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Coping with Multiple Deaths

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 6 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Death Family Friends Grief Trauma

It’s hard enough to cope with one death, but when multiple deaths occur at the same time or in close succession it can be downright overwhelming. When many deaths occur at the same time it may be under traumatic or accidental circumstances, and the shock of the surrounding events can lead to even greater grief. Family and friends can be invaluable for an individual trying to cope with the death or more than one loved one, but ultimately the individual alone will need to work through his or her grief in order to truly survive the trauma.

Family and Friends of the Bereaved

Family and friends of the bereaved may be suffering themselves, but pulling together to get through the days, weeks and months after the initial loss(es) is important. Helping each other to arrange funerals and/or memorials, sorting through the estates of the deceased, organising child care and meals and keeping an eye on each other to make sure that everyone is eating and sleeping is a safety net that many individuals need following the deaths of more than one loved one. If it seems that one individual is not coping as well, such as by turning to drink or drugs, violence or anger, or an inability to care for themselves or their dependents, then organising grief counselling and/or therapy immediately may be a good idea.

Surviving the Losses of Multiple Deaths

Ultimately, surviving more than one death at a time is something that each individual will need to do for him or herself. This can be even harder if one of the deaths (or more) was accidental or traumatic given the sudden and painful nature of the event(s). Allowing themselves time to grieve for each person, and recognising that grieving for multiple losses will take longer than for just one loss, is a good way for bereaved individuals to begin exploring their grief. Putting off other things for a while may even be necessary in order to grieve properly. However, individuals who begin to lose interest in life, who feel that they are being punished for something through the death of others, who find themselves feeling out of control with rage or who turn to drink or drugs to mask the pain must be honest with themselves about their behaviours. Getting help to work through their emotions, whatever they may be, is imperative.

The death of more than one loved one is a unique trauma for every individual who experiences it. However, each person who must cope with more than one death will already know inside themselves how they can best cope. If these coping mechanisms are destructive, then seeking professional help to find others is important. Family and friends can be invaluable at this time, so allowing them to help may be a way for everyone to work through their grief. If, however, a family member or friend begins to impede someone else’s grief process then discussing how this has happened and what each would like to do about it may help everyone stay on the same page during a difficult time.

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My sister and I were 23 months apart in age.My entire life has centered around my parents, my sister and later my son.She was a stronger and more conservative, more responsible human being in every way.We were like night and day my mother would often say.My family has always been close.My parents were married nearly 50 years and loved each other and us unconditionally.My sister had asthma or so she thought, we later found out she had diagnosed herself for many years.My sister was shy and bashful and very pure.Even at the age of 44 she had never dated nor ever had a boyfriend.When she was diagnosed with cancer, it was already stage 4b. She had cervical cancer that had spread to her lungs.We all believed she would still make it through, but kidney failure took her on 10/22/16 not even three months after wer were told about the cancer.The chemo wreaked havoc in her body.She was such a strong person I felt as though I had lost an arm and the devastation to my parents was crushing and I am physically suffering when I remember the sound of their cries when we were told she would not live through that weekend.I didn't live at home, moved out 12 years ago... But the three of them had always lived together.My sister's best friends were my parents.The affect her death had on them was visibly obvious.I was extremely concerned about whether or not they could survive losing my sister.It wasn't 6 weeks after that my mom called me hysterical, screaming that my dad had suffered a heart attack.I asked if he was ok, and never expected to hear her answer "Noooooo!"When I realized the paramedics had been trying to revive him for more than 20 minutes, my heart sank.I couldn't wrap my head around the loss of them both for me and my son.... But even more shattered at the incomprehensible amount of heartache and sadness that we were left with.Even imagining how this must be for my mom I break down.I am overwhelmed by the reality of what has happened and what life will be like from now on.I am terrified that my mom, now 70 years old, will be taken from me and at the same time terrified something might happen to me and what that would put her through.I am so depressed.
Jo - 6-Feb-17 @ 11:33 AM
Hi. I'm so pleased that I found this page as I feel I'm sometimes losing my mind. My MIL passed away unexpectedly in March 2014. We all thought she was getting better. We got on so well and I miss her so much. Eight months later in Nov 2014 my dad passed away with a massive heart attack. He was at work just like normal. I still can't quite believe it has happened even though I know he's not here. Six months later in May 2015, one of my closest friends who I chatted to most days passed away from cancer. I've spent the last couple.of years trying to rebuild my life and trying not to lose my mind for the sake of my children and family. I wasn't sure if I'd been over reacting and I really ought to have been feeling better sooner. It's been two years since my dad passed and I'm beginning to feel 'normal' again. I can see progress in my feeing am emotions.The next thing I want to do is to visit the resting place of my friend and then I'll feel as though I worked through everything. Thanks for reading this far.
Rosie - 29-Nov-16 @ 12:18 PM
Kc - Your Question:
My mum in law died in Nov my mum Dec my dad 8 days later in January, my son in law February and now my estranged husband of 23 years. Beginning to think my family is cursed. Our poor children have seen so much sorrow this last 7 months, having to support them in their grief has worn me down to nothing. We haven't had chance to grieve each one before another passes, we've come to dread that late night/early morning phone call

