Facing life after losing your son

Grieving the Loss of a Child

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2019

No parent is prepared for a child's death. Parents are simply not supposed to outlive their children. It is important to remember that how long your child lived does not determine the size of your loss. The loss of a child is profound at every age.

  • Parents of young children are intimately involved in their daily lives. Death changes every aspect of family life, often leaving an enormous emptiness.

  • The death of an older child or adolescent is difficult because children at this age are beginning to reach their potential and become independent individuals.

  • When an adult child dies, you lose not only a child but often a close friend, a link to grandchildren, and an irreplaceable source of emotional and practical support.

You may find that you also grieve for the hopes and dreams you had for your child, the potential that will never be realized, and the experiences you will never share. If you lost your only child, you may also feel that you have lost your identity as a parent and perhaps the possibility of grandchildren. The pain of these losses will always be a part of you. Yet with time, most parents find a way forward and begin to experience happiness and meaning in life once again.

Common grief reactions

Grief reactions after the death of a child are similar to those after other losses. But, they are often more intense and last longer. You may experience the following grief reactions:

  • Intense shock, confusion, disbelief, and denial, even if your child's death was expected

  • Overwhelming sadness and despair, such that facing daily tasks or even getting out of bed can seem impossible

  • Extreme guilt or a feeling that you have failed as your child's protector and could have done something differently

  • Intense anger and feelings of bitterness and unfairness at a life left unfulfilled

  • Fear or dread of being alone and overprotecting your surviving children

  • Resentment toward parents with healthy children

  • Feeling that life has no meaning and wishing to be released from the pain or to join your child

  • Questioning or losing faith or spiritual beliefs

  • Dreaming about your child or feeling your child's presence nearby

  • Intense loneliness and isolation, even when around other people, and feeling that no one can truly understand how you feel

Although grief is always profound when a child dies, some parents have an especially difficult time. Even as time passes, their grief remains intense, and they feel it is impossible to return to normal life. Some parents may even think about hurting themselves to escape from the pain. If you are having these feelings, talk with a professional such as a doctor or counselor right away. You can find help to move past this intense grief.

Timing of your grief reactions

Some people expect that grief should be resolved over a specific time, such as a year. But this is not true. The initial severe and intense grief you feel will not be continuous. Periods of intense grief often come and go over 18 months or longer. Over time, your grief may come in waves that are gradually less intense and less frequent. But you will likely always have some feelings of sadness and loss.

Even years after your child's death, important events and milestones in the lives of other children can trigger grief. Significant days such as graduations, weddings, or the first day of a new school year are common triggers. At these times, you may find yourself thinking about how old your child would be or what he or she would look like or be doing if still alive.

Differences in how parents grieve

Parents may grieve in different ways depending on their gender and their daily role in a child’s life. One parent may find that talking helps, while the other may need quiet time to grieve alone. Cultural expectations and role differences also affect how parents grieve. Men are often expected to control their emotions, be strong, and take charge of the family. Women may be expected to cry openly and want to talk about their grief.

If you are a working parent, you may become more involved in your job to escape the sadness and daily reminders at home. A stay-at-home parent may be surrounded by constant reminders and may feel a lack of purpose now that his or her job as caregiver has abruptly ended. This is especially true for a parent who spent months or even years caring for a child with cancer.

Differences in grieving can cause relationship difficulties at a time when parents need each other's support the most. One parent may believe that the other is not grieving properly or that a lack of open grief means he or she loved the child less. Talk openly about your grief with your partner. Work to understand and accept each other's coping styles.

Helping siblings who are grieving

Parents are the focus of attention when a child dies, and the grief of siblings is sometimes overlooked. The death of a sibling is a tremendous loss for a child. They lose a family member, a confidant, and a life-long friend.

When your child developed cancer, you were likely completely focused on the needs of your sick child. You now may be overwhelmed with your own grief. Your surviving children may misinterpret your grief as a message that they are not as valued as much as the sibling who died.

You can help your children during this time of grief in several ways:

  • Make grief a shared family experience. Include children in discussions about memorial plans.

  • Spend as much time as possible with your children, talking about their sibling or playing together.

  • Make sure children understand that they are not responsible for a sibling’s death, and help them let go of regrets and guilt.

  • Never compare siblings to your child who died. Make sure your child knows that you don't expect them to “fill in” for him or her.

  • Set reasonable limits on their behavior. But try not to be either overprotective or overly permissive. It is normal to feel protective of surviving children.

  • Ask a close family member or friend to spend extra time with siblings if your own grief prevents you from giving them the attention they need.

Learn more about how to help a child or teenager who is grieving and how to cope with losing a sibling to cancer.

Helping yourself grieve

As much as it hurts, it is natural and normal to grieve. You may find the following suggestions helpful while grieving:

  • Talk about your child often and use his or her name.

  • Ask family and friends for help with housework, errands, and caring for other children. This will give you important time to think, remember, and grieve.

  • Take time deciding what to do with your child's belongings. Don’t rush to pack up your child's room or to give away toys and clothes.

  • Prepare ahead of time for how to respond to difficult questions like, "How many children do you have?" or comments like, "At least you have other children." Remember that people aren't trying to hurt you; they just don't know what to say.

  • Prepare for how you want to spend significant days, such as your child's birthday or the anniversary of your child's death. You may want to spend the day looking at photos and sharing memories or start a family tradition, such as planting flowers.

  • Because of the intensity and isolation of parental grief, parents may especially benefit from a support group where they can share their experiences with other parents who understand their grief and can offer hope.

Learn more about coping strategies for when you are grieving.

Finding meaning in life

You should expect that you will never really “get over” the death of your child. But you will learn to live with the loss, making it a part of who you are. Your child’s death may make you rethink your priorities and the meaning of life. It may seem impossible, but you can find happiness and purpose in life again.

For some parents, an important step may be creating a legacy for your child. You may choose to honor your child by volunteering at a local hospital or a cancer support organization. Or you may work to support interests your child once had, start a memorial fund, or plant trees in your child's memory. It is important to remember that it is never disloyal to your child to reengage in life and to enjoy new experiences.

Each of your children changes your life. They show you new ways to love, new things to find joy in, and new ways to look at the world. A part of each child's legacy is that the changes he or she brings to your family continue after death. The memories of joyful moments you spent with your child and the love you shared will live on and always be part of you.

Related Resources

Understanding Grief and Loss

Support Groups

Making a Difference

11 Tips for Coping With the Death of Your Adult Child

The death of a child, at any age, may bring on such excruciating pain that it can be challenging to move past it. A parent’s love for their child doesn’t end or diminish once that child reaches adulthood. It is also no consolation for a parent to lose their child as an adult versus losing them at a younger age.

