November 13, 2022

How to handle an overload of grief

When I was 27, my mother told me she was dying of ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no cure. She died the following summer, and not long after, my father was diagnosed with cancer. He successfully completed treatment, but when the cancer returned, he didn’t survive.

From the moment my mother shared her diagnosis and leading up to my father’s funeral, it felt like my head was being held under water. I could only surface for enough air to survive, but not long enough to understand the enormity of what had occurred. Before I could come to terms with one loss, I was experiencing another.

A prior history of grief can affect the current grieving process. One study found people who lost more than one person in a short time still grieved one loss at a time, and that multiple losses affected various aspects of the bereaved individual’s life, like their health, job, and marriage.