Thomond Community College
Handout on coping with the aftermath of a major loss such as a bereavement: for Students/Parents/Guardians

Coping with bereavement can be difficult and stressful.  It can affect the way we feel, think and behave.  The following information will help you understand some of the feelings and reactions you may experience within hours, days or weeks after an event.  There are also some suggestions on what may help you during this time.

Normal Feelings and Thoughts at this time

You may experience any of the following which are a normal reaction:

  • Shock at what has happened.  Things may feel unreal.  Shock sometimes causes people to deny what has happened.  This doesn’t mean you don’t care.  You may feel like withdrawing, crying or becoming hysterical.
  • Fear about the unpredictability of everything especially life, of a similar incident happening, of breaking down or losing control, of being alone.
  • Guilt – feeling responsible in some way for what has happened even though you are being told you could not be, for not being able to make things better or not being able to help others.
  • Shame for not reacting as you thought you thought you should, for needing support from others.
  • Anger at someone or something, wanting to blame someone or something for what has happened, at the injustice of the event.
  • Confusion about the event, about how you should react, about having mixed feelings about everything.
  • Pain at the loss of the person, of associating this with other incidents, bereavements or losses that you may have experienced before.
  • Left out by people not acknowledging your involvement in the loss or your relationship with the person who has left.

Physical and behavioral reactions

It is quite normal to experience tiredness, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches, loss or increase of appetite, bowel/bladder problems, loss of concentration, irritability.  Sometimes people feel generally unwell.           


  • You need to look after yourself
  • You are normal and are having normal reactions to a stressful event
  • There are people you can talk to
  • You may not experience any of the above feelings

There is little you can do to avoid these uncomfortable feelings and thoughts but there are things you can do to help you cope.

What you can do to look after yourself

  • Talk – Try to talk about what happened and how you feel.  Don’t bottle things up.  Sharing your experience with others who have had similar experiences may help.  Let someone know if you are not coping well.  If it is difficult to talk, keep a journal of how you are feeling or draw your experiences or emotions.
  • Thinking over the incident – you need to process the incident and allow it more into your mind over time.  With time you may need to talk about it, write about it.  You may find that you dream about it over and over again.  All this eventually helps you to accept what has happened.
  • Eating properly – Try to eat a regular meal three times a day.
  • Exercise and Relaxation – Make sure you take some exercise and also find ways to relax and rest.
  • Be careful not to use drink or other drugs to help you cope – They may numb the pain temporarily but will lead to other problems.

Seek help if,:

  • You cannot cope with or feel overwhelmed by your feelings.
  • You (continue to) have nightmares.
  • You experience sleeplessness.
  • Intrusive thoughts about the loss persist.
  • You begin to have problems in school.
  • You have been using excessive drinking, smoking or other drugs to help you cope since the event.

Where can I get help?

  • Always talk to your Parents.
  • If concerned, visit your G.P. with your parent.
  • See your School Counsellor.
  • External counselling is available through your G.P.