Delayed grief multiple bereavements and lockdown

Hi all feels like I’m going crazy so thought this was a good place to start.

The years from 2014 to 2018 were nothing short of hellish for me. To cut a very long story short, my partner of 23 years died unexpectedly of alcoholism in autumn 2016. I had been dealing with the ravages of his addiction at the same time as caring for my mum who had terminal ovarian cancer and I had supported her through 18 months of brutal chemo fighting for her to get the right treatment meds etc. until she felt she would rather die than take any more. I was on my way to her in the hospital when I got the call telling me my partners body had been found. I watched mum die in hospital 4 days later - needless to say I didn’t tell her what had happened to my partber just bottled it all up.
So two funerals to organise at the same time. Then all the legal stuff, financial, probate - you know.
Dad had always been an alcoholic after his horrendous childhood and as soon as the news about Mum’s terminal diagnosis hit home with him, he hit the bottle. So not only was I dealing with an alcoholic partner while supporting mum through chemo I was completely unsupported by him because he was permanently drunk.
Four months after my double bereavement the hospital admitted that there wasnt anything else they could do for him, from now on his heart disease brougbt on by the alcohol was just going to get worse. So having just lost my partber and mother I was now caring for him for another 2 years, holding down a full time job with management who gave me zero support (in fact they actually went to the registration office to check death certificates to try to prove Id been lying about my double bereavement as if Id make it up!!!).
The bullying at my workplace got so bad I left after 13 years of service and got another job closer to dad His illness got so bad I would finish up at work at 5 and then spend four hours at his house cleaning up cooking, sorting out meds etc. He then died in Septrmber 2018.

Those of you who have supported someone through terminal cancer or heart disease will know the depths of stress, confusion, horror, helplessness and anticipatory grief behind the words above. Suffice it to say my bereavement started in February 2016 and hasn’t ended.

Last year was a good year I had a few long overdue holidays and ‘kept busy’ with the help of antidepressants. One awful thing did happen though - I had adopted the family cat who Id been caring for alongside mum and dad. And yes, youve got it - he died. Went missing for three months (I did the posters, advert in the local press, everything I could to find him) but by the time he was eventually found he was in such a terrible state I could only authorise euthanasia to end his misery.

And then along comes lockdown. Nothing to do, nowhere to run.
It is all hitting me at once, grief for three people and a pet plus my life - flashbacks, crying until Im exhausted, loneliness, anxiety. Im supposed to be working from home but its just not happening. I can’t focus I just cry and sleep cry and sleep cry and sleep.
And I think - is this the new normal? Now that its coming out - and it needs to - when will it stop? When will I be able to function again? Is this grief or trauma or depression or all three? Where do I even begin? Can I make plans for the future? How bad will this get?
I’ve made contact with a local therapist to go to when lockdown is over in case EMDR will help and I’m practising trauma relief exercises every morning, reading self help books and anything else I can.

Thanks for ‘listening’. I’m sure I’m not the only one this is happening to - all the numbed-out pain inside pouring out -but it certainly feels that way!!!

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Hi,
Just read your post, you’ve had so much to deal with, my heart goes out to you, to lose people you love in a such a short space of time is heartbreaking.
Something like this makes us think - what have we done to deserve this, it feels like we’re being punished.
Also the lockdown has made things a hundred times worse, but now it’s starting to ease, I’m finding I’m panicking, I want to stay in my own bubble at home where I don’t have to make small talk and explain my situation.
All I can say is keep posting on here, it’s the best therapy for me, the only place where everyone understands.
Sending love
Steph x

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Hi. Steph. I don’t believe we have done anything to deserve such pain. As for being punished! For what? Because we have lived and lost. Why would we be punished and by whom? It’s life Steph, just life. It’s how it goes and we either accept it or go under from the pain. Nasty things happen and good things happen. The ‘Ying and Yang’ of life. Somewhere someone is happy, here we are in pain. Everything has it’s opposite.
I understand how you want to stay in your ‘bubble’. I too feel lethargic about going anywhere. It’s almost as if isolation has become a habit. But we do need to stir and go out. Humans are naturally gregarious, they need company if only from a few. We are not desert island creatures where we can live alone. I agree about this site being good therapy. It has sure helped me and I have made friends on here.
Keep going Seph, we are all behind you and wish you well. Blessings.

