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Coping with Multiple Deaths

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 23 Jul 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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I'm not sure what to say but I can relate to a lot of your posts to some level. Within 3 years, I lost a friend, 3 aunts ( two under the age of61), a great uncle, my 28 year old cousin who my parents adopted when we were kids, and my Nana as of 3 months ago. ( she was 90 but was my like a mom). My 58 year old uncle just moved in with my parents' he has early onset Alzheimer's. All of this has happened on top of being a new mom and my husband losing his job and me being the financial stability. I also hate my job and my boss but I just feel frozen. I'm stunned. I used to be so happy and if I didn't have my daughter I don't know what I would be like. I've always been the strong one but I feel broken. I saw a therapist and she started losing track of people and I loathed having to tell my story over and over again when we only had 45 mins. I'm hoping for some peace soon for me and my family.
Sherbear - 23-Jul-17 @ 4:54 AM
I am relieved to read your stories. I was not sure if I was the only one who has panic attacks so severely after the experience I have endured. This year my daughter would be 18. I have to watch kids go to prom and graduation and it cuts me deep. But her death happened along time ago. It is the more recent events that have got me feeling like I got hit by two trains. The man of my life, my love Matt died suddenly at 40 in 2016. We had just celebrated his birthday and danced the night away. We were planning on moving to California and he was going to adopt my daughter. It was perfect. My dad also died within one month of Matt 's death. My dad and him were best friends.Us three together were best friends.So I continued to work all last year picking up extra shifts and not really dealing with it very well. I would cry all night when no one was around to see. I have one friend who also lost her fiance. She was so grief stricken that she would call me some nights balling. And we would together. Becauseit is embarrassing to grieve and it is private. One night in March this year she called me and told me she would end her life. I didn't take her seriously. The next morning at work I got the call. She actually did it! I walked out of my job that I have had for over ten years. I sat in my car paralyzed and lost. I couldn't even move for hours. After that day I have had extreme panic attacks.I feel like someone is chasing me and I am running in place constantly. So it has been a few months now and I decided to visit my dying sister. She has assured me that it will be ok but she is scared to die. I really don't know how to feel anything anymore. I really don't like being around people anymore. I just want to hide in a forest somewhere. I despise counselors. I just wanted to share this with this forum because I thought maybe someone could relate.
Callyanna - 12-Jul-17 @ 4:04 PM
I am beyond grief stuck . As a nursing professional and Hospice nurse I am accustom to death and dying almost monthly . Recently though 1 have been averaging 1 a week for the last year ......These people are friends , family and support people whohave been an integral part of my life . I am doing group and one on one talk therapy but I a, in a hopeless desperate place . The very people who helped me earlier in the year are now gone. I feel like i am a curse and I am beginning to isolate and stay inside myself . Please any thoughts I am getting extremely despondent
JP - 7-Jul-17 @ 10:36 AM
Chrisse - Your Question:
I am struggling with 2 major loses in my family. My daughter too. My mom died nov 10th and 3 weeks later I found my husband in our home and he died. I don't know how to relieve this sadness and pain in my heart. My mother was my ROCK. My husband and I were married 32 years and he was my soulmate. I can't seem to concentrate or function. Depression and major anxiety are taking over. I tried to go back to work but people didn't truly understand and treated me like the plaque. I stopped working again due to pain and stress. My heart is so broken as this just happened at the end of 2016. Hard to go on day in and day out. Trying hard for the sake of my daughter but I have many panic attacks that feel like heart attacks. Tried counseling but to painful. Plus no good advise and I already know the same things they try to tell you. Need help. CJF.

Our Response:
This must be so hard for you. Have you talked to your GP? It might be worth going and telling them, especially about the panic attacks. If counselling hasn't worked, there may be other things to try such as support groups. It will be painful at first (but of everything is painful at the moment for you isn't it) but sometimes opening up to others, especially those who've experienced it themselves, might be the starting to point to being able to forward a little with your life. The CRUSE organisation is a good palce to start.
FacingBereavement - 27-Jun-17 @ 11:55 AM
I am struggling with 2 major loses in my family. My daughter too. My mom died nov 10th and 3 weeks later I found my husband in our home and he died. I don't know how to relieve this sadness and pain in my heart. My mother was my ROCK. My husband and I were married 32 years and he was my soulmate. I can't seem to concentrate or function. Depression and major anxiety are taking over. I tried to go back to work but people didn't truly understand and treated me like the plaque. I stopped working again due to pain and stress. My heart is so broken as this just happened at the end of 2016. Hard to go on day in and day out. Trying hard for the sake of my daughter but I have many panic attacks that feel like heart attacks. Tried counseling but to painful. Plus no good advise and I already know the same things they try to tell you. Need help.CJF.
Chrisse - 24-Jun-17 @ 11:16 PM
Carol - Your Question:
I lost my Dad suddenly on Saturday, May 6, 2017. My Mother and I truly believe he died of a broken heart. My brother passed away from alcohol addiction on August 9, 2016. My father has been grief stricken ever since. I think he thought he could save my brother. Having back-to-back deaths has been devastating. While I have returned to work this week, in all honestly, all I want to do is go to sleep and not wake up. I know I will eventually start to feel better. But right now I feel like a zombie.

