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Grieving - working through loss

death; grief; dying; loss; sad; feelings; jail; gaol ;


We all get sad when something or someone that we care for goes out of our lives for a while.

But what if someone (or something) we love goes out of our lives forever?

This can be something that is very hard for you to cope with and you might feel sad, or angry, or lost, or very alone.

This topic is mostly about when someone you love dies. But we can also feel grief when

  • there is a breakup in the family
  • a loved pet dies
  • someone close to you moves far away
  • someone in your family goes to jail
  • your family moves a long way away from your grandparents and friends
  • you lose something that is important to you
  • after a disaster - such as a fire, flood or earthquake.

The topics Coping with change - loss and griefDealing with natural disasters  and Bushfires might be useful for you.

What if someone dies?

Every living thing on this earth will die at some time.

coffinHuman bodies work very hard to keep us going, but when some really important part, like the heart, gets worn out, the body dies.

Sometimes human bodies can get sick when they are quite young, and although there are lots of wonderful medicines and clever doctors around, they cannot be made better. (This doesn't happen very often.)

Sometimes people are born very sick and do not live very long.

Sometimes people die because of an injury or accident. This can happen to people of any age, and it is especially sad because no-one is expecting it to happen, so it is a big shock to everyone as well. Losing something or someone leads to changes in your life. You need to learn how to cope with these changes.

What if someone in your life goes to jail?

Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes the actions of a person can lead to them going to jail. Having someone in your family in jail is hard for the rest of the family. If this has happened to you this site may help: 

What can you do if you lose someone you love?


  • Talk about your feelings and listen to others talking about theirs.
  • Talk about the person who has died or gone out of your life.
  • Talk about your fears and worries. Ask a trusted adult what you want to know. No question that worries you is too silly to be asked.
  • Talk to your teacher. He or she will be able to help you cope at school.


  • Think about the good times you had with that person.
  • Ask about their lives so that other people can share their memories too.
  • Do something special to remember that person, eg. plant a flower or a tree.


  • Take part in whatever your family does to grieve the loss of that person.

Live your life

  • When someone you love dies or leaves the family you may feel that life will never be the same again.
  • Feeling like this (grieving) helps you to deal with your loss.
  • You think of things you could have said or done or go away. You may go through lots of feelings and emotions . 
  • You could be scared that someone else will die. You think about that person most of the time. When these feelings come, tell your trusted adults about them.
  • emotionsAfter a time you start to be aware that life is going on around you and the sadness that you feel slowly gets less.
  • You don't forget that person but you put their memory in the back of your mind and just bring it out every so often. Like putting photos away in an album and just bringing them out now and again.
  • That person was part of your life but not all of your life. You have to get on with your life and get on with living.
  • Going to school and after school activities, hanging out with friends and doing the things that you normally do will help.

What some people believe

People in different parts of the world have different beliefs about what happens when someone dies.

Some of those beliefs are:

  • that only the body dies and the soul or spirit lives on
    (they believe that the soul or spirit is what makes you yourself)
  • that people's souls may come back in another person or living creature
  • living a good lifethat a person's spirit goes into a special place in nature (like a rock or a tree)
  • that a soul goes to heaven and meets up with other souls who have died before
  • that each person has a lesson to learn and will move on to a better life next time if the lesson is learned well
  • that if a person has lived a good life, they will have a happy time after death.

There are lots of other beliefs. Talk to your family and ask them what they believe.

Some families like to remember people in different ways...

  • having photos of that person around the house
  • taking flowers to church, to the grave, or placing flowers by their photo
  • placing notices in newspapers
  • remembering birthdays
  • wearing mourning (say mor-ning) clothes to show that they have lost someone in their family
  • remembering them in their prayers
  • holding special festivals to honour and remember people who have died.
  • keeping special things which belonged to that person and passing them on to others in the family (family heirlooms).

Grieving - trying to accept the loss of someone you love

  • When you lose someone you love, it is important to spend time grieving and helping others to grieve. Some people think that it is 'grown up' to hide your feelings, but it is natural for people to grieve.
  • Grieving helps people to cope with losing someone, and sharing grief helps people to gradually accept the loss and get on with their lives.
  • Whatever your loss it is appropriate (OK) to grieve.
  • Grieving is like walking along a pathway of feelings. You start off by feeling that you can't and don't want to believe what has happened, and you work through other feelings until you reach the feeling that you will be able to go on with your life.
  • If you think that you are getting stuck on one particular reaction or feeling, then look for help from an adult you can talk with and trust.

grief and loss path

Shock - feeling numb
Denial - it can't be happening
Illness - easily getting things like colds
Anger - it's not fair
Guilt - what should I have done differently
Depression - feeling really, really, sad
Remembering - the good times
Reality - but the person won't come back if they have died
Positive attitude - I will get on with my life
Acceptance - I have learned lots of good things from
     the person I have lost. I will keep them with me
     as I move on. Although I can't have the person,
     I can have what I have learned from him or her.

This is what some children have written about losing something or someone.

  • grief and lossMy Pet
    I had a rabbit called Mopsy,
    His coat was white and grey.
    I used to go and feed him
    With lettuce every day.
    He laid his little body down
    And went to sleep at night.
    One day he didn't wake again
    I cried with all my might.
    By Niamh
  • My grandpa
    My grandpa died of cancer. He died 4 days after my sister's birthday. I think he was 75 when he died. I cried every day for three weeks. He was my mum's dad.
  • When I was 18 months old my dad died. I didn't get to know him at all. I don't even remember a bit about him. The only way I know him is the pictures we have in the house and the car he had and the bit of the motorbike he died on. I never get to do anything like go to the drag racing, look at cars, go to motor cross or go on trips to other states. I really do wish he was here so I could have got to know him. (Rick, age 11)
  • My dad did something bad and went to jail. Mum and I had to move and I had to go to a different school.

Have you lost something or someone special?

  • What helped you to deal with your loss?
  • Would you like to write about it? You can print out a special page for writing a story.
  • If you send in your story, we may add it to this topic. Your story could help other kids - use the Feedback button to send it in. Just type your story into the Q6 box. You may put in your first name if you would like to.

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate

"Who-ever or what-ever you have lost, it is natural to grieve for that person or the thing that you have lost.

Talking about your feelings and sharing memories helps children and adults to get through the sad times. Remember that if you are not getting better you need to ask for help from a grown-up."



My story about losing someone
I lost...  

I feel sad because...  

I remember...  

I felt happy when...  

I felt sad when...  

A funny thing I remember about...  

What other people remember about...  

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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