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Fact Sheet

Feelings after someone dies

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Immediate emotions after someone has died

When someone close to you dies, you might experience a variety of emotions, including shock, disbelief, numbness, sadness, anger or loneliness. It may seem like everything has been turned upside down. Everyone reacts to loss differently, and it’s normal to experience many emotions. This is all part of a grieving process. During this time, it is important to take care of yourself.

Shock and disbelief

It’s normal to feel a sense of shock when someone close to you dies. You might experience shock through physical and emotional reactions. You may feel dizzy, nauseous, dazed, numb or empty. As part of feeling shocked, you may not believe that the news is real.

Shock may cause some people to react in an unusual way when they first hear the news of a death. For example, some people laugh hysterically. This is often a result of the shock, and not necessarily because the person finds the situation funny. Shock is different for everyone and may last for a couple of days or weeks.

At this point, you may want to see talk to a counselor or another mental health professional to help you process what's happened. View types of professional support here.

Numbness

Shock may also mean that you feel nothing when you hear of the loss. As a way of coping with the news of a loss your feelings may become numb. This may mean you feel like you are dreaming, or the event seems unreal. Sometimes this can make it hard to cry or feel any sort of sadness. Over time you are likely to start feeling other emotions.

Grief

As the shock and numbness lessens, you’ll probably start grieving. Everybody grieves differently and unique factors may affect the way you cope. Remember, if someone’s reaction is different to yours, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this person cares less than you do. Knowing the factors that affect grieving can help you understand your reaction (and others’ reactions) to loss. Some reasons why people grieve differently may be:

  • The person’s relationship with the person who has died.
  • Other losses they have experienced that might be resurfacing with the new loss.
  • Gender. Men and women have different ways of managing their grief. Men are more likely to feel restrained and might feel the need to show that they are in control of their feelings. They are also more likely to be physically active in their grief. It isn’t uncommon for men to sort out practical problems or focus on small tasks while grieving. Meanwhile, women are more likely to want to share their feelings with others. This may mean they talk about what is happening or cry more openly than men.
  • Cultural background. Cultural groups express grief in different ways. The rituals, ceremonies and rules around what is considered respectful mourning may vary depending on your cultural background. Crying and showing lots of emotion in public does not necessarily mean that someone isn’t coping well with grief; instead it may be a way of managing grief.
  • Age. Children of different ages understand death differently. Younger children may not understand that a person who has died isn’t coming back. Older children, on the other hand, understand that the person isn’t coming back, but may not understand why.

Here are some of other changes you might experience when grieving:

  • Physical, like headaches, fatigue, achy muscles and nausea;
  • Emotional, including sadness, anger, disbelief, despair, guilt and loneliness;
  • Mental, for example, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, confusion and poor memory;
  • Behavioral, like changes in your sleeping patterns or appetite, having dreams or nightmares or unusual emotional reactions, lacking interest in hanging out with friends, and crying;
  • Social, you may avoid friends, or they might avoid you because they don’t know what to say or how to help;
  • Spiritual, your beliefs might be challenged.

Everybody should be able to grieve in their own way and time. Sometimes you might feel pressure to be strong for family or friends. It’s important to be supportive of others, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to bottle up what you feel. For more information about the stages of grief, check out the Experiencing Grief fact sheet.

Unexpected feelings and reactions

It isn’t unusual for events in your everyday routine to trigger a strong emotional reaction, because different events can be reminders that your friend or loved one is no longer with you. You might be reminded by setting the table for a family meal, or listening to the words of a song. Over time, these reactions may not be as regular or as painful.

More information

While you’re grieving, it’s important to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your grief, it might be helpful to talk with a friend or relative about it. You might also want to see a counselor or therapist. If you need immediate help, you can also call the and feel your grief is overwhelming, you can also call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000.


Acknowledgments

The National Institute on Aging, “Things to Do After Someone Dies”

Educational Communications Board , “When Someone Dies: Bereavement and Loss”

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.

Last revised: Feb, 2014

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Comments

Responses

  • avatar2

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    Nessa6

    My grandma died two years ago. I remember the day so well. She was having problems with her heart and was in the hospital in Indianapolis. It was February 11 and my brother and I were at Circle of the State performing. I hated my grandma being in the hospital. Every time I saw her laying in there…it felt like I couldn’t breath and I would just start crying and crying. I prayed soo hard for her to get better. I had so much faith in God that he would save her I knew He would. Well on this Saturday my brother and I finished performing and everything was normal. My parents congratulated us with hugs telling us how good we did. My best friend Anna was there supporting me as well. I was so happy and hungry too when my little sister comes up and says, “Nama died today…while you were performing”. I was dumbfounded. I was like nu uhh that couldn’t be true. My brother started crying and my dad gave my sister the look and she realized that I didn’t know. Let’s just say it ruined my day. Anna didn’t know what to say it must have been awkward for her. I didn’t want to believe it. But I started crying and crying and I couldn’t stop. A week later we had her funeral and burial….on my birthday. Just great right? Nowadays I’m dealing with depression, I’ve cut myself, and attempted suicide by overdosing. I have had plenty of suicidal thoughts. But a lot is a result of my grandma’s death. I loved her so much and I miss her so much. I hate myself for not wanting to go to Indy to see her more and know her more. I hate myself for not having a better relationship with her. I cry over her death probably everyday and it doesn’t seem to go away…I don’t know what to do…it is so hard.

