What to Do When Someone Reminds You of a Deceased Loved One


Everything changes when someone you love dies. A part of who you once were has inevitably died along with them. Saying goodbye to a dying loved one or someone who’s recently passed, especially if you experienced the trauma of watching them die, can trigger feelings of grief and longing within you. After the death of a loved one, bereavement is unique to each individual, as are the types of grief experiences you’ll encounter. 

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An aspect of mourning the death of a loved one is the phenomenon of seeing their face in strangers among you. When an unexpected face in a crowd reminds you of a deceased loved one, you might ask yourself, “Is it real, or am I hallucinating?” More than anything, if caught off guard, you won’t know how to react or what to do when it happens.

Does It Mean Anything When Someone Reminds You of a Deceased Loved One?

Seeing someone who looks like someone who’s died is not all that uncommon in people who are grieving. Your loved one’s face melding into someone else’s is your mind reacting because of grief. Some people see this as a sign that the universe is comforting you in times of deep despair by showing you that your loved one is still with you. 

The following tips may help you cope if this ever happens to you or if it happens again:

Tips for Coping When Someone Reminds You of or Looks Like a Deceased Loved One

Seeing someone who reminds you of, or has an uncanny resemblance to, a deceased loved one can tear your grief wide open all over again, even years following their death. When it happens unexpectedly, you may not know what to do. You might be questioning your sanity, wondering if your loved one’s come back from the dead. 

Here’s what you can do to help you through:

1. Introduce yourself

Your mind has the power to project reminders of your loved one onto strangers. It can be in the way they move, their hairstyle, their mannerisms, or how they dress that reminds you of your deceased loved one. Upon closer inspection, you’ll learn that the shape of their nose or the color of their eyes are all wrong.

Yet, walking away from this stranger without talking to them can sometimes be the worst thing you can do in this situation. It may help you find closure by introducing yourself, striking up a short conversation, and letting the person know that they remind you of someone you once knew. 

2. Accept your loss 

Mistaking a stranger for a reincarnation of your loved one is more common than you may think. People who are mourning the loss of their loved ones sometimes find it hard to believe that they’re never coming back. When someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, your mind can have trouble processing the loss. It doesn’t seem real or even possible.

When you see your loved one in the face of a stranger, it can sometimes be the result of an inability to accept your loss. It’s a normal part of grieving. However, refusing to believe the reality of your loss will make the grief process much harder for you to get through. Give yourself time to process their death and to accept that your loved one’s gone. 

3. Trust your intuition

It’s hard not to feel excited and a sense of wonder when you see a stranger that reminds you of someone who’s died. At first glance, they may seem to have the same attributes and qualities as your loved one who’s passed. All these feelings bombarding your senses create a sense of excitement in seeing them again. But, as you approach them, you quickly realize that you’ve made a mistake, and there’s no way that your loved one’s come back.

Disappointment quickly follows the excitement, and maybe even more profound despair. When you think you see a stranger that looks like your deceased loved one, look for signs that distinguish them from the person whom you’ve lost. Trust your intuition when it tells you that what you’re seeing isn’t real. 

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4. Control your emotions

Grief triggers tend to pop up when least expected. Taking control of your feelings and emotions when you see someone that looks like someone you’ve lost will keep things in perspective. Seeing someone who you think is your deceased loved one may cause you to feel as if you’ve lost your loved one all over again when it turns out it wasn’t them. It can create a sense of secondary loss that may cause you to lose control emotionally.

Try to keep calm as you take a closer look to satisfy your curiosity. It may very well be that your loved one has a doppelgänger out there. With billions of people in this world, someone out there may have an uncanny resemblance to your deceased loved one.

5. Don’t be afraid of letting go

Mourning your loved one’s death and profoundly grieving them are both expected when dealing with loss. Depending on the relationship you two shared, how close you were, and all of the hopes and dreams you had can really make letting them go more difficult to do. Seeing your deceased loved one in others is sometimes caused by that fear of letting go of them. You’re afraid of losing that person’s presence and influence in your life and may be latching on to the memory of them as much as possible.

This is especially so when you don’t have any other way of connecting with them. You continuously look for them in the faces of strangers in hopes that you don’t have to accept the fact that they’re gone. Practice letting them go little by little. It’s not a comfortable journey doing so, and one that’s sure to be a painful one at best.

6. Ask for support

Grief can make you feel a little mentally unwell, especially at moments like these when you start to question what you’re seeing. Suffering through grief after the loss of a loved one is normal. As a result, there can be lots of reasons why your deceased loved one’s image keeps popping up. You may feel as if everywhere you go, there they are.

Sometimes it’s a result of feeling remorseful for not having the opportunity to say goodbye or make amends for a strained relationship. Talk to someone you know and trust about what’s been happening to you. Having someone to confide in will help you gain a new perspective on what’s happening around you. 

7. Seek therapy for intense yearning

Yearning for your loved one who’s died is one of the most painful experiences common to grief. 

You have a cognitive understanding that they’re gone, but you still long for them to return to you. In desperation, you seek out faces in the crowd that remind you of your loved ones who have died.

Seek online therapy or counseling if you find yourself continually searching for your loved one in crowds. A trained grief therapist or counselor can help you overcome these feelings of intense longing for your loved one. This painful desire to have them back will eventually subside over time. Leaving your grief untreated may complicate your healing journey in the long run.

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8. Meditate for clarity

When you're overwhelmed by sadness, you may have an irrational belief that a stranger who looks like your loved one who has died is really them. Your mind may not be able to differentiate between the two when in mourning.

As you begin to reclaim some clarity and rational thinking temporarily lost due to grief, set some time aside for meditation. Sitting in silent contemplation of your suffering will free your mind from these types of irrational thoughts and compulsions. Mediation not only helps you clear your mind but alleviates your grief-related stress and anxiety. 

9. Release your grief 

Grief can wreak havoc on your mind, body, and overall well-being. It can cloud your thinking and persuade you to believe that things are different than how they are. Unconsciously you may think that a stranger with similar traits as the person who died might be them. When you realize that the similarities end on the surface, it sets you up for disappointment and confusion. 

These experiences can be unsettling. It’s shocking when it happens and can signal that you’re having difficulty coping with your grief. When you finally let go of your grief, it helps you move on in life toward healing. You can practice releasing your grief by designating a time each day dedicated to the sole purpose of mourning your loss. 

10. Signs from above

When you’re grieving, and you recognize your departed loved one in the face of a stranger, it can also mean that you miss them and yearn to reconnect with them. Your mind and heart may start playing tricks on you, causing you to question what you’re seeing.

Some people like to think that these are signs from beyond that your loved one’s still very much with you. Whatever your belief is, it’s both comforting and reassuring to get these subtle reminders that those who’ve died before you are still very much a part of your life. 

When Someone Looks Like Someone Who’s Died

Embrace those moments when a stranger reminds you of a loved one who’s died. It’s not very often that you’ll come across someone who has enough of their qualities that’ll make you take a second glance. Your heart and mind are trying to hold on to them for a bit longer. It’s all a very normal part of the grieving process. 

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