Secondary Loss -- one loss isn't enough??!!

Types of Grief and Loss / Types of Grief and Loss : Litsa Williams

When we experience death the grief associated with the loss itself is excruciating.  There are the obvious things we “expect” (though it is hard to describe anything with grief as expected).  In the immediate, the pain of the loss can be all-consuming.  But in the weeks and months that follow there can be a sense that we are losing even more than just that person.  The world turns upside down and suddenly it feels like everything is changing or disappearing.

This snowball effect stems from the fact that death does not just create a single hole in one’s life.  Instead, the loss can impact many areas of one’s life, creating multiple losses from that “primary loss”.  Though it is easy to think that our grief is solely the grief of losing the person we cared for so deeply, our grief is also the pain of the other losses that were a result of the death.  You will hear these losses referred to as “secondary losses”, not in the sense that their impact is secondary, but rather that they are a secondary result of the primary loss.

Understanding the possibility of experiencing grief from these secondary losses can help build self-awareness and help identify complexities of our own grief.  Once we have identified these losses we are better equipped to face and mourn them.  We begin to understand that the whole of our grief is comprised of many parts, including the primary loss and the secondary losses.

So, what are secondary losses?  As with so many things in grief, we can’t tell you what secondary losses you will experience.  These losses are all unique to our own relationship with the person we have lost, personality, life situation, and other relationships.  But, we can talk about some common secondary losses to get you thinking about what secondary losses may be a part of your own grief experience.

The easiest to identify are often the loss of concrete things.  Some of these common concrete losses are:

Loss of income

Loss of a home

Loss of a business

Loss of financial security

Another type of loss that can be slightly more difficult to immediately identify, but can have a significant impact, is a loss of identity.  This can come from a change in how one defines oneself, as well as certain roles that may be lost as a result of the death.  Some of these losses can include:

Loss of relational identity (no longer a husband, wife, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc)

Loss of role as caregiver

New role as a caregiver (at the expense of other things)

Loss of life purpose (no longer a parent, no longer a caregiver)

Loss of self-confidence

Though a less defined category, beliefs can be lost or change as a result of a death. 

Loss of faith/belief system (this can be coupled with a loss of a support system from a church or faith community).

Loss of hope for the future.

Loss of goals/dreams that involved the person.

Loss of a sense of a life shared with another person.

Our support system can be impacted tremendously by a loss.  Deaths can bring out the best and worst in families, friends, and community.  There may be people who are more supportive than you ever imagined and there may be people you assumed would be there for you who were not.  This can result in additional losses:

Distance/loss of unsupportive friends.

Distance/loss of family relationships due to conflict resulting from death.

Loss of friends/family of the person who died.

Loss of community (if one has to move as a result of the death)

Distance/loss from people connected to the person who died (school community of a child, support system of a parent’s assisted living or nursing home, co-workers of a spouse).

Changes in the way you relate to friends.

Over time there can be other losses that arise:

Loss of memories as they begin to fade.

Loss associated with giving away the belongings of the person.

The pain of watching others grieve the loss (children, parents)

A loss at important milestones (weddings, anniversaries, births, graduations without that person).

Learning difficult or unpleasant things about the person who died.

As you may have gathered from this list, these secondary losses can unfold over time.  There may be some you are acutely aware of immediately following a loss, and some may arise as the weeks, months, and years pass.  Being aware that these secondary losses may arise can help us self-assess when we are caught off guard by a new feeling of loss or pain.  These secondary losses are a normal part of our grief and need to be addressed and mourned.

So what can we do?  I wish I could give you an easy answer, but unfortunately, there is no single answer to that question.  A huge first step is acknowledging these secondary losses and their impact.  In order to mourn a loss, we have to start by recognizing that loss.  How we will mourn and adapt will vary depending on who we are and what the loss is.  Once you have identified these losses, consider other tools that work well for you in coping with grief.  We are huge proponents of finding creative ways to express the pain of losses through writing, photography, and other creative expressions.  Finding a support group with others who have experienced a similar loss (loss of a spouse, child, etc) may be helpful, as they may share similar secondary losses (though not necessarily).  Finally, begin looking for ways to take action to adapt to these losses.  Though this can feel impossible at first, start by looking for little ways to take action and adapt.

We can’t possibly address all the secondary losses people encounter after death, but we would love for you to share how secondary loss has impacted you.  And if you have advice for others, of course, share that too – we are all here to support each other, so leave a comment!

Prefer to listen to your grief support?  Check out this podcast on Secondary Loss.

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for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
real-life book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

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65 Comments on "Secondary Loss -- one loss isn't enough??!!"

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  1. Daxie  December 31, 2023 at 9:40 pm Reply

    As per usual, a great article. Very insightful, concise and it speaks volumes to one’s heart. I have experienced most of these Secondary losses. My message to people is that When a person dies to suicide, they take our life with them, though this was most likely not their intent. And nearly every week since losing my partner, I feel as if he dies anew. But with the death of my parents to old age, and the death of some friends, due to illness, I do not feel like this. Suicidal death brings many secondary losses – on all 4 levels – The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It makes us feel a host of emotions that stay with us; they do not easily pass as in the case of my other experiences with death. Thank you kindly for sharing this article with us.

  2. Michelle Albert  February 9, 2022 at 6:39 pm Reply

    I saw the fear in my husband and children’s eyes when I told them about my condition then they start to find solution on their own to help my condition.I am an 59 now who was diagnose COPD emphysema which I know was from my years of smoking. I started smoking in school when smoking was socially acceptable. I remember when smoking was permitted in hospitals. It was not known then how dangerous cigarettes were for us, and it seemed everybody smoked but i was able to get rid of my Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ) condition through the help of www. multivitamincare .org my husband bought, total cure herbal foundation has the right herbal formula to help you get rid and repair any lung conditions and cure you totally with their natural organic herbs. I wish anybody who starts smoking at a young age would realize what will eventually happen to their bodies if they continue that vile habit throughout their life.

