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Secondary Losses

I had been thinking about how on-going child loss is when I came across this post from a support site for bereaved parents.  The thought of making a list of secondary losses never entered my mind, as it seems so all-consuming having to deal with the primary loss on a day-to-day basis.  I kinda lump my loss into one big pile called PAIN.  As I read each secondary loss in this mama’s list and pondered each one’s unique distinctness, I began to realize it makes the enormity of child-loss more manageable, though still not easy.

I’ve highlighted the ones that I relate to particularly.

Secondary Losses – How Long Is Your List?

The death of our child is termed a ‘primary loss‘. Sadly, it’s not the only loss we must endure. Many bereaved parents fail to realize that the moment our child dies, we begin to experience ‘secondary losses‘. And these, like the devastating loss of our child, must also be grieved. For those new to the term, ‘secondary losses’ refers to all the collateral damage that comes as a result of the death of a loved one. These subsequent, highly personal losses form a huge part of grief. So, how long is your list? Have you ever made one?
It’s not uncommon for bereaved parents not to have a list at all.

We’re so overwhelmed by our grief that we can’t make head nor tail of it. In fact, it took me well over two years to even understand the implications of secondary loss because I was so crushed by the living nightmare that was my ‘new normal’.

Secondary loss works like a ripple effect. It flows out from the death of our child or loved one and grows ever wider, changing all the time. It’s all the losses that no one tells you about but you will be confronted with and forced to grieve nonetheless. That’s why it’s helpful to identify them. In pinpointing exactly which secondary losses we’re grieving, we can address each one and give it the consideration and space it deserves.

When friends and family find it difficult to comprehend the depth of our loss and ask why we’re not ‘moving on’ is often because they haven’t understood secondary losses. I showed friends my list and they were shocked. They’d never thought about how the death of my son affected simple things such as taking a photograph or planning a holiday. I then added that I’d stopped arbitrarily at 80 simply because the list, in fact, has no end. One girlfriend looked dumbfounded: “So many are invisible. I never guessed.”
So I urge you to make your own list.

Or perhaps even print out the list below, highlighting the secondary losses that speak to you and adding your own. For me, the list helps me to carry my loss. And perhaps by showing our list to those that love us they’ll better understand how complex and long-lasting our grief journey truly is.
My Secondary Loss List

Loss of identity

Loss of self-care

Loss of the naturally positive person I used to be

Loss of friends

Loss of contact with family members

Loss of trust in people

Loss of trust that things will have a positive outcome

Loss of feeling safe

Loss of innocence of my surviving children

Loss of innocence of those who loved my son

Loss of my child as a friend

Loss of my child’s unique humor

Loss of the support, love, and advice I received from my child

Loss of trust in the justice system (and I would add – lawyers in general)

Loss of faith

Loss of financial security

Loss of income

Loss of employment

Loss of health

Loss of energy

Loss of strength to work

Loss of strength to do sport

Loss of motivation

Loss of sleep

Loss of emotional intimacy in relationships

Loss of trust in human nature

Loss of hope for the future

Loss of direction

Loss of personal goals

Loss of concentration

Loss of memory

The loss in my ability to make decisions

The loss of being able to accurately predict how I will feel in any given situation (this one is particularly difficult for me)

Loss of family structure

Loss of the inner feeling of lightness and fun

Loss of feeling a part of normal life (I didn’t highlight this one because I just don’t care if I’m part of normal life anymore – that in itself is probably a loss)

Loss of feeling connected to others

Loss of plans for the future

Loss of sharing daily life with my child

Loss of a future family life with us all together

Loss of my surviving children’s future relationship with their brother

Loss of seeing my child begin his own family

Loss of dreams

Loss of enjoyment in daily activities

Loss of appetite

Loss of interest in things I previously loved

Loss of interest in anything much

Loss of patience

Loss of sense of fun

Loss of interest in socialising

Loss of good eyesight

Loss of calmness

Loss of normal blood pressure

Loss of my ability to deal with anxiety

Loss of my ability to deal with crowds

Loss of my ability to handle unexpected situations

Loss of joy at making future plans

The loss at the realization that I’ll never see my child grow up

The loss at the realization that my child will never achieve his potential

The loss at the realization that my child suffered

The loss at the realization that I was unable to protect and save my child

Loss of the ability to think good thoughts before I fall asleep

Loss of the ability to think about anything other than my dead child first thing in the morning

Loss of being able to direct my thoughts away from how my child died

Loss of the ability to forgive

Loss of the ability to re-connect with those I cannot forgive

The loss at the realization that my child is being forgotten by others

The loss at the realization that society is scared to talk about my child

The loss at the realization that much of society lacks compassion

The loss in the belief that most of society will be kind when tragedy strikes

The loss at the realization that society pushes away those who grieve

The loss at having to get rid of my child’s things (I didn’t highlight this one because I haven’t gotten rid of his things – maybe in time)

Loss at realising my memories of my child will fade

The loss of not being able to make new memories

The loss of not being able to share my child’s life with others when they talk about their own children

The loss at only having a finite amount of photographs of my child and knowing there will never be any more

The loss at never having my son at my side during a meal

The loss at never having my son join us for Christmas or family reunions

The loss at never again hearing him say, ‘I love you, Mom.’

-Katja – the mom who wrote this list

And I (Leanne ) would add:

The loss from knowing this – this constant feeling of sadness – may never end

The loss caused by always having the death of one of our children between my husband and I

The loss of my husband and I’s friendship and love-life being affected by this constant feeling of loss

2 comments on “Secondary Losses

  1. rogerholmack says:

    Not only is there secondary losses but also unresolved losses. From not only the past but the future that show up as anxiety. Not only that, but these losses multiply together not add. They compound quickly. I’ve not made list of these but I’ve blogged about some this…the lost hope of expectations, Compounding grief. I’m also a Christian, so there are those things too. Child loss for sure effects the totality of your being. I’m still learning. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comments, Roger. I hate this learning process! I don’t know how to go on sometimes. We buried our son 4 years ago today and I am so heartbroken and so disappointed that I am still so heartbroken. Just venting. Thank you for commenting. It helps to hear someone else’s perspective. Hugs to you, too.


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