Secondary Losses – How Long Is Your List?

secondary losses

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’.

Related Post: It’s Just Parenting: When will grief be accepted as 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.’

Photo credit: congerdesign / Pixabay

  • Katja

    Katja Faber is the mother of three amazing children. Following her 23-year-old son's murder, she used her legal training to work closely with private lawyers and the State Prosecutor in her fight for justice for her dead son. She hopes to inspire others in seeking justice for their loved ones and through her writing break the taboo of homicide loss. She runs her own farm, a magical place where she has recently started to host retreats for those in need of support and healing. Her farming IG account where she reflects on daily life in the country and the healing process of grief is on Instagram ~~~~ To read her blog and further articles by Katja do please follow the link to her dedicated webpage in honor of her son You can also connect with Katja on her FB writer's page.


    • P

      October 12, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      Amazing insight and sadly I’ve been through them
      Good to see them actually written down .
      This will definitely help others looking in to understand a tiny bit more

    • Jennifer

      October 13, 2018 at 8:36 pm

      I have never known what to call this, but secondary loss is so accurate. My 22 year old daughter was murdered 3 years ago and everything in your list hits so close to home. I don’t think the grieving will ever end. There is just so much to grieve. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Daveda

      October 14, 2018 at 9:38 am

      I never thought of that either but after reading the list l can identify so much with it. My daughter passed away from a massive brain aneurysm on St. Patrick’s Day Of this year

    • Kim Moore

      October 15, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      I suffer through these daily. Even after 7 years. Thank you for sharing and explaining what it is I have been experiencing. My son was murdered. He was 18 years old. Prayer to you for your loss.


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