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Cumulative Grief: What It Is and How to Cope by Ann Hoff

Lori Davidson | 28 June, 2022

            Cumulative Grief June Blog PetPerennials.com

No one has ever measured, not even poets, how much the human heart can hold.

                                                                      ~Zelda Fitzgerald

 Ann Hoff is a regular contributor to our FB Group “I Am not Crazy Because I Talk to Animals” and leads a monthly Zoom call with members wishing to chat with a pet, or simply ask Ann a question.

There has been an overabundance of loss these last few years. Most of my clients I work with have lost more than one family member. Some have lost several. There are other losses as well, the loss of a job, an illness that leaves you less than before. I have also noticed that pets in the family seem to leave in groups. That has always happened. Many times, pets depend on each other, and when one crosses the other does too, because they are around the same age or grieving in a way that they don’t rally from. (If this is happening with your pet, call me. Talking to them and helping them converse with the other side can lead to a different outcome.)


So, I wanted to share some ways to stay healthy while coping with compounded grief. This is also called cumulative grief. It can be challenging, overwhelming, and you may feel like your life is crumbling in every direction. Here are some ways to take it on, and make sure that you make it through to the other side of the grief.


  1. Make sure to grieve each loss individually.

Each loss is distinct and individual, deserving unique attention. When grieving multiple losses, write down each one and what is unique about them. Names, what was special about them, what you really miss about that person. Bring memories to the surface and release the emotions they carry with them.  


  1. Don’t be afraid to feel your emotions.

When I attended Elizabeth-Kubler Ross (the woman who wrote the book on the stages of grief) workshops, I found that many of the people at the workshops were afraid to feel their emotions. Many of them thought there would be no bottom (Including me the first time) they thought that they would just cry and cry and be left a puddling mess on the floor. What we found instead is there was an end to our grief. That there was a bottom. While it wasn’t easy to go through, I felt refreshed after I had grieved.

Grief can also bring a wide range of emotions, like fear, sadness, anger, guilt, anything is possible. Know that they are like the weather, you will feel them and then they will pass.



  1. Take care to take care of yourself.

In these days of post Covid-19, with losses that some of us are just starting to deal with, it is important to take care of yourself. Compounded grief takes a physical, emotional, and mental toll on your body. Make sure you get enough rest, proper nutrition, and exercise to keep your body in shape and give it the fuel it needs to grieve.


Other examples of self-care are meditation, creating art (getting in present time), taking walks outdoors, journaling about how you feel and what you think (this always makes things better but for some reason people resist it.) spending time with your current pets, spending time with supportive friends (don’t force yourself to spend time with people who unnerve you or torture you), get a massage, have a day of beauty/self-care (like manicure, pedicure, sauna), sing or listen to music that is comforting (When my dog Gracie died, I listened to Frank Sinatra music for weeks because it was the only music that didn’t have memories attached to it).



We haven’t been able to plan for compound grief, no one saw Covid-19 coming, and we don’t know when it will leave for good. Accidents happen, and we lose beings we thought we would have longer. What we can do though is create good grief habits and engage our emotions when safe. If you are currently dealing with compounded grief, think of taking one loss, one grief at a time. Be kind and patient with yourself. As human beings, our default isn’t sorrow, our true being is joy. When we work through our losses, we find our joy again. Believe me, it is there. Because for as long as we are alive, there will always be more to love.


 Know someone dealing with loss? Dealing with loss and unsure how to honor your loved one's memory? We can help. 


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