You’re Not Suffering One Loss, You’re Suffering Many
Different Losses We May Experience
When someone you love dies, in addition to the primary loss of the loved one, there are often secondary losses that you endure. The personal and social environment changes, often demanding new beginnings. The bereaved person is then left to examine what has been lost and gained as a consequence of the ending.
The following is a list of the different losses that one may experience after the death of a loved one.
- Loss of the loved one: Many people make the mistake of thinking that this is the only loss.
- Loss of self:This is the part of the self that was given to the other person in love. At death, a bereaved person often feels this part of their self has been “ripped away.”
- Loss of identity: Often, an individual identifies with the role they occupied in a relationship. When the other person is no longer present and the role no longer played, the individual often loses a feeling of wholeness.
- Loss of self-confidence: Grieving persons often feel inadequate. They may feel they are not grieving appropriately, or that they should be feeling better, or that they could have done something to prevent the death.
- Loss of chosen lifestyle: Death of a loved one forces a person to begin a new way of life. The bereaved spouse, for instance, is forced to be single again.
- Loss of security: Grieving individuals often describe the uncertainty in not knowing what will happen next or how they will respond or react. Their routine and their reality change, increasing insecurity.
- Loss of feeling safe: One grieving spouse concluded, “I feel exposed to the cold winds of life without my loved one. It makes me feel very vulnerable.”
- Loss of known family structure: Death instantly changes the composition of a person’s family, creating another level of adjustment that must be faced.
- Loss of the familiar manner of relating to family and friends: Family and friends frequently do not know how to respond to the sadness, anger, fear and other emotions of the bereaved person, so they might avoid or feel awkward around him or her.
- Loss of the past: New acquaintances and new friends can be very supportive and accepting, but they do not share the bereaved person’s history.
- Loss of the future:It can be frightening for a grieving person to think ahead—to think of next year or next month or next week without their loved one. There is fear that whatever future there is will be as painful as the present moment.
- Loss of direction: As one grieving man put it, “Since my wife died, I don’t seem to have a purpose in life any more; nothing seems to matter.”
- Loss of dreams: Many bereaved persons lament that the dreams they had for the future won’t be realized.
- Loss of trust: Bereaved persons often feel insecure about loving another as deeply after a significant loss. They may fear the pain of another loss. Many bereaved persons state they also have difficulty trusting themselves again because of deep feelings of insecurity.
- Loss of sharing with a loved one: Many bereaved persons lament the loss of that constant companion to share the little things in life. They lament the loss of a best friend, a confidante. Parents whose child has died often report feeling excluded from experiencing the “growing up years.”
- Loss of ability to focus: The grieving person’s entire being is so affected by the loss that it becomes difficult to focus on anything but the essentials of getting through the day.
- Loss of ability to see choices: Since the lifestyle changes brought on by the loss was not a choice, many grieving persons have a subconscious feeling that they have no control over their life.
- Loss of ability to make decisions: Because of insecurity and lack of self-trust, the bereaved person may experience difficulty making decisions. They also may become confused as they get different advice from others.
- Loss of a sense of humor: It is sometimes hard to see anything as humorous when one of the most important people in one’s life is no longer alive.
- Loss of health: The strain of the emotional and psychological grief work often causes physical problems such as nausea, migraine headaches, muscle tension, back problems, etc.
- Loss of inner happiness and joy: It is hard to feel happiness and joy when your life feels shattered after the loss of someone significant.
- Loss of patience with self: Often, grieving persons want relief from their pain; they want to feel better now and may feel inadequate when the feelings of grief last longer than they expected.
It is often difficult for family and friends of an individual who has experienced the loss of a loved one to understand why the grieving process lasts so long. We all want to see our loved one be happy and “get on with life.” It is important that family and friends become aware of the many levels of loss. This awareness may help those who care about the grieving person be more patient and understanding.