The death of a child is one of life’s ultimate tragedies that’s difficult for most parents to recover from. In a sense, the loss of a child is one that you’ll never get over, and the grief will never entirely go away. The best you can hope for is to learn how to cope with your loss so that you can move forward from your pain.

1. Allow Yourself to Grieve

For many parents, the search for meaning in a child’s death may grip them to the point where it becomes their only priority. It’s only natural to try and find a reason why your child has died. Their death represents a deviation from the natural order of things - the way life’s supposed to happen. A parent is seldom prepared to survive the death of a child. 

Many bereaved parents who’ve suffered this type of loss describe their feelings of grief as shock, disbelief, indescribable pain, suffering, and that of numbness. Not everyone will experience grief in this way, but these are some of the more common ways that grief manifests in parents who’ve lost a child. 

» Did you know? Caskets can be bought online, without the funeral home markup. Find the perfect casket

2. Give Yourself Time

Bereaved parents may mourn the death of their child at any age and often do so for the rest of their lives. The initial waves of pain and suffering may last for several months or even years. Give yourself time to work your way through all of the stages of grief without rushing the process.  

The stages of grief for a parent who’ve lost a child are often more profound than for any other type of loss. You can expect to go through some or all of the following stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger 
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Not everyone goes through these stages, and when they do, they’re not always in linear order. However, this list can provide a framework for what to expect when you’re grieving.

Each of these stages takes weeks or even months to resolve. A parent’s grief will likely be a more profound and harrowing experience than that of any other and may never fully resolve.

3. Find Somewhere to be Alone

Coping with the loss of a child will cause an ebb and flow of painful grief and sorrow for many months after their death. Find a place to be alone with your suffering. Being away from it all will allow you to process what you’re going through in private. 

It helps to be alone with your thoughts in a safe place where no one will interrupt you. Set boundaries and let others know that when you retreat into your space, this is your time to be left alone.

You can create a simple space or a more elaborate one that honors the memory of your child. Consider having items that belonged to your child safely tucked away in this space so that you can reach for them when needed. 

4. Accept Your Grief

What does it mean to accept your grief when you’re already surrounded by it every day? 

It means acknowledging it and making it a part of your healing process instead of avoiding it in hopes that it’ll go away on its own. While sometimes grief does go away on its own, the process may take longer than usual. 

There are many types of grief you can experience. There’s the type that hits you to the very core, and you can’t function beyond a few minutes at a time. And, then there’s the internalized type. You can learn more about the different kinds of grief and how they affect you by reading books on grief geared at helping you work through yours.  

5. Talk to Your Family and Loved Ones

A natural reaction to grief is to withdraw from others and to self-isolate. Being alone in your grief may seem like a noble thing to do as you go through all the emotions associated with your pain and suffering.

But holding in your feelings will not only harm your grieving process but may lead to a more severe form of depression that goes beyond the depression generally associated with grief.

Open up to your family and let them into what you’re feeling. Having open communication with them will help all of you understand what each of you is going through during this painful time. You may not be strong enough to be anyone’s emotional support while you’re trying to cope with your grief, but being open about what you’re going through will help keep you from falling into the rabbit hole of depression and isolation. 

Not ready to start your will?

It's a big step and we get it! Share your email and we'll remind you in a few days.

Thank you for subscribing. Expect an email soon!

6. Share Your Grief

Many people are afraid to let others in on how they’re feeling. The list of reasons is plenty. One of the most common reasons people hold back from sharing their grief is that they think that they’ll be a burden to others or seem crazy and unable to hold it together.

Sharing your grief not only helps you process it but enables you to understand it. The more you open up about what you’re going through, the more you’re able to see specific patterns in your thought processes, your feelings, and your grieving.

7. Be Honest with Yourself

Your feelings of grief and your experiences are unique. Don’t compare your suffering to that of other bereaved parents. Some people are better able to handle these types of losses, or they may be mourning in ways that aren’t apparent to you or others.

Be honest with your feelings and emotions regarding the loss of your child. Don’t feel the need to express your grief in any particular way. Your relationship with your child plays a large role in how their death affects you. In cases where the relationship was strained or estranged, it may be that your grief reaction is not what others expect of you. Be honest with yourself, and allow the grief process to take shape in a way that makes sense for you. 

8.  Be Kind to Yourself

When you experience the death of a child, you may find yourself going through every detail of their death. Your brain can formulate a narrative regarding the circumstances surrounding their death, and you can find yourself exhausting all the possible things you could’ve done and should’ve done to protect your child. 

These feelings of guilt and regret are normal. Try not to be so hard on yourself when assessing your child’s death. The more negative self-talk you build into that narrative, the more difficult it’ll be for you to accept they’ve died and to heal from your grief. Consider practicing being compassionate with yourself to help you through this difficult time.  

9. Take a Step Back

If you have a partner, spouse, or significant other, or are a parent to other surviving children, they may be pulling you in directions that you aren’t emotionally prepared to deal with while you’re grieving. 

Taking care of others in your family may not be one of your immediate priorities at this time. It may even seem an impossibility in the first few days after suffering this type of loss. 

It’s okay to take a step back from your responsibilities while you adjust to your loss. Ask your circle of support to step in and help you with things like managing your household and looking after the children for a few days. The overwhelming grief you’re feeling is understandable. You don’t need to be anyone’s superhero or save anyone’s day.

» MORE: You don't have to pay expensive funeral home prices for a casket! 10 Popular Places You Can Buy Caskets Online

10. Take Things in Stride

Prepare yourself emotionally for the insensitive comments coming from others. Many people tend to say the wrong thing when expressing their feelings of condolences. Most of the time, it’s a lack of knowledge or education in this regard. In Western society, death is still very much a taboo subject, and there’s no formal education to teach people what to say when consoling someone after a loss.

You may hear awkward expressions of condolence that will make you cringe on the inside. To avoid feeling resentment toward others, try and understand that what they’re saying is coming from a place of love, and they don’t mean to cause you further pain. 

11. Seek Counseling

Seeking and obtaining counseling is still seen in parts of our society as there being something “wrong” with you. Some people see it as a sign of weakness and won’t seek counseling or ever admit to ever needing it. Men, in particular, suffer from this way of thinking. Our society has placed a higher level of pressure on men to be the strong ones responsible for holding their families together.  

There’s nothing wrong with getting the help you need. You can now do it from the privacy of your home or office - even your vehicle - by logging in to online therapy or counseling sessions straight from your laptop, notebook, or smartphone. 

