Information & Advice

How to Identify Your Secondary Losses

What are my secondary losses in grief and how do I deal with them?

Information & Resources

Managing Secondary Losses

When a loved one passes away, you may have a whole series of secondary losses that come along with it.  

These losses are referred to as “secondary losses,” but not because their impact is secondary, but rather because they are a secondary result of the primary loss. 

Although not as obvious as primary losses, secondary losses are still devastating.

They contribute to the sense of loss. Developing self-awareness, and identifying the complexities of our own grief, can help us identify the possibility of experiencing grief from these secondary losses.

With this guide on managing secondary losses in grief, we hope to give you information and support about how to cope with secondary losses through understanding and developing strategies.


Secondary Loss - Balanced Wheel

In this managing secondadry loss guide you will find:

How to identify secondary losses?

This section explores questions to ask yourself when trying to identify secondary losses.

The secondary losses are the subsequent changes as a consequence of the death of a loved one and typically range from negligible and momentary to life-altering and permanent.

These losses may add to the pain, stress, and challenges of the grief that you’re experiencing . If this sounds relevant to you, consider making a visual map of your secondary loss.

Visual writing can be extremely effective when identifying your emotions and validating the shape of your grief. Let’s take a look at some general questions you may want to consider when  identifying your secondary losses.

You can identify your secondary losses by answering the following questions

Seven universal key areas are identified and addressed in questions around a death of a loved one.

By answering these questions below, you can identify your secondary losses, understand the impact on your life, take steps to begin rebuilding and rebalancing your life.

journal, write, blank-2850091.jpg, loss of my spouse
tea, hot, cup-1090672.jpg

Strategies to deal with secondary losses

In this section, we explore some strategies and coping mechanism for dealing with your identified secondary losses

Here are some strategies for coping with secondary losses

Secondary losses require coping with the unexpected changes in your life as a result of primary loss.

Most people may not immediately recognise their secondary losses as they don’t show up all at once and slowly begin to impact your life in unanticipated ways. 

You’ll most often experience secondary losses as you go through the stages of grief while getting back to your normal life.

The suggested question “to ask yourself to identify secondary losses” is a great first step in learning about your secondary losses which will be followed by identifying the necessary actions or steps to help you cope. 

The next steps may take the following shape:


Accepting your new reality is the first step you can take towards healing your grief. In the grief model, acceptance is the last step but for coping and working through the loss, it comes first in the healing process.

Loss Resolution

You have to accept that the loss is real, and the associated pain is a consequence of it. The healing process for secondary loss is not the same as initial loss. 

Almost every grief therapy model overlooks the intensity of secondary losses and doesn’t give them importance in stages of grief.

Disbelief and Denial

The primary loss is always followed by a strong sense of disbelief that your loved one is really gone, and you won’t be able to see them ever again. Grief expert J. William Wordon has introduced four important tasks to get out of this phase:

  •     Accepting the reality of the loss
  •     Experiencing the pain of the loss
  •     Adjusting to new life
  •     Reinvestment in a new reality

Intermediate Period of distress

After the death of your loved one, you’ll keep on getting invitations for couples’ activities or similar stuff. Many people would be confused about whether to invite you to their couple’s dinner or couple’s night outs or not. Don’t worry it may take some time to adjust.

Recompense and Reshuffle

The last stage includes the acceptance of your Loved one’s death and reorganising your new life. After having adequate time to grieve your loved one’s death, you can put closure behind you by indulging yourself in some grief rituals.

How to Deal with Cumulative Loss in Grief?

Sometimes cumulative grief is recognisable, and sometimes it’s not. Understanding the intensity of your grief can be the best way to acknowledge it and validate your experience.

Cumulative grief feels like you’re buried under the mountains of loss, and there’s no way to get out of it. No matter how significant your loss is, you don’t have to be held captive by it forever.

You can transform the suffering into compassion and wisdom by allowing yourself to mourn your loss.

If only there was a secret formula or magic button that we could  give to help you instantly get out of your cumulative grief! However, there is a process that can help you work through it.

Resolve the Past Losses First

Ask yourself, is there any loss from your past you’ve been intentionally avoiding for years. If so, it is probably impacting your ability to deal with current losses.

Stretch back to your timeline and determine the losses you have disregarded. Then, allow yourself to feel and grieve each of those past losses fully. 

You may find it difficult, but it will help you walk through your feelings and find a better way to deal with new losses.

Find a Way to Express Yourself

You may find it difficult to open up about your feelings because when you have a lot of emotions to process, it can be overwhelming to face them.

But it always helps to have another person to talk to about your feelings. Consider joining a support or counselling group to express yourself without hesitation.

Make Way for Joy and Sadness

The loss of losing a loved one, such as a spouse, is so big that the grief won’t just go away. But in those moments of sorrow, you have to make room for some joy too. 

It’s ok to miss your loved one; just honour your joy and sadness in grief anniversaries, and you’ll feel that those memories you’ve shared together aren’t painful anymore.

Find Peace

Remind yourself that you’re not broken and there’s something beautiful waiting ahead of you. Visualise yourself no longer buried by the mountain of sadness. 

We know your heartaches and you feel tired, but you can choose to heal and can move into peace.

Supporting Someone Grieving through their secondary losses

This section explores how a bereaved person’s social network of friends and family can support them as they learn to adjust and cope to the various secondary losses.

Ask How They Feel within a specified period

BE quick to listen and slow to speak. When asking how they’re feeling, be sure to ask “how they feel witihn a specified period, e.g. how have you been this morning?” The feelings of a grieving person change quickly so don’t assume how the person is feeling at a given time. Ask them how they’re feeling and let them know that it’s ok to share their feelings with you.

If you have a similar experience, share it with them to show empathy and make them feel they’re the not only ones who lost a loved one.

Be Present and Genuine

Don’t offer unsolicited advice trying to minimise their loss. Try to be genuine in your communication and express your real and honest emotions to comfort them.

Assist in practical ways

Be as consistent as you can with your offers of assistance. By doing this, the grieving individual will know that you’re going to be there no matter how long it takes and can look forward to your attentiveness without having to repeat themselves constantly.

Maintain ongoing support

Be as consistent as you can with your offers of assistance. By doing this, the grieving individual will know that you’re going to be there no matter how long it takes and can look forward to your attentiveness without having to repeat themselves constantly.

Keep these three principles mind when supporting someone grieving:

  1. Be wary of assumptions based on appearances.
  2. Be extra supportive on special days.
  3. Continue your support over the long haul.


Our hope is that this step-by-step managing secondary loss guide has eased what can be a very draining process.

It is our goal to help you understand the grieving process, secondary losses, grief triggers, and how to engage with your grieving process which will help you with some proven and most effective ways to move forward with your life and to find a new balance in your life.

In this comprehensive guide on the managing secondary losses in grief, we’ve examined what other types of losses can be experienced by those grieving a loss of a loved one. According to our research, there are 40 major life events that are grief triggers and can be classified into 40 categories.

Additionally, we discussed how to identify your secondary losses, validate your grief and how to move through your grieving process.

We would appreciate it if you could let us know if there is any additional information we should include in this resource

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