Recurring Deaths

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m a 23 year old woman who has recently been thrown into a huge amount of responsibility due to the death of my father-and roughly a week later, the death of my mother. In Summer of 2013 my father was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and within only a month, he withered away into nothing and was gone. This was as much of a shock as it was a blow. I was not prepared for anything and as much as I re-assured my mother everything was going to be okay, she had an accidental overdose only a week later. This left myself, my older brother, and my boyfriend (who was already living with us) in charge of our current house and another house a couple of miles away that my parents were renting out. We learned the in’s and out’s of home ownership while trying to cope with our losses the best way we could. Four days after my mother passed, my grandmother (her mother) left this Earth as well. Most of how I was feeling after those events were a blur, but I could re-collect that I was definitely numb, or kept myself there by means of marijuana and the occasional alcohol. I noticed my mood starting shifting. I was angry for no good reason, anxious, irritable, and I felt trapped. My brother was having far worse outbursts than I was and if it were not for my boyfriend, I think I would of hurt him badly. My boyfriend’s personality was the polar opposite of my brother and I’s (anger issues run in the family) and he knew just the way to keep the peace. But? I found a reason to lash out at him because I thought his positivity is annoying, he should leave me alone when I’m in my state of numbness, and every time he tells me, “I SHOULDN’T be feeling a certain way” I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I’m aware my behavior is childish, but sometimes I feel like I have no patience for him what-so-ever, and he has felt a good majority of my rage more than anybody even if he is the last one who deserves to. I cope with my feelings better sometimes. I’ve begun going to the gym, took up gardening here and there, actually finished a whole book for the first time since high school, and am reading more into spirituality. I’m trying just about everything to calm my nerves however that may be, but it’s like every time I do, something has to hit my reset button. My 36 year old cousin committed suicide 5 months after my grandmother passed away in the same exact house. Why was everything so dark in my life and everything so sunny and peachy in my boyfriends? Maybe I resent him for never having experiencing a death of his own blood family? Anytime I was in a sour mood and he made a stupid joke or did something to piss me off, negativity would flood my mind and I would find every reason to tell myself maybe I am better off alone? Death has always been at my back door. In 2001, both of my grandfather’s passed away a week apart from each other just as my parents did this time last year. In 2002, my beloved uncle passed on, and a few years later in 2005 before Hurricane Katrina, my aunt passed on as well. A long with several close friends I’ve lost around my age, and somebody I had an intimate relationship with last year as well. Am I just overall traumatized by the list of events that have plagued me? I have counted 13 people I have lost in the past 14 years and it terrifies me that this will keep happening. I am angry, irritable, frustrated, anxious, lose desire for anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not always like this; but when something seems to not go my way or happen as planned all these feelings come back: Like a child. My boyfriend wants us to go to therapy, or have me meet with a personal therapist to seek communication since I find it so hard to open up to him. I don’t want to ruin my relationship and live in a constant state of depression. My boyfriend tries to “fix” how I’m feeling when I’m convinced that I’m the only one who can repair my feelings. I tell him to back off A LOT and it’s even more frustrating because he is also ADHD, and responds to everything with a little too much love and care than I ask for at the time. Maybe I should become a Buddhist Monk?! Thank you for reading.

A: I think the better response would be to take your amazing insights and put them to work and helping you grieve.

This complex grief is coupled with the burden of having to manage the household. So in addition to these profound losses you also have increased responsibilities. I think if you weren’t irritable and frustrated that would be something wrong.

When we lose people we care about it can often create some problems with intimacy. I noticed you describe your boyfriend in terms most people would say is positive, yet you see him as alienating and off-putting. In the same breath you appreciate him for being there.

My guess is that when you feel so many losses of important people in your life it creates havoc with the one person that is most central to your life, your boyfriend.

I would highly recommend some grief counseling for you and perhaps jointly with your boyfriend. Grief counseling as an individual or couple will be be the best way for you to move through this sad and difficult time. You can get referrals for this from your local community hospital or the funeral parlor. They typically have a network of counselors who specialize in this type of counseling.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). Recurring Deaths. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/11/recurring-deaths/

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