Experiencing the Death of an Adult Child

Often the most enduring grief is that of a parent who’s lost a child. The death of a child at any age is devastating. Having an adult child die versus a young one does not change the pain and sorrow you can feel. You’ll survive the death of your child, but this experience will have forever changed you. 

If you're looking for more help with getting through your grief, read our guides on unresolved grief and anticipatory grief.

German experience - Pro Palliative


What is mourning?

Lock time

Janus time

Labyrinth phase

Rainbow phase

Recall the situation when someone close to your friend, acquaintance or colleague died. Who among us has not been confused? How to comfort? The phrase "Hold on!", help in organizing the funeral, money? And then what? Distract? Leave alone?

The grief of losing a loved one is constantly faced by palliative care professionals and ordinary people. To support a relative of a deceased patient, you need to know how to do it correctly. We offer you to get acquainted with the practice of such support, which is used in the German "Long-term Care Center Ludwig-Steil-Hoff". This was told at the Summit of Nurses in Moscow by Katya Petker, a senior nurse, head of one of the Center's hospitals.

In Germany, every clinic has the right to freely choose the concept of mourning, or the concept of bereavement, according to which it will work with relatives, accompany them after the death of a loved one. There are several of these concepts, and there is no “obligation” which one to follow.

After our patient dies - it doesn't matter if he was in our hospital or was at home and we observed him - we do not leave his relatives, we do not leave them alone in trouble, but we try to accompany them. And for the past five years we have been working in accordance with the concept of experiencing loss according to Schmieding (the creator of the model is Ruthmaraika Schmieding, a German teacher: having lost a person close to her, she began to study the processes that happen to people during this period), which describes what a person experiences at every stage of his mourning.

What is mourning?

People cannot stand the pain of others About what can be done for a person who has lost a loved one. Personal experience.

Mourning is an external form of expression of sadness or grief due to the loss of a loved one. This concept is also used when it comes to the death of a public figure, a major statesman, the tragic death of a large number of people. But, of course, we most acutely experience the death of a loved one.

I would like to introduce you to the mourning model for Schmieding. Why is it so important to know her? This knowledge will help both the relatives of the deceased and the staff of the medical institution.

Without knowing anything about the stages of mourning, about how a person reacts to loss and what phases he goes through in his grief, sometimes you might think that he is pretending that his reactions are feigned.

It can be difficult to understand what is happening to him, where he has certain emotional manifestations, and how to help him. And this model just gives an understanding of how a person experiences his loss. This helps to support a suffering relative so that he can get back on his feet and move on in life. The ultimate goal of this model is to help the relative find resources and opportunities that will give him the strength to live on after the loss.

“Hold on”, “I understand you”, “The time has come” – how not to comfort Crisis psychologist, psychologist at the Children’s Hospice “House with a Lighthouse” Larisa Pyzhyanova – about typical phrases of consolation and what is really behind they cost

This model considers not only the emotional side of experiencing the death of a loved one. Mourning affects all areas of life - on the psyche, on spiritual aspects, on consciousness, cognitive functions, on the social side, so we consider a person in the complex of his manifestations.

Looking at mourning in general, there are four phases of pain:

  • “Sluice Time”;
  • Janus Time;
  • Maze Time;
  • Rainbow Time.

The difficulty lies in the fact that mourning, mourning is not a linear process: these phases can be repeated, returned, and many times. You have probably heard about the stages of accepting death according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross? She distinguishes five phases: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These stages are intertwined, can alternate, repeat, which is why it is so difficult to be close to a worried person: today he is calm, peaceful, tomorrow he again rushes about, gets angry, the day after tomorrow he has depression, apathy.

It's the same here: all these stages are shifting, so it can be very difficult to understand a person who is in mourning, in mourning, it is very difficult to support and accompany him.

Lock time

This is the shortest of the four periods, it lasts from the death of a loved one until his funeral. And this is the only phase of the four that does not repeat, so it is very important to take into account the cultural and religious needs of a person at this moment.

Of course, a lot depends on whether the death was sudden, say, as a result of an accident, or expected, after a long illness. Naturally, sudden death is much more difficult, more painful, and the process of mourning is delayed.

In general, this phase can be characterized by the following metaphor: the ship needs to be controlled, and a “lock guard” is needed, who opens the lock so that the ship moves from one basin to another, that is, ensures the transition from one state to another. Otherwise, grief can overflow.

I imagine this situation as follows: a person died, and while he was ill, he was lying in our institution, he was the captain of the ship. This person is gone, which means that now someone else must become the captain of this ship, and this other must lead the ship until the funeral takes place. What does it mean? First of all, he must be a Man with a capital letter: be able to listen, keep silent where necessary, support, come, shake hands, just sit next to him. Such actions alleviate grief, partially relieve its emotional severity.

Of course, the maintainer needs to be attentive and infinitely patient in order to be able to listen to the same stories over and over again. Each of us, I'm sure who went through this phase, noticed that a person who has lost a loved one is able to tell the same story ten times, connected with the deceased, constantly returning to it. In the end, the listener begins to think: “Yes, I don’t want to listen to this for the eleventh time!”.

To be heard for the tenth, eleventh, and one hundred and eleventh time is very important for a person in mourning! Thus, he, as it were, processes his grief, looking for the next step in order to move on in life.

How to help a grieving child How a child perceives death and experiences grief at different ages, why it is important to take children to funerals, and why the phrases "poor thing, you're left alone" or "now you're in charge of the house" are dangerous

This is especially characteristic of the "gateway" period.

At this moment it is necessary to reach out to the mourner: visit him, listen to him, help organize a worthy funeral and commemoration. It is necessary to try to protect the sufferer during this period from some stumbling blocks, additional experiences that exacerbate suffering. A person experiencing a loss often experiences a feeling of guilt, a feeling that he didn’t do something, didn’t finish something: “If I were there then ...”, “If we organized the funeral like this ...”, - such experiences place an additional burden on the shoulders of a person in mourning, and he carries this burden further. Therefore, it is very important that everything that can be done is done to remove this burden from the shoulders of a person: you need to talk to him, support him, listen, help with the funeral, help in solving emerging problems. It is important that at this time of grief, other individual paths open up before the person so that the person takes the next step.

Janus time

The second phase of mourning is Janus time . Why Janus? This is the two-faced god of time in ancient Greek mythology: one face is young, the other is the face of an old man. A person in this phase also has “two faces”: one is the one that he shows to others, to society, the second he hides, hiding what is really happening to him (for example, he comes home and cries into the pillow for a long time, or he fancies , as if he hears the voice of the deceased, but he is afraid to tell someone about it, so that he would not be considered crazy).