  3. Amanda Daughtry  September 6, 2021 at 1:19 am Reply

    I’d like help with grief counseling I lost my entire family at this point and the last loss was my Uncle and my then my grandmother who was my mother and best friend since I was 13 and I’m now 49

    • Julie  June 16, 2022 at 11:08 pm Reply

      Hi Amanda, I don’t really even know how I came to this site, but when I read you’ve lost a lot of your family and you’re 49, I felt a connection. I think you posted this in 2021 though. I am turning 50 this year, next month, and for the last five years I’ve pretty much lost all my family as well. I never knew that there was pain like this and how different your life can be.
      If you ever wanna talk, I would be down for that or if you need someone to listen without judgment or being bothered with your sadness and negativity or whatever they say. It Has to come out in order for you to heal.
      If you respond to this and I could write my phone number and then we could delete it off of here once we get in touch maybe? I don’t know I don’t normally write people on these kinds of things.

      • Litsa  June 18, 2022 at 9:57 am

        Hi Julie and Amanda- if one of you emails me (litsa @ whatsyourgrief . com – remove the spaces) and give me permission I’ll reach out to the other and share your contact.

    • Mary  July 2, 2022 at 12:42 pm Reply

      Hi Amanda,

      It seems we have much in common as far as grief is concerned. Know that I’m holding space for you.

      In the past 5 years, I’ve lost my husband, father, mother, brother-in-law, aunt (who was like a mother), nephew, and numerous close cousins. The complicated grief that I’m experiencing is overwhelming, but I’m working my way through it and in my own time.

  4. Reboana Onthatile  March 29, 2021 at 11:05 am Reply

    started on the COPD treatment; a few weeks into the treatment I began to notice a reduction in symptoms, after I completed the treatment, my symptoms were all gone including the severe shortness of breath, cough and wheezing. Its been over two years since treatment. I feel better and breathe better. visit www. treeoflifeherbalclinic. com

  5. Roi Stephens  March 8, 2021 at 4:03 am Reply

    I lost my husband on the 15th of January this year, I lost the love of my life, my handy man, my companion, my counselor, my lover, my retirement buddy, my kids banker, my mentor. Trying to sell our house has became a chore, since it has so many memories of his home handyman skills. Lost my partner in crime, watching CSI, & NCIS, sharing a muffin over a cup of coffee, having breakfast for date morning, and fighting over who was paying. The person who drove just to see his mum in Taupo, then drive back with a sore back – But never complained about his back being in pain. (The lesions – Cancerous growing in his spine) Didn’t like going out to dinner with crowds or parties where alcohol was the main drinks. (Just wanted quiet dinners with family members) He was a very private man, that he kept his illness from work mates, friends, family, his hobbies enthusiasts, his best friends, his clients, that it took me a lot of energy to explain why!!! As he has now passed for 2 months when does the crying stop, when does the anger, frustration, hurt & the feeling of isolated, when does the broken heart mend.
    I see the excitement in my grandkids looking for their Papa, but all I can say to them he is in heaven. I’m trying to comfort them with photos of him.
    Oh a lot changes when one passes the list is endless. So much to say yet trying to cope with all the grief this has occurred with the family, trying to glue them together – piece by piece with a few changes along the way. Still raw !!!

    • Gabriella  March 3, 2022 at 1:24 am Reply

      I am so sorry for you loss. Praying you be given peace that transcends all understanding. May you be comforted & held in your sorrow. May you be surrounded by people who lift you up.

  6. Laine Lawson  February 25, 2021 at 9:46 pm Reply

    I maybe experiencing secondary loss. A husband died in 1998, we had been together 20 years. Then I lost another husband 2 days before Xmas 2016, we had been together 21 years. I am now into 5th year of widowhood and still am privately struggling. Most people think I am ok.

  7. Joann  May 28, 2020 at 10:03 pm Reply

    It’s really very complicated in this active life to
    listen news on TV, thus I just use internet for that reason,
    and take the most recent information.

  8. Marie Loyd  May 25, 2020 at 6:02 am Reply

    I lost my husband 9 months ago August 25th 2019 I always thought I would be the first to go I’ve been battling for cancer for the last 11 and 1/2 years I have my colon removed and 80% of my stomach I have to travel 1552 mi from Ketchikan Alaska to Anchorage Alaska every 28 days my husband faithful even with me strip until that early November day I took him to the emergency room because he had sore stomach and was throwing up to our surprise the doctor came back with the most shocking news ever and told us my husband has full-blown cancer at through his entire body there was nothing we can do it was too far gone my heart was crushed anxiety the fear the loneliness hit I was in shock and praying and crying why haven’t why isn’t it me he showed no signs of being sick he was this wonderful man I’ve been married to 37 years and I was told four times that I would not make it by 4 different doctors it’s been a struggle I still can’t believe it and why he’s gone I can’t make sense of it I blame myself if it wasn’t for me being sick he would still be here we could have caught his cancer in time it’s been just me and him and now it’s just me there’s times when I don’t want to fight no more I just want to give up but I made a promise to him and I would continue to fight my cancer see my grandchildren grow up it’s hard I cry everyday I’ve been working in human resources for the past 25 years I started off being an alcohol counselor so I know what grape is grief can take so many different Bass each day is a new step doesn’t mean that it’s a good step the grief is always going to be there something you find in your room a picture of memento something always bring you back girl love you had for each other I see the grief in my grandkids all I can say to them I’m trying to comfort them is something my grandmother told me that was not Papa I thought I was just using that body that body gave out no papa is a spirit before when he was using that body could only be in one place at one time how his Spirit can go to many different places and he’s always watching over us you can be with all of us all at once even if we’re not in the same room Sophie only thing I can say this to try and comfort you is your loved one is always with you the soul is it very special being that is full of love and kindness happiness they say you can tell what a person looks like through their eyes look into her eyes it’s the key to their soul my husband always had kind eyes that made me fall in love with him I don’t know if this helps you any and I pray these words help somebody as for me I’m going to continue like my cancer. When you feel grief is too much to overwhelming stop take a deep breath tell God to take over I thank you for your time God bless you

