When you’ve experienced multiple losses within a short period of time, you may begin to wonder how much more loss you can endure. This is known as Cumulative Grief, when one experiences multiple losses either all at once, or before processing an earlier loss.
In coping with the one year anniversary of my husband’s passing last week, I realized that my own grief would be regarded as cumulative.
In the swirl of anguished archived Social Media Posts from last year at this time, I realized that I’d almost “forgotten” the sudden passing of my youngest brother, Matt, back on October 26, 2005. He was 39.
In March 2019, I lost my only sister, Manette. Seventeen months my junior, she passed at age 57 after a prolonged illness. In our family home of Hackensack, NJ, we shared a small bedroom for nearly 18 plus years. She was an Owl, me a Lark. We argued, wrestled, gossiped and laughed. In this photo, we enjoyed what would be our last walk in her beloved woods together. As I took this photo, a butterfly landed on her shoulder.
On May 26 of this year, I lost my nephew Zac, just two days short of his 40th birthday. The only son of my sister, I had helped raise him like a son in a shared condo unit in Hackensack, New Jersey.
In February of 2021, Rich and I’d mourned the loss of our precious Foster-to-Forever Dog, Teddy, a dog we’d grown to love over the course of seven years. I’ve lost many pets, but Teddy holds a special place in my heart. Below Rich and Teddy enjoy a late summer day at a Jersey Shore beach.
Each passing brought a different type of grief, but there is one difference in processing the grief of a spouse or a Significant Other – With the exception of my nephew’s passing, I had Rich to lean on; to be their for me; a man who’d spent 30 years becoming part of our family’s collective memory.
If you’ve been married, or connected with a Significant Other, with their passing you’ve lost your rock, the individual who is there for you long after your coupled friends and colleagues have gone home to enjoy the comfort and support of their own Significant Others. Those who’ve lost their rock are often left with a chasm of silence in which to contemplate past, present and future. That is what differentiates this loss from others, especially when processing Cumulative Grief.
If you’d told me five years ago that these vibrant and dynamic individuals would soon be absent from my life, I would not have been able to even begin to know how to process these losses. But somehow, here I am, living and breathing despite this new lonelier frontier. Somedays the breathing isn’t as deep, but I go on forging a new reality on a daily basis with the help of others who do their best to help me Move Forward.
When you tell me of your own losses and all I can say is that I truly understand, I’m not just “talking the talk” – I’m walking the walk and will continue to do so.
The hard earned gift of this path is genuine understanding.
Have a great week and appreciate the people in your own lives who deserve it.