Photo: Sydney Sims / Unsplash

And in this phase, a lot depends on whether the person died suddenly, or his death was expected. If this happened suddenly, then, if possible, it is not necessary to talk about the deceased with a relative, during this period such conversations will be an additional burden, stress, and heaviness for him. The time will come, and the mourner himself will ripen for such conversations. As long as he himself does not talk about the deceased, do not provoke him to such conversations. You just need to be there, to accompany, to listen, but not to speak. And if death was expected, here, on the contrary, it is very important to talk with relatives in this phase: discuss the funeral, talk about how the deceased lived, about everything connected with him. Each such conversation brings relief, strengthens a person and gives him the resources to take the next step, to find, as I always say, solid ground under his feet and move on in life.

Society's attitude towards death. From the book “In the middle of life” Why, despite the inevitability of death, we try not to talk about it, and how this “conspiracy of silence” affects children who have lost loved ones

Here is the funeral behind: what happens next with people who experience the death of a loved one ? In the process of mourning, they begin to pay attention to dates, correlate certain days with events that took place near the deceased: they follow the calendar, remember when this person was born, at what time he got to the hospital, etc. That is, they seem to relive everything that happened again.

Bereavement often has sleep disturbances—we all know that. This is a time of tears and doubts. The man has already spent a lot of energy on the funeral, and he understands that he has a hard way ahead. He loses his appetite, he does not sleep, he may have a feeling that he is going crazy.

In 2005 my mother died. At that time, there was no such program for accompanying relatives. And after her death, after the funeral, one day I came home from work, crossed the threshold of the house and heard my mother say to me in German: “Katya, is that you?”. I answered: “Yes”, but I knew that my mother was no more.

I got scared then, I thought: “Well, that's it, I'm going crazy.” But when I began to discuss this episode with my colleagues, it turned out that this is quite a normal phenomenon during a period when a person is in this phase of mourning: changes occur in his body, there is a feeling that time has stopped. These are all normal reactions of a grieving person. A loved one is no more, but for those who mourn, he is there. Many feel the familiar smell of the departed, hear his voice, feel his touch.

Often people continue to observe all the usual family rituals, as before, when a loved one was alive - they set the table, cook food for the same number of family members as before. They, as if by inertia, still live with a deceased loved one. All these actions are reflected in the change of phases of mourning, this is part of the process, and in any case a person must be supported. Grieving people are often afraid to tell someone about what they are experiencing, but it is very important for them to speak out! Therefore, we create groups of mourning, mourning: once a month or every few months we invite relatives who have lost their loved ones to a meeting so that they can talk and get support. And if it is clear that a person has a need for psychiatric help - he has depression, suicidal thoughts - we offer help to such a relative.

Phase of the labyrinth

If guilt tears the heart apart In all the languages ​​of the universe, so different, we are connected by one dialect - the one that sounds in our hearts as the voice of pain. When we lose loved ones...

This is the very core of mourning, when there is a "processing" of grief. In principle, this stage can be represented as follows: mourning is a backpack, it is a burden on the shoulders. And with this burden, a person enters the labyrinth, steps forward along it, stumbles, wanders, returns back to the old place. He is looking for a way out, trying to get out of this phase! In the end, there is a way out, and we all know it. A person will come out of this labyrinth - and the backpack will be with him, yes, but - it is no longer as heavy as at the beginning. The one experiencing the loss has already understood, accepted that the deceased is not next to him, he understood that his life goes on, and the departed remains in his heart. By the end of this period, a person is fully aware of the reality of the loss and, with the awareness of this loss, moves on in life.

To talk or not to talk to him during this period? Here everything is individual. Regardless of the phase, if a person accepts your help, is open to conversations, you need to support them - remember the deceased, be there. But if the mourner declines your help, you need to step aside and just watch. And be ready to help, listen when needed.

Rainbow phase

The last step is rainbow phase . Having survived, processed grief, a person moves on in life and again finds the opportunity to rejoice. This is the end of the time of sorrow, life goes on as usual, but no one is forgotten. The deceased becomes part of the new life.

But even at this stage it is possible to return back to the previous phase. Those who accompanied the mourners know that today they can laugh, and tomorrow they can cry inconsolably. All such manifestations must be reacted calmly - laugh with those who laugh, cry with those who cry. But if you notice mental abnormalities, you need to offer the help of a psychiatrist.

These fluctuations in a person's soul are normal. Gradually, he comes to the realization that, even while grieving, you can move on and enjoy life.

Grief at work How to help yourself when you have to go through acute grief and at the same time continue to work, fulfill your social functions

Grief is special for the elderly. How to help your elderly parents cope with losses and worries.

Learn to grieve and live with death. Katerina Pechurichko is looking for a place in the public space for the theme of death, and this may be important for everyone.

"I'm like a leper." What support groups give widows. Psychologist Elena Kartavenko tells why communication in a circle of people who have a similar experience of loss can help to live on.

Test. Can you comfort someone in grief? Someone else's grief disarms, frightens, makes one move away. How to support a person and not make him even more painful?

The material was prepared using a grant from the President of the Russian Federation provided by the Presidential Grants Fund.

The person died. What to do and how to survive? — Pro Palliative


If the sad news is received ...

The first days after the loss of a loved one: Life in the new conditions

Troubles and emotions



Healing tears

Do not look for the death of

in the death of close guilt We offer you to get acquainted with an excerpt from the book "A man died. What to do and how to survive?" Publishing house "Nicaea". The author-compiler is a crisis psychologist Mikhail Khasminsky.

Let's talk about what is usually nowhere to learn: how to deal with acute grief when your loved one died; what happens at this moment with the psyche, with human physiology, what emotions and why he experiences; what practical steps to take in the early days of "extreme grief" and how to help yourself during this difficult period.

Written by psychologists, this book contains advice for Orthodox believers, but is also suitable for a wider audience.

If sad news is received…

The death of a loved one is an extraordinary event affecting many aspects of a person's life. There is such a thing as “extreme grief”. This is the state in which a grieving person is the first time after the loss. Usually the period of extreme, or acute, grief lasts until the third or ninth day, sometimes a little longer. Shocked by what happened, we do not know what to do, how to react, what to pay attention to. How do you stop grief from engulfing you? First of all, it is important to recognize that you need support. Try not to be alone with yourself and not withdraw into yourself. Share your feelings with those you trust. Usually people experiencing grief do not realize that they need help, they overestimate their physical and psychological state, believing that they can handle everything on their own. But such an overestimation of one's capabilities is actually the result of an extremely stressful situation that distorts the real perception of reality.

You need help from your loved ones!

Death of a loved one Brochure with recommendations on what to do and where to go in case of death of a person in Moscow

Some recommendations for those whose loved one has died contact as soon as possible with a person close to you (friend, acquaintance, relative), tell him about the grief that has befallen you, ask him to come support you and, if necessary, help in organizing the funeral. Look for people who have the qualities of character that are necessary at the moment (decisiveness, activity, organizational skills). Well, if someone will control your physical condition.

  • Notify other relatives about the incident - relatives, acquaintances, friends . When talking with them on the phone, keep a pen and paper ready to write down the day and time when someone will arrive, who will bring what, etc. This will be needed later for better coordination in preparing the funeral and solving other organizational issues. Very often, a grieving person cannot remember even extremely necessary information, so it is better to write everything down.
  • If your family has small children , you need to immediately think about who will look after and feed them in the coming days, where they will be and how to tell them the tragic news. Take care of their psychological state by asking for help from friends.
  • Take part in whatever way possible in organizing the funeral . These worries will keep you active, preventing you from sinking into grief. Take on a feasible task in accordance with your current psychological and physical condition. Of course, if you are the closest person to the deceased, then the decision of the main organizational issues will most likely fall on you. If others are doing this, you can read the Psalter for the deceased, go to church. If you are unable to pray, entrust it to someone you know, preferably a believer.
  • Cry, do not hold back your feelings (the exception is the presence of people who may be traumatized by this: small children, seriously ill people, etc.). Do not listen to those who urge you not to cry, "to be courageous", "to hold on." Remember that feelings not shown in time can lead to big problems.
  • Five stages of accepting the inevitable: it doesn't work for me What are the challenges of coping with grief? Does talking help? How to live after the death of a loved one? Telling the personal story of a woman who lost her husband

    The first days after the loss of a loved one

    Life in new conditions

    Funerals and commemorations have passed... Relatives and friends who supported and helped all this time are gradually returning to normal life, to their own affairs. Attention and care for you on their part is becoming less and less. And you still grieve, and it seems that it will never end.

    How to live on? How to adapt to a new situation? If you have already begun to ask yourself these questions, then you understand that you need to change something in your attitude to life. This does not mean that you should forget the deceased, pretend that nothing happened. On the contrary, grief must be lived through, but with the least bodily and emotional disturbances. What is needed for this?

    First of all, try to realize at what moments of your life you became most vulnerable — whether it is in everyday life, emotional, perhaps professional. When you understand where the "biggest gap" is, it will be easier to close it. And, just as a small child gradually learns to walk, begin to cope with new tasks on your own.

    For example, a man who has lost his wife, who did all the housework, can learn to manage the house himself, or he can turn to special services to maintain the comfort of the house at the usual level. Someone will have to learn how to cook, someone will have to make decisions. This is especially difficult if earlier almost everything was decided for you, so do not hesitate to consult with authoritative people, turn to specialists.

    And another important point: for the first time after the death of a loved one try to postpone the solution of global issues (buying / selling real estate, moving, etc.) for some time.

    I felt good, I felt bad About “survivor's guilt” and the fear of losing pain. Writer and screenwriter Anna Kozlova talks about the experience of her husband's death and about what saved her and continues to save her.

    Resentments and emotions

    Things are more complicated with emotions:

    Do not listen to those who advise you to “be strong, hold on, take courage…” . Do not accumulate tears! If you feel like crying, cry; if you feel sad, be sad. Tears are a normal physiological reaction to pain, in this case, to mental pain. It's a kind of emotional release. After crying, a person may feel exhausted, overwhelmed and devastated, but it becomes easier for him. Know that you have the right to express your feelings and you don't have to make excuses for them. Be sure to explain to young children that your emotions are not caused by their behavior, but by grief for the deceased. If you hold back tears, the child may try to copy your behavior without understanding its reasons, and subsequently will hold back any of his emotions. Just like yourself, let the child cry for the dead if he wants to. Comfort him, talk to him, help him live his feelings.

    Consider who you can talk to about a loved one who has left you . If there is no such person in your environment, use the modern possibilities of psychological support - for example, the Memoriam website, helplines, psychological assistance services. The main thing is to speak. About loss, about loneliness, about feelings, about fears... Do not be shy to appear weak, grief turns everyone into little helpless children for a while. Talk about the dead with God.

    "I'm like a leper." What support groups give widows Psychologist Elena Kartavenko explains why communication with people who have a similar experience of loss can help to move on

    Do not try to talk to the deceased . Physically, he is no longer there. Do not turn to the occult, do not listen to those who are trying to tell you about superstitions, signs and so on.

    Keeping a diary helps soften acute emotions . Write about your thoughts, feelings, about the pain of loss. Make it a rule to re-read what you have written after a while, and then try to analyze what has changed over this period of time. What feelings have become stronger? Which ones are gone? What have you learned? Such introspection will reveal your weaknesses and strengths. In the future, rely on what you are strong in, look for sources of support where you are not confident in yourself.

    Another way to relieve pain is to write a letter to the deceased . Even if death was not sudden, there is always a lot of unspoken, unspoken. Write. You need it, not him. If you haven't said something important, you have the opportunity to do it now. Don't be afraid to look funny because there is nowhere to send the letter, you can just burn it. It is important that the letter will help to get rid of the burden of inconsistencies that you are carrying.

    Support for loved ones after the death of a relative: the German experience When should you talk to a survivor of the death of a loved one, and when should you leave him alone? Why can a grieving person be thrown from laughter to tears? How else can grief manifest itself?

    If you don't like to write, but emotions and memories overwhelm you, try this method. Place two jars side by side. Prepare a number of small multi-colored balls and small pieces of paper. When you remember the deceased kind and good - drop one ball into the jar. This will be your memory bank. If you remember some bleak incident, resentment, quarrel - write on a piece of paper what you remembered, literally one or two words, roll the sheet into a ball and put it in another jar. It will be a bank of your grievances. How long you will do this is up to you. When you realize that most of the warm and good memories are already "lying" in the memory bank, close it and put it where you see fit. Now all the bright memories are before your eyes. See how many there are. When new grievances no longer pop up in your memory, choose a day (perhaps it will be some date associated with the deceased) and burn paper balls - your grievances.

    Be natural in grief . Do not allow others to impose any behavior patterns. At the same time, do not refuse the help of loved ones if you need it. Trust your family and listen to yourself at the same time.

