If someone important in your life has died suddenly and unexpectedly, or someone you really care about has been ill for some time and you know that they are going to die you might be having confusing thoughts and feeling lots of different emotions. All that you think and feel about the person who has died or is going to die is called grief.
Don’t worry if you read this section and think “well, I’m not feeling any of those things!” Some feelings and thoughts are common, but you are an individual and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may not feel all of these things and you may feel some things that aren’t mentioned here – but don’t worry, it is completely normal.
Feeling angry is a common grief reaction when someone has died. You might have thoughts like:
“Why me?” “Why us?” “Why now?” “It’s not fair!” “I want to scream!” “Why don’t people understand?”
At times you might find yourself saying angry things to other people that you don’t really mean. It’s just that you are hurting so much.
It is likely that you will feel different to your friends or people around you. Something so big has happened in your life and it is happening to you, not your friends, other children at school or, if you are not at school, others around you. You may feel that you have become a different person because of what has happened.
You may feel strange going back to school/college/work after the funeral because everything there is still the same – the lessons are the same, you’re sitting next to the same person in the office or at lunch time, you’re getting on the same bus or walking the same way home and yet you feel different.
When someone dies all that you think and feel may be felt physically in your body.
For example, when you are feeling really sad you may feel pain in your ‘heart,’ or when you are feeling frightened you may feel ‘butterflies’ in your stomach.
It is also possible to feel really tired, but when you go to bed you find that you can’t get to sleep because thoughts keep ‘running through your head.’
Dreaming about the person who has died is quite common and you may wake up feeling really sad or frightened.
Grief can also affect your appetite – some people find that they don’t feel hungry and others find that they want to eat all the time
Sometimes children or young people feel guilty if they didn’t get to say goodbye or perhaps they had had a row with the person before they died. Or think the death was their fault. These feelings can be very painful and it can help to talk them through with a trusted adult.
Some young people find it easier to go back to school after a death because you see friends, have fun and the normal routine is a distraction for your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult, especially if something you are doing involves talking about families or dead or dying. And it can be hard to concentrate or to cope with the noise of school.
If you are struggling, talk to an adult that you trust about it, either in school or at home. Some schools will help by offering a quiet place to sit if you are feeling overwhelmed or they can talk to you about what other support you need. It may be that you have some close friends who can offer support at break or lunch time.