Grieving a death

Losing someone you love is an incredibly hard experience.

It can feel like your whole world has changed and that things will never be normal again. It can also feel like you’re totally alone. Something that might help you now is the thought that everyone has to deal with loss sooner or later. What you learn through your grieving experience now will help you face it again, down the road.

You are flooded with a mix of emotions and are probably wondering if what you are feeling is normal. Everyday tasks may seem impossible to complete because you are filled with so much pain. There is help – and there is hope that you will be able to find joy in your life again. Know that grieving is totally normal, and a process that takes time to get through. No two people grieve the same, and there is no expected time frame for your process of bereavement.

Dealing with grief – the stages of grief: what it feels like

When someone dies, it feels like that person was torn from your life. You don’t know how the world can keep turning, but it does, and somehow you have to learn how to live in it. That probably sounds impossible to you right now.

Here are some things that you might be feeling:


  • Sad
  • Afraid
  • Alone
  • Angry
  • Shocked


  • Guilty
  • Empty
  • Confused
  • Relieved


You might have read the last two words and thought: Huh? How could you feel relieved about someone dying? Relief is a normal response to death, especially if someone was really sick for a long time. The relief can come through knowing that the person isn’t suffering anymore.

I feel guilty

Guilt is another emotion that people can experience when they’re grieving, and it can be for different reasons. You might feel guilty about not telling the person who died how much you cared about them, or you might worry about other things that went unsaid. In the case of anticipatory grief you may feel guilty that you feel relieved they have passed, and are no longer in pain. Sometimes you might feel guilty for being alive. You might also think that there was something you could have done to prevent the death, even though this isn’t true.

Is it healthy to feel so bad coping with loss?

Yes. Feeling bad means that you’re coming to grips with the loss you’ve suffered. Your body, mind, and soul are starting to acknowledge the reality of what happened. But remember, you don’t have to feel bad all of the time. And you don’t have to force any feelings that don’t come naturally to you. You are unique and so are your feelings. This loss is yours, even if others are experiencing it too.

I don’t know what I feel

It’s normal to feel confused about your emotions right now. You are probably feeling a lot of things that you don’t recognize, especially if you’ve never experienced a loss like this before. Here are some things that a lot of people experience when they’re grieving:

Physical symptoms of grief

It is not uncommon to become physically sick after a loved one passes away. Your body is under a lot of stress, and this will effect your ability to stay healthy during grief as well. Colds, flus, chest infections are very common during grief – as well if you have any other conditions you may notice they worsen during bereavement.

Stress has a major effect on the immune system, and when you are grieving your body will be weakened often as well.

Some physical symptoms of grief are:

  • Nauseous, or sick to the stomach
  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Crying a lot
  • Choking sensation, or feeling like you can’t breathe
  • Headaches
  • Exhaustion, like all you want to do is sleep
  • Tense and unable to relax

It is important to eat well and excercise as best you can during grief to keep your body healthy.

Mental effects of grief

  • Forgetful
  • Disorganized
  • Distracted
  • Thinking about death, or worrying that other people in your life are going to get sick, get into an accident, or die some other way.
  • Worried about the safety of others

If you feel that you are experiencing anxiety symptoms or other mental health issues during your grief, be sure to speak to a grief councillor about it.

Spiritual awareness during grief

  • Feeling like your faith isn’t enough right now
  • Blaming God or another higher power for allowing this to happen
  • Thinking that your life doesn’t have meaning anymore

Whatever you’re feeling, try not to worry. Your feelings—all of them—are valid, and they will probably change a lot from day to day. Don’t judge yourself. No one has to know what you’re feeling unless you feel like sharing.

I can’t cry: I don’t know how to deal with death

People deal with grief in different ways.

Some people cry a lot, while others feel too numb to cry. Some cultures have certain expectations about how grief should be expressed. In a lot of societies, men might feel that they aren’t allowed to cry because they feel too much pressure to “be strong.” Movies, books, and songs all tell us how we should feel when someone dies, so it’s natural to think that your grief should “look” a certain way. Try not to put pressure on yourself. You’re going through enough as it is.

If you are having trouble adressing your emotions, and you find you are turning to drugs or alcohol to hide your pain, be sure to talk to a grief councillor about potential drug and alcohol abuse as a symptom of your grief.

Anger: it’s part of the grief cycle

It’s okay to feel angry when someone dies. It’s also okay to let it out. In fact, holding your anger in can be bad for you.

Here are some healthy ways to express anger:

  • Play sports
  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to loud music

Anger is natural, but if you think you’re having trouble dealing with your anger then it might be a good idea to talk to someone. There are many grief support groups that are available for coping with loss. <strong>Get help dealing with grief.

My pet died – pet bereavement

Losing a cat, dog, or other pet can hurt just as much as losing a person.

Why doesn’t everyone know that? If you’ve lost a pet, it is going to hurt for a while.

Some ideas for how you can deal with your grief are:

  • Have a pet memorial
  • Make a photo collage
  • Write a poem about your pet
  • Keep the tags from your pet’s collar and put them on your key chain. Every time you see them, you’ll be reminded of your pet.

During your time of grief be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to go through the roller coaster of emotions that you are feeling. There will be good days and hard days, but with time you will find joy in your life again. Find your own unique ways to honor and remember your lost loved one, and remember: there are no expectations of you during this time, everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace.

If you need help during your time of bereavement coping with the loss of a loved one, talk to a guidance counsellor, someone you trust or find a grief support group near you. You can also call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or visit the Get Help section of our website.