Our Response:
We hope you soon start to feel less numb. Please talk to someone via an organisation like CRUSE or a local support group though. Take care.
FacingBereavement - 17-May-17 @ 11:05 AM
I lost my Dad suddenly on Saturday, May 6, 2017. My Mother and I truly believe he died of a broken heart. My brother passed away from alcohol addiction on August 9, 2016. My father has been grief stricken ever since. I think he thought he could save my brother. Having back-to-back deaths has been devastating. While I have returned to work this week, in all honestly, all I want to do is go to sleep and not wake up. I know I will eventually start to feel better. But right now I feel like a zombie.
Carol - 15-May-17 @ 6:36 PM
It all started just over 8 months ago. I was 27. My dad, Scott, was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident on August 27, 2016. His funeral was on the 2nd of September. Me and my younger sister took it really hard. We have no other siblings and our parents had been divorced for about 6 years at that time. Our mom is slightly unstable to say the least, our dad was our rock. On top of everything else me and my husband, RJ, of 8 years were dealing with the fact that his dad, Joe, wasn't going to be around much longer. My father in law was 80 years old and had a lot of health problems including dimentia. My mother in law, Linda, was the one who took care of him and spent every day with him. We all lived together, my in laws, husband, two daughters and me. Linda died suddenly on Christmas Eve 2016, of heart failure. Nearly 4 months after my dad. Her service was January 2nd, 2017. Joe got worse every day after that. Some days the dimentia was so bad he didn't even know who we were. It was heartbreaking to watch and deal with. Joe passed away February 25, 2017. His funeral was March 2nd 2017. Within 6 months we lost 3 of our parents. They all died on Saturdays.
AlyKat - 3-May-17 @ 12:16 AM
I am 56 and strugglingl. My losses started when my mom fell and broke her hip. Things did not go well and the result was complete dementia and pushed forward her Parkinson. Ten days later, a large truck ran a red light and struck my husbands vehicle.(We had been together for 34 years.)Fifteen days later my husband still laid unresponsive, still on a vent,septic, with gangrene in all of his extremities. We had talked many times on what to do if either one of us was ever faced with this. I had the vent removed and held him as died. (although the process only lasted about 10 minutes.- watching his struggle was overwhelming.)My dad (an old farmer, would not leave my moms side) continue to care for mom's overwhelming needs at home. I received a phone call 70 days later that he had suffered a fatal heart attack. An issue that was unknown. Now we had to deal with mom. She no longer knew us and impossible to be kept at home. So 6 months after the death of my husband, we moved mom to a nursing facility.Now 9 months have passed and mom died a couple of months ago.In the course of 1 year and 5 days. I have lost all those people that I was closest too.The loss of my husband - my rock, my anchor first has left me to seek harbor. The person who would have helped me through the losses is gone - in traumatic fashion.I thought I was doing "ok" But, now I have crashed and burned into depression and anxiety. Going to a doctor now. Meds and counseling. Really tired. Just want to find a life.A widower friend so perfectly stated the feeling "I hate the loneliness that is now life."
TLR - 19-Apr-17 @ 4:18 PM
Dear Jo, I am not sure if you would read this - i lost my sister on 31st March 2017 due to a cardio pulmonary failure or that's what doctors say - she was just vomiting when i took her to emergency for rehydration treatment but didn't take her back home alive. My mom had passed away a year earlier due to hemorrhagic stroke - Life makes little sense and fear of losing a remaining loved ones lurks in sleeps and throughout the day. The guilt of not having done enough for my sister and mom keeps me from forgiving myself - i keep thinking if i would have done this, then perhaps, the result would have been different. I am torn inside out, wanting to go away with my mom and sister to the other side, yet held on to this life by my small children and their need of me. Just when i was beginning to cope with my mom's loss and move on with my sisters, I am once again back at the beginning of being ripped apart by pain of loss. This feeling of dread doesn't go away and at times i feel i cant cope anymore - the loss and fear of loss seem to be immobilizing me.
Ashaw - 19-Apr-17 @ 12:50 PM
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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