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Hi Jonathan,
I know what you’re saying, it is life, things happen, that’s how it goes, but when it’s a constant roll of sadness and tragedy it would make anyone question ‘what have I done’
I think I would love to be a desert island creature, that would suit me . Everyone’s different, some need that company, other’s are quite content with being in their own ‘bubble’.
I do understand what you are saying, but I can’t accept the ying and yang of life. x

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Also I said it ‘feels’ like we’re being punished, not actually being punished for something by someone. x

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I agree Steph, I too feel I am being punished in some way. What did I do to deserve the two most special people in my life being taken within three weeks of each other. I must have done something unspeakable to be suffering as I am now :cry:

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2019 started badly with a phone call in the early hours to say our elder son had been admitted to hospital with a burst appendix and was extremely unwell. We were away for the weekend and had an unscheduled dash up the motorway. After a week of uncertainty and stress he turned the corner and recovered. We thought how very lucky we were that he had survived. Fortune must have been shining on us. Three months later my elderly father fell and broke his hip and died the next day from complications with the anaesthetic. That day my mum developed shingles which caused excruciating pain from which she is still suffering a year on. Having broken her leg exactly one year earlier her mobility was greatly affected and she suffers constant pain as a result of the metal pin used to repair the break.
We decided that the best solution was for my mum to come and live with my husband and I in our house 150 miles from where she lives. She was happy to do this and preparations were being made to sell her house.
Then in November my husband who had supported me in caring for both my parents at a distance and was looking forward for the first time to all being in one place died suddenly in front of our younger son. In that terrible moment life truly disintegrated and not a day goes by without me asking what ever did my family do wrong. There’s only so many times you can pick yourself up and dust yourself down.
We obviously haven’t been singled out for heartbreak as is evident from the many people suffering loss on this forum. We all know sad things happen in life - it doesn’t make it any easier to accept when it happens to us.
Xx

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Hi Barbara, every one of the events you have spoken about have been traumatic for you & just when you thought you were over the worst another comes along and takes the feet from you again. My tale is pretty similar to yours in that my Mum fell and broke her hip & the shock of Mums fall seemed to exacerbate Dads dementia so I ended up being carer to them both until it was decided Dad had to go into a care home as he was getting unmanageable. I was running both their house and my own with the help of Colin my husband who worked along with me in doing everything possible to make Mums life easier including doing her massive garden and driving her here there and everywhere. Mum had a lot of health issues including a stoma bag which would unfortunately sometimes burst so you can imagine the mess I had to clean up on numerous occasions :nauseated_face: but I got on with it because that’s what you do when you love someone. Unfortunately Mums health deteriorated & she was admitted to Hospital with pneumonia while we were on Holiday & sadly passed away. While we were away my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer & Colin became unwell. In the space of three weeks he went downhill so quickly he was admitted to Hospital for tests to see what was causing it. On the morning he was due to get an MRI scan he took a massive heart attack and although they tried for 37 minutes to bring him back it was not to be. We thought after Mum passed that we would get our life back as Col had only been retired two years and all of that time was taken up caring for my parents but he never complained he just did what had to be done without a grumble. Dad is still with us and at 91 does not know if its New York or New Year yet Colin was taken, it is beyond comprehension. As you say there are so many of us all in the same position but it does not stop you from wondering why has this happened, is it payback or Karma or just written in the stars. I think we clutch at straws to try and justify the unfairness of it all but sadly we will never get the answer we seek :frowning_face: xx

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Hi V,
Our stories are sadly very similar, even down to mum’s large garden!
As you say it’s incomprehensible how life turns out. John and I willingly did all we could to enable my parents to remain independent and living in their own home. It seems so cruel that after helping family and friends alike John’s life was cut short. It was sadly exactly the same for your husband Colin. There is no rhyme nor reason as to how or why things happen but it’s so so difficult. Xx

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I know Barbara, two good men who went above and beyond for their in-laws. Colin was the first to offer help to everyone and was so kind and considerate to all he came in contact with. Hard for us to continue without them :cry: like me I am sure you feel so cheated out of your future with John. I wonder if things will ever get any easier for us because the stage I am at presently I just can’t see it xx

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I do indeed feel cheated. To be right on the cusp of some time together and for it to be snatched away in an instant is unbearable. I had only envisaged a future with John and have now completely lost my bearings and all direction. Lots of us lost souls on this site unfortunately.xx

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My heart goes out to you, words fail me,
All the best

