Disenfranchised Grief – When It Feels Like Your Grief Doesn’t Matter

Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW

Disenfranchised Grief – When It Feels Like Your Grief Doesn’t Matter

Grief that is acknowledged, validated and supported is grief that has access to pathways for healing. There are some losses that don’t receive this attention and respect. Disenfranchised grief is the name for what we experience when a loss is not acknowledged in our community.

Disenfranchised grief occurs with any loss that remains unspoken and is not validated. Some of these types of losses include pregnancy loss, LGBTQ2S+ partnership losses, suicide, overdose death, the loss of a co-worker, neighbour or pet. These losses tend to be considered less valid and less important than losses in some of our primary and close relationships. There is often no acknowledgement and little support for people who experience disenfranchised loss.
This grief is just as real and powerful as grief that is accepted by society. You’ll feel powerful, unpredictable emotions, you’ll find yourself shifting through the experience of grief as you adapt to this loss, just as you would with any validated loss. The primary difference is in the sense of isolation you’ll feel, and the minimizing indifference or disbelief so many people in your circles will express if you talk about your grief.

How to Take Care of Yourself

Validate yourself. Your loss is real, it is important and you can trust your experience of grief. You don’t need someone else’s permission to grieve.

Seek the support of others who validate your grief. There may be a peer support group, or a professional who is informed and experienced in the area of your loss who can share information and insights about your grief based on others who have walked this path before you.

Create ritual and ceremony to honour your grief. There may be an activity that is meaningful to you and helps you feel you are acknowledging the importance of this loss. Light a candle. Make art. Engage in an act of kindness in memory of your loved one.

Share your story and offer validation to others. If and when you feel strong enough to bring your grief to the world in a way that may help others who experience this type of loss after you, you can offer the wisdom gained from your own pain to guide others to the knowledge that their grief is real, and worthy of attention and support, too. Although it is not necessary, helping others can help you further your own healing, too.

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