Too Many Losses at Once
My favorite uncle became suddenly ill with cancer and passed away about 6 months later. It was an unexpected shock. A month later, my father was diagnosed with the same cancer (the uncle was not on his side of the family) and passed away a month later, again totally unexpected. It was a horrific time.
My dear mother took it very hard and began to show signs of dementia soon after my father passed away. She then broke her hip, got that repaired, and was doing fine, except she picked up an infection called C. diff (the short version of the name) while in the hospital. It's a very debilitating condition and she passed away a year and a half after my dad. I was lucky enough to live at home at the time and able to care for both of them until the end.
During the first year after my dad passed away, we lost over a dozen others, from family members to friends and some of our dear pets. It seemed the loss would never end. During this time, I was overwhelmed, trying to care for my mom and deal with all this grief. I had to learn a few survival tricks along the way and hope they will help someone else, even just a little. Some of them may seem strange, but they worked for me, and in times such as these you use any method you can to get through it.
This may be the strangest coping method I came up with and I didn't even realize I was doing it until later. I started watching a lot of shows and movies about tough women. I started to develop a form of strength that I call toughness, but maybe that's the wrong word. It was learning how to block out anything but what I was dealing at the moment. Focusing on the problem at hand and knowing I had to solve it.
I realized later that I learned this from the movies and shows I was watching. This doesn't mean that I turned into a cold-hearted person, just that I had to block out some emotions to deal with all the hurdles. I would fall apart later, but I was in control mode at the moment. This may seem really silly, but watching others act strong helped me to become stronger. It was also an escape mechanism, taking my mind off the days tension, something you really need to have.
LET THE RIVER FLOW
Cry, cry and cry some more. Let that river of tears flow freely. I would usually do this at night in the privacy of my bedroom, of course, but if I felt on the verge of tears during the day, I would try to get a few minutes alone to weep.
I feel there is nothing more important than crying to release all that is inside...all the grief, the pain, the helplessness. Without being able to cry, I think I would surely have lost it. Here is one of my favorite quotes:
"There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love."
You have to let your feelings out when grieving and crying is one of the best ways. Don't be ashamed or feel weak for crying. It's perfectly natural and one of the best therapies.
I actually stumbled upon an online grief group by accident. When my mom was first acting strangely, it took me a long time to connect it to dementia. When I did start wondering if that's what it was, I wasn't sure if grief couldn't have the same sort of symptoms. I found a grief group online to ask that question and soon became a regular on there. I didn't realize how much I needed to talk to others who could understand what I was going through.
It is extremely important to have support during a time like this. If you're lucky enough to have friends and family who are there for you, then you are truly blessed. If not, then seek some kind of help. Online support groups are wonderful because you can do them when you want to. Local support groups would be good also and you may end up with some new friends who truly understand what you're going through.
You may feel the need to talk to a counselor or therapist. You might find solace in joining a church or visiting the many grief sites that are on the Internet. Whatever you find most comfortable, seek it out. You need to talk about your feelings with someone who truly understands.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Don't let anyone tell you that you have grieved enough and it's time to "get on with your life." I hate it when people say you "will get over it." You never "get over" the death of a loved one, you just learn to live the best way you can with that loss. You have to take as much time as you need and not think it's been too long, or you should be "better" by now.
I wrote this about multiple losses and while I think more than one death in a short time can be a little more overwhelming in certain ways, this applies to any loss, whether it be one or many. With multiple deaths you are having to go through the stages of grief over and over, so it presents a more complex situation, but I hope this helps anyone who has suffered loss of any kind. I have been using these coping methods for the last 7 years and have learned to cope with my grief. I will never be the same, as I have lost so many people I loved, and will never have my normal life back. You learn a new normal and it takes time and healing to adjust to it. Above all, never lose hope that things will get bearable.