Chapter 5: Grieving a death

After the person has died

The grief expert says
Betty speaks about bereavement grief.(3:22)Video transcript

It feels somewhat surreal that he died. He lived so many ups and downs over the years with his illness.  We miss him, but there’s also a sense of relief that he’s no longer in pain.

When my mother died, I felt so numb and didn’t really know what to do with myself. We were so close, and I helped look after her every day, so everything felt unfamiliar and upside down. I felt alone and adrift. I miss her every day.

Although a person has had a serious and debilitating illness you may still have a sense of shock when they die. Whether their death was expected or not, you may wonder why you are feeling such deep grief, when all along you have been grieving and “preparing” for their death.

Remember that anticipatory grief is not the same as the grief that comes after a death. You may experience a “new grief” and, with it, new circumstances that are unfamiliar or feel different than the grief you’ve experienced before.

Click on the arrows to view some new questions and feelings that you may have now.

If you were not present at the time of death, you may have questions about how the person died. You may wonder what it was like for them or what comfort was provided to them. You may feel a sense of guilt for having not been there, but this does not take away from the care you provided over their illness.

What may help

  • Recognize that you may not have been able to process your grief while you were providing care. These feelings may now resurface, along with new ones. These may be intense and sometimes feel conflicting or confusing.
  • Acknowledge thoughts and feelings, even if difficult, and reach out for support from your family, friends, or community.
  • If it feels right for you, consider joining a grief support group.
  • If possible, allow yourself to rest. Remember that you need time to restore your mental, emotional, and physical energy. 
  • Recall and take pride in the caregiving that you provided to the person.

Helpful resources
Module 1 – Grieving before the loss -
Module 2 – Understanding grief -
Module 3 – How has this loss affected my family and me -
Module 5 – Making sense of intense emotions -