Different Ways to Grieve

Ambiguous Loss
Secondary Losses

Secondary Losses

Are you feeling …

  • Like you have been grieving for a long time, but you still are not able to find a “new normal” in your life to start feeling better?
  • Like there are so many changes in your life since your loved one died that you will never be able to adjust?
  • Like you no longer understand your role or identity?
  • Like your future is completely different now and it is difficult to find hope?
  • Like you already worked through the most difficult part of your grief months or years ago and suddenly you are finding yourself re-experiencing those feelings?
  • Like other people do not understand why you are “still so sad” or why you are all of a sudden grieving again?

You may be experiencing secondary losses. Secondary losses are all the losses we experience as a result of a main loss or death. This could include the loss of the primary money earner in the family, the loss of a role or title, such as “parent” after your only child has died, the loss of your future plans or dreams, or the continued sense of loss that arises as various milestones come up. This could also include very concrete losses, such as the loss of a house after relocation, the loss of friends, or the loss of a job. These secondary losses are very real and can have a profound effect on our lives. They can show up unexpected and can invoke different reactions in us.

What can you do?

  • Acknowledge the losses you are experiencing and will likely experience in the future.
  • Do not try to address every loss at once, deal with them as they come up.
  • Explain to others how you are feeling; they might be confused if they thought you were becoming your old self again and suddenly find you reacting similarly to when the death first occurred.
  • Allow yourself to express whatever emotions come up for you and try to recognize that it is okay to grieve losses other than deaths.
  • Remember the things that have stayed the same, and try to develop a routine or new sense of normalcy, even if for only one day each week.
  • Find your own way to honor your loved one during milestones such as graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, and other important dates.
  • Be gentle with yourself, and allow yourself the time you need to fully grieve all of the losses you are experiencing.