After Someone has Died: How You Might Feel

Initial reactions. When someone close to you dies, you might experience a variety of emotions, including shock, disbelief, numbness, sadness, anger, or loneliness. This is all part of a grieving process.

Shock and disbelief. It’s normal to feel a sense of shock when someone close to you dies. 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 maybe a physical and/or emotional reaction.

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.

Grief. As the shock and numbness lessens, you’ll probably start grieving. Everybody grieves differently. 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.

Here are some of the 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;

For more information about the stages of grief, check out the Experiencing Grief fact sheet.  If you need immediate help, you can also call them and feel your grief is overwhelming, you can also call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at, a website that helps teens get through tough times. 

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