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Micro Losses: The Effects of Repeated Physical and Relational Losses

By Sarah Stephenson, MSW Student, 2015-2016 George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Neighbors Helping Neighbors Scholar

Loss happens during every stage of life.  As a person begins to age, they learn to adapt to many different types of loss including physical, social, and emotional losses.  Some of these losses may even go to the extent of impairing our ability to live independently.  Sometimes it might feel like we are stuck on a rock in the middle of a stream with no good place to step next.

Physical loss and change can happen slowly or have a sudden onset.  These losses might include things like vision and hearing problems, decreased physical energy and stamina, less flexibility, and memory problems.  Often times a loss of physical ability can directly affect one’s ability to participate in social events.  For example, a person with significant hearing loss might begin to avoid social situations for fear of missing out on conversation or having to ask others to repeat themselves.  A person with heart disease who suffers from shortness of breath might be unable to continue daily walks with friends. Over time, these declines in social interactions could possibly lead to a fading of friendships (Aging and Loss, 2006).

The loss of relationships can also lead to a change in daily function.  As individuals age, their roles (such as active parent, employee, and spouse) within their social systems often shift.  These changes in one’s primary relationships can lead to feelings of loss of control over one’s life.  Additionally, as physical and relational losses increase, social networks can begin to shrink.  This can lead to poorer health, which can then lead to an even bigger decline in ability to interact socially (Moen, Dempster-McClain, Williams, 1992).  Many people experience depression in old age, either due to living alone or a lack of close family ties and connections with a culture.  It is often difficult to initiate new friendships and find new networks (Singh, 2009).

Such losses, which are a normal part of aging, can also create feelings of frustration, uselessness, and sadness.  It is common for such individuals to experience emotions of fear, anger, guilt, and confusion.  In order to cope with these micro-losses it is important to remember to be patient and practice self-acceptance.  Recognize that loss is a common experience and not a sign of personal failure.  Staying connected by maintaining relationships and working to pursue new experiences can also help in dealing with loss (Aging and Loss, 2006).



Aging and Loss. (2006). Retrieved March, 2016, from

Moen, P., Dempster-McClain, D., Williams, R. M. (1992). Successful aging: A life-course perspective on women’s multiple roles and health. The American Journal of Sociology, 97, 1612–1638.

Singh, A., Misra, N. (2009). Loneliness, depression and sociability in old age. Ind Psychiatry J Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 18(1), 51.

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Last Updated: 12/12/23