Existential Psychology

Secondary Losses

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Grieving is a confusing process for various reasons. The one we want to talk about here is that people are not always conscious of all the secondary losses they must confront along with their primary loss. The primary loss is the loved one who has died. Dealing with this is hard enough on its own. You must come to terms with the fact that there will be no new experiences with this person, no new memories, and this is tragic.

Primary loss is so obvious, like a brick to the face, that no one needs any help becoming aware of it. Secondary losses are often more hidden yet still devastating. Some common ones are loss of faith, loss of belief in a just world, loss of income, loss of emotional support, loss of direction in life, loss of hope for the future, loss of identity, and loss of self-confidence.

All of these secondary losses add up to the feeling of being lost. But every cloud has its silver lining, and from a self-actualization point of view if you look over the list from above the silver lining becomes clear. We run the risk of using the important people in our lives as crutches. We stunt our personal development because we have others to lean on. When this support system is taken away it’s either sink or swim, and when we choose swim we end up growing in exciting and unexpected ways.

If you have lost someone, the first step is to become consciously aware of all the secondary losses that are riding in the wake of your primary loss. These secondary losses are different for everyone; we only named a few of the big ones. Once you know what they are your grief won’t be any less painful but it will be less confusing. When you put a name to something you are in a much better position to confront and eventually overcome it. You have the ability to use a devastating situation as a chance to grow, and this is surely what your loved one would want for you.