Secondary Losses – the Ripple Effect of Grief
What’s a secondary loss? It represents all of the losses that come after the primary loss. This could be the loss of marriage, friends, family, career, and of course, the loss of self. Many people realize that life is HARD after the initial loss, because that loss is public. There’s no way to keep that private; everyone knows what happened. But I believe the secondary losses can be just as painful, and compound the initial grief beyond belief.
Secondary losses aren’t always discussed and aren’t always immediate, so they may not seem directly linked to the outside world, but you know in your heart, you have changed and so has your life.
I was terrified of secondary losses. I hoped and prayed that my marriage would be strong enough to withstand the storm. Thank God it was. I hoped I would be strong enough to pull out of the darkness, because I was not sure there for a few months that there would be light again – ever. Thank God I did the work head on to recover and now life fully. I was afraid my story would scare my friends off, that they wouldn’t know how to deal with my grief. Thank God they stood by my side, and no matter how many times I said I couldn’t get together, they still asked until I was strong enough to leave my house. I was afraid that I would lose all interest in work, and we needed my income. I will never forget telling my boss when I went back to work that my bullshit meter was at zero. I was no longer interested in playing political games and dealing with needless drama that often accompanied the role of Global VP of Marketing. I walked away from a 15-year career in Marketing not long after I returned back to work because I knew I had a larger purpose for my life. That secondary loss was a true blessing in my life.
The loss of self, though, for me was the most jarring. I had always been a positive person, seeing the glass half full, dreaming BIG dreams, and making things happen in my life. I was incredibly calm when Harper was in my arms, but when I had to say goodbye? When I had to leave her so she could be creamated, that’s when the fear set in. I was afraid of every single thing. Afraid to be without my husband and son, afraid of my own thoughts, afraid of the darkness, afraid to leave my house, just afraid. This was not the girl I was used. I had never been afraid before – of anything. This whole blog site is dedicated to how I rebuilt my life one brick at a time. I was very intentional about what was staying and what was going. While fear loves to try to creep back in, because I now know bad things can happen to really good people, I have learned how to manage it, and now I teach others to do the same.
I wasn’t the only one afraid of secondary losses. I remember my parents being so afraid that I would never dream again the way I always had. They were terrified that the grief would swallow me whole and I would be living but merely surviving. I am devoting my life to showing others the way I recovered because I believe the best way to honor your child is to live FOR them. Live fully and take massive risks. What do we have to lose? We have already lost the one thing we thought we couldn’t live without.
If you are experiencing the fallout of grief, these secondary losses can be so painful. Just when you think you cannot possibly handle one more blow from life, here comes more loss. I think it’s important to label them for what they are and understanding it’s part of the grief journey. I promise you that what is meant to fall away, will fall away. What is meant to stay, will stay.
Grief is not your fault. How you grieve (or grieve differently) is not your fault. You walked into the hospital one person and came out someone completely different. Honor that difference. Let this fuel you. Know that your baby, your child, is guiding you every step of the way, if you allow them. You can handle this, you are handling this, and you are not alone if you allow your baby to continue to be part of your life and thoughts. What if the secondary losses were blessings from above? I know in my case they were.