Recognizing the Secondary Losses Others Don’t See
When you toss a pebble into a lake, it causes a ripple effect. The loss of a loved one works in a similar way. The initial loss is the most significant – and often the hardest to cope with. However, there are additional losses, known as secondary losses, that come about in the aftermath of a death. These losses tend to go unrecognized by others. This could be due to the private nature of the secondary loss, such as a loss of income or identity. But often, others simply do not think about the other losses caused by an initial one.
Our team at Moloney has seen firsthand the extent of grief through our work with Holbrook, Port Jefferson, and Central Islip families, and we are here to recognize and acknowledge all the losses you are facing. To help put a name to some of the feelings you might be experiencing, here are eight of the most common secondary losses.
- Loss of Family Structure
One of the largest secondary losses is that of a family structure. Whether you have lost a parent, child, sibling, or spouse, there is a void that cannot be filled by anyone else. Your family has lost someone who played many roles, and now you must quickly learn how to function with this new structure. When dealing with your grief, try to lean on the rest of your family. You have all experienced a loss regardless of what role this person was to each of you; rely on one another for support.
- Loss of Support System
Your loved one was most likely someone you turned to during times of need. You are now in one of your greatest times of need, but you’re missing an essential part of your support system. Without them, you must learn to find support in other places and other people. In addition to your family and friends, you may want to consider seeing a therapist or grief counselor. Remember – there is no shame in seeking help when you need it most.
- Loss of Income and Financial Security
If your loved one was a member of your direct family, your household income might be affected by their death. It’s important to enlist the help of trusted friends, family, and professionals to create a financial plan moving forward. While this may be the last thing you want to deal with after a loss, you will gain peace of mind by getting your finances in order.
- Loss of Trust and Security
After experiencing the death of a loved one, it’s common to become distrustful or skeptical of other people or situations in your life. You might feel like something is “too good to be true” or find yourself constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall. It can be very tiresome to live with this mindset. Try to practice positivity in small ways, such as making a list of people or things you are grateful for.
- Loss of Identity
Your loved one played a big role in your life; now that they are gone, it can feel like a part of you is gone too. You might even feel like you lost your identity altogether. This is a completely normal feeling. To cope with this secondary loss, try to get in touch with your individuality. You could pick up one of your old hobbies that you haven’t had time for lately or spend some time journaling. Although you might feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself, remember that your loved one is always with you, even if not physically.
- Loss of Past and Future Experiences
You and your loved one most likely made plans for the future together. Maybe you had plans for having another child with your spouse, an ambitious vacation with your best friend, or for your parent to walk you down the aisle. Now, you might be faced with a list of adventures you will never get to go on and a list of moments that are saddening to remember. However, you can still honor these past and future experiences. One of the most common ways to do this is through photos. Make a scrapbook with pictures of your loved one so you have a physical reminder of your time together. When important future events come about, bring along a photo of your loved one. The future will look different, and the past will be difficult to think about, but you can still memorialize your loved one in everything you do.
- Loss of Health
Grief can take a toll not only emotionally, but also physically. The physical effects of grief are often just as significant as the mental ones. It can be easy to stop taking care of yourself – maybe you stop showering as much, start eating more junk food than usual, or spend the day sitting or lying down. It’s normal to experience these things after a loss, but if they continue for too long, they can have harmful effects. Try to make small changes each day to improve your health. Go for a 10-minute walk to get your body moving or ask a friend or family member to cook you a homemade meal. The more you nurture the body, the more you can nurture your mind as you heal.
While there are many secondary losses you might endure after the death of a loved one, please remember we are here for you anytime. You can also check out our grief resources available on our website and contact us for support or referrals to professional assistance in our area.