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Saying goodbye

A funeral ceremony gives family and friends the chance to say goodbye to the person who died and offer each other support and comfort. They’re an opportunity to cry and express sorrow and a way to celebrate the life of someone close. 

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Should I see the body?

For some people, viewing the body of a loved one is an important part of coming to terms with their death. You may want to discuss it with a trusted adult or even the funeral director beforehand. However, if you feel uncomfortable about it, say so. Perhaps you could choose your own way to say goodbye instead.

Should I go to the funeral?

The thought of going to the funeral can be scary, especially if you’ve never been to one before. Only you can decide whether you’d like to be there, and how involved you’d like to be. If you’re unsure about whether to go, talk to a friend, family member or even the funeral director, who may be able to give you some helpful advice.

Prepare yourself

If you’ve never been to a funeral before it can help if you know what to expect:

  • Ask someone what’s likely to happen on the day.
  • You may find it helpful to have a companion ‒ perhaps someone older ‒ to support you. That way if you feel overwhelmed and decide you want to leave, you don’t have to be on your own (unless you want to be).
  • If you’re worried that it will be sad, remember there is likely to be laughter as well as tears. People will want to remember the good times they spent with the person who has died.

Keeping memories alive

You may want to do something to celebrate the memory of the person who died and keep it alive. This can include:

  • writing – keeping a journal, a diary or a memory book can help you get in touch with your feelings
  • looking through photos or watching videos of the person
  • making a photo scrapbook or playlist of songs they liked
  • contributing to an online memorial page
  • marking birthdays or other special days with a get-together

Next steps

In the days, weeks and months after their death you’ll probably spend a lot of time thinking about the person who died. You might think about how they contributed to your life, what they meant to you and how you feel about them now. You might also think about if and how you’ve changed as a person as a result of their death.

You may find yourself questioning what life is all about and looking for deeper meaning in what’s happened. If you’re religious, death can make you question your faith, but sometimes it can strengthen it.

Grief often comes in fits and starts. You’re likely to have good days when things seem a bit better and days when you feel awful. These can come out of the blue and make you wonder if you’ll ever recover from your loss. Birthdays, Christmas and other occasions that remind you of the person who died can be especially hard. If this happens, try to talk to someone about how you’re feeling.

Bear in mind that grief is a process. It doesn’t suddenly stop, and you’ll never forget the person. But, as time goes by you should find that you start to accept what’s happened and find new meaning and purpose in life.

When bad feelings don’t go away

Sometimes feelings of grief don’t get any easier and you continue to feel as sad or even sadder as time goes by. Experts call this complicated grief. You may feel like you:

  • can’t accept that the person has died
  • find it hard to trust others since the person died
  • feel bitter about the person’s death
  • don’t feel right about new developments in life
  • feel cut off from people you used to be close to
  • feel life has no meaning
  • feel you will never be happy or fulfilled ever again
  • can’t settle to anything

If, after six months, you often experience four or more of these feelings, don’t keep it to yourself. Speak to an adult you trust – perhaps your GP or other health professional, or a teacher. You can also call a free and confidential helpline such ChildLine  , the Samaritans   or Papyrus  , to talk about anything that’s troubling you.

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