The Taos News has committed to implement a weekly column to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat, and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.
Dear Dr. Ted:
Happy New Year, and thank you for having this article, as I find it intriguing and helpful on my own healing process. This last year saw so many losses for me as well as others, and I’m finding as I walk through my losses, there are so many more losses due to the first loss. Will you write on this topic?
Secondary losses are rarely talked about, and thank you for bringing this topic into the foreground. It is very important as you work with the grief process and transition into the present day and time from a loss. Your immediate loss is called the primary loss, as it is the catalyst and focus of your change in life. This change is called loss, in that due to this change you are no longer defined the same as you were before that loss. Grief is that redefining process allowing you to transition into your present definition within life. Your loss is like a big rock being thrown into a tranquil pond, and from that disruption of tranquility, there are ripples that spread out wide and far as that impact touches all aspects of your life.
A primary loss impacts you mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It shifts all the different fibers within your life from relationships, jobs, shelter, day-to-day activities, social groups, feelings of normalcy... the list goes on and on. These other areas of your life that your loss impacts are called secondary losses. A hypothetical example of this would be that you have a death of a spouse, which would most likely be emotionally difficult. In addition to the identified loss, this may impact how you present yourself as married, widowed and/or single. It may impact your relationships with your in-laws or other family members, all of the sudden chores that were delegated to one another are not being taken care of by the other half, financial matters can be overwhelming and sometimes devastating as income has changed, a caregiver is no longer in that role of giving that care to the loved one, being single with friends that are all married and the list goes on.
Secondary and tertiary losses are very real and can lead to other primary losses, which can make a loss become incredibly compounded and complicated as you try to start to redefine yourself. Realizing that loss has many depths and taking one step at a time to rebuild your foundation is a key component to emotional healing. Acknowledging these losses and slowly grieving all aspects of loss, will allow you to heal from your loss while building more of an internal infrastructure to walk through life after loss. Any type of loss offers an opportunity to truly look at all areas of your life that may need repairing, changing or discarding and adding to make your life more productive, with improved balance and quality. Being aware of the many depths within a loss can help you navigate and heal one breath and one step at a time.
I wish you well and please stay safe. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat, at GWR@newmex.com or call at 575-776-2024. Weekly virtual grief groups, at no charge, are being offered to help support emotional well-being. More information is available at goldenwillowretreat.org.