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 or 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 humour
Loss of the support, love, and advice I received from my child
Loss of trust in the justice system
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
Loss of family structure
Loss of the inner feeling of lightness and fun
Loss of feeling a part of normal life
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 older 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 libido
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 its 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
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, Mum.’
Published on Still Standing Magazine 11.10.2018