    Be patient . No one can tell how long you will experience the pain of loss. Grief is like a surf - it will recede, then it will surge with renewed vigor. Holidays and family dates are especially difficult. For many years, pain can appear on the birthday of the deceased, on the anniversary of death, on New Year's Day or Christmas. Don't hide from your feelings. Unleash your memories, order a memorial service in the temple, pray at home, visit the cemetery.


    One of the strongest feelings that can accompany loss is fear. Night or day, alone or in a crowd, fear comes unexpectedly and literally paralyzes you. What to do in such a situation?

    It is important to understand that this is not the fear of an adult in a real dangerous situation, but rather a "childish" reaction to the unknown surrounding you after the death of a loved one. To regain your "adult" state, to stay "here and now", try the following.

    When you feel fear, first look around. After all, there is no immediate threat to your life and health? Do this: select five colors that surround you. What color is the ceiling? Floor? Armchair? Curtains? Your clothes? Look at any objects, but you should not just recognize the color by smearing it with your eyes, but identify it, perhaps name it out loud.

    Look at what surrounds you. Pay attention to the colors, perhaps call them out loud. Photo: Oskars Sylwan / Unsplash

    Next, select five sounds: a clock, a bird, a car outside the window, a TV set, anything, but there should also be five sounds. In the silence of the night, it can be the sound of your breathing, the beating of your heart, the rustling of a blanket, the wind in the foliage outside the window, the sound of water in the pipes ... Listen carefully, each sound also needs to be distinguished and named.

    Then listen to the sensation of your own body. Are your hands warm or cold, dry or wet with sweat? Legs are the same. Nape and neck area. Back. The abdomen and groin. Feel all these parts of the body. Carefully, slowly. Then look around again.

    For visually and hearing impaired people, color or sound discrimination can be replaced by the tactile sensations of objects. Touch what is near you. Identify five different sensations - wool carpet, cool wood furniture, soft upholstery of a chair, paper wallpaper ... Try to distinguish the subtle smells emitted by these objects. Usually this exercise returns a sense of reality with irrational fears.

    The biochemistry of stress: hormones are to blame What happens to the body when we are nervous and how to deal with it


    Now a little about the physiological aspects of grief. Today everyone knows about the connection between the emotional and the somatic (bodily). Deep experience can cause diseases of the body. Grief manifests itself in the appearance of a person. Grieving muscularly clamped, tense, unable to relax. Such tension can cause sleep disturbance, which, in turn, leads to respiratory disorders, pressure surges, and heart disease. Muscle clamps are best relieved by massage - and this is not a whim, this is a necessity! If you have previously had experience in body relaxation, then you can return to it now, if not, it is better not to start without the help of a specialist. Don't ignore your body's needs.

    Try to follow your normal daily routine . Do not forget about food, but do not rush to the other extreme - do not "jam" grief. If the “urge to eat something” is uncontrollable, try to understand: are you really hungry or just need to be comforted in this way? If you lack emotional support, seek it from loved ones, friends, or professionals.

    Another vital need to be satisfied is sleep . If you can't fix it on your own, see your doctor for medical support.

    The pace of your life is also a very important aspect. It is possible that during the period of grief you will not be able to perform all the functions that you easily coped with before. Allow yourself to reduce stress , remember that stress has a negative impact on all areas of life. Get more rest. Evaluate what kind of rest is better - active or passive. Don't be afraid to show weakness and don't feel guilty about it. You will return to your usual rhythm when you can, but for now, just take care of yourself.

    Time passes, emotions that prevented breathing weaken, are replaced by others. You will always miss a dead person, just a sharp pain will be replaced by sadness and sad memories, and then they will become bright. So, the most difficult period is over. Grieving does not mean forgetting. It means learning to live fully after the loss of a loved one.

    From the memoriam.ru forum:

    I went through most of my son's things before 40 days. I put his school uniform, some shoes, a new, never worn down jacket in a huge box. She asked her friend to look for who needs things for the boy. The mother of one of her friends found a large family, and everything was handed over to her. I was later told that when the family received the things and the boy tried them on, the parents cried with happiness, because they themselves would never have bought such good things. I asked the boy's name. It turned out Misha, like my son. Here is such a miracle. I immediately felt remarkably calm. For a while, of course. And I couldn’t part with the most expensive and memorable things and I don’t want to. I take care of them.


    People can't stand the pain of others About what can be done for a person who has lost a loved one. Personal experience.

    Healing tears

    Nothing in the world exists just like that. And it is no coincidence that we are endowed with the ability to cry from birth. For example, for an infant, crying is the only way to get attention. As children grow older, especially boys, they already begin to be ashamed of tears and cry less and less. But still, in the life of each of us there are moments when even the most persistent men can hardly hold back tears.

    Emotional tears are the body's reaction to moments of life that are extremely difficult for the psyche: grief, resentment, disappointment, annoyance, pity, as well as joy, tenderness, tenderness, and even a manifestation of love. True, tears of happiness are very rare, mostly a person cries when he is very ill. No wonder such tears are popularly called bitter. They help our psyche to cope with a difficult situation.

    We can say that emotional tears “wash away” stress. Crying is inherently the most effective means of expressing human emotions.

    Some people find it very difficult to bear the sight of other people's tears. The call "Don't cry!" for them - the only way out of a traumatic situation, when they are not able to calm them down with anything else. After all, not everyone is capable of compassion. Many are simply lost, seeing the weeping and sobbing of the grieving, and do not know how to act and what to do.

    Learn to grieve and live with death Is there a place in the public space for the topic of death, and why it may be important for everyone

    Most often, they hope that in time the suffering person will cope with his grief on his own and he does not need help in this matter. It's a delusion. Previously, people did not fence themselves off from crying. The dead were mourned by the whole village, and these traditions were based on many years of folk wisdom. It was considered perfectly normal to pour out your pain with bitter tears. Then it would never have occurred to anyone to say to the mourner: “Don’t cry!” And now you hear it very often. The main reason for such attempts at “consolation” lies in the fact that there is a pattern in our minds: if a person cries, it means that he is in pain. I stopped shedding tears - the sadness was gone. But it's not.

    And it happens that people themselves forbid themselves to cry. It seems to them that, giving vent to emotions, they will only make things worse for themselves and those close to them. To cry for such strong-willed people means to “fall apart”, and they cannot afford it. As a result, unshed tears do not disappear anywhere, but are driven into the depths of the soul, where they accumulate and accumulate. It is difficult to imagine what unexpected consequences this will turn out to be, but it is clear that the body of the grieving person in such cases experiences great overload, and an emotional breakdown can happen at any moment. The conflict between the need to express one's feelings and the fear of expressing them leads to neurosis and depression.

