Chapter 3: Identifying your losses

Other losses

I've been there
Dianne recalls the loss and guilt as she removed her husband's name from official documents.(3:22)Video transcript
Serena speaks about how secondary losses and the impact these have on grief.(3:22)Video transcript
I married early and have never lived on my own. When my husband died, I couldn’t afford to stay in our home. Moving was very stressful and involved so many changes.My husband had always managed our money. I felt betrayed and angry when I discovered that he had left a huge debt, which I had no way of paying. How could he have done this to me? Did I even know him? The death of your partner can bring “secondary” or additional losses. These are other losses that happen because a death has occurred. Some additional losses may be more obvious than others to you – and to your friends and family. It may take some time for you to recognize them, or they may “catch you off guard.” In either case, these losses are valid and can have a significant impact on your life and on your grief. Sometimes these losses are the result of discovering new information about your spouse. Click on each tab to what some other losses might include.

Losing the person who remembers your shared past; losing a companion, confidante, or someone with shared interests.

Having to live on your own, perhaps for the first time ever or after many years; losing your home or your spouse’s income.

Changing from spouse to widow or widower; going from married or partnered to single; becoming a single parent.

Losing benefits that stopped when your spouse died.

Questioning the way your saw or understood your spouse after learning something you didn’t previously know (either positive or negative).  

Recognizing and naming these layers of grief can help you to understand your feelings and find ways to live with your losses, but this often takes time and the support of others.

What may help

  • Acknowledge to yourself and others that change is often hard to accept.
  • Be aware that other events, such as a friend moving away, can add to your feelings of loss, and even happy events can bring feelings of loss. For example, the birth of a grandchild may bring both joy and sorrow as you think about your spouse’s absence. 
  • Stay open to self-discovery. If you depended heavily on your spouse to make certain decisions or do certain tasks, you might discover talents you didn’t know you had or different preferences and a freedom to act on them. You may feel a new self-confidence about your ability to manage difficult or challenging situations.
  • Recognize your own growth. Gaining something doesn’t diminish or somehow cancel your grief. You can still feel the pain of your loss while at the same time acknowledging the ways you have grown from it.

Helpful resources - A Deep Dive into Secondary Loss - Learning a Secret After a Death