Looking at loss

Dealing with your own losses

Before looking at the different types of loss, take a moment to consider the following questions.

An important requirement in being able to walk with others in their grief journey is to be aware of what constitutes loss, your own experience of loss and your attitude towards loss, death and grief.

Types of loss

Loss means that you no longer have something. There are numerous types of loss, but the losses we need to fully understand within the context of children’s palliative care are the following

  • Primary loss is the death of an immediate family member, close friend or peer
  • Secondary loss  are the losses experienced as a result of the primary loss
  • Cumulative loss is experienced when there are a multitude of primary losses over a period of time

Other types of loss you may have heard of include ambiguous loss, anticipatory loss, perceived loss, physical loss, situational loss etc. but we will not look at these in detail in this course.

Loss in children’s palliative care

In children’s palliative care feelings of loss may occur:

  • At the time of diagnoses of a disease.
  • When treatment fails.
  • At the time of a child’s death.

There are primary (initial) losses and secondary (later) losses:

  • Primary losses are experienced at the time of diagnosis when the bad news is first received, such as the possible death of a child and the devastation that would cause.
  • Secondary losses are the losses experienced as the reality of the situation hits and as the disease progresses. Examples of these kinds of losses include the loss of hopes for a child’s future or watching them lose the ability to walk or talk.