    Suppression of tears can also affect physical health. The fact is that when emotions are blocked, muscle tension occurs, as a result of which the work of the whole organism is disrupted. Any emotion is energy, and, according to the law of conservation of energy, it does not disappear anywhere, even if we try our best to suppress it in ourselves. Therefore, the best way to get rid of negativity and pain is to let them out.

    Don't hold back your tears. Tears can be healing. Photo: Christian Newman / Unsplash

    Grieving at work How to help yourself when you have to go through acute grief and at the same time continue to work, fulfill your social functions

    You can allow yourself to grieve at work. The only question is whether colleagues will be able to be tactful and attentive, whether they will give a person as much time as he needs to recover from the tragedy. Unfortunately, many are only enough for a few words of sympathy, and then someone else's grief begins to oppress them. What can be advised here? While you are genuinely empathized, share your pain. But even if there is no support around, you can hide the tears, but you don’t need to hold them back. There is always an option - to retire and cry. At the same time, do not be offended by those who do not sympathize with your grief, treat this with understanding and patience.

    It also happens like this: a person would be happy to cry, but there are simply no tears. To relieve muscle tension resulting from suppression of feelings, there are various techniques and breathing exercises. But this problem is best solved with the help of a specialist psychologist.

    On your own, you can help yourself with moderate physical activity, for example, muscle stretching exercises, swimming. Also in these situations, any creativity helps a lot.

    We all know that women cry more than men. This is partly due to social stereotypes. In our society, crying is interpreted as a manifestation of weakness, helplessness, infantilism. From childhood, boys are taught that it is shameful to shed tears: “Be courageous, boys do not roar.” Parents in this respect can be understood - they pursue an educational goal. But still, it is necessary to distinguish between the moments when it is appropriate to say: “Don’t cry,” and when it is necessary to accept the tears of a child and teach him to express his emotions correctly. By the way, the fact that the representatives of the stronger sex live less than women is largely due to their emotional restraint.

    Men don't cry Why it is difficult for grieving men to express their feelings and what to do about it

    Yes, men by nature have such a feature of protective behavior as high control over the manifestation of any emotions, both positive and negative. But despite this, a man also needs help when grief befalls him. Advise him not to be ashamed of his tears and to cry when he feels like it. Because it's so natural! If the grieving person is numb and cannot express his pain, you need to help him burst into tears. However, it is worth remembering that only cleansing tears are beneficial and healing for us, after which we feel relief. When a person, like a whirlpool, is sucked in by grief and despondency, tears from healing become harmful.

    Anyone who experiences the death of a loved one experiences longing, cowardice, and even grumbling. This is a normal reaction of our psyche to grief. Danger arises when sadness is replaced by despair - the loss of hope. If a person falls into despair, then tears from a cleansing medicine for the soul turn into a nutrient substrate, on which diseases of the soul begin to parasitize, making life unbearable. Tears in this case can become a way of life, which, of course, is not necessary for either the deceased or the one who cries about him. No matter how unbearable grief is, do not drive yourself into despondency and sadness. Remember that the cause of despair lies in the person himself - in how he perceives what is happening to him, from where he draws strength to overcome the difficult path and whether he draws them at all.

    From the memoriam.ru forum:

    My husband died on New Year's Eve. Around the pre-holiday fuss, people are getting ready - they are buying food and gifts, but I am alone with my grief. Those who sympathized quickly plunged into their lives. The "vacuum" has come.

    I read that you have to let yourself cry, shout out. And grief really rushed out of me. Every evening on the way home from work, I checked to see if the neighbors' lights were on, to see if I could let myself go in my room today or sit in the bathroom and howl with the water turned on. But in any case, as soon as she crossed the threshold, she sat down on a bench in the hallway and began to howl and yell, barely closing the door behind her. After that, it became a little easier to breathe.

    On holidays and weekends, she retired to the village and howled: “Where are you, my beloved?! I am dying without you! I can not live without you!" It just worked out that way. The cat started yelling at me too. And the stray dog ​​that lived on our street, which my husband loved and fed, also howled. And around the holiday and fireworks. And no one, probably, suspected what was happening in a single house, where the lights were on and it was as if they were celebrating the New Year. Some of the acquaintances, not knowing about what had happened, sent congratulatory sms. And I was alone with God and there were only animals who sympathized with me.

    And then one day instead of the phrase “Where are you, my love?!” I suddenly, in a frenzy, automatically began to shout: “You are strong, you can stand it !!!” And so several times. As if someone put this phrase in my mouth. And then, yelling, I realized that I could survive it. And she began to feel like a lonely warrior whose goal is to win. Against all odds.


    If the feeling of guilt tears the heart apart In all the languages ​​of the universe, so dissimilar, we are connected by one dialect - the one that sounds in our hearts as the voice of pain. When we lose loved ones...

    Do not look for your guilt in the death of a loved one

    One of the strongest feelings that can overwhelm a person after the death of a loved one is guilt. Many people feel remorse because they could not prevent death or were unfair to the deceased during his lifetime. It seems to them that if they turn back time, they would behave in a completely different way. Usually this is expressed in endless questions to oneself: “What if I had come to him earlier?”, “And if he had not flown on this plane?”, “If we had not quarreled, she would have stayed at home that day ... ".

    This reaction to loss is quite natural. In the soul of a person, acceptance of what happened struggles with denial, which is why he comes up with endless options for the development of events that would not lead to a tragic outcome.

    It is common for people to look for explanations for every event. But if we talk about death, then it is very difficult to predict it.

    Sometimes people experience a feeling of guilt towards the deceased, although there is no guilt. For example, a husband, at the request of his wife, decided to replace a burnt out light bulb - and he was electrocuted. The wife feels guilty. But she couldn't have foreseen that a misfortune would happen! If a person thinks that everything depends only on his foresight, he takes on too much. This is not conscience, but pride, a sin that must be got rid of. People with adequate self-esteem understand that not everything in life obeys them.

    However, the bereaved often perceives the situation inadequately and exaggerates the degree of his involvement in death. This is similar to the so-called "magical" thinking, which is very developed in children, and in adults it manifests itself in critical situations. Sometimes those experiencing the death of a loved one may believe that their bad attitude towards him (nitpicking, discontent, rudeness, etc.) provoked his illness and subsequent death. And if they still happen to hear from someone a reproach like “it was you who drove him to the grave,” then the severity of guilt increases.

