“Disenfranchised grief” is when your heart is grieving but you can’t talk about or share your pain with others because it is considered unacceptable to others. It’s when you’re sad and miserable and the world doesn’t think you should be, either because you’re not “entitled” or because it isn’t “worth it.”
See if any of these examples of disenfranchised grief ever applied to you:
Your relationship is not recognized by others because they didn’t know you had a close relationship.
This can occur when there is a miscarriage; a friendship not known to the family; caregivers such as a health professional when a patient dies; a former exchange student lived with you for awhile and when she went to her home country, she was killed; when you are extremely close with someone and someone they love is dying of has died; or the family knows about the relationship, but doesn’t know how close it was. It could also occur because you had to give up a child for adoption or if you were given up for adoption. Children can experience disenfranchised grief when they experience a loss and their grief is not acknowledged.
Your loss isn’t a person.
Examples that fall in this category are beloved animals, your failed marriage, your unfulfilled dreams, a financial loss or business loss, a loss of health, the loss of a loved one’s functioning (such as in the case of Alzheimer’s).
Your relationship was real, but the family (or members of society) would not or does not approve.
This can occur if there is a so-called non-traditional relationship such as a homosexual relationship, especially when the person who died wasn’t out or if there is discrimination in the family. It can also occur if a family member is estranged. A stigmatized relationship like an extra-marital affair or when a woman has an abortion are other examples of this.
Another example of this is when a relationship ends in divorce, but members of the grieving person’s church does not approve of the divorce or the divorce is against church doctrine. This can be difficult because not only is your support group not supportive, but you may feel ashamed and afraid to connect with your religion or spirituality while grieving. It can also happen when an engagement or marriage fails and you were connected to your family member’s partner or your family member’s family (aka your in-laws – whether official or not).
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