  9. Candee Lucas  January 15, 2020 at 2:19 pm Reply

    Dear Rebecca:
    My heart breaks for you. To have to undergo the losses you are enduring at your young age is unimaginable. I hope you have found a place to begin healing. You should know that your life has value and meaning even if you cannot always recognize it in the midst of the storms around you. Once the shattered pieces begin to settle you will be able to experience that the very fact you live and breathe and get up every day and put once foot in front of the other means there is purpose to your life. Human beings are resilient. You have been given an excess of trials that have made you wonder if there is a safe place. It lies in your own heart. Please feel strong enough to rely on the love there and the love you have been given (even though it seems like not enough), People do love you and care for you, even if you can’t identify them right now. Please have courage to look for future that will be different then the pain that it right now. Begin a journal, talk to your own heart, nurture yourself as best you can. Hearts do care for you. Namaste.

    • Rebecca  February 13, 2020 at 11:46 am Reply

      Thank you so so so much Candee. You have helped me so much thank you. It’s surprised me how nice people can be; both you and another woman who has reached out and helped me. You’ve given me motivation to keep going and to strive to be better, thank you. All the best, Rebecca <3

  10. Rebecca  December 13, 2019 at 7:56 pm Reply

    I’ve read most comments and I’m so sorry to all of you that you have to go through what you’re going through:( you’re all so strong. I’m 17 and in the last month I’ve had an abortion. I regret my decision so much. I know I couldn’t have a child in my current state but I just wish I kept him:( My boyfriend and I have grown distant, he doesn’t seem to care even though he says he does (he’s 19). I’ve lost my brother and my best friend due to this also, I thought he’d be there for me but he wasn’t. He never asked me how i was getting on, and he didn’t make an effort to see me. And when I asked him why he wouldn’t talk to me. My parents divorced a year ago, and my mums already got a new man. I’ve lost my relationship with my dad, who was the only person in the whole world that had my heart. He’s taken their divorce out on me. I’ve read many blogs and articles to help me feel like I’m not alone, but I just can’t do it anymore. I tried to speak to a girl at work who I trusted about my abortion but she then continued to spread it around my whole company, and then deny it to me when I ask her about it. I’m scared that if I leave my boyfriend this will all be for nothing, I love him so much but I’m so unhappy. It hurts, it really really does. I just wish I had my baby

    • Sara  January 5, 2020 at 2:08 pm Reply

      Rebecca, I am so sorry to hear about your losses. Abortion is one of the most difficult decisions that a person can have to make. I am currently 21 and am studying counseling at my university. When I was 19 I went through a really painful breakup. We dated for 4 years, he cheated on me and left me for the girl he was cheating with. I was completely lost. I lost so many things and I was so depressed. I couldn’t go to class or eve get out of bed some days. I know the feeling of how in love you are. I want you to know though, if you aren’t happy with him now, you most likely won’t be happy with him in the future. People seldom change especially in relationships. I know you feel alone and I know you are probably so conflicted inside. I hope that you find peace in your current situation and will find something that brings you joy.

      • Rebecca  February 13, 2020 at 11:42 am

        Thank you so much Sara you’ve really helped. I hope your studies are going well. I’m so sorry that happened to you, it really must of been awful. Thank you for sharing that with me, it means a lot. I tend to look at negative experiences and try to think of the positives. If this stuff didn’t happen then we wouldn’t be where we are today! It always feels like we’re so isolated and alone when bad things happen to us, but we’re not alone. I hope all is going well for you, thank you. Rebecca <3

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  12. corey  October 6, 2019 at 2:43 pm Reply

    Am Corey Pollard from Ontario ,My dad was diagnosed with ALS February 2018 and i was so confused because i love my dad and i wouldn’t want to loose him so soon and so, i decided to look for a possible solution to get rid of this ALS despite knowing it has no cure as advised by the medical doctor , everyday my dad’s heath depreciate and keeps loosing weight and strength,a friend advised me to try peter wise ALS herbal formula that she used to cure her dad’s heart disease and i was reluctant about it until after a second thought i decided to give it a try because no harm in trying and immediately i contacted him he assure me that my dad will be cured within few weeks of medication and he sent me the medicine and i applied it on my dad as advised by dr peter wise and within 3 weeks of medication my dad was cured and now my dad is free from ALS it was indeed a miracle, he also have herbal formula for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) , DIABETICS here is his email (peterwiseherbalcenter at gmail. com)

  13. Debra Washington Sanchez  March 12, 2019 at 3:30 pm Reply

    I lost my husband to multiple myeloma one year and 10 months now. I can relate to all the previous posts. Losing a loved one whomever it is , I have found is a very troubling time. I realize my first loss feelings and have many secondary loss emotions. I am in my sixties and am very fearful to try new relationships. I am very alone now and am trying to get on with my life. It’s not easy when you put so much energy into your loved one whom now is gone. I am trying to take that love and caring
    and give it to myself. Sharing your life with someone you love and depend on is a great gift from God. I only hope my life now is not all there will be and God will intervene and show me what he has in store for me now…because I can’t see my future now.

  14. Fettabsaugung Blog  January 13, 2019 at 11:09 am Reply

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  15. Lynda P.  December 4, 2018 at 2:12 am Reply

    Thank you for this article. Its usefulness obviously lives on. I have read all the comments. I know all the simple words stand for each person’s colossal loss and challenge.

    My husband of 50 years died last Fall. We were young together, and, as long as he was alive, I felt my connection to being young. My love for him was always young, and I believe his love for me was always young, too. The wrinkles, fat, and lost hair didn’t enter into it; we saw each other with our hearts not our eyes. I would look at him and “see” the beautiful, strong, young man he had been. His death jolted me into the realities of an old lady.

