Secondary & Cumulative Losses

“For the friends of that student, the grieving process was a little bit more challenging because it wasn’t just a loss of a friend….A lot of times the students will give up the sport, or the activity, or the hobby that they enjoy because it’s just not the same without their friend.” (Counselor)

This module describes issues related to secondary and cumulative loss. When a child’s parent or other close family member dies, the child loses that person. This is considered the primary loss. However, there are additional losses related to the death that affect children deeply. Events and changes that occur as the result of the death are considered secondary losses.
Some children experience many losses over time—the deaths of multiple classmates, friends, or family members due to wars, natural disasters, community violence or other causes. These are cumulative losses. Even when children and teens act like they don’t care, these losses affect them profoundly.

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The importance of identifying and addressing secondary losses

The added burden of cumulative loss, especially for children living in violent communities

For more information on supporting grieving children, refer to The Grieving Student: A Guide for Schools by David Schonfeld and Marcia Quackenbush.