Secondary losses: What are they and what do they mean

Secondary losses: What are they and what do they mean

Do you suffer or know someone who goes through "secondary losses"?  These can really be life altering and we as a community need to lean into helping others who are going through these phases of life. 

Secondary losses refer to the additional challenges and difficulties that arise as a result of a primary loss or change in one's life. These losses can be emotional, social, financial, loss of dreams of the future, faith, or even physical in nature. For example, let's say someone experiences the primary loss of a loved one. The secondary losses that may follow could include the loss of emotional support, financial stability, or even a sense of identity if the person relied heavily on their relationship with the deceased. 

Someone grieving a loss of a loved one, may not see these secondary losses coming at them, they will get caught off guard and can in turn compound their grief even more.  These losses can become so incredibly personal and sometimes private it becomes difficult to give (and receive) support and acknowledgment from them.  I believe the best practice and start for the griever would be to write out all your secondary losses you are feeling.  This brings it to the table and better helps you acknowledge the feelings that are going on around you besides the primary loss you've experienced.  Remember - loss is loss - no matter how big or how small it is.  You GET to take time to grieve these losses as well.  

There are several ways to manage secondary losses. Here are a few strategies that can be helpful:

  • Acknowledge and validate your emotions: It's important to recognize and accept the emotions that come with secondary losses. Allow yourself to grieve and process these emotions in a healthy way. This can include talking to a trusted friend or therapist, journaling, or engaging in activities that help you express your feelings.
  • Seek support: Surround yourself with a strong support system. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide understanding and empathy. Sharing your experiences with others who have gone through similar losses can be particularly helpful.
  • Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is crucial during times of secondary losses. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time in nature. Prioritize self-care and make it a regular part of your routine.
  • Set realistic expectations: Understand that managing secondary losses takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and set realistic expectations for your healing process. It's okay to have good days and bad days, and it's important to give yourself permission to grieve at your own pace.
  • Seek professional help if needed: If you find that your secondary losses are significantly impacting your daily life and well-being, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.
Remember, everyone's experience with secondary losses is unique, so it's important to find strategies that work best for you. It's important to recognize and address these secondary losses because they can have a significant impact on a person's overall well-being and ability to cope with the primary loss. By acknowledging and understanding these secondary losses, individuals can seek support, develop coping strategies, and work towards rebuilding their lives.


I experienced a couple secondary losses and I still experience them.  Relating to my son's death, I grieve the future and our dreams, I grieve for Graci not having a sibling, I grieve that I'm alone in my child loss as Jack has died, so I grieve having that "one" person that lost the exact same individual.  With Jack, I lost friends, I lost a sense of security, I lost my faith for awhile (but I'm so happy that God carried me through and I have my faith back now).  I feel some of these with my brother's death as well.  


In another scenario, a person who becomes disabled may experience secondary losses such as the loss of independence, the ability to participate in certain activities, or even changes in their relationships with others. See...loss is loss no matter the situation.  For one second, please imagine your scenario of it was you. I feel if a person can put themselves there for just a moment, you will be able to help and be there for that person in a bigger and better way than ever imagined. 


So, when you think about losses, please remember all the secondary losses a person may be going through.  Even if it's not a "death" loss like the examples above, a loss is a loss.  Be Kind - Be Present - Be Patient - Be Loving to ALL individuals going through losses.  Because folks, loss is around us all, every day and all situations.  If we all work TOGETHER we can be BETTER as a whole.  






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