    I have been inspired by a dog I had many years ago. She had been with my family since I was a one year old baby, and was beginning to show the effects of age. She slept more and more and she had lost her bounciness. Then my family moved to a place in the country. Within a short time Fluffy was running up and down hills, chasing chickens (bad dog!), and, in general, she had a new lease on life. Somehow Fluffy had rejuvenated herself. She died a very old dog (almost 19 years old) while I was in college. I am keeping Fluffy’s example in my heart. Thank you, Fluffy.

    Dealing with the death of my husband is not easy. I only hope I have what it takes to keep up with filling all the holes. And, if I’m honest, I’d tell you the only thing I want right at this minute is for my husband to be here and for him to say, “That’s good, Lynda.”

    • P Reid  December 31, 2018 at 12:39 pm Reply

      Thank you, Lynda, for your words – I hadn’t even gotten to the realization of losing my youth and history of reaching this age yet. Paul and I grew to our 60’s together and, like you, really only saw each other through our loving eyes, not as we probably appear to others. I am sorry for your loss and understand some of how you feel; it is breathtaking, literally, breathing has been one of my hardest things to do since even before he died. Now, 2 years later, I am beginning to recognize and consider these secondary losses more and more and understand the impact they are having on my life. I hope you find peace and strength and know that you were loved his entire life.

    • Hel  January 27, 2019 at 2:40 pm Reply

      Your story struck a cord. Scott died two years ago, when he came home and confirmed the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer he walked past our old dog, Spike, laughed and said “he’s going to out live me”. Given Spike had been through several ops to deal with his own cancer it was pretty black humour. During the time we had left I learned to roll with the punches of what Scott and Spike went through. Spike was the rolly prolly puppy Scott brought me and he still had a joy of life right to the end, Spike died a year after Scott. Another loss.

      The article is right, death is one thing, in the aftermath of it all its like officialdom do their best to errase the person you loved, the bank removes their name from your account, their licences are cancelled, the phone company cuts you off as the account was in his name. It goes on and on.

      I do my best to cope with Scott’s death, but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how much of me he took with him.

  16. Lisa  November 21, 2018 at 9:55 am Reply

    Experiencing more secondary loss even 8 years later after losing my husband. I have stayed very close to my husband’s family (still consider them my family) but have just found out that five months after my husband passed a couple of his siblings talked his parents into cutting him out of the will. Financially things were hard for me and they knew it, in case you think that was their reasoning. In the will there was a provision that of one child died their portion would go to their children. The siblings made sure it was left it in for themselves (so if they passed away it would go to their children). This means that they get my husband’s share. When my husband passed, my son was 21 and going to college to be a pastor. I am not sure what to do, I can’t even think of being in the same room with them but that means I lose a huge part of my family.

    • Lynda P.  December 4, 2018 at 3:34 am Reply

      Dear Lisa,
      I am so sorry for your loss.
      Is it possible there are circumstances you don’t know? My belief is that it is rare for people to be as underhanded as your husband’s siblings appear to be. I do genealogy and have read many, many wills. Often there will appear an entry in a will saying one child should only get a token amount of money from the parent because the child has already received something of value the other siblings did not get. I’m sure there could be other things to account for the change to the will as well. It sounds like you value your husband’s family; be cautious in accusing them of greed. It could be true, but maybe it’s not.

  17. Sue Devaney  October 3, 2018 at 9:16 am Reply

    I lost my Father 4 months ago rapidly to oesophageal cancer. Myself and my brother cared for him at home, as per his wishes bringing him home from the Hospice, for a week leading up to his death. We were not prepared for the trauma of this at all but we wanted to keep my Dads wish.
    I lost my Mother 4 years ago to MND quite rapidly as well and at the same time my husband of 20 years walked out.
    I have had a lot to cope with and rebuild a new life with my daughter who is now away at university.
    I am in a new relationship but he is so very busy I still spend most of my time on my own.
    I am now feeling lost as both parents are gone, wonder why I am still staying in the same town that I grew up in, not enjoying my job after 23 years of it being groundhog day and feel so alone in my grief. I am feeling withdrawn and confused about my future and even have doubts as to remain in the this current relationship even though my daughter has said dont give up on what could be the best thing to happen to you.
    I cant see any answers, just plod on from day to day not particularly enjoying anything. I feel withdrawn but am fed up of my own company at the same time.

    • Brooke Maltarich  November 5, 2018 at 5:33 pm Reply

      Sweet Sue. I totally understand. I just went through a grief period where I questioned EVERYTHING in my life. well except being a mom which is a joy. But my career my marriage everything. I think the cloud has lifted and Im hoping the questioning is done and just a part of being in such a deep grief. My father passed in February, My sister took her life three and a half years ago. My fathers passing has crippled me in so many ways. BUT feeling that I have plateaued for awhile. Best of luck. try not to question yourself and your life too much right now. Give yourself a pass for awhile.

  18. LauraT  July 23, 2018 at 4:19 pm Reply

    I lost my brother 5 months ago to suicide. I also feel like I lost my dear niece due to guardianship issues and she’s not in touch with us. I have two older parents that live 2 hours away and I have no other family. We are all struggling. It’s good to hear that I’m not alone, but I have trouble getting interested in projects at my office. It’s all very isolating in a way. I’m trying to take it day by day and hope things get better. Any other ideas? I’m trying to exercise, yoga, counseling, etc.

  19. D  June 13, 2017 at 9:07 am Reply

    Thank you so much for this article and also the podcast I had not considered this at all. I was so focused on losing him. But we have lost so much more than him (my husband). I am writing my list of secondary losses on my blog.

  20. Rebecca Carney  July 10, 2016 at 12:09 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s a great article dealing with the topic of secondary losses. Unless you have walked through the experience of the death of someone you dearly love, I don’t think there’s a way to understand the full impact of the primary loss. Also, I don’t think there’s a way to comprehend secondary losses. There’s the initial, huge impact of the primary loss…and then they just keep coming in the form of secondary losses.

