objective: identify behaviors and feelings of nursing students in an hypothetical situation, involving death and dying. methods: exploratory and qualitative study with data collected through a self-administered questionnaire in a sample of 51 nursing students at a private school in the north area of sao paulo state; it was conducted a thematic analysis of content. results: the student nurses were not prepared to deal with situations that involve death and dying; the students tend to deny the situation, presenting a inappropriate conduct in face a patient that is about to die. the most common feelings among students towards death were the loss and fear. conclusion: there is a need to give greater attention to the subject during the training of nurses in order to prepare them to face situations that involve death and dying, including these topics in the daily curriculum practices.