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rebbel's avatar

How on Earth, does a human cope with a tragedy in which four family members die? [Details inside].

Asked by rebbel (24957points) February 9th, 2012

A few days ago an accident between two cars took place.
They crashed and both landed in a (frozen) canal, after which all passengers were taken out by the emergency workers and they were hospitalized.
Both passengers (father and daughter) of the first car died soon after.
Two passengers of the second car (two brothers) died too.
Yesterday also the mother and daughter/sister of the two boys lost their battle.
Leaving the father/husband behind (he is out of danger and out of hospital).
My question focusses on the father of the second car:
How can one ever overcome/handle such big tragedy?
I can’t begin to fathom how hurt a person would be in a case like this.
Obviously I don’t expect answers with solutions to cope with this kind of grief, more so your thoughts on how the human mind works in these terrible situations.

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19 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I really can’t imagine how I would deal with it. I have a close friend who lost his father and his brother in a very short time frame. He said for him grief was as physical as it was emotional. He said he had periods of physical pain associated with the losses.

When tragedy of mountainous proportions strikes, I suppose we humans do what we always do. We pick up our load and carry it one day at a time.

Judi's avatar

I have suffered tragic loss and I don’t know if I would have survived but for the hope offered in my faith.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have grieved for men in the military with whom I have worked who were killed. I have grieved for older members of my family and extended family who have died. But I do NOT want to ever have to grieve for my children or grandchildren because they have died. In the natural order of things, I am suppose to die before they do. Nor do I ever want my wife to predecease me. I don’t think any of them dying would kill me, but I would probably prefer to die if they did. I love them all with every fibre of my being… they help define me and make me who I am… they are my primary motivation for still living and being here.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Thank God that he is always there to comfort and love us.

janbb's avatar

I am having so much trouble coping with my own less tragic situation that I cannot fathom how one copes with something like this.

JLeslie's avatar

What an awful situation. I think it is beyond comprehension, unless someone has been through something like this, to really know how devastating the pain of loss would be. I would guess the majority of people are suicidal. To get through it I assume the first task is just to stay alive day to day initially, and then find a new normal without those people in your life. I can’t imagine one ever completely gets over such a loss, but people do move on to find new happiness eventually. I think it takes a really long time though. Years. The support of friends, family, and others who have suffered tragic loss help the person through, help them hold on. Others find their faith helps, as mentioned above, but I think many lose faith in situations like this also, and of course there are people who do not believe in God in the first place. In time new people come into their lives probably, when they are ready to receive it.

YARNLADY's avatar

The support of family and other people is probably the best answer. Usually coping just means living long enough for the suffering to fade, and the good times begin to outnumber the bad.

pshizzle's avatar

The human mind is a strange thing. It kind of goes along with Nature versus Nurture; because your brain uses that as a mechanism to decipher certain, if not all situations.

mrrich724's avatar

This is a great q @rebbel a HORRIBLE thing to have to think about. But I suppose they work on it the same way one does when they lose one person.

I thought that if my mom ever died I might just kill myself, b/c she was my world. . . Then she died and I discovered that life goes on. You do your best to pick up the pieces. You revisit your values and faith, and year after year you get a little better.

Or you don’t and those deaths were in vain as far as your life wasted is concerned. It all comes down to the decisions a person makes after that loss. And you truly can’t guess what those decisions are until it’s time to make them.

Soubresaut's avatar

I think we’re, as a whole, tougher than we think we are.

I read an article a while back, about the resilience of the mind. It was a discussion looking into how people cope with such trauma (devastating loss like above, surviving a warzone [as military or civilian], etc). Here’s the article, if you want; it’s 6 pages, but you’d need to read the 6 pages, because it explores more than trying to declare. It covers various research and theories on mind, all the ways people are trying to help/understand/explain/eliminate reactions to trauma, and whether the attempts are actually helping, or even (always) necessary. I think it’s an interesting read.
Its title, and one of the more prominent premises: we generally make it through without glaring scars, that we may have an innate emotional resilience, even if we don’t explicitly ‘understand’ it yet in methods of thought like psychology.

Evidence shows that people have huge variety of grieving/coping, that it’s not a uniform set of stages; that most people, most of the time, will recover on their own, in their own way, and that’s okay; that we may be doing more harm by making people re-live the events through painful ‘cathartic’ sessions, by trying to fit them into a pattern, by treating them like they’re about to break, need to be fixed, need to be led by hand, etc. We will, generally, be okay, somehow.

Not that this father’s loss doesn’t hurt like more than hell. It does. Or should I say it must—can’t imagine, either.
And ‘okay’ doesn’t mean splendid or like nothing ever happened. It just means okay.

I think… we feel like we’re going to break, die, and feel like we want to, as well. But it’s not a monotone of that feeling, its intense waves we manage to wade through. Except that’s not quite it, because we’re the waves, too, crashing and reforming and finding that maybe we’re a little saliter now. We still feel a pull of rhythm, and eventually—in our own way, our own time, we’ll find a new way to dance.

DaphneT's avatar

I don’t think anyone has a real ability to empathize with a person in his position.

It’s been a year since I lost my sister unexpectedly, but I had to go on being an example of stability to her husband and children. Part of my grieving involved imagining what would happen if I lost everybody at once. Not a concept I want to enact anytime soon, I’m just a natural worrier. So I imagine that poor man may go through many days of wanting to end everything, to sell up and move, to just sitting in the dark and getting very drunk, and mostly feeling profoundly numb more often than not. If he can make it through the first year, he might rebuild a life for himself.

anartist's avatar

If it doesn’t kill him [or make him kill himself quickly or slowly], he will go on. End of story.

Sunny2's avatar

Denial. A lot of sleep. Getting through, first one day and then the next. As many days as it takes to stop feeling numb. It’s different for each person who suffers such a loss. I never knew grief caused physical pain until I went through it. It felt like I had a metal pole down through my body. Time is the only true healer in this situation.

Aethelwine's avatar

I hate to say it because I know how atheist Fluther leans, but faith seems to be the one and only way I’ve known anyone to deal with such tragedy. just my personal experience

ZEPHYRA's avatar

I know it sounds harsh, but if I were in his shoes, I would love to have been killed in that crash too rather than have to go through this. Personally I would try and get my life over and done with after that.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I think many Jews who witnessed their families be killed in front of them during nazi Germany lost faith and survived; later even found new prosperous, happy lives. I have a feeling one of the reasons, and there are several, Jewish people have high percentages of atheists is because of extreme tragedy. I’ve never read anything specifically regarding the topic, it is just my own observation. However, I do agree faith in God gets a lot of people through bad circumstances.

Ron_C's avatar

I can’t imagine going through the multiple tragedy described in this question. I found it difficult when just one close relative died and can’t imagine the despair cause by multiple deaths. I imagine that a belief in god will help some people, personally, I like the thought that we are made of “star stuff” and return to ‘star stuff”.

Were I religious, I would be blaming god for his carelessness rather than praying for his comfort.

BBawlight's avatar

I think the human mind makes natural attachments to family members in order to help balance the hormones. If too much of a hormone is put out, the body will act unnaturally. So at the loss of many family members can cause a total hormone imbalance. The person could succumb to depression and become anti-social to prevent events like this from happening in the future. They may experience immense physical and emotional pain. They may not feel as if they can’t handle the pain that they are feeling and become detached from society as to not cause further their suffering.

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