    After our son died, nearly all of our friends disappeared. It’s something to this day I still can’t comprehend. My husband volunteered to be laid off on his job when they decided to make cutbacks. He was just too burned out and devastated from Jason’s death to stay in a high-stress job. He thought he would find another good-paying job, but that has not materialized. Needless to say, it not only affected our income, but the rest of our lives in the form of loss of retirement income. And that’s only a couple of secondary losses we’ve experienced; there are too many to list.

    Thank you so much for writing this article.


  21. Karen Donald  April 17, 2016 at 6:25 pm Reply

    This article showed up on my Facebook feeds today. .which is really meant to be because yesterday I was talking with my husband about the past 2 years since my younger sister was killed in a car accident. ..she’s my only sibling…the last 2 years have felt like if am a magnet for anything negative occurring…friends that I thought were close have distanced themselves, my parents don’t communicate with me unless I contact the gather, from being really focused on working for everyone around me (including my sister while she was at university ) I have lost focus which is affecting us financially, ….etc…etc…I was saying to my husband that it’s like some crazy journey which I can’t get off. …and thegathemhen this morning I read this about secondary grief. ..eow! I’ve talked to counselors, psychiatrist, family doctor and psychologist who told me to take a pill…I’ve never been mentally unwell so this is a hard thing to do. …but I did for 2 months then stopped because it felt wrong…..and I focused on my children and husband to get a grip on where I am in my world. intuitively felt the right thing to do. ..and I’m not attracting the negative quite so much. ..just getting my bearings on life without my sister. …thank you for this knowledge because I needed to know that what I felt was a normal process and not abnormal that needed a pill to fix. …love and kindness helps. …

  22. Nancy Strauel  February 12, 2016 at 3:23 pm Reply

    It’s been 6 long years of hell! I lost my mother, daughter and father in 13 months. Then my son-in-law 3 years ago. I not only lost these family members by death, I also feel as though I lost my whole family! I was stunned to see how deaths can tear a family apart. I never felt so alone as I did after these losses. I feel so blessed that I have been able to reconnect with my 2 other daughters. I have a sister that I was very close to. The one person I thought would be there for me after the loss of my daughter, was my sister. My relationship with her is completely destroyed. I tried so hard to maintain our relationship. I finally gave up, I could not take the rejection anymore. This article hit it spot on. I never thought of it as secondary losses.

  23. Simone  February 11, 2016 at 6:51 pm Reply

    I lost my lover, my best friend, my spouse 5 months ago quite unexpectantly. He was my soulmate and I miss Him and US so much. I’m just beginning to feel everything again and want to run from all these emotions. I’m so very angry and hurt! So lost without him. It’s as if there’s no life, that im just taking up space and not really living. Reading others comments makes me feel that im not alone. Not going crazy in this process called grief.

    • Kevin  March 13, 2016 at 10:01 pm Reply

      Welcome to the club noone wants to br a member of.
      You’re exactly right: losing such a deep love, your heart and soul feeling so empty. Saw a pic a while back of a couple on the beach at sunset: no caption, no flashy graphics, yet representing the how priceless such simple moments are/were.
      Terrible sorry for your loss, Feb. 16th was a year…….life is as colorless, and my heart & soul as empty as the first day.

  24. Barbara Raczak  February 10, 2016 at 1:18 pm Reply

    I lost my husband 3 1/2 yrs ago 1 month before our 50th wedding anniversary. I lost my love, companion, my way of life, my lover plus I stopped cooking because cooking for one was no fun. I enjoyed cooking. There was no one to be a wife to, so cleaning, gardening, home decorating didn’t have any meaning to me anymore. I keep things nice but it’s not the same. Lost the person who I went on vacations with, out to dinner with, for rides with. All secondary losses. Plus added to my list was the cars, mowers, exterior maintenance etc. Oh a lot changes when one’s spouse passes.

  25. Maggie Kilkenny  February 10, 2016 at 10:20 am Reply

    Thank you for this post it has been 3 1/2 years since my husband died (unexpectedly) in his sleep. “natural causes unknown”. One of my secondary losses is my loss of cooking and baking. I used to love to bake for any occasion.More than once when I was scheduled to work a holiday Don and I would make dinner for everybody at work.I haven’t baked a thing since he died. I baked for years before we met and am surprised that something that was a part of me before we met is tied so deeply to him.

  26. Rachel Ezzo  February 10, 2016 at 10:01 am Reply

    I work for a nonprofit children’s bereavement center. We talk about secondary losses all the time. Until you or someone close to you experiences it, I think it is hard to understand the full extent of losing a loved one. People are dealing with so much more than just the actual death. Even working in the field and having lost a sister and an aunt I was close to, I was surprised when my mother died this summer how much the loss hit me beyond just missing her. The loss of feeling rooted and personal history. The loss of my best ally and adviser. Thank you for your work… I’ll be sharing this on our facebook page now. 🙂

  27. Annie  February 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm Reply

    I lost my husband 18 months ago to cancer. I have found that thankfulness helps me deal with my husband’s death and the ensuing secondary losses. I read a book called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. The author writes about how creating a list of things for which she was thankful changed her life. I started my own list and am very near 1000 in less than a year. The list is a tangible reminder of good things that exist in my world and my life. Even when the grief reaches up to claw at me again, those blessings are still in place and I can remind myself by reading them – page after page. I find myself daily looking for things to add to my list – a useful endeavor in itself. And I find myself pursuing many of my old passions – they are wonderful blessings that I need to add back into my life. My list is full of blessings that I received from my precious husband – and many of them are still part of my life today even though he is gone. My best wishes for all who have posted here. We all have blessings, no matter how dark today might seem. I intend to keep my thankful list for the rest of my life – I hope my list reaches 100,000.

    • Carol Duncan  December 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm Reply

      Oh, how beautiful this is. I just lost my husband 2 months ago to cancer and the grief is unbearable and our daughter’s is, too. But reading about your list of things to be thankful for is a wonderful way to help deal with all this pain. Thank you so much. I am starting my list today.

