The Secondary Losses of Widowed People

Did you know that losing a spouse is one of the most traumatic events you will experience? You and I face a range of challenges and emotions in the aftermath of such a loss. Along with the primary loss of your loved one, you may also experience secondary losses that can significantly impact your daily life.

Secondary losses are the losses that occur as a result of the primary loss. I also call them unintended losses. For widowed individuals, this can include loss of identity, loss of financial stability, loss of social support, the loss of plans and dreams for the future, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you had children, it may be the loss of your taxi driver, cheerleader, co-parent, and bad/good cop in discipline. These secondary losses can be just as devastating as the primary loss and may require additional support to manage.

So, how do you handle the secondary losses brought about by the death of your loved one?

  1. Seek support: It is essential to seek support from family, friends, or a support group. Talking to others who have gone through a similar experience can be helpful. They may offer guidance, advice, and encouragement, and provide a sense of belonging and understanding. The power of connecting with other widowed people who get it, and may be walking your same path, is transformative.
  2. Take care of yourself: Grief can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. It’s essential to prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and therapy. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep are also crucial. You cannot fill the cups required of you as a single person if your own cup is empty.
  3. Create a new identity: Losing a spouse can cause you to feel lost and uncertain about who you are. Creating a new identity by exploring new hobbies, interests, or activities can help build a sense of purpose and direction. It will help you discover and get to know this new version of you.
  4. Review and revise finances: Losing your spouse or partner can create financial strain, especially if you relied on your partner’s income. Reviewing and revising your financial plans can help ensure long-term financial stability. You will want to find a qualified financial advisor.
  5. Consider a change of scenery: You may find comfort in a change of scenery. Moving to a new location, redecorating your home, or going on a trip can help create new memories and provide a fresh start. When my husband died, I stripped everything from the master bedroom because it was too painful. Slowly, after five years, I am attempting to fashion a new space that is reflective of who I am as a single widowed person.
  6. Allow time to grieve: Grief is a process, and it takes time to heal. There is no “right” way to grieve, so it’s essential to allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with it. Suppressing emotions can prolong the healing process.

Losing your spouse or partner is a devastating event that can cause so many secondary losses. It requires a multifaceted approach that addresses emotional, practical, and social needs. As you address those needs, one at a time, you will find your footing, and you will learn how to take baby steps forward into the future that is waiting for you.

You can do this, and I’m here to help.


P.S. If you want to take a deeper dive, let’s connect and see how I can help you. You can schedule a call with me or send me a message here or via Facebook or Instagram @Navigating Widowhood.

Julie Martella Avatar

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