Grief Counseling Training: Secondary Losses

Grief Counseling Training:  Secondary Losses

Beyond the loss of a loved one, what secondary losses are affecting you?  Grief counseling training can prepare counselors to help identify potential secondary losses
Beyond the loss of a loved one, what secondary losses are affecting you? Grief counseling training can prepare counselors to help identify potential secondary losses

In grief counseling training, many hear the term secondary losses.  What does this term mean?  A secondary loss is something that results or stems from the primary loss and is usually not foreseen until it is experienced by the griever.   Certified grief counselors need to be aware of their clients life and expect and even forewarn the griever of these unexpected losses that may result from the primary loss.

A very good example is a widow.  Her primary loss is her husband.  This huge void in her life will alter it in many ways.  These new alterations are in many cases examples of secondary losses.   Less income is one of the biggest things a widow may face, especially younger widows.  Another secondary loss would be the lack of help around the home.  Leaky faucets, the yard not being mowed or even the simple task of taking out the trash can become reminders of the loss and also an additional hardship to a widow.  In contrast, a widower may have to learn to cook his own meals after work or have to pay to have laundry done.  Within these classical  and traditional norms of husband and wife duties, we can see a loss and a void created by that loss.   Modern families may face less traditional issues but in any relationship, traditional or modern, usually a particular set of duties is best dealt with by one spouse or the other.  When these duties fall upon the grieving spouse, it can become a hardship.

These losses trickle down to the very core of any relationship that is lost.   As we continue with the example of a widow or widower, consider even the smallest thing.  For instance, the loss of income can also affect one’s social life.  When a group of friends wish to attend a movie, perhaps the widow or widower due to tighter budget cannot attend with friends?  Again this is an example of a secondary loss and a new way of adapting to the primary loss is a tighter budget.  Health can also be a big issue.  Loss of health care or coverage, or poor diet can all lead to future problems that are a result from the primary loss.

Another example is a single parent who has very little support except for his or her parents.  Many grandparents supply helpful hands to single parents who work.  Imagine if the grandparents or lone grandparent died?  The sting of grief is present, but what of the grandchild?  Now the single and working parent must find a good day care or baby sitter which reduces the quality of care and costs additional funds.

Like dominoes, every aspect of one’s life can be affected in different ways from the primary loss.  Secondary losses even linger long after the primary loss has been dealt with and adapted to.  The last domino to fall from the initial loss may be felt many years later.  An anniversary, a birthday, or a wedding.   If anything, secondary losses teach us the value of the person or thing lost and the price of that loss.   Yes, we need to adapt and adjust, but we can never forgot the precious person or thing we lost, and secondary losses remind us of the importance people or things play in our life.

We need to be thankful for every person in our lives and evaluate how our lives would be with out them.  Their emotional support, financial support, or favors that they so generously hand out to us.  Imagine our life without them and then you can imagine not only the pain of loss, but the secondary losses to our own life.

If you are interested in becoming trained as a Grief Counselor or would like Grief Counseling Training, then please review the program.

Mark Moran, MA, GC-C


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