Secondary losses

Where the death of a loved one is considered the primary loss, experiences that flow from that death are called secondary losses.

Secondary losses include loss of: support systems, home, dreams, hopes, identity, financial stability, faith, health, relationships, sense of belonging, self-worth.

“Secondary” means that these losses come as a result of the death, not that they are any less impactful or less difficult. They can unfold over time or become apparent in the immediate aftermath of the death. Secondary losses are a normal part of grief, and identifying and acknowledging them can often be the first step in grieving them.

Secondary losses are kind of the double whammy of grief. Which is, there's a death event, and then there may be a change in financial resources of the family. The father or the mother was the main breadwinner, and the loss of that income causes homelessness or food instability or creates a space where the family has to move out of the home. And, typically, because we've been taught to think about grief just as death-oriented, we don't factor in the impact that those secondary losses can have on a young person or on a family. And oftentimes, when a family does come into support services, they actually spend more time talking about those secondary losses than they do about the actual death event or the loss of their loved one, because those become the emergent needs. "We don't have food," or "we're losing our home because of the loss of our loved one," and that's actually the crisis."

The loss of financial security impacts many grievers. Joyal Mulheron explains the financial impacts of grief that can occur when someone loses a child.

After your child dies and then, of course, you're returning to work, a lot of families s- struggle. 69% of employers offer three days of paid bereavement leave, and so often that's not even enough time to plan a funeral for families or plan a memorial. And, then they're going back to work where, obviously, there are potentially a lot of questions. A lot of people also don't know what to do or how to be with someone. In many cases, there is a loss of purpose for parents, so retaining a job or wanting to go back to the job that you once had can be a real challenge.

And so once the employment is sort of at risk or at jeopardy, everything else becomes at risk.

And so, you know, it's whether or not you can make the mortgage on your house. It's whether or not you can send your kids to college. It's whether or not you can pay your car bill.

In addition, you know, some families are faced with additional legal bills, for example, in order to pursue someone criminally. In addition to that, there are families who... whose children may have died in college and they will receive a college bill.

There are a number or sort of unseen implications, economic implications, for families. Child death, for example, is not a qualifying event for FMLA job protection. So, if your child is killed, you could conceivably, if you did not return back to work within a few days and sometimes within... by the next day in some cases, you would not have a job. And that is perfectly legal.

In order for us to be a productive and globally competitive society, we do need to take care of one another. These are things that are achievable. It's just that no one's been working on them.

Below, people who have lost a loved one share the secondary losses they have experienced.

Play Video placeholderJenn Hepton: Friendships

When Loee died, I found out who my true friends were. I had friends who didn't acknowledge that that ... the death and aren't friends ... we're not friends anymore. I had friends who had ... didn't ... it was ... just brought such uncomfortable emotions for them that they never reached out, and it took them maybe a year to reach out.

I had friends who... just ... would do anything, and they would text, even though I couldn't text them back. They would come over and help. They dropped off food. Um ... it was really interesting what grief and death bring out in individuals.

Play Video placeholderSavvy Boyd: Home

I discovered that my name wasn't on the home. And, there was a mix up at- of some sort at our closing, because the paperwork that my mortgage company had, had me on the deed When we purchased the house together, as husband and wife. They had him as single.

I think they thought I just wasn't going to fight, and I was just going to move on. I'm a fighter. I've been a fighter all my life. Um, and I wasn't going to back down. But I hired a bulldog of a lawyer. And, um, I opted for a jury trial because I wanted my peers. I wanted to tell my story. I didn't want to just sit in front of a judge and let him make a decision. I wanted them to see that other people aren't going to tolerate this either. If it happens to me, it could happen to somebody else.

All because they did not want to do a correction of deeds. Simple five minute deal. Correct the deed. That's all you have to do.

But that's acknowledging their mistake, and they didn't want to acknowledge their mistake. So they put me through this. They put my children through this. The fear of losing our home. I will never be broken. I can be weak and I can be tired, but I will never allow someone to break me and this was a challenge, and I took it as a challenge, and I took on a multi-billion dollar company, and I won.

Play Video placeholderAjai Blue-Saunders: Identity

The person that I was before I would never be again. I would never be her again. The lightness of the world that I had, the lightness of just being able to do what you want to do and travel and be independent, I don't have that world anymore. I was once a wife and I'm not a wife anymore, I'm a widow

Play Video placeholderJack StockLynn: Traditions

Growing up, every Christmas, my family would do something, my mother, would do something called "Cookie-Bake." And we'd have family friends over and we'd all make ginger bread cookies together.

And, after she passed, there was this pressure then on me to make that happen for my dad, and for my brother, and for the family friends. And that ... I didn't, I'm not a woman. I don't want to be a mother, and I felt all that pressure and expectation to now step into the Mom-role. And so, I was like, (whispering) "Oh, that is not happening."

But so, we did the Cookie-Bake thing, and a lot of friends came and it was lovely. And it was also awful. I just felt ... like the cookies didn't taste right. Nothing looked good. Everything was crowded. It was just like, it didn't smell right. Like, nothing was good about it. And so, the next ... I think it was the next couple of years, we sort of didn't do it.

And, for me, coming to the realization that I didn't have to keep doing a tradition just because my mother had and it was this family tradition. So, that was hard but also really good ultimately for, for me to come to. So that, in a way, opened up the opportunity to build new traditions that still honored my mother but didn't dishonor me.

Play Video placeholderDarin Jensen: Privacy

I've always been a kind of private person, um, at least until I know someone. Uh, it was hard to have all these people around. Um, I'd never had people have people have keys to my house before and suddenly there were keys to my house in all these places. Some I think I didn't even know necessarily, uh, of people that were just helping from our church community, from the school communities. And it was difficult anyway, uh, but it was also a huge help.

Play Video placeholderTyana Simmons: Relationships

TJ and his father has the same smile, so it was very difficult to see him every day. Well, and see his smile every day, and it not be him. So to roll over, and he's happy to see me, and I'm lookin' at you, like, that's my baby's face, but that's not my baby.

So I had to split from him.

It got to be too much to see him every day. In the beginnin' we did talk about our grief with each other, but, also, in the beginnin' I was in a solitude place. I didn't want to be around anyone, and we probably should have, like normal people, done it together, but I just couldn't look at him anymore.

It was hurting me to see him, to see Nate and them do so many things alike. It was like torture every day, and I'm already bein' tortured with just the thoughts in my head. But now I have you, that is a spitting image, but not my baby. So, it definitely ... I know that I p- pushed myself out of the relationship. Um, we tried to make it work, but it was just too much for me.