  28. Val  November 3, 2015 at 11:17 am Reply

    I want to start by saying “Thank you” for this post! I have been setting here stuck in my head wondering if I was just the selfish crazy bi*** my recent ex told me I was. He and his sister (my friend of 28 yrs) said to get a grip and move on after not even a week into my second loss in 4 months. You see I am a mother of 3 adult girls but an only child in my family. Growing up alone was hard and I didn’t want my kids to live like that. Anyway I didn’t experience death an loss when I was young and Lord knows never dealt with emotions! My mom was never home and my dad was a long haul trucker. Every chance I got I was with my dad in the truck. He had a twin who was also a truck driver and so the three of us were always together. Most of the time they were grumpy as hell but we were best friends! We each had our own GTO’s we enjoyed car shows and just hanging out together everyday!! Dad had some medical issues but he got ill in June and never came out of the hospital. I can’t stop crying and I feel so lost. Right after he passed I had to deal with his house being foreclosed and moving 40 years of family belongings into a storage, finding out the life insurance was void due to a box being checked wrong and all the while being in a brand new relationship that I thought was “IT”. He stood beside me and held me telling me it was all gonna be ok with a little time. He took on alot and he sat there smiling saying it was all ok. Now four months later my uncle passes away. My all so caring and understanding boyfriend decides that he is at the end of his rope and has done everything he could to help me and kicks my daughter, my 4 year old grandson and myself out. Loss just keeps coming and coming I feel as though I am going to explode! I just so happened to google and look for answers and found your post and now feel a little better knowing that I am not crazy and it is not something you just move on from. And there is help out there if I take the time to search it out! Any input would be appreciated!

    • Litsa  November 3, 2015 at 8:44 pm Reply

      Oh Val, I am so sorry for all the loss you have been through in such a short time. You are definitely normal and not at all alone. Hopefully you clicked around a bit on our site – I think you’ll find that there are many common myths about grief that just aren’t true, but because people believe them they have unrealistic expectations about what our grief will look like (or we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves). This post might be a good place to start.

  29. Alan  June 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm Reply

    I don’t know where to start with my comments. My wife was killed in an auto crash on March 22, 2014. The other driver was impaired by drugs. 2 of the drugs were Rx & one was an illicit substance. The tragic irony of this is that my wife was an Alcohol/Drug Abuse Counselor, as am I. I have experienced some of the losses listed in the above article. I am no longer her husband & I loved that role. My confidence has slowly eroded. I’m not sure confidence is the correct term, but knowing I had her as a partner gave me a strength I had never experienced before meeting my wife. I may be wrong, but it seems I have lost the grandchildren. She had 3 grown children when I met her & therefore the grandchildren are mine simply through marriage, not blood. I now feel like I am just awaiting death, marking time. Fortunately I am in decent financial shape & don’t have to worry too much on that front. I don’t know what else to say at this point except that the hurt never seems to go away. Thank you for these articles.

    • Eleanor  June 14, 2015 at 11:47 am Reply

      Oh Alan, my heart aches for you. The death your wife has brought on so much loss, I am so sorry for your pain. It sounds like you are feeling really alone in this world without your wife. Is there anything in your power to be able to strengthen your relationship with the grandchildren? It takes so much extra effort not to let relationships splinter in the wake of loss, but I do know that sometimes people pull away from us and there is little we can do. I do hope that with time something fulfilling and hopeful shows up in your life…I know our ability to feel fulfillment waxes and wanes at times but I would hate for you to really just bide your time until death.

      • Alan  February 12, 2016 at 11:21 am

        Thank you Eleanor. The pain has never been totally overwhelming, but it seems to go on & on. I have days & even weeks (My wife was killed almost 2 years ago) now where I feel like I am at peace with this & then another wave hits. I am involved in Grief Counseling & I have some very supportive friends. I appreciate your reaching out to me. .

  30. Lesa DiPomazio  January 3, 2015 at 3:06 pm Reply

    I cared for my mother for 5 years, she was diagnosed with dementia and I brought her home to live with me. Eventually she ended up with Alzheimer’s and the last year was very hard for both of us. I believed that I would be so relieved when she died, it would end her suffering and I would have my life back. I am relieved for my mother, (she died July 9th of this year), but I find myself angry, depressed, guilty, and I don’t recognize me. Just wondered how long this is going to last, I miss her so much, it is silly because I had missed her when she was here. I started caring for her at 54 years of age and now I am turning 59, the future scares me. I really don’t know why I am writing I feel silly. Thank You, Lesa

    • Litsa  January 4, 2015 at 11:22 am Reply

      Lesa, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. The feelings you are describing and incredibly common and you certianly shouldn’t feel silly sharing them! One of the things about caregiving for extended periods of time is that it begins to define us. Our identity becomes about taking care of a person and when that person is gone not only is there the pain of the loss, but there is also the challenge of figuring out who we are now; what is our identity when we are no longer a caregiver? It can be a slow process to re-establish an identity and routine after many years of caregiving, and that can make the future feel scary. One step can be looking for new ways to fill time that in the past was likely filled by caring for your mom – are there things you have wanted to do but haven’t been able to that you can slowly start to introduce into your life?

      The feelings of anger, guilt and depression you describe are incredibly common and they are all important and valid feelings. We have some articles on here that you may find helpful:

      I hope you can find some support on our site. Pleases remember, this is a slow process – take it one day at a time. Take care.

