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Can You Experience Other Types of Loss After the Death of a Loved One?

How Can You Deal with Other Kinds of Loss After the Death of a Loved One?

The death of a loved one is unarguably life’s most stressful event and is capable of devastating those it leaves behind. When we lose someone close to our heart, it’s literally the same pain receptors in the brain as losing a limb.

We’re hesitant to categorise all losses and care not to compare them, but the death of a spouse is one of life’s most painful losses which requires the biggest life adjustments.

This comprehensive guide article will provide you with useful information to help you identify any secondary loss you may be experiencing as well as how to cope with secondary losses. 

You can jump directly to the question you are thinking of by using the table of contents below.

The pain itself is too excruciating and feels so unbearable that gradually it gets associated with a variety of other emotional experiences like confusion, guilt, envy, loneliness, depression, and ultimately anger.

This snowball effect stems from the fact that the death of a spouse not only creates a single hole in one’s life but also impacts many other areas of life creating multiple losses apart from that primary loss.

Dealing with the death of a spouse can be overwhelming and can lead to other emotional barriers, stumbling blocks, and secondary losses.

This primary loss also manifests itself in other types of losses known as secondary losses that can have a lasting impact on the griever’s physical and social abilities.

However, understanding, identifying secondary losses, our unique emotional and physical response to that loss during the grieving process will allow us to create an opportunity for healing in other hidden areas which we might not have considered.

As well ensuring where possible adequate covers are made for those losses whilst learning to move forward with life without our loved ones

In this guide on types of loss, you will find:

What's the Connection Between Grief and Loss?

Grief can be explained as a crushing feeling caused by the death of a loved one. It includes the feelings of vulnerability, abandonment, and realising the unpredictability of life. 

When grieving at its most intense, it is often thought that loss is part of grief, but it is difficult to distinguish between the two at the beginning. When the emotions subside, the sense of loss manifests itself as bereavement at a whole new level.

What Types of Losses Can Trigger Grief?

Grief can be defined as conflicting emotions caused by a sudden change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Everyone has a different idea about what grief should feel or look like.

 Typically, people view death as a significant loss but there are many life events and changes that produce feelings of loss and trigger grief. 

The loss of physical ability, divorce or changes in a relationship, changes in your health or health of a loved one, loss of something routine in your life such as a job.

People grieve for many different reasons and have their unique way of grieving because individual grief is as unique as the person experiencing it. 

Sometimes trivial things can serve as grief triggers.

In 1967, physicist Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that listed over 40 types of stressful losses that can trigger grief, illnesses, and other serious health issues.

Before getting into the list, we’d like to point out that not all the life events mentioned in the list can be regarded as losses that necessarily trigger grief.

Losses that trigger grief can be grouped into these categories

Grief is a reaction when you’ve lost something important to you. The loss could be the death of a loved one, losing a physical ability or cognitive ability, or financial loss. 

Loss occurs under different circumstances and can be categorised in different ways.

Necessary Loss

This loss isn’t necessarily a loss and is replaced by something better like leaving behind family and friends to pursue a new job.

Actual Loss

This loss is experienced when the person is no longer able to see, hear or touch the lost object or person e.g., spouse, relative, friend, pet, body part, or job.



Perceived Loss

This loss is only real to the person experiencing it and may seem obvious to others. E.g., when a child feels his parent loves his siblings more than him. He may lose his self-worth.

Maturation Loss

Loses we anticipate and experience as a part of the normal developmental process e.g., children leaving for university, retirement, etc.

Situational Loss

It occurs when a person experiences unpredictable and traumatic life events leading towards other loss e.g., Loss of body function or loss of a job.

Anticipatory Loss

It occurs when you know what you are going to lose and what your life is going to be like after that loss. e.g., a loved one diagnosed with a terminal disease

What are the 40 Life Events that Can Trigger Losses?

Loss can occur as a result of 40 major life events that can be classified into six categories.

Primary Loss

What is Primary Loss?

Primary loss is when you experience the death of your loved one or any other major life-changing event in your life and it’s followed by a series of mini-events that have a strong impact on your life.

Primary losses are obvious losses that are easy to recognise such as losing a spouse, job, or anything you hold dear. 

One primary loss can escalate to the multiple losses known as secondary losses that can affect multiple areas of an individual’s life.

