normal to grieve when someone we love dies. It is not an illness, although for a time it may make us feel ill. It will not last forever, although there may be times when it seems as though the pain will never end. There is no ‘right’ way to grieve and we each react in our own way. Some people are able to carry on almost normally; others may feel for a time as if they are falling apart.
It is natural and normal to grieve when someone we love dies. It will not continue in the same way forever, although there may be times when it seems as though the pain will never end.
You may feel a number of things after a death.
Shock: It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, and some people at first carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many people feel disorientated - as if they have lost their place and purpose in life or are living in a different world.
Pain: Feelings of pain and distress following bereavement can be overwhelming and very frightening.
Anger: Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely natural emotion, typical of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together. We may also feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
Guilt: Guilt is another common reaction. People who have been bereaved of someone close often say they feel directly or indirectly to blame for the person’s death. You may also feel guilt if you had a difficult or confusing relationship with the person who has died, or if you feel you didn’t do enough to help them when they were alive.
Depression: Many bereaved people experience feelings of depression following the death of someone close. Life can feel like it no longer holds any meaning and some people say they too want to die. It is normal to feel like you don’t want to go on living after someone very precious to you dies. But if you start to feel you might act on suicidal feelings please talk to someone. Call our helpline on 0808 808 1677 (opening hours) or the Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hour).
Longing: Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it. You may find that you can't stop thinking about the events leading up to the death. "Seeing" the person who has died and hearing their voice can happen because the brain is trying to process the death and acknowledge the finality of it.
Physcial feelings: It is common to feel quite ill after somone dies - the pain of grief can be felt as a real pain, and every part of your health can be affected. Read more about physcial effects of grief.
Other people's reactions: One of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. Because they don't know what to say or are worried about saying the wrong thing, people can avoid those who have lost someone. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people's memories of the person who has died fade. We have some advice to help those who want to be a good friend to a bereaved person.
Healing comes slowly, but it does come. Nothing can replace the person who has died and yet gradually most people find they are able to continue with life, and start to feel happy at times, while rembering those who have died.
Grief comes in waves. There are dark days when it seems as though nothing can ever be right again. But there will also be better days when the pain eases and it is possible to begin to hope and believe in the future again.
Some people find it easier to show their feelings than others, but nearly everyone finds at some stage that it helps to talk. This can be to friends or relatives, or to Cruse or to other sources of professional help.
Read our leaflet After the death of someone very close
Cruse is here to support you. Our helpline is available - call freephone on 0808 808 1677.
You can chat to us online.
Other services are provided by our network of volunteers around the country. Contact your local service to find out what is available.
Our website for children and young people is www.hopeagain.org.uk.