'Just a kid'
Sometimes, some adults think that because you are ‘just a kid’ (their words, not ours) you don’t need to be consulted on things like the funeral arrangements or plans for changes to schools or to where or with whom you live. Try explaining that you want to take part in the discussions that affect you - find a kindly adult to speak up for your wishes if that’s not possible. This could be the time to build on your friendship with Uncle Jim or Aunt Kate.
Being young and a ‘kid’ ought to mean that life’s worry free, but life doesn’t always work out like that. No one can really ever explain why you should have to cope with the death of someone you love when you are young. It’s not anything you did or didn’t do – sadly, it just happens.
Accidents happen. But when someone in your family dies in an accident it can be hard to make any sense of what has happened. The last time you saw them may just have been an ordinary day – and now they have died. This can be really shocking. Or you may have been with them when the accident occurred and you can’t get the pictures of what happened out of your brain. You might feel someone is to blame for what happened, and this can get in the way of your feelings about the person who died. When someone dies in an accident you can find yourself going through things over and over to try and work out how it could have happened.
People can be full of lots of (what they consider) good advice for you when someone in your family has died. Some of it will make sense and be helpful; some of it will be useless! By and large, treat with caution any that starts ‘If I were you....’ or ‘when I was your age, I.....’ or ‘what you should do is.....’ Listen out instead for stuff that starts ‘it may help if....’ or ‘I wonder if it would help if.... or ‘some people have found that it helps if.....’ Listen to everything and then decide what is helpful to you.
There is no ‘good’ age to be bereaved. Whatever age it happens there will be lots of different issues. When you are bereaved as a teenager it can feel like the timing is all wrong given that you are becoming more independent from your family, have exams, or big decisions to make. It’s hard to rebel against either someone who has died or against someone who is also grieving. People understand about death gradually as they grow up so you may find that younger sisters and brothers (if you have any) have a different understanding of death and may be expecting the person who has died to return as if nothing has happened. They may become very anxious, clingy or angry. Your help will be really valuable.
Anger is a very normal feeling when someone in your family has died. Angry at the person who has died, other people in the family, yourself, doctors, God. People show that they are angry in lots of different ways, but it helps to tell people how you are feeling and why you are feeling the way you do. It can also help to think of things that can help you get your anger under control - maybe it helps if you thump a cushion, play music really loudly, kick a ball hard against a wall. This gives you another way to cope when the anger begins to boil up.
It can be particularly hard if you had argued with the person who died just before the accident - the sort of argument that would have blown over in a moment in normal circumstances but which now seems huge and never ending. Share this with someone you trust who will hopefully be able to reassure you that nothing you did or said caused the accident.
Being ‘bereaved’ is one way of describing what you are when someone close to you has died. Sometimes people say ‘so and so has had a bereavement’ - as if it’s just too hard to say ‘so and so’s dad’s died’
Deciding whether or not you want to see your relative's body after they have died is a very personal choice. Sometimes people want to see the person and sometimes they don't. It's normal to find it a bit of a strange thing to do - however, it might help if you have the chance to see the person to say goodbye and to begin to believe they have really died. It's best to have some idea about what it will be like if you do go. You can ask the funeral director or whoever has accompanied you to tell you what to expect; for example, what the body looks like and what the room will be like. Often the person's body is in a coffin and their body may feel cold and hard to the touch. It's normal to feel a little uneasy - it's nothing you've ever done before.People who have chosen to see their relative after death, feel they have been able to say goodbye to the person they love - to say some last things or to give the person a message or a card. It can be reassuring to see that the person is no longer in any pain. You may worry that you won't be able to forget the sight of the body. Whatever you decide, will be the right decision for you at this time. "Looking at my dad's body in his coffin really helped me because then I knew it was true, he had died. He looked really quiet and peaceful. I kissed his hand. It felt OK"
It’s almost unbelievable but, bizarrely, people who have been bereaved are sometimes bullied. Sometimes people don’t undersstand or think it’s funny to tease people who are grieving. Bullying isn’t only hitting: name calling, leaving people out of conversations or games, being teased - all count as bullying. Tell someone who can stop the bullies - a teacher, an adult, a trusted friend.
