How can one deal with the loss of multiple close relatives.

My brother passed away when I was a teenager. it scarred me badly I couldn’t sleep alone for months. A couple of years later my dad passed away. Then a couple years after that my sister passed away due to cancer. It’s hard to deal with and talk about because I feel like I had to step up and be the big sister and I had to comfort my mom when really I was the one needing the comforting.
Asked by SY

Thank you for reaching out for support and for submitting your question. I am sorry you are having a difficult time and am very sorry for the losses you have endured. Losing loved ones can be so hard and the resultant grief often feels overwhelming.

Anyone who has experienced multiple losses of close loved ones face an increased risk and probability of experiencing complicated and prolonged grief. Such individuals may encounter depression, post traumatic stress, and/or other mental health distresses. There is also a heightened chance for unhealthy coping behaviors to develop including the misuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol. For some people the losses become too much and the sorrow feels too great.

With all the loss you have faced, it is absolutely normally to feel almost as if you are paralyzed by it all. It truly is a lot to bear. It can lead you to feeling exhausted, overburdened, hopeless, and overwhelmingly devastated. You have found yourself in what is really an abnormally and unusually challenging situation.

It can be challenging enough to simply deal with a singular loss. But with grief overload we suddenly find ourselves in a chaotic state in which we feel like it is a struggle to simply survive. Before you are able to fully mourn one loss, another one is dropped upon you. The grief from one event becomes somewhat delayed and can emerge unexpectedly later. 

All this grief can leave you feeling as if you just do not know where to even begin in order to achieve any sort of healing. It can rattle your confidence. The entire world around you suddenly feels so much more uncertain. Anxiety can increase. And as things continue to compound you find there is so much to contend with socially, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It can feel lonely and isolating. While other people might be able to understand a single loss, they are not able to relate to the complexity you find yourself in – which makes things simply more difficult and distressing for you.

You are in the midst of what is too much loss in a very brief period of time. And while your mom is still present and with you, the dynamic which has resulted is yet another sort of loss and another challenge with which you are forced to contend. It is as if everywhere you turn there is loss and change.   

Grief is something which does not really have an end date as the love which is connected to the grief will never end. You will not forget but you can grow to become reconciled to the losses. There is hope and life can become good again. You will grow into a new reality. The feelings of loss won’t ever entirely leave but they will soften over time. Your grief will be unique. It will not follow any guidelines or rules. It won’t look like anyone else’s grief. Do not try to compare your grief with that of others and do not concern yourself with what the timeline for grief will be. You will grieve in your own way and it will all be at your own pace.

Loss can bring so many differing emotions. We typically expect sadness. Yet there may also be waves of anger, guilt, confusion, disorganization, relief, and fear. The feelings might follow one another. One or more might be present at the same time. All are normal and all are okay.

It is also normal to feel physically fatigued and low on energy. You brain could sometimes feel a bit foggy and it might at times be a struggle to concentrate. You are in survival mode. And it is natural for all of this to occur. Your mind and body are letting you know that you need some extra rest. Pay attention to the signals being sent. Try to lighten your schedule as needed and get some time to nurture yourself a bit more.

Be mindful that ignoring grief will not make it go away. Expressing it and talking about it will help you move forward through and beyond it. Speak from your head as well as your heart. Let yourself feel the feelings. And seek out support. Seek people who will be understand and encouraging. People who will listen, who will allow you to feel all the feelings both happy and sad, both angry and confused. It can be challenging to ask for help sometimes, but it is important to not remain isolated as you go through all this. Surround yourself with caring relatives and supportive friends. Also, consider seeking out a support group. There are ones both in-person as well as online. Try one or the other, or even both. It will be another layer of help. And you will be able to open up about as much or as little as you prefer. Talking through the pain will not make it go away. But it is helpful to let things out.

Another thing which you might want to carefully consider is reaching out and scheduling a time to speak with a therapist. It might help more than you think it could. A therapist can be there to stand beside you as you walk through this. They will offer support and help you move forward. You do not have to go through this alone.