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Dear aLongTimeComing, Your message made my heart ache, such sad times…My story is similar to yours. My Father in law collapsed and died on arrival at the hospital, a month later my mother in law became unwell. On the day she was diagnosed with Liver and Gallbladder cancer, my Mum had a complete mental and physical breakdown, held my elderly Father at knifepoint overnight - and she was sectioned, went into a Psychiatric Hospital for a year, had a heart attack, never came home and went to a locked Care Home. My Dad started to suffer with falls & hallucinations and was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. My Mum was a hoarder and it took me & my family 18 months to empty the house, the rooms were packed, you couldn’t see the floor, some rooms were 4ft deep and the stuff in the attic had been there for over 50 years. (Never try reasoning with a hoarder especially one with severe mental health problems). At that time, my husband & I were supporting 3 vulnerable adults plus raising 2 children and holding down jobs in business and the NHS, travelling all over the country to various hospitals, for appointments and meetings. I then sold the family home where my parents had lived for over 50 years to pay for their care. Dad went into a sheltered flat and I managed to arrange POA. Mum had no mental capacity, there was no POA and so she was in the care of the Council. At one point, my Mum was very poorly and at risk of being resectioned and my mother in law was admitted with sepsis and nearly died. Like you, I faced bullying at work. I work as a nurse in the NHS and my Clinical Lead told met that “they didn’t need to hear about all this!” - whilst I worked as a Chemotherapy Nurse on her Unit looking after Oncology patients…oh yes, this is the caring NHS, looking after its staff… I left that job as the bullying was awful and now work in Emergency. In the past 3 years, my mother in law died at home, my Mum died unexpectedly 5 weeks later and my Dad spiralled further down into dementia. Last Autumn, he had 3 admissions to Hospital in 4 weeks and was deemed too unsafe to move back to his flat - so in 7 days, I found a care home near me, packed up his flat, arranged house clearing, closed down all his bills and relocated him across the country - and I also attended a mandatory NHS Study Day! I loved my Dad very much and I did everything I could to keep him safe and happy - and then he died of covid in the care home in April. I stayed with him at the care home throughout the last week of his life, nursing him and I was with him when he died. I made all the arrangements for his burial with 9 mourners. I have an older sister who is one of life’s invisible carers - and she literally did nothing to help me support our parents. She left me to be with both of them when they died and neglected them throughout their lives and when they really needed her at the end - but she managed to sort out my Dad’s Will (!) And now I have burn out, no more carers role, grief and bereavement, and probably never returning to nursing as my Dad’s death from covid was so harrowing to watch. Reading your message and writing my own, makes me realise that some of us go through so much and it’s really really painful. I have struggled in Lockdown, missed my friends, had no outlet for escapism, become more fearful of this virus and returning to work in it again. When I’ve had to disclose all the stressful things that happened, many people say to me that they couldn’t even cope with one of those events - but for many of us here, there was no choice and we love the people we lost. I wish you peace and thank you for writing about what happened to you and how it makes you feel. x

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Hi RCB - yes that’s a ridiculous amount for anyone to cope with Im so sorry you’ve been through all that. Sometimes siblings just don’t have the strength to be what we want them to be - my story is similar to yours but I am grateful that my sister sorted the house sale as I wasn’t mentally well enough to handle it. You have done amazingly well to get this far. Burnout is your mind and body’s way of saying ‘take some you time’ unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t consider we had mortgages to pay and jobs when she invented that system. And sadly managers just won’t get it until its their turn. I hope I never have to be in a room with the person who was my manager at that time because I don’t think I could be responsible for my actions. Anxiety comes with the territory of being a carer because it literally feels that someone’s life depends on us and then the emotional.effects of grief amplify that massively. Its like a giant wrecking ball. Remember that a long term mental illness of more than 12 months (e.g. anxiety/depression) counts as a disability and contact your union if you need support at work. Your achievements since these multiple crises began are extraordinary and you should be proud of all you have accomplished, but there is a price to pay that the body and mind demand. I think lockdown came at the right time to allow me to drop everything and grieve properly instead of pushing it down and workaholing myself to forget it, maybe this is your time too. And when the storm has passed we will come out the other end and boss life cos we’ve already nailed the worst it could throw at us. Take care x