There are several different ways of disposing of someone’s body after they have died (see also ‘cremation’). In a burial, the body is put - inside a wooden box called a coffin - into a hole in the ground and the earth put back on top of the coffin. This usually happens in a graveyard. Later, a headstone may be placed on the grave, carved with the dead person’s name and maybe some words about them.
When someone in your family dies it means there will be a lot of change. It may be that your family has to move home, that you have to go to a different schoolthat the money situation has changed, or that you have to get used to new routines such as Gran being there when you get home from school, or not having someone to rely on for lifts to and from school. You may find there is pressure on you do things differently or be more responsible. These changes can be hard to accept. Most people find that they can adapt to the changes in time and that life can begin to be good again.
When someone you care about dies it can be very confusing for lots of different reasons. You might not understand why they died, how it could have happened in your family, how you ought to feel, or how you should behave. It is a confusing time for everyone. It can help to talk to someone else in your family. Talking to a helpful teacher, your GP or a family friend may help. 'I felt really confused when Dad died because everything in the family changed'
There are several different ways of disposing of someone’s body after they have died (see also ‘burial’). In a cremation, the body and the coffin are burnt in a fire at the crematorium. The ashes are then given to the family in a jar (sometimes called an ‘urn’) or in a small wooden box. The family can then choose what to do with the ashes - some choose to scatter them in a special place connected with family memories, some choose to scatter the ashes at the crematorium, some keep the ashes at home for a while in the urn until the right occasion or the right moment comes to put them somewhere else.
Crying is very normal when someone you care about has died. Crying lets some of your feelings out. Sometimes people cry on the outside and sometimes they cry inside. Go with the flow. Some people might tell you that it’s not cool to cry;sometimes, young people are told to be ‘brave’ or to have a ‘stiff upper lip’. Adults sometimes try not to cry in front of younger people; this doesn’t mean they’re not upset - they probably think it’s ‘for the best’ to avoid ‘upsetting’ you. But this can make you feel that you shouldn’t show how upset you are feeling either. It’s OK to cry. Maybe you could help the adults around you by giving them ‘permission’ to cry - or shout too.
There may be times when it feels as if everyone is making demands on you. Do this ! Have you done that? Now do this ! Whilst it might be tempting to tell them what they can do - it might be more helpful to count to 10 first! Even small demands can be really irritating and it will take twice as long to get everything done. It can be pretty tiring. Remember to give yourself a break and to be gentle on yourself.
There may be times when everything that has happened to you can build up and make you feel very down. Feeling like this is normal when someone in your family has died. Share your feelings with someone you trust before your feelings explode. Find someone within or outside the family you can talk to or write down how you feel in a diary or journal. It helps to get things out in the open rather than have them go round and round in your head all the time. If you find you are feeling down all the time, and maybe your sleeping and eating are all over the place, you may be becoming 'depressed'. This is more serious and it's important to get some help from your doctor.
If you are struggling with dreams, consider getting a 'Dreamcatcher' to hang above your bed. An American Indian tradition says that the bad dreams get caught on the web and the good dreams filter down the feathers to the sleeper. Nice story - try it for yourself.
At a time when you really need to sleep, you may find yourself troubled by difficult dreams. You may find your sleeping brain going over and over what has happened in frightening or puzzling ways. The flip side is that some dreams can be comforting, reminding you of happy times with the person who has died.
Sometimes it is a huge effort to do even small things - like talk to your friends or get up or eat. It can be really tiring when you have been bereaved and it can be very tempting to retreat to your bed and curl up away from the world. Gradually, things should get easier. Be kind to yourself and take small steps back to your old routines and activities.
Your emotions will be all over the place when someone you care about has died. You may feel lots of different things – sad, angry, confused, worried, relieved, fed up. You may feel all of these at the same time. Some days you might not know how you feel, or it may keep changing. All this is normal. ‘I found my emotions really confusing, especially when I was crying all the time’
Even when someone has been ill for a long time and their death is expected, it can still come as a shock when they do die. You might feel relieved that they are no longer in pain or suffering, but you might feel guilty at the same time for feeling like this. Sometimes you might wish they could still be alive no matter how ill they were. It's OK to feel these things. Oddly, some people seem to think that if you were expecting someone to die, you won't feel as upset as if their death was sudden. It doesn't work like this - an expected death is just as terrible for those left behind as a sudden death.
