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.