PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Dealing With Death: What Is Grief?

grief: noun 1: intense sorrow caused by loss of a loved one (especially by death) 2: something that causes great unhappiness

The common definition of "grief" sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? But really, grief is a little more complicated than that. When somebody close to us dies, we spend weeks, months, and even years dealing with feelings, thoughts, physical reactions, and behaviors. People call this the "grieving process."

Everybody is unique, so everybody grieves a little differently and for different amounts of time. But parts of the grieving process are common to most of us:


  • "I can't stop crying since my mom died."
  • "I haven't been happy at all in the six months since we lost my brother."

It's a simple, painful fact: losing someone is a sad thing. Sadness is a big part of grief. When we lose a loved one, we may feel like crying a lot of the time, and we may feel so overwhelmed with sadness that we become depressed.

Disbelief, shock, or numbness

  • "None of this seems real."
  • "Since my Grandfather died, it feels like I've been in a fog."

Right after someone dies, it's normal for people to feel like they have no emotions at all, like they're numb or are "sleepwalking" through their days. The emotional pain caused by losing somebody can be overpowering, so people "shut down" their feelings without even knowing they're doing it.

In addition to these emotions, grief can also lead to:

  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of weakness
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Losing one's appetite
  • Losing interest in friends and normal activities
  • Problems in school and poor grades

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