Coping With Death

If someone in your family, a friend, or close relative has recently died, you’re probably feeling some very strong and frightening emotions.


Although you may feel like laughing, crying and screaming all at the same time. you may also be scared and confused by the persistent feelings of anger you are feeling as well. We’d like to help you understand why you may be feeling the way you do, and what you can do to cope with some of these feelings.

The death of someone you love is shocking and confusing. You might say things like: “It can’t be true,” or “There must be some mistake.” Even after you get over that first shock, you may still have trouble believing that the person is really gone. You may find yourself planning things to include the person who had just died. You could even think you see, or hear them. All of this is natural. You could also get very depressed. and begin to have difficulty eating and sleeping. If you do begin to feel rundown, please see your doctor. Poor health can make it more difficult for you to cope with your depression.

Guilt can be another feeling you have to deal with when someone close to you dies. Even if you know better, you may feel that somehow you’re responsible for what happened. Perhaps you said things you now regret. In anger you could have done things to hurt the person who has died. Or. maybe you didn’t say things you now wish you had said. Perhaps you wanted to say. “I love you,” but never did and now it’s too late.

Shock, confusion, and guilt are all normal and natural expressions of grief. And so is anger.

You may be angry with God, the doctor, yourself, or even the person who has died. Try not to feel guilty for the anger you feel. It’s a natural reaction to the sense of abandonment you’re now feeling. Your anger could also stem from feelings of loss, helplessness, confusion, fear or loneliness.

One way to cope with this anger is to talk about it with a friend who did not share a relationship with the deceased individual, but who can be understanding and supportive of your need to express a wide range of feelings and thoughts without their own grief getting in the way. Choose someone you trust such as a close friend, a clergyman, or a respected teacher.

It also helps to talk with someone who does share your grief. This could include members of your family, and that of the deceased, or mutual friends. By openly discussing your feelings with others who are grieving the same death, you will help each other come to terms with the loss.

Another way of expressing the feelings you have is to write them down. You may want to write directly to the deceased expressing the loss and emptiness their death has brought to you, or you may wish to just write about how you feel. You can keep these written thoughts to reread at another time, or, if you wish. you can destroy them. Keep these feelings private or share them. The purpose is to express very sensitive feelings in a way that is emotionally safe for you. At a later time, when you feel more secure and comfortable with your feelings about this death, you may wish to share them verbally with a close friend or family member.

We’ve talked about the emotions you may be experiencing if someone close to you has died. No matter how strange or frightening these feelings may seem, try to let them out. They’re natural ways of coping with a terrible loss. Shock, disbelief, depression, guilt and anger are some of the things you could be feeling and it’s not unusual to feel all or several of these feelings at the same time.

Try to allow yourself to feel each feeling as it develops. If you pretend not to feel them or try to keep them inside, you will only delay things. Eventually, in one way or another these feelings will come forth. perhaps when you least expect them or are least prepared.

People often feel that showing sadness through words and tears is a sign of weakness and should not be encouraged. However, being able to accept and express your feelings means that you are facing the real loss this death has brought to your life. That takes a great deal of emotional strength to do and is a very important part of your ability to eventually overcome this 1055 and continue with your life in a productive way.

Well meaning persons may encourage you to be strong for a surviving parent, brothers or sisters, or anyone else sharing your grief. Try to avoid hiding your own pain for this reason. All who are grieving need to know the grief is shared and need to support one another at this time.

In this tape we’ve suggested that you try to talk about how you feel with people who share your loss. Accept your emotions as normal and natural Try not to feel shocked or embarrassed by your feelings. Try not to hide your true feelings, but do try to express them. Time, and the understanding of people close to you will eventually help to ease the pain you’re feeling now.


For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.