When someone dies, people can find any religious faith they have either seems stronger and more important or it can suddenly seem irrelevant and valueless. Some previously devout people find it impossible to believe in any God that could let their loved person die. Others, in similar situations, find their faith and prayers to be wonderfully comforting. Different faith traditions respond differently to death and have different ways of noting the person’s death and the person’s life. If you have previously belonged to a particular faith tradition and now find yourself full of questions, the leader of your community will, hopefully be able to offer you some support.
Thinking of the future does not mean forgetting the person who has died - although sometimes people are scared that they will begin to forget. You will always remember them and how important they were to you. Have a look at 'Try' and 'Remember' for some ideas on keeping hold of memories.
Friends and family
Friends and family are really important, try not to shut them out. They are also going through the same thing as you and you can all help each other. Sometimes you might find you are all feeling the same way about what has happened, and at other times you may have very different feelings. You may find that other people find it hard to talk about their feelings or about the person who has died. Or you may feel you can't talk yet and others are pushing you to share how you are feeling. Talking does help - honestly. But don't feel there are any 'have to's or 'ought to's in this.......... Just recognise that even the closest family members don't have the same feelings and may not be able to offer the support you need at the moment - it doesn't mean that they won't ever be able to help.
It may seem hard to think about having fun without the person who died being around, some people feel guilty if they even laugh, let alone go out with friends. But having fun is important too - and it does not mean you don't care.
Funerals give us a chance to say goodbye and are a time to think about the person who died. You may not be sure whether or not you want to attend. Sometimes, adults think that young people shouldn’t go to the funeral. You shouldn’t be forced either to go or not to go. It’s your choice at the end of the day, but it’s important to think it through carefully. Many young people feel positively about going to the funeral and, indeed, being involved in planning the ceremony (favourite music, poetry etc). However, it can be very hard to go to the funeral of someone you care about and you may feel you would prefer to spend the time alone, thinking about them in your own way. Even if you didn’t, couldn’t or don’t attend the funeral, there are ways to spend the time in remembrance and celebration of their life. Even months or years after the original funeral. “Funerals can help because you get to say goodbye.”
In the early days it can be hard to think about a future without the person who died - and life may seem very empty and unfair. The future itself may seem very uncertain and scary. It can seem to hard to think about all of the future - easier to start with thinking through the next day, or the next 7 days, or the next month. Gradually, you may feel more able to make plans for the future - taking your memories of the person who has died forward with you into the future.
When someone in your family dies, you may doubt whatever beliefs you have about God and religion. You may feel angry with the God you believe in. Also, people sometimes say things like 'it is OK because the person who died is now with God or with Jesus or with Allah in Heaven', but this doesn't really make things any better when you wish they were still here with you. Your faith may be very comforting to you, and help you make sense of what has happened. Or, if you don't have any religious beliefs you may find that the death just confirms what you already thought. Whatever you feel it's important to think things through and follow your own beliefs, not what you feel you are expected to think.
Growing up fast
When someone in your family dies it can mean you end up growing up very fast. You have to cope with lots of different feelings and experiences at a time in your life when you would not have expected to. This can mean that in some ways you have to grow up fast and deal with all these new experiences. Sometimes other people try and push responsibility onto you by saying things like 'you're the man of the house, now' or 'you'll have to look after your father now, he's going to need your help'. Of course, you'll want to help and support your family but remember that your life is important too. It's best to try and find a balance between taking on some extra responsibilities and keeping your own interests and friendships going. Sometimes, young people think they must change their own life plans to support their families - maybe the answer is to keep your options open as much as possible, you may feel differently in a few months or next year.
Lots of different people might say you should get some help. Help comes in lots of shapes and sizes and from many different people. You may not always think you need any help - and the time has to be right for you. But it can be helpful to talk to someone who really wants to listen to you. Sometimes a caring stranger (like a youth counsellor or someone at the end of a helpline) can help and you can say anything you like, without having to worry about upsetting them.
