The Grief People Don’t Talk About: Secondary Loss and Cumulative Grief

“These are the griefs that people often don’t recognize as factors in their level of grief but they greatly affect one’s ability to manage their grief journey.”
– Rhonda Abrams, Catholic Cemeteries Association, Bereavement Coordinator.

The Grief People Don’t Talk About_ Secondary Loss and Cumulative Grief

What is Secondary Loss?

The grief we experience after the death of a loved one can be excruciating. The loss of someone is known as “primary loss”, but often the death affects many different areas of life. People can begin to lose much more than their loved one. This domino effect is known as “secondary loss”. Secondary losses are those elements of life that were closely attached to a departed love that, in their absence, are also missing. Secondary losses are unique to every individual and can be experienced in a spectrum of ways. Understanding the idea of secondary loss can help you identify the complexities of your grief experience and therefore give you more insight on how to grow along your grief journey.
There is no way to know exactly what each individual will experience. Factors such as personality, lifestyle, and relationship with their deceased love one will impact the type of severity of the secondary grief they feel. Common types of secondary losses are listed below.

Concrete: Characterized by loss of property, financial stability, etc.
This can include loss of:
– Income
– Home or business

Identity: Characterized by roles within the relationship with the loved one.
This can include loss of:
– Relational identity (no longer a husband, wife, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.)
– Role as caregiver (or vice versa, taking on the role)
– Purpose in life
– Self-confidence

Beliefs: Characterized by deep personal questioning brought on by loss.
This can include loss of:
– Faith/belief system
– Hope for the future
– Goals/dreams that involved the person
– A sense of a life shared with another person

Support system: Characterized by relationships that become distanced or disappear.
This can include loss of:
– Support of family/friends/community due to pain or conflict
– The way one relates to family/friends
– Feeling of belonging and acceptance

Connectedness: Characterized by feeling unable to connect with deceased loved one.
This can include loss of:
– Memories as they begin to fade
– Belongings of the person
– Solitude in your own pain, as you feel the pain of watching others grieve the loss as well
– The person’s company at important milestones (weddings, anniversaries, births, graduations, etc.)

How do I deal with Secondary Loss?

Sadly, like most issues associated with grief, there is no easy answer. Sometimes the primary can be so consuming we don’t even consider the secondary losses we may be experiencing. However, over time the weight of secondary loss can grow. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with secondary loss and learn to identify it. Understand that it is a completely normal part of the grieving process. Just like the passing of a loved one, each form of secondary loss demands a unique and personal grieving process. Don’t push these feelings aside. You should experience them fully. Just as you would mourn the loss of your loved one, similar coping mechanisms and comforting activities can help you work through secondary grief. They key is finding something that works for you and your specific situation.


What is Cumulative Grief?

Cumulative grief is the experience of suffering an additional loss before given proper time to mourn a previous loss. Ideally, after losing a loved one, one would have enough time to process, mourn, and heal on their own time. However, there are cases when 2, 3, or even more deaths happen in a short time frame. This can be very confusing and harmful to the bereaved, as they are not given proper time to mourn each death separately.
Because there is no timeline that fits everyone’s grief journey, it may be hard to know if your grief is cumulative. However, if you feel overwhelmed or that you do not have the time to process each loss separately, you are most likely experiencing cumulative grief and should seek assistance from a trusted friend, clergy, counselor, or support group.

How do I deal with Cumulative Grief?

When we become overwhelmed, our body helps us survive each day through denial, avoidance, and shock. While these are toxic ways of living for a long period of time, it is common and often necessary to experience these in the short term. It is important to recognize these as survival tools, but we should really work toward addressing our loss directly and expressing our grief in a healthy way.

Here are some helpful reminders for those struggling with cumulative grief:

  1. Don’t compare your grief journey to that of others
  2. Time by itself will not heal your grief. A loss that is never fully addressed will not heal
  3. Substance abuse will prevent you from fully healing
  4. Don’t group losses together- each loss deserves its own special place in your heart
  5. It may be necessary along your grief journey to re-adjust your beliefs and expectations
  6. Reconnecting with family and friends can be extremely restorative and healing
  7. Never be afraid to ask for help. Help can take many forms such as a trusted relative, friend, clergy member, or support group. Sometimes professional assistance is also appropriate.

Regardless of the type of grief you’re feeling or what stage of your grief journey you’re in, please remember to be patient with yourself. Grief is a messy and complicated process. The lines between the types of grief may be blurred, and the various emotions you feel along the way may be equally murky. Practice patience and self-love and know that there is always help available to you, should you choose to seek after it.

