An Activity on Secondary Grief

Abby EmbryUncategorized

Today we will revisit last week’s topic of Secondary loss and I will offer a therapeutic (although challenging) activity for you to try. I recommend you first look at the previous blog, if you have not read it yet. But here is a quick refresher: Secondary losses are recognized losses or changes in your life which come as a result of your primary loss. We can name these under general categories, but it helps to discover what these secondary losses look like to you, not only what other people experience.

At the end of our Zoom meeting last week, I provided an activity for our Virtual Touchpoint group which we will discuss again during tomorrow’s Zoom meeting. It may help you to visualize what Secondary Grief looks like for you, because as we know, these concepts are quite intangible and abstract at times. Sometimes it helps to draw what is happening in your mind onto a sheet of paper. This becomes a snapshot of where you are that day, and it can change hour to hour and day to day. It can provide to look back on in months from now as you reassess your needs and feelings.

In this activity, you begin by writing on a sheet of paper your primary loss, whether it be the name of a loved one who has died, or another form of loss. You may have multiple losses at a once, I recommend that you do this activity for only one at a time. Make sure when you do this activity, that you are comfortable and in a space to focus without interruption. This activity is challenging in that it will pull out a lot of emotions. It will stir up new thoughts, it will uncover ones you have tried to avoid thinking about. So be kind and gentle to yourself.

After writing down your primary loss, put a circle around the word or name. Around this central circle, you will begin to draw circles overlapping with it, much like a Venn diagram. I recommend drawing no more than 6-7 circles during one session. Inside each of these circles you will write a Secondary loss you have recognized for yourself. You can write one word, or draw a picture, or write several sentences explaining what the loss is for you.

This activity is not about focusing only on what you have “lost” in a negative sense. It is about naming the ways in which your life is now different, not all of these changes are negative. For example, your religious beliefs may change significantly through the experience of grief, this may not be a loss for you, but a change on which only you can put a value.

But many of them will be losses which have impacted your life negatively, or made the work of grieving more challenging. Some examples are: loss of friendships, loss of an identity (spouse, caregiver, friend, ect.), loss of plans for the future, or financial loss/changes. Write these in the circles around your primary loss, with any information that feels important to you. Another optional step is to draw a star on the secondary losses and write a trigger that is associated with that loss. When we feel triggered or we have an emotional response to something during our day, these responses can help us uncover what these secondary losses are, they provide clues as to what we are really feeling. Sometimes feelings in grief can be hard to pinpoint, they are layered, and are not just simply “anger” or “sadness.” Identifying your feelings in grief are so important because it can help to normalize what you are experiencing, especially when you get intensely overwhelmed and cannot see a way through the day.

Take a few moments to try this activity when you feel ready. Do not push yourself too hard, this may be difficult, but it is not intended to cause you more pain. If doing this alone feels overwhelming, call a trusted loved one, or a friend who is a good listener, and have them listen while you explore these thoughts out loud. When you are finished, read over it for a few minutes to let your mind process and explore new thoughts. Make note of these if you wish, in a journal, or on the same sheet of paper. Are these losses you anticipated? Or did they come as a surprise to you? Explore questions about each of them and how you feel, and what kinds of support you need. Then put it away, maybe for a week or two, or a few months. When you look at it again, you will see how by naming these losses and seeking support you have paved the way for healing, growth, and reinvestment into your life.

If you are reading this blog and have not joined our group, please consider joining us. I will continue to hold this group virtually, at this point there is no end date, and you are free to join any week that you are able to be with us. Try this activity, and feel free to email me and share thoughts or ask questions!

If you have an idea for a topic on grief for this blog, I am always open to suggestions on what you’d like us to explore together!

Join me for our Touchpoint group on Tuesday at 2 PM. It generally lasts about one and a half hours.

Click the link below for more information on how to join us, everyone is welcome, no registration required.If you would like to schedule one-on-one support with me via Zoom, please email me at bereavement@williamsburghospice.org

https://mailchi.mp/7a65a64d9bef/virtualsupportgroup

Abby Embry
Chaplaincy Director

Share This Now