  31. Deirdre  December 20, 2014 at 6:48 pm Reply

    I have just losty younger brother after a short battle with brain cancer . I am devastated . I cried as I’ve never known before . I lost my daughter through suicide 3 years ago and my grandson was still born 3 months later .
    Three years on and I am finding my brothers death harder than my daughters and grandsons .
    My daughter left 2 children whom I care for now . I have had to and still am dealing with their grief as there is a lot of other issues relating toy grandchildren s father that are ongoing .
    I feel I never grieved my daughter and am feeling guilty at being so overwhelmed by grief for my brother .
    I have list my identity , self confidence since my daughter died . I have also list my role as a grandparent to these children as I am their Carer now and have to b their disciplinary , instead of being their nana that lets them away with things . Also my relationship with my other grandchildren is suffering as I don’t have time to give them the nana time .
    I love the grandchildren I am caring for much and want so much to give them the live respect moral values and support . However being a single woman of 55 I am finding all this very difficult .
    I do have great support From my 3 sons , but they too have their families and work commitments .
    My life has gone from being carefree to being full time mother to these 2 children and trying to work to support them .
    Financially I am also struggling .
    Now I have list a younger sibling and wondering how I’m going to cope .

    • Litsa  December 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm Reply

      Oh Deirdre, I am so sorry for your many losses and all you have on your plate. Have you gone to a therapist or support group? With so many losses and the stress of now raising your grandchildren, finding others to connect with who are grieving or professional support may be helpful. That said, we know for a wide array of reasons therapy isn’t doable for everyone. We have other ideas on our site for coping — things like journaling, art, photography, meditation and music can all be helpful. We also have several posts about self-care that may be helpful. With all you have on your plate, it can be hard to take time out for yourself, but it is so important.

    • Nicole  December 21, 2014 at 10:16 am Reply

      Deirdre… I’m so sorry. I cannot even begin to comprehend all of your losses. Your heart must be aching. I can only speak about sibling loss. I lost my younger (and only) sibling in a car accident 3 years ago. I have found that talking with others who understand that kind of loss, helped. I felt safe to share and communicate my feelings. I’m a moderator of an online sibling support group called “MOBS Mourning Our Brothers and Sisters” ( and we are also on Facebook.
      My heart hurts for you!

  32. Róisin  October 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm Reply

    When you say life has to go on, I feel the desire to just give up gets stronger as time goes on, and it reminds me of the countless times people have said to me that “you are doing great to be out” to which I would reply “but what else can I do”, moving through the pain, sadness and emptiness is horrendous, it is 8 months since my beautiful 29 year old only daughter was taken from us needlessly, my children are my whole life I still have 2 boys, my daughter was so interesting and such a good daughter and friend I will miss and ache for her forever, but I still have to go on somehow….

    • Eleanor  November 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry for your pain.

  33. melanie  October 16, 2014 at 8:58 am Reply

    My grief .. It was difficult to put one foot in front of the other and to keep facing each day. There were times I drank myself into a stupor hoping I could escape the pain.. One time I sat out in a thunderstorm sobbing, hoping lightening would strike me. There were times I felt like I was in a daze and could not comprehend the reality. I did not curl up into a ball even though I wished I could. Life had to go on..

  34. Lois  October 15, 2014 at 10:47 am Reply

    Thank you for this blog. I lost my husband 3 & 1/2 months ago. I feel very displaced. I have been a housewife for 40 years, only working now and then. The last time I worked was 18 years ago. Almost all of the secondary grief pertains here. Again thank you for this insight, it really helps to read the blog and the comments.

    • Eleanor  October 17, 2014 at 9:46 am Reply


      I’m so sorry for your loss. Your husband’s death was so recent I can imagine you are only beginning to catch your breath. Let us know if we can help in any way.


      • Lois  October 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

        Thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate it.

  35. Nicole  October 15, 2014 at 10:22 am Reply

    I’m really grateful to have found another blog that can assist in the grieving process. I am a moderator and admin for a sibling loss support group (via facebook and Yahoo! groups) and sharing your posts seems to reach a lot of people. You have a way at looking a grief in a very REAL way. I’m not a fan of clichés and how people overuse them. It’s always a good thing to take grief as it is… A difficult thing that unfortunately is a part of the circle of our lives. Reading this particular post, I can relate to quite a few of these secondary losses after the loss of my brother three years ago. He was 4 1/2 years younger than me and my only sibling. For a while, it was very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I am now an only “child” (which.. I’m 30. But I still have both parents and grandparents on both sides of the family. My brother was THE first person I ever lost that was close to me). Also the loss of future anything. I now fear for when/if anything should ever happen to my parents. I no longer have my brother to help me with any of that when that day comes (so also a loss of support). I grieve for my nephew (who just turned 5) who’s dad now won’t get to see each milestone. I grieve for my daughter who lost her ONLY close uncle. I grieve for the memories, the inside jokes, those one-on-one talks that only he and I had.

    So thank you. Thank you for showing others that it is important to identify with these things.

    • Eleanor  October 17, 2014 at 9:42 am Reply


      I’m so sorry about your brother’s death. These are excellent examples of secondary loss and I can imagine how sad you must be about all of these things. Thank you for your work as an admit for the sibling loss support group and thank you for sharing our articles with those who look to you for support.


  36. Odette  September 11, 2014 at 6:29 am Reply

    I’ve been going through your site for about two hours now, reading both posts and comments. May I just say your site is remarkable. Last week my boyfriend and I both finally admitted we are falling apart as a couple. We have both been scrambling to try and keep ourselves together as individuals for over a year now. I am 23 and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on my second birthday, insulin resistance the year I turned 16, and following a year and a half of being ill to the point where I dread doing anything but mindlessly watching tv, my doctor pointed out to me that depression is a reality. I didn’t really want to hear it, I made my doctor’s appointment to insist on some blood work to be done to determine some deficiency I was sure I had. Oh yes… And then there is the HPV. Two strands. 6 and 56. Warts and the possibility of ovarian cancer. The inability to have an intimate relationship with the man whom I intend to spend the rest of my life with. Oh yeah… Plus semi-permanent Candida infections. And yes, I realise at the beginning of my post I said we were falling apart. I will get to my point eventually. I see a fisio, usually once a week, generally for either my jaw, neck, hips, forearms, hands, and for laser treatment and deep tissue message of my legs (due to lipohypertrophy) and stomach (due to the scar tissue that was created when I had liposuction due to extreme lipohypertrophy).
    I spent 5 1/2 years in an emotionally abusive relationship. Yes, I am only 23, and even though I haven’t yet posted this comment, I know the judgement that follows the math. Anyway… Through the help of God and the support of my family, and his, I got out. That day I lost most of the people I have ever considered family.

