Talking About Secondary Losses

Consider for a moment all circumstances that surrounded you when your spouse died. Perhaps your financial situation changed radically (most widows lose 40% of their income), and as a result you had to sell your home or move to more affordable housing. Maybe circumstances within the extended family came up and you lost significant relationships. When you moved, did you change jobs, neighborhoods, churches? Perhaps in the aftermath of losing your spouse you found yourself with huge health challenges. These things all fall into the category of “Secondary Losses”. While each one is significant in its own right, each one can also be a direct result of having lost your spouse.

In an online discussion of this topic, Litsa Williams ( names some of these additional losses that we may not recognize at first as being significant. The primary loss is obviously the death of your spouse. The secondary losses resulting from that may include loss of income, loss of identity, loss of hopes and dreams, and many others.

She goes on to say: “…death does not just create a single hole in one’s life.  Instead, the loss can impact many areas of one’s life, creating multiple losses from that “primary loss”.  Though it is easy to think that our grief is solely the grief of losing the person we cared for so deeply, our grief is also the pain of the other losses that were a result of the death.  You will hear these losses referred to as “secondary losses”, not in the sense that their impact is secondary, but rather that they are a secondary result of the primary loss.”

Have you personally experienced any of these secondary losses? I know that I have! Although they are very different from one another, each loss much be grieved in its own unique way. Statistics tell us that on the average, widows lose 75% of their former friends and relationships. There are many reasons for this, but combine that with loss of income, perhaps losing your home or job, maybe a decline in health, and feeling like your hopes and dreams have also died, and we find many levels of grief that must be processed.

Each of these secondary losses overlaps into the area of the primary loss – that of the death of your spouse. But all are encompassed in the circle of grief. To varying degrees, each one has an impact on the rest of life. In the early stages of being a widow, you may not recognize the various losses that you will need to face. For instance, a faith crisis, or loss of friends, or realizing that some of your dreams are gone…. these may come along much later as it becomes necessary to adapt to a new lifestyle.

Have you ever felt like asking God, “How much more can I handle?” when the losses begin to pile up? In I Corinthians 10:13 we find this amazing promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

The word “temptation” in this context can also be translated “test” or “testing”. What a profound thought! God knows exactly how much we can handle, even though sometimes He tests us to what feels like our limits! Why does He do this? Certainly not because He’s sadistic and enjoys seeing His children suffer. No, He allows these things so that we can see how strong we are in Him! He already knows; we’re the ones that need to see it! When we are at our weakest, darkest point, He is standing ready to strengthen and encourage us.

As always, your comments are welcome, or you can email me at

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