    Or a wife sometimes regretted in her heart that she had connected her life with her husband, and thought: “If only he disappeared somewhere!” And if suddenly the husband dies unexpectedly, the wife may think that it was her thoughts and desires that “materialized” and the fault in what happened lies on her conscience.

    We all say bad words to each other, do bad things, make mistakes. But some try to correct them and understand that they are not omnipotent, while others think that everything that happens around them is caused solely by their behavior. These people suffer the most from guilt and do not understand that this is just the other side of their self-destructive egocentrism.

    Test. Do you know how to console a person in grief? Sometimes, out of ignorance, our consolation can hurt very painfully. This is not taught in school, rarely taught in the family. We invite you to take a quiz that describes common situations where support is needed. The test is based on articles about grief and consolation published on our portal. Check how ready you are to turn your shoulder. Perhaps you will understand how to do it better, or you will recognize your mistakes.

    Guilt can take many different forms. So, psychologists talk about the guilt of the survivor - the feeling that we should have been in the place of the deceased or do not have the right to life, since he is no longer with us. Many feel guilt associated with a sense of relief that a loved one has died, for example, if the departed was ill for a long time or suffered before death. However, in this case, a feeling of relief is a completely expected reaction.

    There is also the so-called guilt of joy, which occurs long after the loss. It is connected with the fact that after the death of a loved one, happiness reappears in the life of his loved ones. For example, a widow who met and fell in love with another man may experience such guilt. In this case, it should be remembered that joy itself is a healthy experience, a sign that we are living a fulfilling life.

    Journalist Anna Danilova talks about the loss of her husband, a new family, and an open door The very fact that another person has an experience of loss already makes you feel better - at least you understand that this did not happen to you alone. Because at first it seemed that the sky fell on your head alone

    It is believed that the degree of our love for the deceased is measured by the strength of our grief. Therefore, some people are seriously worried that the image of a dear person is gradually being erased from their memory. It seems to them that this indicates their indifference - and this, in turn, causes a feeling of guilt. But the degree of love and the strength of sorrow are not identical things at all.

    The idealization of the deceased can also contribute to the increase and preservation of guilt: when one's own shortcomings seem terrible, and the bad traits of a loved one are ignored. The feeling of one's filth against the background of the "immaculate" image of the departed only exacerbates suffering. Often, those who mourn are looking for confirmation of their guilt in all kinds of signs, signs, and even in dreams. It seems that everything around reproaches us, reminds us of our guilt before the deceased. But try to analyze these signs as objectively as possible, and you will find an amazing pattern: the more attention we pay to them, the more they appear in our lives. Moreover, most often these are not some unusual things, but the most ordinary phenomena, to which for some reason we attach a new meaning. A person can see an ordinary dream (for example, how he talks with the dead), but he will give it a special meaning. Don't believe in omens! In a state of grief, a person easily succumbs to temptations. Remember this and try to keep a sober mind.

    If guilt persists for a long time, the help of a mental health professional may be needed.

    From the memoriam.ru forum:

    I lost my mother quite recently. I always insisted on taking my parents to the dacha by car, but on that day for some reason I did not insist. Mom said that in such beautiful autumn weather it would be a sin not to take a walk from the train, and I gave up. I thought, let the parents take a walk, get some air in the forest. On the way to the dacha, my mother was hit by a car.

    Of course, I blamed myself for not insisting, letting go of some, and then I read that blaming yourself after the death of a loved one is normal, almost everyone does this, while almost no one has real guilt.

    In general, many things that seem very personal and completely unbearable in the face of loss (guilt, pain, anger, resentment, unwillingness to live on, indifference to oneself) are common to everyone or almost to everyone. And when you understand this, and at the same time you understand that all those who live nearby - they, most likely, have already faced grief at least once, and have gone through it, and live on - it becomes easier.


    However, one should not write down any persistent feeling of guilt towards the deceased in the category of pathology. The fact is that guilt can be different: existential and neurotic. Neurotic guilt is imposed from the outside and then transferred by the person to the internal plane - we have given examples of such guilt above. Existential guilt is caused by real mistakes, when a person really did something “wrong” or, on the contrary, did not do something important for the deceased. Such guilt is absolutely normal and speaks of the moral maturity of a person. It is necessary to distinguish a fruitless feeling of guilt from the voice of conscience.

    A healthy sense of guilt signals that we have violated our moral code, committed a misdemeanor, and now we must correct the situation. The latter is very important: if you do not go beyond the recognition of your “guilt”, you can get stuck at the stage of self-accusation, then a healthy feeling will turn into an evil, destructive force. The feeling of guilt must be transformed into creative activity.

    The worst thing is when a person "gets stuck" in a state of self-flagellation, considering it a Christian virtue. In fact, there is no virtue here. The healthy self-reproach of a Christian differs from self-digging in that the first causes a desire to work on oneself, while the second plunges one into despondency and hopelessness.

    The main difference between a normal sense of guilt and a pathological state lies in moving forward. Having acknowledged his responsibility for what happened, a person should sincerely repent. If you want to atone for the deceased, change your life. Try to live at least a little as the gospel teaches. And the strongest support for the soul of the deceased is prayer. And, again, there is no point in constant self-reproach. We should try to regain the lost joy of life, and not fence ourselves off from it. Instead of tormenting yourself with accusations, it is better to honor the memory of a loved one in your heart and, having accepted what happened, live on.

    Metropolitan Anthony of Surozh:

    Some time ago a man of more than eighty years old came to me. He sought advice, because he could no longer endure the torment in which he had lived for sixty years. During the Civil War in Russia, he killed his girlfriend. They loved each other passionately and were about to get married, but during a shootout, she suddenly leaned out, and he accidentally shot her. And for sixty years he could not find peace. He not only cut off a life that was infinitely dear to him, he cut off a life that flourished and was infinitely dear to the girl he loved.

    He told me that he prayed, asked for forgiveness from the Lord, went to confession, repented, received a prayer of permissiveness and took communion — he did everything that his heart told him and those to whom he addressed, but he never found peace.

    Overwhelmed with ardent compassion and sympathy, I said to him: “You turned to Christ, whom you did not kill, to priests whom you did not harm. Why didn't you ever think to reach out to the girl you killed?" He was amazed: “Does not God give forgiveness? After all, only He alone can forgive the sins of people on earth.” Of course it is. But I told him that if the girl he killed forgives him, if she intercedes for him, then even God cannot pass by her forgiveness. There is a place in the Book of the Prophet Daniel, which says that Daniel offered up a prayer and God answered him that his prayer was in vain, because the old woman, offended by him, prays against him and her prayer nails to the ground, like a strong wind - smoke, his prayer without letting her go up.

    Learn more