Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings or find that their mood changes quickly and often. These are natural reactions to the experience of loss and may take some months to settle. Explaining how you are feeling can help family and friends be more understanding of your behaviour at this time.

Learn about the emotions that you may feel during the grieving process:

Also, you can find out about some tips for coping with your emotions.


When someone dies, you may feel nothing at first. This may be because you can’t believe it’s true. It may feel like the person who died will suddenly walk through the door again.

This numbness can be helpful during the first days and weeks after a loss, when you may be making practical arrangements, such as planning and attending the funeral. Don’t feel you have to push yourself past this.

The sense of numbness will start to fade in a few days or weeks, although it may return from time to time. The reality of your loss will become clearer as time passes.


Sometimes you might feel like you will never stop crying. You may long to see the person so much you don’t know what to do with yourself and find that the tears are simply beyond your control, sometimes coming when you least expect them.

This could mean you avoid going out because you can’t predict or control the crying. You might also feel unable to cry, even though you are terribly sad. Both reactions are common.

Often the sadness is ongoing, and it can be hard to work out if this is simply the natural course of your grief, or a sign of more complex grief or depression.


Many people feel very angry when they are grieving. You may feel angry with your god, the person who has died, the fact of death, yourself, those involved in caring for the person who died, even the person behind you in the supermarket queue, or for no reason at all.

Anger that comes and goes is a natural part of grief. Some people find it helpful to express their anger in a safe environment, such as with a trusted friend or counsellor. Others find that physical activities such as gardening or exercise provide an outlet for their anger.


You may feel relief that the person has died, especially if they have been unwell for a long time.

Sometimes it’s a relief that it has happened at last, that the death you have been worrying about for months is finally a reality you can deal with. You may also feel glad that their suffering is over.

If your relationship with the person was challenging or complicated, you may experience a mix of emotions at their loss. Along with sadness, you may feel relief that you are free of the stress. It’s hard not to feel guilty about this.

We often are expected to idolise or ‘put someone up on a pedestal’ when they have died – but a cancer journey will inevitably show all sides of the people involved in it. The person who died was human, with good traits and bad ones, and you are too.

Not everything experienced after a death is negative. While grief can certainly be painful and disruptive, there are often small joys and connections with others. Many people experience positive growth and discover that they have a natural resilience.

Guilt and regret

You may feel guilty about the things you did or didn’t do. You may wish you had behaved differently towards the person in the recent or distant past or made different decisions about their care, or you might feel that there are things you left unsaid.

When someone dies, we lose the opportunity to change things. Try to remember that no-one is perfect. Often, talking it over with someone else helps.

Sometimes people feel guilty when they find themselves joking and laughing, feeling happy at times, or getting on with life. But it is normal to experience a range of emotions as you learn to live with the loss – it doesn’t mean that you didn’t care about the person or that your grief is not genuine.

Emphasising light-hearted or joyful moments can help to counter the lack of control that grief can bring.

Fear and anxiety

People often become very fearful when they have a major loss in their life. You may be afraid of what the future holds and how you will cope, or you may feel terribly worried about other people you love, or fear for your own health.

Little things that were no trouble to you before can unsettle you, and you may feel very anxious even if you can’t put your finger on any particular worry. Shock and stress can release chemicals such as adrenaline that make it hard to switch off anxiety.

Even day-to-day activities such as leaving the house to go for walk or doing the shopping can fill some people with fear. If anxiety or fear is making it hard for you to cope with daily life, talk to your GP or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Depression and despair

When the reality of the loss sinks in, you may find your sadness overwhelming and even feel like your life has lost its meaning.

A loss of enjoyment in life and a lack of direction or purpose are common, especially for people who take a long time to come to terms with the loss. However, if these feelings persist for what you consider an extended period of time, it may be a sign of depression

For some people, the grief feels so unbearable that they feel that they can’t go on. If this happens to you, it is important to seek help. Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14. The services listed here also offer support.

Tips for coping with your emotions

  • Accept that your feelings are normal and natural given the loss you have experienced. You might sense pressure from yourself or others to feel a certain way, but everyone has their own style of coping.
  • Be patient with grief. You may feel that after a certain time you should be coping differently to how you are, but your adjustment to the loss is likely to be gradual and may take longer than you expect. Read about when to seek professional help.
  • Remember that it’s normal to feel angry. Find safe ways to show emotions such as anger – play vigorous sport, scream in your car with the windows up, paint or draw, or hit a pillow. You may feel silly, but action often helps.
  • Try reflecting on your caring role – you may feel you are stronger than you realised and proud of how you have supported someone as they were dying.
  • Forgive yourself for the things you didn’t say or do. Some people find it helps to write a letter to the person and then burn it.
  • Read a book, play a round of cards with a friend or watch a movie that may take your mind off your grief for a little while.
  • Consider whether you would like to try complementary therapies, such as meditation or art therapy, to help you manage any feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Try to develop a sense of your personal coping style (the things that work best for you). Remembering how you have coped in difficult situations in the past may help you feel more able to cope now.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on understanding grief.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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Support services

Caring for someone with cancer
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Emotions and cancer
People who are affected by cancer in some way can experience a range of emotions, that can be very challenging to deal with at times. Learn more.

End of life 
This information may help you better cope with end of life, or support someone who may be dying with cancer