Our Response:
Goodness what a lot to have to cope with. We really recommend that you and your children contact one of the many excellent bereavement organisations and charities in the UK like CRUSE . You can also do a search for bereavement support groups in your area which will enable you to talk about your own feelings. Do also try and make some occasions both with and without your children, to celebrate the lives of your loved ones individually...cry and laugh while you remember them and what they meant to you. Take care.
FacingBereavement - 9-Jun-16 @ 10:46 AM
My mum in law died in Nov my mum Dec my dad 8 days later in January, my son in law February and now my estranged husband of 23 years. Beginning to think my family is cursed. Our poor children have seen so much sorrow this last 7 months, having to support them in their grief has worn me down to nothing. We haven't had chance to grieve each one before another passes, we've come to dread that late night/early morning phone call
Kc - 8-Jun-16 @ 8:40 AM
I don't know where to begin. My sister was diagnosed with brain cancer on July 28, 2015 and she died on October 27, 2015. She has 2 children, one is grown and out of the house and the other is 16. To complicate matters my father passed on October 20, 2015 after suffering from heart issues, Parkinson's and lewy body dymensia. he was wheel chair bound and would halucinate all day long. I spent 5 days at the end of my sisters life by her bedside, not eating, sleeping or showering. I did not know if I could go to my father's funeral until the day before and that was in another state half way across the country. My sister was the third person in my immediate family to have brain cancer. There is no one left. If it wasn't for my sisters children I would rather not be here. I was all the time that it was me who died and not her. And then I have a brother with severe addiction problems who has not worked in over 6 years. The financial issues have just been an additional complication. I have not had a happy life and can't take any more. Who does this happen too? I spent my younger years caring for my grandmother who raised me from the age of 3. That was 20 years of my life. I feel I have nothing left to give and cry alot, do not sleep and have lost 25 pounds since all this happened with my sister. I can't go on like this. I don't know how to cope anymore.
Angie - 11-Dec-15 @ 5:33 PM
Eliza - Your Question:
My oldest brother passed away in December of 2014. He was in ICU for 11 days, all of his organs were failing and we think it might have been due to his drinking and recreational drug use. He was 45. It was very difficult seeing him suffer during those days. His eyes all full of yellow guck, his skin yellow, his stomach swollen. he would never be the same if he survived. We were all hoping that he would pull through and we all said we would help him recover, but when the doctors came to tell us there was no more hope for him it was crushing. We were able to say our good byes and I love yous his last day. All of our family was together and we stayed together for the holidays. I went back home to continue my life and get back to some normalcy then on September 13th my boyfriend of 17 years passes of a heart attack. I couldn't believe that the love of my life was gone and I would never see him again. He was my rock, the one who kept me grounded. When I was feeling down about my brother I could talk to him and cry and he would listen and make me feel better. Now I am lost and in pain and I feel I have no one. My world is crumbling and when I feel that I can lose it at any minute I get news that a close co-worker passes from breast cancer last week. Sometimes I feel like someone is playing a sick trick on me. I'm numb.

Our Response:
This must be so hard to cope with, we really feel for you. Please do not let your world crumble, take each day and, just for now, don't look to the future. As we say in the article, accept the support of any other family and friends around you. There are some amazing charities such as CRUSE/a> and if you ask at Citizen's Advice Bureau they may know of local bereavement groups in your area. Maybe some of our readers will come and post their advice and experiences here to help to. Take care
FacingBereavement - 2-Oct-15 @ 12:01 PM
My oldest brother passed away in December of 2014.He was in ICU for 11 days, all of his organs were failing and we think it might have been due to his drinking and recreational drug use.He was 45.It was very difficult seeing him suffer during those days.His eyes all full of yellow guck, his skin yellow, his stomach swollen ... he would never be the same if he survived.We were all hoping that he would pull through and we all said we would help him recover, but when the doctors came to tell us there was no more hope for him it was crushing.We were able to say our good byes and I love yous his last day.All of our family was together and we stayed together for the holidays.I went back home to continue my life and get back to some normalcy then on September 13th my boyfriend of 17 years passes of a heart attack. I couldn't believe that the love of my life was gone and I would never see him again.He was my rock, the one who kept me grounded.When I was feeling down about my brother I could talk to him and cry and he would listen and make me feel better.Now I am lost and in pain and I feel I have no one.My world is crumbling and when I feel that I can lose it at any minute I get news that a close co-worker passes from breast cancer last week.Sometimes I feel like someone is playing a sick trick on me.I'm numb.
Eliza - 30-Sep-15 @ 3:39 AM
My brother and nephew were killed in a car accident 3 weeks ago then the day of their funeral my father In-law died from cancer.....Finding it very hard to comprehend and cope with..I struggle with the fact that my brother and nephew were not found for several hrs after the accident and were out of the vehicle..it would have been my nephews 18th last Saturday and instead of celebrating we are grieving. my dad also past away 10 years ago yesterday..It's just too much to deal with..I feel sick all the time and so tired and emotionally drained..After my dad died my father In law took on the role..He was a great man and I already miss him. I have four kids under the age of 12 and they have been so wonderful but i worry about them and my husband too. My youngest son is 6 and when his dad has driven, he has said please don't kill me dad. I am doing the best I can but is it going to have a long term effect on my kids are they going to be ok?
trace - 18-May-15 @ 3:26 AM
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