The first time I heard the term “secondary loss” was at a support group. I had no idea what it was, but quickly learned the term describes all the smaller losses we experience, beyond the actual death. It was hard for me to even think of secondary losses for a while, because it seemed awful to think of anything else beyond the horrible, insurmountable loss of our son. It was hard to think that other losses could even matter when compared to Brady’s death.
I’ve since learned that it’s okay to address and mourn these smaller loses. They matter too. Actually, like anything else, it’s way worse if you avoid it or bottle it up inside. I’ve already experienced countless secondary losses, but for now, here’s my top five:
- Innocent pregnancies/being blissfully ignorant. After you’ve lost a child, any subsequent pregnancy will be wrought with worry. There’s no way to get your innocence back after it’s been cruelly snatched away from you. I’ll never again get to be one of those blissfully ignorant pregnant women that believes that nothing bad will happen to her or her baby. I’ll never just be excited; I’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- My third trimester. You know, that thing that those blissfully ignorant pregnant women complain about. It pains me when I hear those women complain. If you’re into your third trimester, you have it pretty good. At the risk of sounding like Donald Trump, believe me.
- My ability to not be offended. I used to joke that I was someone who had never been offended, and actually, in some ways, I still am that girl. Tell me all your dirty, inappropriate jokes, and you’re guaranteed to get a laugh from me. That being said, I find myself offended by so. many. things. these days. Losing a child makes things feel so much more personal than they ever did before. When someone “unworthy” has a child (or a bunch of children), it feels like a personal attack. Jeff and I were financially stable when we chose to have children, we prepared, we did everything right, we love him so much, and we still didn’t get to keep him. (I’ll refrain from sharing a specific example here, because there’s no way to put it nicely or delicately. I will give a special shout out to my friend, Katie, though, who had to listen to me rant about said specific example at lunch last week.)
- Having a baby shower. We had the dates of our baby showers set before Brady’s early arrival, and after his surprise entrance, we decided to still have them. My mom had already sent out her shower invitations, and my best friend, Michele’s, were ready to be dropped in the mail. We’d been planning a family shower and a friend shower, and as much as I typically hate those awkward, center-of-attention type parties, our little man’s arrival was a legitimate reason to celebrate. I wanted to have a day that was all about him. It’s crushingly painful that I never had the chance to properly celebrate Brady. He deserved to be showered with love and attention.
- Decorating a nursery. We had made arrangements and had hand-me-down items coming, and we figured we’d get everything arranged once we finished our move. Due to that well-timed move to our new house, we had no chance to set up a nursery before Brady was born. After he was born, we thought we’d have plenty of time to get it set up with a long NICU stay ahead of us, never anticipating that we wouldn’t get that time. His room sits mostly empty, and I still have a strong desire to move his furniture in and decorate the room the way I imagined it in my head.
I have a different perspective because I’ve experienced these secondary losses, and I know it’s difficult for others to understand when they haven’t experienced a loss of this magnitude. I know that, like triggers, I’ll continue to be confronted by these secondary losses for the rest of my life.