Is the way I feel about someone from school dying normal?

When someone in your class or school dies it can be upsetting and unsettling for everyone in the school community. You may be confused about your feelings and it's normal to feel a range of emotions. It’s also helpful to know that everyone responds differently and expresses their feelings in different ways. 

Some may have a strong reaction to the death even if they didn’t know the person very well. This might be because it makes them think about other people they know who have died or because it makes them worry about someone. Others may seem less affected - this doesn’t mean they are unkind or unfeeling - some people grieve in private or they may feel upset later on.

If you knew the person very well or they were a close friend, you might feel very sad, angry or confused. If you didn’t like the person much or didn’t know them very well you might feel sadder than you expected, or you might feel guilty that you are not more upset, or that you didn’t speak to or spend time with them.

Try not to compare how you’re feeling with how other people are reacting. All emotions are valid - there is no right way to feel when someone dies. If you’re struggling with how you are feeling, it can help to talk to someone you trust like a member of your family, teacher or adult in school.

Other people in my school are grieving differently. Why do I feel left out?

Grief can make you feel very alone, particularly if you’re grieving differently to others. It may be that other people in your school knew the person who died better than you or they may be more involved in activities to remember them, for instance going to the funeral, attending a memorial service or taking part in special projects such as memorials or fundraising. If you are feeling excluded or upset it might help you to find your own way of remembering the person.

Even if you were a close friend of the person who died, it may be that their family would prefer to grieve privately, and school friends may be excluded from events like the funeral or memorial service. It’s important to consider their feelings and not take this personally, but give them time and space for their grief. 

Is it normal to feel anxious and to have questions when someone from school dies?

It’s unusual and usually unexpected for a young person to die, and it may make you worry about yourself, or that other people your age might die too. If the person who has died was an adult, such as a teacher or other member of staff, you may worry about other adults in your life.

Feeling anxious and upset is normal when someone dies, however if these feelings become intrusive or start to impact your school or social life for a long period of time, it is important that you tell someone you trust that you are struggling so they can support you and suggest things that could help you through this difficult time. You may also want to seek support from a bereavement support practitioner who has expertise in supporting young people by contacting Child Bereavement UK’s Helpline or Live Chat.

You may have questions about what has happened or about death and dying in general. Any question is valid and it can help to talk to your teacher, your family or someone else you trust. You may find it useful to share our resource on having honest conversations about death and grief with your teacher. 

In some circumstances, your school may not be able to share information about how the person died. This could be because they don't have all the information yet or, if they do, that they can’t share it in order to protect the privacy of the person’s family or because there are ongoing investigations. If the circumstances of the death are not clear, for instance if the person died by suicide, try not to get involved with speculation or rumours which can be very unhelpful. If social media is upsetting you, you might want to take a break from it for a while.

How can we remember the person from school who has died?

Talking to friends and others in your school about the person who has died and about how you are feeling can be helpful. Some people find it comforting to share memories and stories about the person. 

There are lots of ways to remember someone who has died. You might make a memory box or book filled with things that remind you of them or get together with friends or schoolmates to create some way of remembering them, such as having a special assembly, creating a piece of group art, fundraising for charity in their name or simply doing something you know your friend enjoyed. 

It may be that you and other friends can do something yourselves in memory of the person who has died. If you decide to do something in memory like holding a concert or creating a work of art, it can be thoughtful to ask any siblings in school and their family what sort of memorial they would prefer.

Is it helpful to use social media when someone from school has died?

Social media can be a supportive place to share memories and how you’re feeling, and it might be possible to set up an online tribute. However it’s important to use social media carefully as some people may speculate on reasons for their death or to spread rumours about them, which can be upsetting. If you see something on social media that upsets you, it can help to talk about it with someone you trust. You might prefer to switch off from social media for a while if you’re finding it difficult.

How can I manage my emotions and manage my wellbeing when someone from school dies?

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by your feelings when someone at school has died. It’s normal to dip in and out of grief so that on some days you may feel very upset while on others you may feel less upset and able to get on with life - this is OK. Some people find it helpful to express their feelings by doing something positive in memory of the person, keeping a journal or doing something creative. It is also important to try to take time to do other activities you enjoy that help you ‘step away’ from difficult feelings for a while. 

Looking after your physical wellbeing, even in small ways, can help to reduce feelings of tiredness, isolation and helplessness. Although it may be difficult, it can help to keep to healthy routines, such as regular mealtimes and bedtimes, and to get outside for fresh air and exercise and to eat a balanced diet.

Some people may try to manage how they feel through alcohol or recreational drugs. Although you might feel this may distract you or block out emotional pain for a while, they can become a problem and can obviously have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing. Your GP can help if you are worried about your use of alcohol or drugs or if you have intrusive thoughts, panic attacks or anxiety.

You may find it helpful to look at our A-Z of bereavement support tips from young people we have supported.

Where can I get support and talk to someone about someone at school dying?

If you are struggling with your feelings, try to speak to someone who you trust. Young people we have supported at Child Bereavement UK tell us it can also be very helpful to talk to a professional outside your friendship or family group.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your situation, talk to one of our friendly team at Child Bereavement UK via Live Chat or our Helpline on 0800 02 888 40.

You may also find it helpful to look at our resources on support for bereaved young people.

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.