Examples of Primary Loss

  •     Death of a spouse
  •     Disappearance
  •     Murder
  •     Suicide
  •     Miscarriage
  •     Terror attack
  •     War
  •     The sudden death of a child
  •     Physical loss
  •     Cognitive loss
  •     Loss of job
  •     Relationship failure

Cumulative Loss

What Is Cumulative Loss in Grief?

Cumulative grief occurs when an individual experiences numerous loss one after the other within a short time.

For example, losing multiple family members or loved ones at the same time or in close succession would result in cumulative grief.

Another example is loss of relational identity (no longer a husband, wife, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc) which could lead to loss of life purpose (no longer a parent, or caregiver etc) 

This type of grief can be extremely consuming because the person feels buried by the loss and doesn’t have the time to grieve one loss properly before experiencing the next.

Secondary Loss

What is Secondary Loss?

Secondary loss is felt after the primary loss has occurred and refers to all smaller losses you’ll experience as a result of the primary loss you’ve suffered. 

The grief from the second loss is the emotional response to the subsequent losses that occur as a result of primary loss.

Death of a spouse may lead to multiple secondary losses like the loss of identity, loss of a home, decrease in income, change in friend circle, change of job and revamping of future plans, etc.

Secondary losses wheel other types of losses balanced wheel What are the stages of grief

Examples of Secondary Loss

The secondary losses can be a divide into three categories

What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Losses?

The table below will help you to be able to understand the difference between a primary loss and a secondary loss.

Primary Loss Secondary Loss
A primary loss is what you experience when someone important to you dies.
Secondary loss is an accumulation of all unexpected ways you suffer as a result of that death.
A primary loss incurred from the loss event itself.
A secondary loss is incurred from the reaction to the loss event.
The initial loss is often referred to as the primary loss.
The losses that follow primary loss are referred to as secondary losses.
Primary losses are easy to identify.
Secondary loss is hard to recognise and often regarded as “hidden loss.”
A primary loss can appear all of sudden.
Secondary losses don’t appear until much later.
Example: Death of a spouse.
Example: The associated secondary losses are companionship, affection, responsibility, and comfort provided by the spouse.

What Are Some Ways to Identify Secondary Losses?

The secondary losses are often so incredibly personal and difficult to identify that they often go unrecognised by family, friends, and community members and sometimes even by the person experiencing them.

Secondary losses constitute various types of losses at once and among other things may be related to ambiguous or disenfranchised losses.

Secondary Loss as Disenfranchised Loss


Disenfranchised Loss is felt when the grieving person doesn’t get the much-needed validation or support from others. Others don’t recognise how significant that loss was to that person.

There is another side of disenfranchised loss you experience when your loved one has an illness that causes a decline in their physical abilities causing them physically present but mentally absent.

Secondary Loss as Ambiguous Loss

An ambiguous loss refers to when the person has no idea about what has been lost and or whether the loss even occurred at all.

How to Identify Your Secondary Losses

Are there any questions you should ask yourself 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 going through. If this sounds relevant to you, consider making a visual map of your secondary loss.

Visual writing can be extremely effective to identify your emotions and validate the shape of your grief.

Let’s take a look at some general questions you may want to consider in identifying your secondary losses.

Answering these questions can be helpful to identify your secondary losses and make sense of what you’re feeling.

Some of these questions were adapted with permission from Dr Bill Webster.

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.

By allowing yourself to mourn your loss, you can transform the suffering into compassion and wisdom.

There is no secret formula or magic button that we can give you to help you instantly get over your cumulative grief, but there is a process that can assist you.

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. Allow yourself to fully feel and grieve each of those past losses. 

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 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. 

I know your heart aches and you feel tired, but you can choose to heal and can move into peace.

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.

Supporting Someone Grieving

What Are Some Ways To Help Someone Deal with Loss?

In this article, we’ve discussed what other types of losses can be experienced by a person grieving the death of a loved one. We’ve categorised the losses in 40 major life events that can be grief triggers.

Moreover, we shared different ways to identify your secondary losses, validate the shape of your grief and initiate the healing process.

My goal is to help you understand the process of grieving, grief triggers, ways to overcome your grief with some proven and most effective ways to move forward with your life and to fill the void inside you.


It is our goal to help you understand the grieving process, secondary losses, grief triggers, and how to overcome your grief. We 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 types of 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.

This comprehensive guide on how to cope with other kinds of losses after a loved one’s death is intended to be helpful and useful to you.

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

Understanding Bereavement, Grief and Loss