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"Just get over it already" !! Secondary losses and why grief is a life long endeavour

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

There is a lot more to grief than meets the eye, just like the tip is the only thing you see of the ice-berg, the only thing most people see of grief is the loss of the person: mum, dad, brother, sister, wife or husband, child, aunt or uncle or friend.

The reality is though, that the devastating loss we experience when someone close to us dies is just the beginning. What follows can be an unrelenting list of losses that go largely unnoticed by those who have not experienced the death of a loved one.

The following list may help the uninitiated to understand why grief touches every single aspect of a persons life leaving no stone unturned; whilst validating those living with the reality of losing not just their spouse, child, parent, sibling or friend but everything that person once meant to them and all of the dreams associated with their future together. Some of these may seem trivial, but to someone who has experienced it, nothing is trivial and each newly experienced secondary loss may come as hard as the primary loss in the depth of emotion felt and the sheer finality of a season ended.

If you are experiencing grief associated with secondary losses and you are unsure of how to navigate those feelings and your new reality, please feel free to drop us a line here at Enhance Wellbeing Counselling and see how we might be able to help you.

Primary Loss - Death of loved one

Secondary Losses - may include but not limited to:

- loss of income

- loss of identity as that persons wife/ husband/ child etc

- loss of all of the dreams you had together

- loss of an intimate partner to talk to .. every single day

- loss of feeling someones arms about you

- loss of a listening ear / words of wisdom

- loss of financial security of a main income earner

- loss of friends associated with that person

- loss of ability to travel

- loss of a support system

- loss of someone to bounce ideas off

- loss of property

- loss of a business

- loss of a planner

- loss of the person who took care of the garden/ the car/ the house/ the special touches / gift buying/ birthdays / events / fixing stuff / financial stuff

- loss of ever being able to share responsibility of the care of the children/ the chores / the cooking

- loss of sleep ins

- loss of a second driver

- loss of someone to help teach the kids to drive

- loss of someone to hold the other end of the couch/ table/ heavy item that needs two people to lift it

- loss of that someone who knew all the stories / shared history

- loss of the inside joke

- loss of future plans

- loss of future dreams

- loss of being able to watch that person grow up /old

- loss of walking them down the aisle or being walked down the aisle

- loss of marking off milestones together

- loss of traditions

- loss of the family structure/ family unit

- loss of sharing of meals around the table

- loss of the past

- loss of direction

- loss of a social network

- loss of personal health through the stress of grief

- loss of the ability to cope

- loss of the ability to share the load

- loss of the couple relationship and being included in with other couples

- loss of the 'sunday roast'

- loss of the ability to share memories which dont seem valid anymore

- loss of the 'team approach'

- loss of a sense of fun and adventure

- loss of someone to go to the footy with

- loss of someone to cheer with you

- loss of someone to help you out of a tight outfit

- loss of someone to call when something amazing happens/ or something terrible

- loss of someone to drive the other car when you drop yours off for a service

- loss of someone to take you to the doctor when you are sick

- loss of someone who cares as equally fiercely about your kids future as you do

- loss of an encourager

- loss of someone to rub your back when it aches

- loss of someone to make you a coffee/tea when they make their own

- loss of someone to talk to as you fall asleep/ keep you warm at night

- loss of financial decision maker

- loss of companionship

- loss of anyone to hold you when you cry

- loss of someone to work side by side with

- loss of someone to take long walks with

- loss of the stabilising factor in your life

- loss of identity

- loss of a hand to hold

- loss of whispers in your ear

- loss of a sex life

- loss of purpose

- loss of hope

- loss of sense of self now they are gone

The list is quite endless, the life of a person is not just contained in that person, much like a large tree has giant roots you cannot see, which may stretch far and wide into places you never realised.

Have some compassion when it comes to living with grief and loss, there is always more that the grieving person is dealing with than the loss of companionship. Grieving people really are the strongest of all, even if they dont appear to be so at first glance.

TIPS on how to deal with secondary losses

Journalling - making a list of your own secondary losses, acknowledging each one and allowing yourself the space to grieve each and every one may be of help, at the very least in giving you an understanding of why you feel as you do.

Walking and exercise - there is a strong correlation between exercise and wellbeing, Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol which can wreak havoc on your immunity, gut health, blood pressure and heart health. Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Practising thankfulness/ being grateful - research shows us that being thankful and practising gratitude helps to increase the level of DHEA in your body which counteracts the effects of cortisol the stress hormone. Being grateful can help reduce stress, enhance sleep, and balance our heart rhythms. I have personally found it to be the one most effective strategy for handling the grief of loss. Set yourself the task of deliberately finding once thing each day that you can be thankful for and see if it helps you as well.

Seeking a support group or support person - feeling supported is a protective mechanism against the loneliness and isolation of grief. This can be formal or informal, a lay person or someone trained in grief support. For those dealing with what feels like debilitating grief, it may be most helpful to find a grief therapist you can talk with face to face.

Help is at hand. Feel free to click on the links to contact or book with Enhance Wellbeing Counselling and Coaching Geelong.

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