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote

      ReachOut

      Hi Nessa6. We’re so sorry to hear about how hard you’re grandmother’s death has been for you. It’s normal to feel sad and to mourn the death of a loved one. You’ll always love her and you’ll always miss her, but it’s concerning that you feel so sad every day after two years, and that you’ve cut yourself and attempted suicide. Have you talked to someone about your feelings? Talking can really help. You might want to look into finding a local support group for people dealing with loss and grief. You can also call the youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000, run by Boys Town (for everyone). That number is free to call, confidential, and not just for boys. There are trained counselors there available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Give it a try and hang in there.

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote

    Tiff123

    Hello My name is Tiffany , my real age is 12 . I needed some help mabey you people can help me . In july 22,2010 some one named Denny was real close to me died. 3 years later i found out over time i started to cry ,when heard about him. I really don’t know how to describe my feelings. In my chest it hurts it feels like i have been hit there .I cry every time when i see his picture . Can you please tell me what i am feeling . I adopted him as my uncle ,and he was my santa . It hurts , it feels like my heart is broken,and I still cry alot. I talk to him like he is there in the restroom, looking into the mirror talking . i feel like he is there . well i am going to go for now so bye for now

  • avatar2

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    Lee

    Hi,i’m 24 years of age and a single mom to a 2years and 8mnths old gal.i never planned on having so her father and i decided to abort,he gave me money but i couldn’t do it.so i lied and told him the pills never worked,he told me to deal with it cause he wants to go to university and not ready to be a daddy.he offered money again and i refused,so he denied our baby being his when she was born…we cut contact.i’ve always had big dreams to study fashion design but couldn’t pay my registration fee since i was going to study on a bursary.i lost my mom at age 6 and dad at age 11,my childhood was okay but i did notice the gap of not having parents.went to a multiracial school,had food always,only felt left out when my peers would talk about goin to parks nd restaurants with they parents.my granparents never did that with me cause they had to take care of other kids as well and i never had the best clothes or toys.later in 2006 my granny passed on and things got worse,i lost focus nd failed grade ten bt eventually passed matric.then in 2007 my only hope(brother and only sibbling)died in a car crash…i pushed myself to complete matric cause that was his wish.it was hard but i came out with a B.my uncle offered to help with my university studies but along the way he stopped and i lost hope.my granpa started making advances at me and touching me in a way that felt uncomfortable,he’d cum to my room at night and want to sleep with me.i told the family at first they did not believe me until i produced a recording of him.i was raped by someone i know and when i was six my older male cousin would make my younger male cousin touch my private parts when the family went to church.1 day while i was playing outside round about six a male friend of mine came on top of me and i ran home and reported him,all my granparents did was to beat me up for being on the street at that time.i also wanted to be in peagants growing up but my gran disapproved.but i went ahead and did and when she found out she beat me.i would run away from home and stay with friends,then i started drinking,smoking and dating a number of guys.i didn’t care what happened.finally my granpa died…things got harder cause every1 had moved out and now i’m alone.i don’t work,so my daughter is at my aunts…she tries to help me here and there at times.been trying to get a job for four years now…my family thinks i’m too relaxed or not looking.i survive with the help of my boyfriend whom we fight always and sometimes he beats me up.i have outbursts,i fight with friends as a result i don’t have friends anymore,get into useless arguements and i find myself crying and don’t know why.i don’t go out often or bother myself with fashion or hair anymore cause i can’t afford.i’m very insecure and if i lose 1 more person i love i don’t know what would happen.through all this i used to be a happy kid and i loved my dad and how he spoilt me.my aunt reckons i have anger…

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote

      ReachOut

      Hi Lee,

      It sounds like you’ve been through so much, and that you’re really struggling.  We’re so sorry about that.  Is there someone you could really talk to about it all?  Maybe your aunt, or another trusted person?  We want you to be safe, and it doesn’t sound like your boyfriend is a safe situation for you.  This organization might be able to help:  http://www.samaritans.org/

      We are thinking of you!
      —The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote

    susi_robertson

    My auntie died today noon when we were having a party, my aunt lives in Syria and i live in UAE , when she was walking on her way to the rest of the family in Syria with her children , a rebel in Syria shot her on her head and she died, i felt really really sad she was so dear to me i felt like i was dreaming i couldn’t help every time i look at my mum i remembered her and tears started dropping, my mum was really really really sad because my aunt and her were like best sisters ever , i was in a shock when i first heard about i feel everything around my is so unreal, i feel like when i see that man who killed my aunt a i am gonna go [...] without holding back

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote

      ReachOut

      Hi Susi,

      We are just so sorry to hear about this terrible thing that has happened in your family.  It’s good to talk with other people about how you’re feeling at a time like this.  Are there people in your family, or some trusted close friends, that you could talk with?  We encourage you to try that.  This fact sheet has some good information about the experience of grief, as well:  http://us.reachout.com/facts/factsheet/experiencing-grief

      Keep talking about how you feel… it helps.  Take care.
      —The ReachOut Crew

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