Homework may not be top of your list of priorities. It can be harder to concentrate on school or college work but then it can also be hard to catch up work you've missed. If you can, try and keep going with course and homework; and tell your teacher how hard you are finding it is to concentrate on work. Hopefully, they will be understanding. If not, you may find it helpful to have some support from a bereavement service in explaining how things are for you at the moment.
Sometimes it helps to find out more information about things that are worrying you - if you know what you are dealing with then it can be easier to sort things out. You can get information from the library, the internet, helplines, your GP, teachers and friends. You can also look at the information under one of the 'Ask' sections or email us your question." I would have liked more information about my dad's illness before he died."
After someone you care about has died it can be hard to be motivated to do anything. All the interests you might have had before might seem unimportant and not worth it. You might be worried about seeing old friends in case they ask about what has happened - or in case they don't ask. You may feel so tired you can't be bothered to do things. However, you may find that it can help to have something else to think about for a while. Most people start to enjoy again the activities they enjoyed before the person's death.
Sometimes you can find that it feels as if you only have a couple of pieces of the jigsaw about what happened - there may be things you are not yet being told about how or why someone died. If you feel like this, ask questions when you can, and when you can't, accept that you may just gain pieces of the puzzle one at a time and that eventually you will have a complete picture.
Sometimes you can end up feeling really guilty if someone tells a joke or says something funny and you laugh. Don't feel bad. Laughter is normal and it's OK to laugh and tell jokes even after someone has died. Sometimes because what has happened is so strange and unfamiliar you can find yourself saying funny things even about the death or the funeral - this is normal - and it doesn't mean you don't care. "I remember the jokes my dad told me and I still laugh at them."
It can be hard to look after yourself when someone has died. People may not feel like cooking or eating or all these things. It's easy to rely on take-aways, chips and junk food, which is OK for treats, but can make you feel worse if you eat them all the time. Eating together with the family can give you some time to catch up with each other and chat - even if it's over burnt lasagne!
OK so Katastrophic starts with a C, but it was hard to find any more K words ! When someone in your family dies it can feel like the world is ending and that things are catastrophic. And for a while it’s normal for things to feel like this. It can be such a shock when someone dies it may feel like your whole world is in a spin. It takes time to work out how things are going to be from now on. You’ll get there.
Sometimes it’s nice to have keepsakes to remind you of the person who died. This might be something like a watch or ring, or maybe an item of clothing you always used to borrow and get into trouble for. You can put together a box of memories - include things like shells from a shared beach holiday, tickets to a show you saw together, their favourite perfume or aftershave, a scarf or a tie. “Having a keepsake helps me to remember.”
As you get older, there will come a time when it is right for you to leave home. It may be to go to college or University, to start a job, or move in with friends. When someone in your family has died, it can feel really hard to leave home - it can feel as if you are ‘abandoning’ your parent or a brother or sister. But it is normal to leave home when you grow older - and you can always keep in touch through email, texts and visits home.
Letting off steam
Sometimes your feelings can build up and explode, particularly angry feelings – so it’s good to find a safe way of letting off steam. You can do this in lots of different ways – sport, dancing, shouting, laughing, singing really loudly, wacking up the volume on your music, bashing cushions – whatever helps.
It’s always helpful to find someone who is willing to listen to you. Someone who is able to listen to the dark, painful stuff as well as to all your questions, confusion and sadness. This may be a friend, another member of the family, a teacher, or someone from a voluntary organisation like The Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) or Cruse for Young People (0808 808 1677). It can also help to talk to other people who have also had someone in their family die. Listening to them can help you understand that how you are feeling is normal. It is also good to listen to stories about the person who died, you may find that your Gran has been longing to tell you tales of your mum growing up. “I love listening to people when they talk about my dad.”
Meaning of life
When someone close to you dies you can start to wonder about the meaning of life. Sometimes your opinions will change – bereavement can make people lose or gain faith. It can be really hard to live with the idea that bad things can happen to good people. It can be really hard to understand why a young person should die when so many old people are near death. Then again, having someone close to you die may sharpen your awareness of the world and make you feel that you want to treasure each day.