Dear aLongTimeComing, thank you so much for your lovely message. When I look back at everything and all the surplus crap that came with it, it is amazing that I am still here, typing this to you! My problem is that I’m someone who gets things done and people think “Rachel, will sort it, she can cope” - and now, I find out that I’m not. My mantra was literally “keep going” and now I’m trying to let it be “let go”. I have never had burn out before and it’s a huge shock. I worry constantly about work and letting my colleagues down (typical nurse) and this exacerbates my anxiety as I worry about what people are saying but I’m really trying to push this away and think about how I would feel if a colleague lost a parent to covid. I know it’s stressful working in the NHS and there are many Nurses and Doctors burnt out and resigning due to the stresses of caring for patients with covid - but it’s a very different lived experience when you are working with covid patients and had your Dad die from it too. I know that I have to let go of the work crap and look after myself. Luckily, I (now) have a very supportive GP and excellent support from OH. My Clinical Lead is kind but I know she needs people at work ultimately. I belong to a Nursing Union who offer support but you can never get through on the phone… Thank you for your encouraging line about the storm and coming out the other end. Everything passes and there is hope for the future. Have a happy day and look after yourself too x

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Hi,

How are you? Are you coping a bit better than when you wrote this message?

Seems like you had a terrible four years between 2014 and 2018. You should be proud of how you managed to get through that time with all the tragedies that were happening - caring after your sick parents, losing your parents, losing your husband, bullying at work, gosh, it’s too much, and then the cat, especially as it was your parents’ cat and had extra sentimental value (not that you would care less about the cat if it was your own).

The lockdown would definitely have brought back the pain - you are not able to keep yourself busy like you were before, and you have had too much time to go over the bad things that happened. That is so sad. All I can say is, you managed to have a good year despite all the trauma before, so there is hopefully no reason why you should not be able to do it again. You’ll just have to maybe accept the immediate future will be dificult, but that the lockdown will not be here forever, and that hopefully things will get better again. In the meantime, you always have us here to talk to about your grief.

All the best.

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Thanks Abdullah. The oain has eased off now just an hour crying here and there not day after day. I am able to meditate again which is a great blessing. Take care stay safe.

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My heart goes out to you I do know something of what you have been going through as I too nursed my mum after losing my dad a few years before, both to cancer. I also lost a few other people in the meantime. I also was bullied at work during my dads death and it went on for numerous years. I also had my own illness. Plus my brother is an alcoholic and nasty to me. Lockdown hit hard with no one to turn too except this site. I really feel for you and am very worried about you.

It is normal when you have more than one really awful stressful situation that you put it in a box just so you can keep going on. Crying is good it is letting out everything that is bottled up. Organising counselling is a really positive thing to do. I myself found that exercise helps somewhat I have been going walking either in the evening or in the morning while their isnt too many people about. I too am having sleeping problems either i cant sleep or I sleep too much (I work nights and have really nosy neighbours so it doesn’t help either) I cant cope with watching their really happy lives. Also I am having trouble with food either I dont want to eat or I eat lots of junk food. Stress eating. Wanting to make plans for the future for you is also really positive steps. You have been through so much and yet you are looking to the future. Go yourself. I hope that you have someone to talk to and support you through this in everyday life and that you are not alone. Do you have any close friends at your new job that you can talk to or any other close friends. I know from experience that sometimes having gone through what you went through that friends can dry up and that is cause for grieving in itself even though they haven’t died you still feel abandoned. Or do you have any siblings who you can share your grief with. Trama relief exercises sound interesting I might look into that myself. When lockdown is over it might be an idea if you can join a group therapy thing with people like you. Or maybe find a new hobby something to take you out yourself. Keep pouring out your grief on here it is a good way to find that you are not alone and that there are people out there willing to support you and listen well read your story and share theres and it is in itself a little bit of a consolation especially at this time. Know that there are people thinking about you. Take care of you . Sorry reread message and it is a bit garbled in organisational terms but it is certainly well meant.

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That’s a lovely message, Meebee, thankfully she seems to be better now, hopefully you might be too some day.

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Dear Jobar,
You certainly have had a difficult time these last few years. I guess the thing you have to take away from your story is to hold onto the time when something good did happen like your older son surviving and I hope that both your sons are providing you with all the support and caring you need at this time. It seems to me that it is time that you need a wee bit of looking after. As of course do they and your mum it is obviously a very hard time for you all. perhaps you should try to get some counselling when this is over as you have been through so much. You have coped with everything so very well until you lost your partner and its as if the flood gates have opened so please take some time and look after yourself. Perhaps your mum could also talk to her doctors about her pain to see if there is anything that can be done to lessen her physical pain. Physical pain can make emotional pain feel worse and vice versa. It seems to me that you have been so strong through everything and then you lost your rock and you feel lost. Thinking of you. take care.