Are you interested in joining one of our Monthly Grief Support Groups? Our informal gatherings are hosted once a month at several locations. Whether you’re ready to open up about your grief experiences, or would rather sit, observe, and be in the presence of those who understand, there is always a seat open for you.
Click HERE to learn more 

Post written by Gabrielle Sergi 
Post edited by Katie Karpinski

 

References
Cumulative Grief Aka Grief Overload Aka “Holy Crap I Can’t Handle All This Loss!!!”. (2017, November 2). Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://whatsyourgrief.com/cumulative-grief-aka-grief-overload/
Secondary Loss — One Loss Isn’t Enough??!! (2018, December 29). Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://whatsyourgrief.com/secondary-loss-one-loss-isnt-enough/

Malley’s Chocolates Former President: At Rest in St. Joseph Cemetery

If you live in the Cleveland area, chances are that you’re familiar with the delicate white and pink packaging of a Malley’s chocolate bar. What was once a small mom and pop operation, Malley’s chocolates now boasts 23 retail locations across Northeast Ohio, an online store, and countless fundraiser opportunities. Malley’s is known for their special recipes and techniques when it comes to chocolate making—whether it’s classic truffles and chocolate covered nuts, or more eclectic options such as their chocolate covered potato chips or Oreos (known affectionately as “Malley Oh’s!”)

While many are familiar with the Malley’s brand and its sweet treats, few know the story behind Malley’s. Keep reading to learn more about this “sweet” family legacy!


1935 –The Great Depression is well underway. Albert “Mike” Malley, however is focusing on his lifelong dream: to open his own chocolate shop. He was able to gather $500 to rent a store space in Lakewood, OH. Mike, his wife “Jo”, and their children lived in the back rooms of the space. Slowly but surely, Mike’s dream started to take form.

In 1949 Mike opened a second Malley’s location. By this time, reputation about Malley’s chocolates had spread across the community. On opening night of this new location, police were called in to help control the crowds!

One of Mike’s children, Bill, took a special interest in the family business. He incorporated several new ideas into the growing company and assured the continued development of the increasingly notable chocolate company.

Bill became President of Malley’s chocolates in 1967. Under his leadership, sales grew even more and soon a larger factory was needed to keep up with increasing demand. Bill’s wife, Adele also contributed to the success of Malley’s chocolates through her attention to detail and design. Adele was so talented at product presentation, store layout, and general design that she founded Malley’s School of Merchandising in 1983 with the intent to help similar businesses in accomplishing their goals.

Bill and Adele led Malley’s into so much success that they were both inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame in 2014. The couple has also received special recognition from Retail Confectioners International and have been deemed Emeritus Master Chocolatiers. All six of their children work for the Malley’s company to this day.

Sadly, Bill Malley passed away in October 2016. He is buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery in Avon. His final resting place is marked by a symbol of his hard work and dedication – the iconic Malley’s bunny. His unique monument represents his legacy of creating community and joy that will continue to live on in others.
bunny

Information gathered from: https://malleys.com/ 

Post written by Katie Karpinski and Gabrielle Sergi

St. Dymphna: Patroness of the Mentally Ill

Saint Dymphna is not a commonly known Catholic saint. This, perhaps, is due to the troubling nature of her very short time here on Earth. As tragic as her story may be, it is also one of inspirational courage and conviction to her faith.

St. Dymphna was born in 7th century Ireland to the pagan king, Damon. Her mother, who was Christian, secretly baptized Dymphna. When St. Dymphna was only a young teenager, her mother tragically died. Her father’s broken heart drove him into madness and mental illness engulfed him. The king’s counsellors suggested he try a second marriage. He agreed, but could not find a new bride as beautiful as his late wife. Because Dymphna reminded Damon of his departed wife, he eventually sought to marry his daughter. Repulsed, the princess fled to the town of Gheel, Belgium.

In Damon’s search for his daughter, spies soon reported her location. Once he arrived, Damon attempted to persuade Dymphna into marriage. He made elaborate promises of money and prestige. When this approach failed, his frustrations were expressed through threats and insults. Dymphna remained steadfast. She would rather die than be unable to uphold her vows of virginity and virtue. The king ordered his men to kill Dymphna. Sadly, the king’s orders were fulfilled and Dymphna was tragically martyred. She was only fifteen years old.