Moments of madness
Just occasionally, you might find you have a moment of madness when you just completely lose it. You shout at friends and family for no real reason, or do something completely crazy. It happens. Most people who really care about you will forgive these moments of madness, they know who you are and what you are really like and that you are having to deal with something that’s overwhelmingly huge. You’ll find out who your friends are – and you’ll love them for sticking by you.
When someone has died, money can become a problem for families. Sometimes when someone dies, there may be money from a life insurance policy. This may mean the family doesn’t have money worries – but they can feel guilty or angry over having the money instead of the person. It wasn’t their choice to swap one for the other – it just happens. When there isn’t enough money, or no life insurances, this can mean lots of things have to change. You might find you can’t do all the things you used to enjoy doing – like shopping or holidays, you might have to move house and schools. If a parent has died, the other one may need to work to ensure that there is enough money coming in and this may mean changes to routines.
You’ll meet and make new friends all the time throughout your life and at first it can be hard to explain that someone close to you has died. It can be hard to have to explain that a parent or sibling has died; you’re afraid that it will stop the conversation or draw more attention to you than you want. Hopefully you’ll find new friends will take it in their stride; they might ask you a few questions; or it may even have happened to them too. “When I started work, it was really hard explaining what had happened and that my dad had died, especially as he had only died a few weeks before”
Nightmares can be a very distressing side-effect of bereavement. Just when you are worn out and needing to sleep, scary dreams can come. Some people find that it helps to say out loud, before you go to sleep, the thing you’re most scared of dreaming about - for some reason this seems to stop the dream. Others recommend a ‘Dreamcatcher’ above your bed. American Indian tradition says that the bad dreams get caught on the web and the good dreams filter down the feathers to the sleeper. Nice story - try it for yourself.
When someone in your family dies it can be hard to imagine things are ever going to be normal again. It’s like someone has thrown a bomb into your family and everything is shattered and different. Slowly you will find a new way of working together as a family and you find a new sort of normal. It’s different, but it can still be good.
And it’s normal to feel as though it’s not fair when someone you care about has died. Why should it have happened in your family ? What did the person do wrong ? What did you do wrong? There’s a book called ‘When bad things happen to good people’ - good title because nobody really understands why unfair things happen. If you have a religious belief, you may find an answer there; or you may find a sort of comfort in believing that there isn’t a ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ in this case – things can happen out of anyone’s control.
Sometimes, people who have been bereaved feel OK about what has happened. This doesn’t mean that you didn’t care about the person who has died or that you wanted them to die. It simply means that you have been able to accept their death as part of your life and have found a way to go on living without them. Maybe you felt you had the chance to say your goodbyes and everything else you wanted to do or say. It’s OK to feel OK.
You may struggle to remain optimistic about the future when someone close has died. Your future is still important even though it may be very different to the life you had planned. Strive to hope on to your hopes and dreams for the future.
Oscars (putting on a brave face)
Sometimes you might feel as though you deserve an Oscar for your acting performance, putting on a brave face and pretending everything is fine. You might find that for a short time you can keep this up, but it’s hard to do all the time. It’s OK to put on a brave face sometimes as long as at other times you have somewhere you can go or someone you can talk to where you can just be yourself – no matter how you are feeling.
Parents will be grieving too, especially if their partner or child has died. This means they are not always emotionally available to offer you the support you need. They may react in surprising ways; they may become very protective of you, not liking you to be out of their sight - which can be tough when you want to get away from the sadness in the house. Or maybe they become irritable or angry or they seem unable to stop crying. You may fear that they no longer love you or are wishing that you had died instead of the person who has died. They will have good days and bad days just like you. They’re trying to work through this too – acknowledging that you are both grieving, even if it is in different ways, is an important part of keeping the communication going between you.
Sometimes you will want people around you and sometimes you’ll want to be left alone. People won’t always say the right thing. They won’t always be sympathetic or they might be too gushing in their sympathy. They won’t always understand what it’s like for you and they’ll say things that drive you crazy. Unexpected people turn out to be your best supporters, understanding more than you’d ever have guessed and best mates can let you down.
Families can all too easily get into a ‘protection racket’. Each one tries so hard to protect the others from how they are feeling, that honest, supportive communication breaks down. ‘How are you doing, mum ?’ ‘I’m OK, love, how about you ?’ ‘I’m OK too’…… when in actual fact you are both screaming at the tops of your voices inside your heads. If it’s too hard to tell each other how you really feel, try writing it down. Or stick a post-it to the fridge saying ‘I’m really sad and I know you are too. Let’s talk’.
One unexpected thing that can happen in families who have been bereaved is that the level of quarrels can go up. This can seem really difficult when you all feel you ought to be kind and tolerant with each other yet, somehow, the tension mounts and you find yourselves snapping at each other and quarrelling over little things. You may also find yourself getting into quarrels with your friends. If the quarrels happen despite everyone’s best efforts to stop them, then forgive yourselves and try to make up afterwards as soon as you can.
Everyone has questions when someone they care about has died. You might have questions about medical facts, about death, grief and your feelings. There’s some more information elsewhere on this website – some of it within this section. Or try and find someone who can help to answer them. It really does help to find out the answers to your questions so you can begin to understand what has happened.
However, you may also have to accept that some questions, such as why someone chose to take their own life, can never be answered. It’s difficult but not impossible to live with not knowing the answer.
People have very different reactions to the news that someone has died. Some people are sad and upset, some get angry, some go quiet and some feel empty. It’s not always easy to know how you feel. “Sometimes my reactions surprised me, especially when I was really angry.”
When you tell other people what has happened to you they might not know how to react to you. Some of them will be supportive and helpful, some might avoid you because they don’t know what to say, and some people will ignore what you have told them because they just can’t cope with it.
When someone dies, it’s normal to wonder what happens after death. People have lots of different ideas about what happens. Some people believe in God and Heaven or in a god or gods. Others believe that there is nothing after this life – when you die, you die. Others believe in reincarnation; this belief is based on the idea that the spirit of the person who has died can come back in a different body as the soul moves closer to perfection.
Having had someone in your life die will change you as a person and some relationships may well be strained by this. It can sometimes be easy to lose touch with friends after someone has died. Then again, some relationships will be strengthened when you see how friends have stood by you and always had the time to listen. It can be enormously hard to imagine starting a new relationship, to risk caring about someone again.
How you feel about the death of someone will depend on the sort of relationship you had with the person who died. If you had a good relationship with them, then you may have lots of good memories to think about, but if you had a difficult relationship, it can be more complicated to grieve. For example, even if things were really bad between you before the person died, at least while they were alive, there was a chance that things could change.
Sadness is the feeling that most people first think of when they think about grief. It is the feeling that other people expect. People show their sorrow in many different ways – some through tears, some by being short-tempered and some by being quiet. Sadness can sometimes feel like a physical ache inside your body. You may feel sad, whatever and however you felt about the person who died. You may feel sad because you can no longer make things right or simply sad that they have died when you didn’t want them to.
In an ideal world, your school can be a place of refuge after someone has died. In this ideal world, teachers are sympathetic, your friends have time to listen and there’s no pressure of work, homework or exams. Sometimes, people at school will need a clue from you on how much you want to talk about what has happened. If things aren’t going well, do talk to a teacher you can trust or ask an adult to help you explain how hard things are for you at the moment
When someone dies suddenly, it can be hard to believe what has happened. Their death will come as a huge shock and it may take some time before you believe it is actually true. During this time you might feel as though it hasn’t happened – and this may feel a bit strange – but this is a common reaction. A sudden death, through, for example, a heart attack or a traffic accident, gives those left behind no chance to say goodbye or to make up old quarrels.
After someone important has died, those left behind may sometimes have suicidal feelings – wondering what is the point of living without that person. It is important to talk through these feelings with someone you can trust to listen to how you are feeling; you can call the Samaritans at any time of any day. (08457 909090).
Sadly, only one person ever knows why they chose to die by suicide – and that is the person themselves. They will know how all the pressures, fears and problems became overwhelming to the point when they felt they could no longer go on living. Other people may think they know the reasons, but they may only have some of the strands of the web that dragged the person down.
