DD, Aged 17

    When people would talk they didn't know what to say which was understandable.  more...


    Mimi - 15 years old

    I lost myself doing stupid things, angry and sad and depressed at everything. I ended up failing my classes, not caring about school, and getting into fights.  more...


    Chelsea - 14 years old

    I stuck my head round the door in the room mum was in, and she looked really ill. I couldn't understand what was happening - one minute my mum was fine and the next she was ill.  more...


    Clair - aged 14

    Something I wish is I could just have one more day with my dad! - to tell him how much I love him and how sorry I am for all the bad things I have said and done to him!  more...


    Nicole - 17 years old

    This time the doctors are unable to operate. He has already had 6 sessions of chemo and is having another 6 sessions. I cannot help feeling I may lose him.  more...


    Rirrif - 15 years old

    I have been staying with my dad because my mom doesn't want me around when she is sick, which is all the time. My dad works at night so I spend a lot of time alone since I'm not with my mom. I'm afraid she is going to die and I'll blame myself for not being there more. more...


    HT - 13 years old

    She has been so strong about this and is keen to put it all behind her.  more...

Common reactions and feelings

No-one can tell you how you should feel when someone you love dies. The reaction and the feelings that everyone who knew the person will have will be different.


If your parent has died, you will feel different to your mum or dad, because you have lost a parent and they have lost a partner, your grandparents will feel different again because they have lost a child. Because we are all individual persons, you may also feel different from a brother or sister, even though you have had the same loss of your parent.

Grieving is often referred to as a process and this is because feelings and reactions differ and change as time passes and you realise what has happened. Some of the emotions that you might feel as part of the grieving process are:

Shock - It can be very difficult at first to accept that your parent has died. Shock protects you for a while from the effects that the reality will have on you. When you are in a state of shock, your feelings can be very mixed. It seems impossible to understand what’s happened and you might expect the person to still walk through the door at any minute. You may also feel numb and very empty, as if you don’t feel very much at all. This is not wrong, it is quite common to feel this way after a death and many people go through this. Because the shock can make you appear absolutely calm, other people might not always realise the power of your emotions at this point.


Denial can help us coping when terrible things happen to us. Because it is too difficult to take it all in, we have what we call defence mechanisms in our mind that can block off things from our consciousness, so that we don’t have to think about it. It’s like putting a lid on all the emotions we are struggling with and we just deny that anything bad has happened. For a short period, this can be a useful mechanism that can provide you with an opportunity to rest in a chaotic time. Gradually, the lid will come off from time to time and the truth will start sinking in. This form of denial can help us take in and accept what’s happened in slow chunks and is a normal reaction some time after your parent has died. If it goes on for a long time, it can become a problem and will prevent you from working through your grief and moving on with life. If you think you are in denial when you should try to move on, you must try to talk to someone about it. This can be very difficult, as being in denial makes you not wanting to think about it or talk about it at all and this makes it hard to be aware of the problem. Hopefully, someone else will notice if you have these problems and they will help you work through it.


You may feel angry at life or God/gods for letting this happen, angry or let down by the person who has died because they have left you, angry at doctors and nurses for not doing enough, angry at your family, or angry at yourself because you may feel that their death is your fault. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process and even after you realise that no-one can be blamed, you can still feel angry at what you have been through and how it has changed your life forever. Anger usually lessens as time passes. If it does not for you though, it might be helpful to try and talk to someone who can help. It is important that you do not 'bottle' feelings up.

Sadness and pain

You may have an overwhelming sense of loss, like a wave crashing over you, that you cannot shake or get rid of. It may feel so intense that it is like a physical pain inside you, and it may make you feel sick. You may feel very unhappy for a while and may have problems eating or sleeping. You will ache for the person and long to be with them again. People express this sadness and pain in different ways. This includes crying, screaming, shaking, shouting, and punching a cushion or chair. Other people feel like they need to hold in their feelings. The difficulty with this is that unless you deal with things, it can be hard to move on and heal. When you allow yourself to grieve, it may not feel like it, but the hard feelings will get better.


You may feel guilty about what you did, did not, could, or could not do to save the person who has died. You might also feel guilty because you did not say the right things or do the right things for them. This is often called regret and is a natural feeling in the grieving process. Regret often alters the way, for a time that you treat other people. You may not want to argue with your brother or sister for example, in case they die soon and do not know that you love them. It is also very common to feel guilty if you suddenly find that you are enjoying yourself, like having a laugh with your friends or just having a moment feeling happy and not thinking about your parent and the sadness. It can make you feel very bad, as if you don’t care or have forgotten all about it. You must not feel bad or guilty about enjoying yourself in between the sadness. It is normal and very important to have moments away from the grief, as otherwise grieving can get too overwhelming. It does not mean that you don’t miss your parent and are also feeling very sad about it.

Fear and Anxiety

You may be fearful because you do not understand or like how you are feeling and what you are going through. You may also be frightened about the future. Who will look after me? Will my other parent get cancer too? What if I become ill? My brother is coughing, what if he dies? For a while, you may feel unsafe and uncertain about the future and what will happen. These feelings are very common and usually lessen with time.


If your parent was in a lot of pain or discomfort when being ill, you may feel relieved. Also, if for some reason the person made your life very difficult for a while, it is usual to feel some relief. You might feel relief that their pain is over, and/or relief that your difficulties in this situation are over too. Relief can often be felt alongside guilt - I should not be feeling like this. However, many bereaved people feel relieved for many reasons, and it is a normal feeling in the grieving process. It does not mean that you wished your parent dead or that you are not very sad about it. The relief has to do with the fact that a terribly difficult time is over, although there will also be difficult times ahead.


This feeling can be accumulative - it builds up over a period of time. A parent's death may mean that you have more responsibilities now, maybe you have to cook and clean and get your brothers and sisters to school. You might feel resentful towards your friends as they do not have as many jobs to do. If resentment is left to fester, it can cause problems in your friendships and relationships in your family. Rather than let these feelings well up, it is best to tell someone how you are feeling, and to see if something can be done to make things better.

What is the right way?

There is no 'right way' to grieve. Not everyone will feel all of these emotions, or even to the same extent. For some, a few of the emotions may be very intense, and for others, they may feel all of the above emotions at an equal level. It is likely that you will experience at least some of the above, and that their intensity will vary as time passes and your whereabouts differ. For example, a special song may play on the radio and you will be reminded again of your loss, when before you were not thinking about your parent just then.

Just like there is no right way to grieve, there also no right amount of time to grieve. Life will never be the same again. Often grief is more noticeable for the first year. This is because it takes a year to go through birthdays, and special celebrations, when a person's absence is obvious and your loss is felt more intensely. Of course, it will not always feel as overwhelming as it does at first, but the time of grieving depends on many things which will vary for each individual and also depend on the support you have. Because many talk about the first year as the worst, people often feel that they should “get over it” after a year. This is wrong and you must not think that anything is wrong if your grief doesn’t suddenly change after a year. It may take shorter and it may take longer. You will never “get over” the death of your parent. You will always be a changed person because of it, but you will be able to live with your loss and hopefully think more about the good memories than the pain of the grief.

When grieving gets too much

Sometimes people can become so caught up in their grieving that it completely takes over their lives. Their thoughts and feelings about the deceased person are constantly there and they find it hard to think about anything else. This can cause problems with sleeping and they may have no appetite and eat very little. It is very exhausting to be dominated by grief like that and this is worsened because of lack of sleep and food. During this time, people often feel a sense of hopelessness and despair and they feel like they cannot go on. If you are feeling this way, it is very important that you tell someone that you trust, like parent, grandparent, other relative or maybe your teacher. Often there will be special bereavement services with groups or counsellors you can talk to at hospices or cancer information and support centres. Counselling is not as big a deal, or as scary as it sounds. It is usually confidential, so that what you tell your counsellor, they will not repeat. Working through these feelings and your grief is very important. You have not let anyone down, or failed, if you need some help to do this. Life can be enjoyable again; it may just take some talking and time.


The ways in which people express their grief is called mourning. Moving through the process of mourning can at times be made easier through using the facilities and rituals within our own different cultures that allow us to do this.

There are many ways to express grief. Some people find that writing poetry, letters or journals, drawing pictures or lighting candles help them to make sense of how they are feeling. Others have found it helpful to attach notes to a balloon and release it into the air.

Many people use a religious service to express their grief. These also allow family and friends to support each other and it helps people to realize that this is really happening, making everything more real and final. It is a time that many people say good bye. It is your choice whether or not you chose to attend your parent's funeral. Because you know that this will be a very difficult day, you might feel like not going. Is may seem like the easiest way to deal with your grief at the time, but it is usually not the best way in the long term. Although being there will be emotionally difficult, it is a very important day for letting all your emotions to the surface. If you are not there, you will wonder how it was and you will miss this opportunity of saying goodbye to your parent, although you may feel that you have already done that.

Sometimes adults think that it is best for children and young people not to go to funerals, because they think it will upset them and they want to protect them from that. It is of course correct that it is upsetting to go to a funeral to someone we love. However, this form of upset has a useful function and is not damaging and we now know that for most young adults as well as for children of any age, it is recommended that they take part in the funeral of someone close to them. If you have not been to a funeral before, you should ask someone what will happen there so that you are prepared before you go.

Decisions about taking part in the funeral can be difficult and what is usually recommended may not be right for everyone. If you think that it is right for you not to go, this may be the case. Because the funeral takes place so soon after your parent has died, you will have lots of emotions to deal with and it can be hard to know exactly what is the best thing to do. It is important that you think through this very thoroughly and discuss it with adults you trust before you make the final decision. Remember that this is something you can not do differently another time and you must make a choice that you will not regret later.

It is important that if you choose not to be there, you remember that you can still give something of yourself. You could write a letter or poem to put in the coffin, write a prayer or a message from you to be read out, or choose a hymn to be sung. Being part of the ceremony in some way, can help you now as well as later when thinking back on it.