Due to Dymphna’s family history and circumstances of her death, she was named a patroness of the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, those who suffer from neurological disorders, and victims of incest.  To this day many suffering from mental illness travel to Gheel to seek healing. An infirmary was built over the site of her death and several attributed miracles have been reported in relation to Saint Dymphna since.

St. Dymphna’s feast day is celebrated on May 15.

St. Dymphna lived a brief but courageous life. The young girl’s story is an example of the bravery and strength we are all called to display through our faith. Whether you personally suffer from mental illness or if mental illness has impacted your life any way, know that St. Dymphna is guiding you into greater love and healing through the grace of God.

 

A prayer to St. Dymphna:

Good Saint Dymphna, stdymphna
great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body,
I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need.
Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions,
beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

Saint Dymphna, Virgin, and Martyr, pray for us.

6 Journaling Prompts for Those Who Are Grieving

Taking up a new activity such as grief journaling after a significant loss can be intimidating, but it can be very restorative. Everyone’s healing is unique and unfolds in its own time, but reconnecting with your body and reconstructing personal self-narrative is vital. A grief journal can be a way to express this narrative free of judgement. Without the freedom to explore the full extent of your emotions, it becomes a nearly-impossible challenge to rebuild. Grief journals can also record growth and reveal patterns useful in the future.
Listed below are 6 prompts to help you begin. Write freely and genuinely, the space is yours.

berevementblog

1. Today, I am really missing…
2. What really angers me is…
3. I wish I could ask you…
4. My hope for me is…
5. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by pain, regret, guilt, or despair, I will repeat this mantra:
6. The greatest lesson I have learned is…

You may find grief journaling, or journaling overall, is not for you. If other outlets of expression work better for you, pursue them. Some people find that drawing or illustrating their emotions works for them. Others may find more unique activities such as playing an instrument or crafting helps them express what they’re feeling. Whatever the case, finding an activity that helps you work and grow through your grief is vital to a healthy bereavement process.

If you have an activity you’ve found helpful, please share it in the comments. Your suggestion may help others in your situation.

Interested in attending a grief support group? Click here to learn more. 

Post written by Gabrielle Sergi

Saint Felicitas of Rome: Patron of Grieving Parents

Saint Felicitas (otherwise known as Felicity) doesn’t have the same wide awareness or acknowledgment as other Catholic saints. Born around 101 AD in Rome, there is no clear documentation on the life of Saint Felicity. However, those who witnessed her death continually recollected the story to others, thereby ensuring that Felicitas’ story can be shared by those of us still alive today.

Saint Felicitas
Photo Credit: Orthochristian.com

As previously stated, Felicitas was born relatively soon after the death of Christ. She was married to a wealthy merchant, and the pair had seven sons together. After the birth of their seventh son, her husband passed away leaving Felicitas to care for seven children on her own. However, through this hardship, she remained incredibly faithful. She lived a life completely dedicated to Christ and could often be found performing acts of charity (such as feeding and clothing the poor). As she continued to minister to the people of her community, she also fostered countless conversions to Christianity—putting her in the spotlight of several pagan leaders of the time.

Her outward display of faith was so troubling to the pagan leaders that they reported her to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, under the guise of heresy. Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and her sons worship the pagan gods and abandon their devotion to Christ. Felicitas refused them time and time again, her sons following her example. In response, Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and all seven of her sons be executed. Felicitas did not waver in her faith or show signs of weakness– her only request was that she should be the last to die so that she could be with each of her sons during their time of suffering.

After the death of each of her sons, Felicitas was given the opportunity to denounce her faith. Each time she refused and instead looked to God for comfort and strength. She (along with her sons Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip, and Sylvanus) died in 165 as a martyr of the Church. It’s said that she died eight times—once for each of her sons and then for her own final death.

As sorrowing as her story may be, there is some comfort to be found in the life of Saint Felicitas. She, along with Mary our Mother and many other saints, know the personal pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. It is for this reason that she has become one of the patron saints of those parents who have lost a child or struggle with infertility. Her story reminds us that sometimes God’s plan doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair or right. However, Saint Felicitas kept a strong focus on the Lord, even when it meant losing her own children. Felicitas knew that those who are innocent, pure, and devoted to God will be rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If you are a grieving parent, know someone who is grieving a child, or are someone who struggles with infertility, say a quick prayer to Saint Felicitas for strength and comfort. Look to her as an example of remaining true to Christ even in times of great personal sacrifice and hardship. Remember that His plan may not always make sense, but it will always lead you toward greater salvation.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski