How to cope with multiple bereavements
The house is now so quiet.
Hearing the news of multiple losses from one’s own family will be unbearable and devastating with a feeling of absolute shock, denial and inability to process the reality of it all. Sadly, fatal road traffic accidents happen and can bring about several deaths from one family instantaneously, leaving the family member left behind with the feeling of having their world extinguished in an instant. The sudden death of several loved ones won’t be something to get over easily and there will be a long path of healing ahead.
A cauldron of feelings will no doubt be swirling around in your mind with a throbbing pain in your head causing dizziness, a stabbing in your heart, hollowness in your chest and perhaps anger in your fists.
Often, it can feel like a wave of emotions as you are swept along by going through the practicalities of sorting out arrangements for the funerals, but this is something the bereaved feel they must do and want to do. You may still feel shock, disbelief and numb as you find yourself going into autopilot as the funerals take place. Then whoosh... there you are by yourself, once your friends and other extended family members have gone home, wondering, why? Why did it have to happen? Why take all of them and not me? Why did God let this happen?
Thoughts can surface: ‘If only, if only... they had left a few minutes earlier or later then fate would not have let this happen. If only I had been there perhaps I could have saved them. It’s my fault I should have driven the children there.’
The house is now so quiet
No banter or laughter, no tickles or giggles, hugs or kisses. Just silence. But now and again a creak here and there could make you wonder is someone upstairs?... but it is just the house creaking and cracking just like it always did. You used to think those sounds were your family moving in the house when they were here but it was just the plumbing pipes expanding and contracting at different rates. The refrigerator hums and shudders every so often. The click of the latch on the front gate makes you look up but you realise it is just the wind. The house now is so, so quiet.
Ongoing suffering for the one left behind
Friends and family visit and the house is now a busy place again with endless cups of tea and casserole dishes of home cooked food along with invites to stay over. But before long the house is unbearably quiet once again. Loneliness again. Pain and heartache remain for the family member left behind and this could lead to a deep depression and feelings of worthlessness. Anger can of course be a reoccurring feeling focused on the other person who you believe was at fault. In the early days you will no doubt feel exhausted and may feel you are only just coping. But ‘this will pass.’
Feelings of sadness, loneliness and despair leading to lack of self-care
Lack of self-care can often follow not being able to think about making any meals for yourself – guilt that you are living, breathing and eating but they are not. Other family members, friends and neighbours invite you around for tea but you may not have any appetite and not even be able to pass any food to your lips. Sleepless nights and wondering what is the point of doing anything anymore, this wasn’t your plan or there’s.
Feelings of being unable to carry on without your family can lead to neglect of self-care in other ways too. In some instances these feelings can lead to drug addictions and/or alcoholism dependencies for comfort as the feeling sad emotion lingers. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide can be a feeling leading to an action. Why not? I have nothing left. During this time it is important to realise that some days will be better than others. It will take time for your healing. How on earth does someone get over something like this? Remember this is a feeling you are experiencing and ‘it will pass.’
You may find it helpful to keep yourself busy to give your mind some respite, but you also need to give yourself time to grieve. Someone who can try to help you is a qualified bereavement counsellor or therapist. Look for someone who has experience within this area.
The healing process; cry, laugh and cry again
The ways to help you through your grief will be to take things slow and steady, take one day at a time at your pace. It is ok to cry and it is ok not to cry. Keeping yourself busy as this can help to ease the pain.
- Look at family photographs. Remember with happy thoughts as well as sadness.
- Create a memory book with your thoughts and memories of your loved ones.
- Have a duvet day and watch a sad or happy film, something that enables you to release your emotions.
- Write a letter or a poem to your loved ones and keep in a special box – what would you have liked to have said to them?
- Make a memory box with certain objects that you will remember each family member by.
- Keep an article of clothing - a jumper or a hoody top, and give it a cuddle on down days.
- Revisit a place where you would all go on a family day out and take flowers to mark your memories.
- Make a recipe book of your loved ones favourite dishes.
- When the time is right then host a celebration of life of the family you have lost with your extended family and closest friends – it will be healing for them to talk too.
- Engage in charity work with something that is dear to your heart.
- When friends ask you round for dinner, when you feel up to it a bit more and everything permits - then go!
- Perhaps think about buying a pet.
It can often feel as if you have a limited timeframe to talk about your ongoing feelings of your multiple losses with friends and other family members as the weeks and months roll by. But remember, finding the right counsellor for you will help in the grieving process enabling you get through these difficult times and enable you to adjust to your changing life.
Acceptance and new beginnings
There will be times ahead for you to find happiness again. New beginnings are there for you. You are still living and should enjoy your life because this is what your loved ones would have wanted for you.