How to write characters that experience loss of loved ones?

I don’t have much experience with loss, and I don’t want to be insensitive about the subject when I write it.

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well that really depand on your character . Differents peoples experience loss in differents way . For exemple a character that saw x member of their family kill themself in front of them will experience loss in a different way from someone who heard a member of their family died from natural cause and they were oversea .

Trauma : some peoples will be traumitized over the loss to the point of depression , alcohol , drugs abuse and such . Some peoples won’t .

Denial: close loss are the worst , everyone tell you it will get ‘easy’ . It doesnt .

Anger: Some peoples will get angry at the world , at fate , at whatever caused the loss . Even close relatives .

Acceptance: Some peoples will turn to family , help line , doctor , shrink…to be able to move on . Some stay in that hell .

Regrets: That often hit you like a brick . Either right away or later . And in some case it haunt you forever . The last thing you said to that person , kind or unkind . Its like a crime you commited and no matter how many time you confess , the guilt will never leave .

So yeah , go with your characters personality . How will they experience loss? would they be sad , angry , depressed ? suicidale? will they stop doing what they do ? Stop eating ? stop sleeping ? Stop breathing ?

there is no set emotions or rules . everyone experience loss and grief in their own way . You as a writer you should imagine and put yourself in your character shoes and figure out…how they will feel . what will they think , what they will do .

Good luck!


As some one who has least a loved one I would recommend the topic especially if your going for a darker tone. A bit morbid post, but will ring true for many who have lost loved ones…

And using the 7 stages of grief is good if you want to build off it in the long run.

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It really does depend.

Loss for me has been lots of random bouts of grief, random bouts of laughter. Alternating between stories of “Boy what a clown they were” and tears because they’ll never be here again. Clinging to things of theirs that were suddenly much more important, guilt that I didn’t notice, didn’t see. Being okay until suddenly out of the blue I thought of my loved ones and broke down again. More time between the memories until things were back to almost normal, except for the fleeting thoughts that today would have been different if they were still here.

Some people get quiet and sad, stop sleeping. Others I know bottle things up, pretend it’s okay, except now they’re a little angrier, drink a little more than they should, more often than they used to. Or get involved in causes related to the loved one’s death–the awareness/charity walks and fundraisers. Trying to fix things for the future.

And some people create. Write. Draw. Some kind of outlet to remember.

Nowadays, too, it’s common to leave letters on social media sites, send texts to their phone. Things you didn’t get to say to them before. Goodbyes.


@E_RedMark did a great job and I echo much of what they posted above. I also would like to suggest this thread via Twitter that really illustrates grief over time. For further research, I’d suggest looking into bereavement resources. Many healthcare agencies offer them online, hospices in particular are known for their bereavement programs as they are part of the overall plan of care for the patient.

Because so much really does vary - ranging from the personality of the character to the dynamics of the relationship to cause of death - I’ll try to be more general in my response.

To give you greater context regarding my responses below: I’m drawing from 2 losses that occurred in my mid/late 20s, but the most impacting loss I’ve experienced was losing my husband a couple years ago. It was sudden and unexpected. It was traumatic. Here’s some symptoms I encountered:

My memory of the year following his death is foggy, if not outright missing. There are big gaps, and though I was functioning [the best one can] during that time, I really can’t remember a lot.

There’s physical pain that comes with grief. I don’t just mean like pain in the chest, a la broken heart, but I literally was sore, everywhere. It was almost like I had whiplash. My body physically ached. Furthermore, due to being so physically tense, that definitely didn’t help in soothing the muscles.

Eating was another thing - I’m trying to remember specifics [again, foggy memory] but I remember not having much of an appetite, but also when I finally was hungry, I was ravenous.

A lot of family, myself included, would be afraid of “going down that path” - for example, there was a lot of fear and anxiety that if we explored our grief too deeply, we’d go down a road that would be very difficult to come back from. Like once you start crying it just wouldn’t end. To this day I worry about that, I worry that if I start thinking too much I’ll “go down that path”.

Anger happens. There’s a lot of dynamics at play here, and anger can sometimes be righteous instead of debilitating, but it can definitely be the latter if not expressed or otherwise acknowledged in a healthy way.

Growing restless was troublesome. Nights were hard [I slept with a sleep aid for a long time], first waking up in the mornings were probably hardest, and weekends were also particularly rough. When I returned to work more steadily, I’d typically call him on my way home, so that time would be rough.

Also, our dog would sense this anxiety and, in turn, he’d grow restless. I can only imagine the unsettling changes he picked up on during this time, and if your character has a pet this may be applicable. We’d take him for walks and that seemed to help us both.

There is no “returning to normal”. You reach a new normal, a new reality, but there is no going back to “normal” in any sense of the word. I am not the same person, to put it simply and honestly. I never will be that person again. There’s parts of me, personality-wise, that remain of course, but life has a new lens for me and of course that reflects in my being. I have said things like “I have nothing to lose”, and many take this as a negative thing [and sometimes it can be negative], but I’ve found that it’s also been very freeing.

To wrap up: I think the circumstances surrounding death and dynamics of the relationship can really impact how one deals with everything. The second loss I mentioned above was a vastly different set of complex circumstances that were awkward and agitating to navigate. But I hope this helped some.


I think it’ll be great if we can go specific.

What kind of scene are you writing? Is the MC experiencing loss, or is it a close relative to the MC? How is their personality, who/what are the losses, how is their affection towards the beloved, etc.

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Timing also makes a difference in how the grief process progresses.

For example, I was a caregiver for my Mom who had Alzheimers. Everyone in such a situation will react differently than say a sudden death. The loss is felt just as intensely however in chronic illness scenario, the grieving starts prior to death. The effect on those involved is like a train wreck in super slow motion. You either put your grief into suspended animation or you grieve all the while the person is slowly fading away in front of you.


Keep in mind that different losses will trigger different reactions. You won’t grieve the same for a parent as you will for a child, or for a sibling as for a spouse.


I’d like to point out, as I believe no one has yet, humor is also a form of coping with loss, I believe in the stage of denial. People use humor to lighten their mood and the mood around them, as a way of “denying” that they’re supposed to be grieving. Humor is a form of pretending everything is fine, and happy-go-lucky.

You can see Thor go through four of the seven stages in Avengers: Infinity War. When he first loses those close to him, you can see him clearly distraught, shocked and in disbelief. Then when he meets the Guardians, he’s changed to the light-hearted humorous side of himself. When questioned about it, he shrugs off the loss of everyone he’s ever cared about as being “it happens”.

For Thor, the guilt and anger stages are mixed in. His guilt of not protecting his people leads to anger. He then makes it his mission to craft a new weapon to kill Thanos and avenge those, and has incredible drive to do such. Humans (or in this case, Asgardians) can use anger as a great motivator, so long as they don’t let it cripple them and hamper their thinking. In Thor’s case, his motivation pushed him to the point where he absorbed the energy of a whole star just to have a chance at killing the one who killed everyone he loved. And in the end, he failed again. Failing to kill Thanos, and in turn, having trillions killed just because of a miss just added to the long list of trauma Thor has faced.