Talking about your thoughts and feelings when someone has died can be difficult, especially if your parent, carer or wider family are also grieving for the person who has died.
We often hear young people say that they are worried about upsetting their parent or carer by talking about the person who died. This can be hard as you may have unanswered questions that you don’t feel able to ask, or you may feel you need to keep all your feelings inside.
Worrying about your parent’s feelings is completely understandable, however it is important to recognize that your feelings and the questions you may have are equally as important.
In fact, we often hear parents and carers saying the same thing as young people – that they are worried about upsetting their children if they mention the person who has died.
However, we also hear many young people telling us how much it helps them when they are able to talk to their parent about how they are feeling.
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It’s ok to share your grief
Remember, the worst has already happened and if you find that you or your parent or carer become upset when you’re talking, that is ok. If they cry because they are remembering the person who has died, it’s not because of you. That sadness will have already been there and it’s usually helpful to let some of it out.
Sharing your feelings together might help you feel less alone in your grief. It might feel scary at first, but afterwards it can feel like a relief.
Other ways to share your feelings:
1. Text them
If saying how you feel face to face is too hard, you could write it down and give it to your parent or carer or you could send them a text.
2. Use emojis
You could agree with your family that you will send each other emojis to show how you are feeling that day. Then, even if you don’t want to talk about it, they know how you are feeling.
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3. Write a letter
You could write a draft letter of what you would like to say, including any thoughts, feelings or questions that you have. You don’t have to show your parent or carer that letter, but it might help you to organize what you want to say.
Write the letter as if they are never going to read it and you are never going to send it. Then go through the letter with a highlighter and decide what needs to be said or asked and what can be left unsaid or unanswered.
Next, think about how you would like to share the things you have highlighted. It can be helpful to think about how you want to do it – do you want to write a letter or text or would you prefer to talk to them face to face?
Arrange a good time in the day to have this conversation – rushing out the door or mid-dinner may not be the best time. Think about whether you need anyone else with you to support you in having the conversation, for example an aunt or a friend.
4. Find someone else you can talk to
If you don’t feel able to talk to your parent or carer, is there another adult you do feel comfortable talking with? Find someone who you trust and feel comfortable sharing your feelings openly with and that you feel understands you – maybe another family member or a teacher.
Often when someone has been bereaved people feel a strong urge to try to make things better, but that isn’t always possible. Tell them what you need from them in that moment – you could say something like “I just want to tell you how sad I feel, I don’t need you to fix it, I just need you to listen”.