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Someone in My Friend's Family Died. What Should I Do?

When someone dies, people who loved that person may seem different for a while. They might cry or look sad. Or they may be more quiet than usual. Your friend is probably feeling a sadness called grief. It’s the way people feel when someone they love dies.

Kids — and adults — may have a lot of different feelings while they are going through grief. They might need or want different things to help them feel better.

People show their grief in different ways. Some kids might not feel much like playing or having fun for a while. Other kids going through grief just want to get back to normal life. They want to go to school, play, and do the things they usually do. This is fine, too.

Some kids want to share their feelings and talk. Others might not feel like talking. Some might want to draw or color to show how they feel.

Some kids might want to spend more time with their family to get extra comfort. People in the family can help each other get through their grief. They can show extra kindness toward each other. They can do things to remember the person who died. This includes telling happy stories about the person, and talking about good times they shared.

When a loved one dies, it can be a big change. It takes time to adjust and to feel better. It’s OK for people to take their time to let their grief heal. It helps to have support and kindness from others — like their friends.

How You Can Help

When a friend is dealing with the death of a loved one, you can help by just being a friend. You don’t have to try to cheer them up or get them to feel better. You can let them feel how they feel. You can invite them to play, take a walk, or hang out. Ask what they want to do. Just being there for them and being kind helps so much.

You may feel shy about it, but it’s OK to bring up the subject. For example, you could say, "I'm sorry about your grandma." That's a way to let your friend know you feel for them. It may start your friend talking about their feelings. But it's also OK if your friend doesn't want to talk much about it. You also could say: "If you want to talk about it, I will listen." That's a really kind thing to say.

Don't be surprised if your friend doesn't want to talk. But if your friend does, it can help to remember and to talk about the good times when the person was alive. It's also OK for you to sometimes cry with a friend who feels so sad.

You might wish your friend could be their old self, but that doesn't always happen right away. When someone is going through grief, there will be times they may not feel like playing or having fun like they used to. But at other times, they might laugh and play like before. Each day might be different.

Even when their grief feels lighter, your friend will always miss the person who died. They might still feel sad sometimes. But good memories and love they shared with that person will help them feel happy, too.

If, after a while, you are worried because your friend doesn't seem to be getting back to being their old self, tell a parent, school counselor, or teacher that you are concerned. That way your friend can get help with sadness, grief, or other feelings.

What your friend is going through might make you want to learn more about grief. You might want to talk to grownups in your life about how they felt when a loved one died. You can ask what it was like for them, and how they started to feel better.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date Reviewed: 04-04-2022

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