Recognizing and Grieving Secondary Losses Explained With Examples

Written by: Arooj Paulus – B. Sc (Applied Psychology)
Last updated date : February 22, 2023

Losing a loved one is the most difficult time of your life. It is not just a single event that comes and then goes. It can be the memories after their death that breaks our heart even more. When you lose someone dear to you it is your first loss. Their memories on the other hand, after their death, are secondary losses. It can make us emotionally disturbed. To cope with the loss of a loved one, recognizing and grieving secondary losses is a step toward healing. Let us look at the secondary and cumulative loss examples to have a better understanding to cope with your loss.

“Learnt a lot from this course” Sally

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Chapter 1:

What Is a Grief?

Primary Loss
It is the death of someone close to you such as the loss of a father, mother, partner or sibling, etc. However, the loss can be in many forms, such as the death of a loved one, the breakup of a significant relationship, the loss of a career, or the loss of control due to a disability.
It is the most common feeling of any major loss. It is frequently characterized by emotional discomfort, which can include complicated emotions of sorrow, helplessness, isolation, and rage. As a result of their feeling of loss, they could start to feel detached and numb in their life, which makes it difficult for them to perform their routine tasks.

It can last for months or years, depending on how you cope with it. However, the pain typically lessens with time and it is their memories who hurt you afterward.

Chapter 2:

What Are Secondary Losses?

As a result of a first loss, such as the death of a close one, we face secondary losses. It includes variations in your relations, educational facilities, personal finances, and style of living. You may mourn not only the loss of your loved one but also because of these additional losses.

Chapter 3:

Grieving Secondary Losses

When a loved one passes away, you could also go through several secondary losses as a result of the primary loss, which makes it harder to come to cope with the death.

Grieving secondary losses is a normal and healthy aspect of adjusting to a life that has undergone significant change. Recognizing the secondary losses that result from the death is one of the demands made on the grieving. Recognizing your current or future secondary losses, and admitting those that have already occurred are all crucial for healing. We need to understand that each secondary loss needs to be recognized to call for a unique grieving process that takes place in its own time of course.

Chapter 4:

Secondary Losses and Cumulative Loss Examples

Here are some of the common examples which can help you in recognizing what secondary losses and grieving can be like.
1. Disturbed Family Structure
Secondary loss can be due to a sudden change in family structure. The loss of a family member causes a significant change in the close family’s structure and its system. For instance,
  • There may be just one parent left for the kids now. And all the responsibility of the household is on them.
  • In the case of a lost child. The birth order is altered for siblings. When people ask parents, “How many kids do you have?” it might be difficult for them.
  • If it was your partner, there is not an adult living at home anymore for spouses.
  • Family members who are still alive must take on new duties or household chores that the dead used to do.
2. Loss of a Primary Connection
One of the most common secondary losses is that you miss the bond that you shared with them. Such as the talks you had, the activities you enjoyed doing together, and the time you spent together are over. You now own the special memories that you formerly shared.

There might also be a loss of opportunities to do things together that you wished you had. For instance

  • Some plans that you made with them e.g. an event or a vacation. Now you don’t have the person which can make you miss them, even more, when you think to do it.
  • A close sexual relationship has come to an end for spouses and adult partners.
  • An adult child was just starting to be a friend of their parents. This can make you detached from others too.
  • Siblings who were starting to experience the bond on a more adult level.
3. Loss of Identity or Belonging:
You lose the roles you no longer play in a relationship. In addition, surviving partners and siblings or parents who are now lost a relationship lose the title associated with also. For instance, if someone losses a child they may no longer be referred to parents which can disturb them in the future. This role loss can occur at work, at home, in the family, among friends, and the community.
4. Loss of Safety
Lack of security results in a sense of dread. Being aware of how dangerous and scary the world is can make one feel vulnerable and anxious. Uncertainty about what to anticipate, what will happen next, or our reactions or responses may accompany it.

Further changes in residences, places to sleep, places of worship, and localities can make survivors feel more uneasy after relocating.

5. Lose Faith:
Grieving secondary losses also come with a lack of belief in a positive future. Our confidence in the world, those around us, and ourselves can all be destroyed by death. Being able to trust again can be extremely painful. That is why many people avoid making new close relationships in the future. Or maybe fear of getting close to someone thinking that they will leave someday.
6. Financial Instability
Secondary and cumulative loss can also be examples of poor finances. For instance
  • a severe financial loss brought on by death.
  • The principal salary earner is frequently no longer present.
  • Others may experience job loss as a result of the grieving process
  • Or a significant debt accrued by the dead.

Chapter 5:

Call to Action

The most painful truth of life is losing a loved one. If you or someone you know is going through this tough time then you can read or suggest someone to read “How to Accept the Death of a Parent and Cope” at Epsychonline. To help you in recognizing your primary and secondary losses and discover coping ways for your grieving.

Further, you can enroll in the “Coping with Chronic Pain” course at Epsychonline. So that you can deal with chronic pain during this difficult period.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount