31 - Living With Cumulative Grief : An Interview With Betty and Joey Dowling

Living with Cumulative Grief : An interview with Betty and Joey Dowling

Hi everyone and welcome to Untethered: Healing the pain from a sudden death. I am Dr. Jennifer Levin, and I specialize in traumatic death and helping individuals through the struggles, pain, trauma, and chaos of an unexpected death. 

In today’s podcast I interview mother and son, Betty and Joey Dowling, and we explore the concept of cumulative grief. When someone experiences multiple deaths, one right after one another, we refer to this phenomenon as cumulative grief because there is no time to process the grief from one loss, before the grief from the next death sets in. All of the sudden the emotions and grief from each death start to blend together. Today Betty and Joey share the story of the sudden death of Betty husband’s and Joey’s father Tom, and then later the expected deaths of Betty’s two son’s and Joey’s brothers Kevin and Erik, who died less than two years apart. We also talk about some of the differences Betty and Joey noted in their grief when the death was sudden versus anticipated and what it has been like for them to continue living and healing after so much loss. 

Key Points:

Whether death occurs in a sudden or unexpected nature or expected, cumulative grief is emotionally draining, and it intensifies complex emotions. The experience of cumulative grief can also be heightened by non-death losses including the loss of other relationships, finances, careers, health problems, and life transitions.

Betty noted her challenges connecting to her husband’s grief while caring for her son Kevin and then difficulty to grieve for Kevin while caring for Erik until finally everything just rolled into one. 

Joey explains how the cumulative losses amplified the number of grief triggers that he encountered, and that one trigger would resurface one memory that would lead to another memory, then another. As a result, he found himself cascaded with overwhelming memories of his dad and both of his brothers, constantly thinking about all his cumulative losses, all of the time.  

If you find yourself experiencing cumulative grief it can be beneficial to your healing to take some time to grieve each of your losses separately. I discuss the techniques that I use with clients who are struggling with cumulative grief. 

Death and loss, whether expected or unexpected, will always be a part of our life.  I believe the key to living with cumulative grief are to understand how multiple losses impact us, to allow ourselves to feel and express the emotions and to continue to engage in life and keep loving throughout the entire process.

Our podcast Untethered is now hosted on my website www.therapyheals.com. To learn more about hope and guidance after sudden or unexpected death please visit my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter Guidance in Grief at www.therapyheals.com.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.