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On Death Upon Death

cemeteryDo you know a lot of people? If you do, as I do, there will come some painful time of multiple deaths.

I went through this the first time in 1989, when 13 people died in one year, three in three days at one point. Martin, in a car wreck; Ed, from AIDS, and George committed suicide, unable to regain enough of his abilities after a stroke for his life to make sense. Then it was my mother, a cousin or two, several people in the plant where I was working, and I don’t even remember who else.

Humpty Dumpty tumbled off the wall. Grief upon grief, and all capacities overwhelmed. All the internal stitching together? Undone.  The model then was a “what’s wrong” model, a diagnosis (dissociation), and long hard work gluing the egg together.

I’ve learned a lot in the intervening years, and become more convinced than ever that caring for one’s self when the stuff hits the fan (and when it doesn’t!) is critical.

So, since the 7th of March, it’s been death upon death again. My cousin Steve, of a stroke after bypass surgery. The same day he was buried, my 101 year old Great Aunt Ruth, one of my early childhood heroes. A friend from my childhood church, Ed. A friend from CA reached out to let me know her husband of 30 years dropped dead at a business meeting in Utah. Saturday morning, the call came that my Uncle John had died. While I was receiving that call, another one came in that my friend Linda’s husband had died. And, another friend in my age bracket, Vickie, on Sunday.

Being trauma-responsive–recognizing the impact of multiple difficult, and at least momentarily overwhelming, experiences–means checking on Humpty Dumpty’s mended seams.

My question has long been”What would 99% of the people who are not hospitalized for a mental illness be doing in this situation?” Now I’ve changed it: “What would 99% of the people who I consider mentally and emotionally healthy being doing in this situation?”

Resting. Eating well. Walking lots. Being quiet. Avoiding any more distress. Remembering the good things about each of these. Weeping a little (OK, sometimes a lot for a little while). Tucking in with comfy pillows, a cool dark room, and early bedtimes. Shutting out negativity, conflict. Steadiness. Sturdiness.

What would you all do? How would you handle this much loss in such a short time?

On Death Upon Death

Elizabeth Power, M.Ed.

Elizabeth Power, M.Ed., CEO of EPower & Associates, Inc. is a sought-after speaker, facilitator, teacher, and consultant. Her firm's specialty is helping organizations make and manage change through learning and doing. Her mastery of diverse interests and innovation has been recognized worldwide through awards and publications across a wide spectrum of disciplines. Her firm provides services in the mental health and disability communities and to early childhood educators, families, parents and teachers.

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APA Reference
Power, E. (2015). On Death Upon Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Mar 2015
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