    Grief is grief. Loss is loss. It can consume you. It will at times. Yet no matter what you feel, dealing with someone else’s grief I have found is far more difficult. The reason why I have written most of what I written above is not emotional, it is factual. Every day I deal with my crisis of self-worth, my weight, my deteriorating eyesight, the facts that I will likely never be a mother or if I do have children they have a big chance of having any of the issues I have, etc. Yet none of that is why I am here. I am here because despite being able to handle most of what has been thrown at me (mostly) I am at a loss when it comes to helping my boyfriend.

    Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of his father’s death. And I am so clueless. I am so scared. There have been so many secondary losses in my bf’s life since the passing of his father. I just don’t know how assist. Admittedly I was one of those horrible people you’ve spoken about that tries to be positive and has maybe pressured him too much to move forward too fast. This resulted in him not telling me just how much he has been struggling. We both attempted to deal with our own grief, and this drove us apart. So many aspects of our relationship have suffered as a result of… Life or death… But I am thankful we both identified what was happening before our relationship faded into oblivion.

    Thank you for all that you post. I must admit I am in some amount of shock in regards to reading just how incredibly people are affected by grief. Most people have more than one person they love in their life. Parents, partners, spouses, children etc. My biggest concern at this stage is how much time and effort goes into grieving a single person, or event, leading to the neglect of others in your life. Doesn’t this then become an incredibly harmful cycle? Leading to your grief increasing substantially as every person you love dies, due to the regret of not spending enough time with that person? Proper quality time. Not just being in the same room. But actually being present. Not at all to belittle anyone’s grief. But surely it is not healthy to spend your life slowly causing loss after loss for yourself or others, due to losses you already have?

    • Eleanor  September 11, 2014 at 9:21 am Reply

      Hmmm Odette that’s an interesting question. Because in considering all that goes into grief one could figure that the emotions and struggles of grief would accumulate until we couldn’t function, and I suppose sometimes they do, but most of the time people with multiple losses (most of us will eventually have lost one or more people) don’t just curl up in a ball on the floor.

      I think there is the fact that some losses are more impactful than others because of our relationship with that person, perhaps the way the person died, any regrets or guilt we have, etc; while some are easier to integrate. For example it hurt when my 86 year old grandmother died and I miss her, but I was easily able to accept and cope with this loss. Then I think there is the fact that we learn from our losses and in some ways are better equipped to handle others. But those are just a few thoughts that come to mind, I’m going to have to think about this…maybe we’ll write a post on it.

      Anyway, I’m very sorry for all the losses you personally have experienced. I’m not sure if you read our discussion on how loss is more than just death and our post on the challenges of adjustment, but they come to mind when you discuss all you’ve been going through.

      As far as your boyfriend, I think a good start would be to just acknowledge you know the day is hard for him and, if he’s open to it, finding a way to honor or remember his Dad. If he’s not open to it, don’t push. But it may be as simple as looking through an old photo album or asking him to tell you more about his Dad. Here is our post about dealing with the anniversary if you haven’t already seen it. . Also here is a post on reframing your roll when supporting a griever. I think this one may be helpful because it explains why you don’t need to actively do anything, you just need to support your loved one and be there for him.

      Okay that was a lot. Stay tuned though because now you’ve gotten me thinking and I think your question might be a good topic for a post. Although I admittedly don’t know the answer :).

  37. Autumn Leaves  July 26, 2013 at 1:43 am Reply

    Loss is too complex a word. It can encompass a lot of things. Each person is equipped with a means of coping. There are no surefire ways of deal with loss. they say that time is great healer.

  38. Becky Livingston  July 22, 2013 at 11:45 am Reply

    Litsa, what a great post. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my daughter died, almost seven since my fiancé. Living and adapting to these losses is my work. The components of mourning overtime describe my (our) situation perfectly. In three weeks my surviving daughter gets married. Her sister was always going to be her maid-of-honour. We grow increasingly aware of how this day will be both a celebration of love and a painful reminder of Rachel’s absence from our world.
    Just yesterday a grief wave of sadness caught me off guard as I realized it’s been almost 7 years since I last saw my fiancé. The loss of a dream, of a future with this wonderful man consumed so much of my mourning in the early weeks and months. His memory fades. I don’t want it to but it does. Paradoxically it’s what needs to happen for me to live well. I think of it as a legacy of love, to find comfort and peace in all of it.

    • Sue Smith  February 8, 2017 at 5:32 am Reply

      After suffering the loss of my Mam last year and being her care giver for a few years and being the only one with her when she took her last breath I have suffered depression, anxiety and stress. The fact I no longer have a Mam is awful. Also two weeks before my Mam died my only child my daughter moved to London which is three hours away with her job. I see her every three weeks and stay there with her as we both miss each other. The losses were grief at first but since October last year I have suffered depression no have no enthusiasm I have often thought of just ending my life as I feel my life as it was has ended, I see a councillor and yesterday she made me realise what the problem is secondary loss as well as grief. I googled and this came up I read it and it is me. I feel now I know what is causing my depression I may now get help for it. I am no longer a daughter, or Mam yes I am a Mam still but not the same as my daughter living with me. I miss my life as it was throw into the mix menopause and getting older and thus worrying about my own mortality and the thought my own daughter will have to face this all one day just makes me cry endlessly. I can’t talk to my husband about this. One day last year I had been to see my daughter and had a great time in London I came home and the next day burst into tears and said to my husband I have no purpose to get up now, there was nothing I felt empty. I feel worthless now a nobody as I loved looking after my Mam and daughter I’ve no idea who I am or how anyone can help me.

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