Often, when a person is depressed, their thinking is affected and they’re no longer able to think clearly. They may think of suicide and not be able to think of the effect of their suicide on those around them. Not all depressed people consider suicide and not all those who kill themselves are depressed but there is a link between the two. People who are suicidal may reach a state when they find it impossible to reach out for support from those around and, sadly, their thinking becomes so confused that they believe that those closest to them will be better off without them around.
Talking helps. Talking about the person who has died, about what happened, about how you are thinking and feeling. The hard part can sometimes be to find someone who will let you talk and simply listen and be there for you. Talking in families can sometimes become difficult after a death but it’s the time when it is most important to keep the communication going. And sometimes, you won’t want to talk about death, but will want to talk about sport or music or TV or gossip – this is fine. It’s keeping you in touch with your friends.
Some teachers may find it hard to talk to you about what has happened, they might not want to upset you, or feel the best thing they can do is act as if everything is normal. Yet teachers are one of the keys to your time at school or college and it can really help to talk to someone you can trust to listen.
Sometimes you might feel that everything is too much. You can become overwhelmed by thoughts like ‘Why me?’ ‘How can I live without them’ ‘Why now?’. It may feel there are so many thoughts in your head that it will explode. Try tackling one thought at a time, ideally with help from a friend or supporter; it’s like letting some of the steam out of a pressure cooker. Try and think of some other ways to relieve the pressure – kicking a ball, thumping a cushion, playing music loudly.
Some people will try to understand how you feel – and others won’t have a clue – even though they think they do. Irritatingly, these are probably the people who’ll tell you that they understand exactly what you are feeling. No-one will be able to understand exactly how you feel – because your feelings are unique to you, however, those who care about you will try to understand. You may feel at times that you don’t even understand yourself. Your reactions and emotions may be all over the place and you might not recognise the person you were before the death.
Just about everyone who has ever been bereaved will feel upset. Feeling ‘upset’ has got within it bits of feeling sad, bits of feeling fearful, bits of feeling confused and bits of feeling as if everything has been taken and turned upside down. It may take a while for things to feel ‘the right way’ up again – because something so important has changed in your life.
Feeling vulnerable can come with being bereaved. You don’t expect people close to you to die – especially if they were not old. The world can seem an unsafe, insecure place. It may make you worry more about other members of the family or about your own health.
Why – is a small word for the biggest question. Why they died ? Why they died in the way they did ? Why it happened when it did ? Why do bad things happen to good people ? Why ? No one can really answer the ‘why’ questions; but it helps to have someone to listen while you ask them.
Many worries are triggered by bereavement; when worries build up you can end up worrying about worrying and then life gets very complicated. It can help to take one worry at a time out into the light and talk it through with a friend or supporter.
One thing that can help are ‘‘Worry dolls’; they’re used, for example, by people in Guatemala and other South American countries and you can usually buy them at Oxfam or similar shops. You tell a worry to each of the tiny figures in a cloth bag and the idea is that they take care of the worries for you while you sleep or go out.
Being bereaved brings with it a lot of extra stuff. You may find yourself with extra responsibilities – more chores, looking after younger brothers or sisters. You may find yourself with extra worries or concerns. You may find yourself with extra stress. You may find yourself with extra-strong feelings, thoughts and reactions.
You may also find you discover an extra dimension to yourself and to your life; both will have been deepened by the experience of having someone close to you die and, in the support you receive from those around you, you may feel extra-well cared for and loved.
Yakking is one alternative to yelling. Find someone you can talk to who doesn’t switch off when you say the same things over and over and over again – as you will sometimes need to.
Yelling can help relieve some of your tension and frustration. It’s normal and OK to lose your temper from time to time. You may find yourself yelling at those around you or you may find it helps to go off alone and yell at the sky. "I kept on yelling at my family and friends, for no real reason."
Zzz…sleep can be affected after a death in the family. You may find it’s hard to get to sleep because when your head hits the pillow, you find yourself thinking about what has happened and how you feel. Sometimes you might wake up in the middle of the night having had a dream about the person who died. Have a look at ‘dreams’ or ‘nightmares’. Some people dread waking up in the morning to find that nothing has changed. Other people find they want to sleep all the time and they still feel really tired.