What are secondary losses?
Professionals whom counsel regarding grief and loss often use a term called “secondary losses” to describe the losses experienced in addition to and because of the death of your loved one. For example, not just losing your husband, but losing that person whom did all of the household maintenance, whom was the bread winner or money manager, whom was your emotional support, your confidant, your co-parent. In every loss, there are significant secondary losses, but it seems in the case of losing your spouse, the amount of those kinds of losses are tremendous. By God’s design, the marriage relationship was intended to be our closest human relationship. Two separate individuals become one new marital identity, one new family. The bond and attachment of marriage is like none other, and losing your mate leaves a wound so unique, and so painful that words truly can’t do justice to the depth of the sorrow and devastation experienced.
Secondary losses are grieving the “would haves” and “could haves” and the “I wonder what could have been?”
They are grieving the past that you feel is lost, tainted or broken & the future that you longed for and pictured in your mind that never came to be.
Secondary losses are the holes left by that person’s absence that you earnestly try to fill, and find that your very best efforts always fall short because no one could ever take the place of, or fulfill that task quite like your spouse.
Secondary losses are the deepest things your heart yearns for that aren’t satisfied anymore. The depth of emotional connection, the warm embrace that makes you feel safe, the ability to trust, the common beliefs and family values, the person who listens to you patiently and sees you on the best and worst of days and still meets you with unconditional love.
It is astounding how drastic the changes are in the life of a widow whom has lost her husband. To the entire world, my husband was one person, to strangers in far away lands he was a mere statistic, but to me he was my entire world.
My absolute everything. All of a sudden, I was handed a brand new life and every fiber of my being wants to reject it. My default settings are programmed for life with my husband. This doesn’t match the hard wiring of my heart. This is incompatible with the programming. System shut down.
Lately, the pain of secondary losses has been hitting me so forcefully. With my youngest, my “baby” turning 3 in just a few days, I grieve the precious moments he never got to spend with his Daddy.
My beloved died when he was just 16 months old. Now that he is nearly 3, his unique personality is really shining through. He is so much like his sweet, hilarious, easy going, charismatic, daring, generous Daddy. Yet his Daddy never had the chance to get to know that about his second born. Half of this little guy’s life has been fatherless and without my husband’s good and Godly influence on his life. I hate that.
I also grieve the fact that at this age and stage of life, my husband and I imagined we’d be expecting another baby and trying for a little girl.
The crib is still up in the bedroom. The baby equipment is in handy storage and bin upon bin of baby clothes, even some I’d optimistically purchased for a baby girl are stored away, ready for a dream that never came to be. We had the hearts of parents that wanted a house filled with children. Our attempts to move into a larger space to make that happen, also never came to be.
I grieve the raising of sons during school years, tween years, teenage years and beyond that will never happen together.
I grieve the graduations, weddings, family vacations, or moments of sickness, hospitalization, and sorrow where he won’t be by my side, and holding my hand.
I grieve never growing old together.
In my mind’s eye and imprinted on my heart is a little image of two wrinkly old love birds with locks of gray gazing lovingly at each other on our porch swing, reflecting on the life we shared together. I grieve never seeing him bounce a grand baby on his knee. I grieve never having him home more with more free time for family with the new job that he was scheduled to begin on the very day he died. I grieve the loss of my very best friend.
What secondary losses are on your heart this week?
~a poem by me~
I carry the weight of what could have been.
It’s a burden that plagues me each day.
Pictures in my mind see what I expected would be,
And though he is gone, the pictures stay.
Why do they plague me, as if hope remains,
When I know in my heart hope is lost?
If bringing him back was an option in fact,
I’d do everything, no matter the cost.
In Hope & Prayers,
~This Widow Mama~
Your poem is beautiful and speaks such truth. How you describe the secondary losses are all the things that others do not see, only we see and feel those loses the most, they haunt us every passing day that we must endure without our spouse that we had planned to grow old with. Thank you for putting it into words so eloquently. Only I experience my secondary losses.😭😭💔💔
Thank you Marjorie for your encouraging words. I am glad you found the blog helpful. Great point, that “only I experience my secondary losses.” It is a very personal thing isn’t it? Just like each grief journey is unique to that widow and that unique identity as a couple. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
This is so real, so beautiful and raw for me right now. Only 46 days ago, my soulmate Bob suddenly passed. I am now a widowed mother of 8 ages 3 – 21, 4 boys and 4 girls. Next month is birthdays for all 4 of my daughters. I am weeping as I write this reality. Thank you for this.
Thank you for sharing your story with us here on word press and on social media. You truly are an amazing Mom, caring for 8 precious children in various ages and stages of development and what a challenge it must be helping them with the many unique ways they are grieving at this time as well. Praying for you!