Have you ever seen one of those entertaining videos where somebody has spent literally hours setting up a world record of dominos to then watch them topple over? Each domino has been strategically placed so that it pushes over the next one just at the perfect moment. It’s a chain reaction. Just like loss.
When a loved one dies, this can often set off a chain reaction of subsequent losses that are all interlinked. Eventually you become so lost in the losses, that you lose touch with yourself. It sucks and we often need to grieve each loss differently and at separate intervals.
These subsequent losses are often referred to as secondary losses. So there you go. Now you know it’s a thing. You’re not losing your mind or over-reacting. What you’re experiencing with secondary loss is no less important or intense and definitely not any easier to navigate. It’s just that these other losses have emerged from your primary loss. Think of them as the dominos that fall as a result of the first one being pushed.
Secondary losses aren’t always visible or we anticipate either (yet equally as painful). They can occur on a physical, spiritual or emotional level. They all require adjustment. Here’s a few common examples of what they could be:
Secondary losses can unfold over a period of time. There may be some that become apparent immediately after a loss, and others may arise in the weeks, months, or even years that follow.
The good news is that being aware of any secondary losses will help you to take stock of what you need and are less likely to catch you off guard. Secondary losses are a normal part of grief and need to be worked through.
What to Do.
As you know, grief is an unknown entity for each loss. There is no ‘right’ answer in terms of what you need to do. A good first step is simply to acknowledge all of your loss (primary and secondary), and the impact it has on your life. In order to move through it all, you need to start by recognising it and giving yourself permission to grieve each loss.
Once you have identified these losses, consider all the tools that work well for you in coping with your grief. I talk a lot about mindfulness, journaling, being in nature and finding creative outlets, as well as good old fashioned talking (with a professional or a trusted friend).
Eventually, you will begin to take steps towards adapting to your losses. This might be difficult in the first instance but baby steps go a long way to creating your new normal. And you don’t need to take a whole heap of action in one go.
It may help you to think of your secondary losses in terms of:
1. The things which need immediate attention in order for you to meet your basic needs. For example, loss of financial security, loss of shared responsibilities, loss of your home.
2. The things that will make it more difficult for you to heal. For example, loss of identity / sense of self / purpose, loss of faith / hope.
3. The things that affect your support systems. For example, loss of faith community, loss of friendships / groups.
Seeking help to work on secondary losses is going to make a huge difference and lighten the load. Just labelling these losses and talking about them will be a great first step. Grab a call with me to discuss what you need.