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How to Deal with Death of Loved Ones

Updated on February 5, 2016

About Dying and Approaches to It

An attitude towards death and dying has changed during the times and it was also connected to religion and religious rituals. Some centuries ago, death was a part of people’s lives and was seen as something natural and inevitable. The elderly were dying surrounded by family (children were present as well) and friends and they were dying in their homes.

In these days death was feared, mostly because people were dying painfully and often violently. Nowadays death is also feared (it is something beyond our reach, we can’t control it and we don’t know what awaits us on the other side) and it is perceived as a taboo and a threat. Children are often protected from death. People often don’t know how to talk about death and so this topic is displaced. For these people it is also difficult to talk to their dying loved ones.

Fortunately, the topic of death and attitude towards dying and death is slowly changing. There are more hospices, home hospice cares and social services which help dying people and their families to deal with this difficult situation. Although people often die in hospices or hospitals, there is also increasing amount of people who die at home.

Graveyard at the Day of the Dead


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her Five Stages of Grief

The world famous Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the author of a famous book On Death and Dying, proposed so-called Five Stages of Grief – five steps of dealing with a loss of a loved one. These five stages can also be used for people who are informed that they themselves or their loved ones are terminally ill.

Five Stages of Grief are not necessarily experienced one after another. A person experiencing grief can be caught in a one stage not being able to move forward and accept death of a loved one or can be caught in a circle of few emotions experiencing stages all over again. It’s individual for every one of us.

Let’s present all of those stages a person may experience:

  • Denial – a person refuses to accept death (or a terminal illness) of a loved one, he/she doesn’t want to admit it
  • Anger – a person can be consumed by rage, he/she can blame medical staff or other family members for death of a loved one
  • Bargaining – this stage is related to discovering about terminal illness because it includes finding new possibilities of medical treatment (this is mainly about alternative medicine) and people often negotiate with God
  • Depression - a person can become depressed over someone’s death and because of it a help of social workers or medical staff can be necessary
  • Acceptance – in this stage a person accepts death of a loved one; but there is possibility that some people never experience this stage because a loss is too overwhelming and painful

A first shock from a loss of a loved one can last for hours or days. Usually a person is able to control him/herself until a day of a funeral. It is common that grieving, reminiscing and sinking into depression can last from three months to one year. After this time a person slowly gets used to a loss of a loved one. If deep grieving lasts longer than one year it can become pathological. But it is important to remember that grief is individual and feeling sad and miss a loved one for a really long time is completely alright.

What Helps when Experiencing a Loss of a Loved One

Have you experienced a loss of a loved one? What did help you to feel better?

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What Can Help You to Deal with Death of a Loved One?

Dealing with death of a loved one is individual at every possible way. You can feel a great amount of emotions: anger, fear, sadness, regret, you can feel lonely or guilty; it all depends on a kind of relationship you had with that person.

Now, what can help you to feel just a little bit better? Because, you know, nothing can change a fact that a loved one is gone and there are a lot of things you didn’t manage to tell him and didn’t experience together. But there are things that can help you to go through this painful situation.




First of all you need to know is: if you are not a reasonable person, reasoning won’t work. Also reasoning is used easier at elderly people who lived long life or experienced a lot of things. It probably won’t work at children.

Reasoning is about remembering all good aspects of a loved one’s life. If a loved one who died is a grandmother, grandfather or any elder person, it is important to remember that this person lived long and good life and experience many happy things. If it’s about a terminal ill person (be it a child or an old person) it is important to remember that right now that person is happier and isn’t suffering anymore.

Talking about Grief

Talking about grief is important. It can help you to overcome it and accept death of a loved one. It also shows that you are not alone in you grief. There are more people who feel a same grief as you when someone passed away. Those people can be here for you when you need it as well as you can be there for them when they need it.

But not everyone is used to talk about such deep pain. Although it can be painful if you don’t feel like talking about it don’t force it. Grief is individual. But remember that this stage (not talking about grief but grieving a lot inside) can be painful to see for your family and relatives so if you feel like it, it’s good let a family help you, at least with silent support (hugs, sharing time).

If you feel overwhelmed with grief you can always talk to some therapist.

Face Your Emotions

Suppressing grief is not good for people health. If you manage to suppress it during a funeral and don’t allow yourself to feel all those emotions which flow through you, they can show in the less expected situation and hurt you badly.

So don’t be afraid to express your emotions. If you are an artistic-based person, draw, sing or dance. If you don’t feel like talk about it, then write about it. If you feel like you can stay at home, then go outside, enjoy nature, do some sport. Have a drink for a loved one. If you feel like it, cry. It helps to carry off little bit of your sadness.


For people who believe in God, this situation can be a little (just only a little) bit easier. They believe that a soul of a loved one goes to God after death and they believe that a loved one is in bright, sunny and happy place.

So if you believe in God (or if you are in any other religion), just talk to Him, pray for your loved one, go visit a church.

There is another thing connected to belief. Probably most of us feel regret after death of a loved one. Regret that we didn’t manage to tell so many things to that person and we will never have a chance to do it.

Well, there is an Irish author Lorna Byrne who wrote books such as: Angels in my Hair, Stairways to Heaven or A Message of Hope from the Angels. In one of her book Lorna mentions that if your loved one died and you have things you didn’t manage to tell him or her, you can always do it. She writes that our dead loved ones are always around us or near us and that if we talk to them, they will hear us. It depends on you whether you believe it or not, but I think that it’s worth a try. It can help you to feel better.

Grief Quote


The last thing I want to say is that grief is extremely individual. Everyone has his/her own way of grieving and something that work for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. If you don’t cry over someone’s death it doesn’t mean you didn’t love that person and you didn’t mourn his/her death. You just have other way of expressing your grief.


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    • LucieMatejickova profile image

      Lucie Matějíčková 2 years ago from Czech Republic

      Thank you for your always kind and insightful comments. I've also experienced death of a relative recently, but it was so sudden for me that I probably went from a stage of the shock directly to sadness. I'm trying to move forward but I get sad easily. Hopefully time will help me to feel better. Also for me, my family and belief are the best help.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Having recently experienced the death of a relative and a friend, I relate to the stages of grief. I have gone through the shock, the bargaining, and the anger. Now I am in the sadness, and hopefully moving toward acceptance. It is a tough row to hoe, and I don't know if it gets any easier as we get older. We just get to experience it more often!