When someone dies
Losing someone you’re close to is one of the toughest things that can happen to anyone. You can feel shock and disbelief that it’s happened, intense sadness, anger or loneliness.
Know that you’ll get through it and take care of yourself along the way.
Feeling a sense of shock when someone close to you dies is totally normal.
Shock can create physical and emotional reactions – dizziness, nausea, numbness or emptiness. You mightn’t really believe what’s happened, and feel it’s a bit surreal.
You might feel nothing when you hear of the loss because of shock. This isn’t unusual.
In time, it’ll start to sink in and you’ll probably feel a whole load of different emotions. It’s different for everyone and can last for days or weeks.
Shock causes some people to react in an unusual way when they first hear about a death. Some people can even laugh hysterically, but it’s just a reaction to the shock of the news.
One way of coping with news of a loss is to become numb to it. You can feel like you’re dreaming, or the event seems unreal. This makes it hard to cry or feel any sort of sadness.
Over time, this will pass. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to cry.
As the shock and numbness pass, you can begin to grieve. Everybody grieves differently and various things affect the way people grieve. Knowing these can help you understand yours and other people’s reactions to loss.
If someone’s reaction is different to yours it doesn’t mean they care any less. See suggestions for managing your grief for more.
Reasons why people grieve differently:
- The type of relationship they had with the person
- Other losses they’ve experienced may come back to them
- Gender. Women and men may have different ways of dealing with stuff. Men are more likely keep their feelings inside and act like they’re handling everything. They often focus on sorting out practical problems or making plans. Women can do that too, but they might be more likely to talk about what’s happening and to cry
- Cultural background. Cultural groups express grief in different ways. The rituals and ceremonies, expressing emotions and the rules around what’s considered respectful may vary depending on your cultural background. Crying and showing lots of emotion in public does not necessarily mean someone isn’t coping with their grief, it might be their way of managing their grief
- Age. Children of different ages understand death differently. Younger children mightn’t understand that the person is not coming back. Older children might understand this, but may not understand why.
Experiences after losing someone
The shock and sadness of losing someone you care about can affect you in loads of different ways:
- Physical – headaches, feeling tired, achy muscles and nausea
- Emotional – sadness, anger, disbelief, despair, guilt, loneliness
- Mental – forgetfulness, lack of concentration, confusion
- Behavioural – changes to sleeping patterns, dreams or nightmares, crying, changes in appetite, not wanting to go out or be around too many people, experiencing emotional reactions that are out of the ordinary
- Social – you might find it hard to be around your friends at first, and they mightn’t know what to say or how to help (see dealing with other people after someone dies)
- Spiritua l- your beliefs may be challenged.
It’s normal to experience some or all of these things when someone dies. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and handle it. Everybody should be able to grieve in their own way and time.
Sometimes you can feel pressure to be strong for family or friends. While being there for other people is important, taking care of yourself really matters too.
Don’t bottle things up, or act like you’re fine when you’re actually having a tough time. If you can’t talk to the people close to you, there are loads of other people there to listen. Have a look at face-to-face help.
Events in your everyday routine will probably trigger a strong emotional reactions for a while, when they remind you your friend or loved one is no longer with you.
This can be as simple as setting the table for a family meal or being reminded of the person by the words of a song. Over time these reactions won’t be as regular or as painful.
In the mean time, there are things that make it easier to cope. See managing special occasions for more.
This might be a really tough time in your life and it might take a while, but you’ll get through it. There are people to help you.
Make sure to talk to someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed or finding it hard to do the day-to-day things.
For more information
Barnardos Bereavement Counselling for Children and Young People : Barnardos run a helpline for young people who’ve lost someone. It’s open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 12 noon (Wed – 12pm to 2pm), just call 01 4732110.
Rainbows Ireland: A peer-support programme to assist children, young people and adults who are grieving a death, separation or other painful transition in their family. You can visit the website or call them on 01 4734175