Disenfranchised Grief: The Unrecognized Mourners
Grief shared is grief diminished. When an individual dies, that death throws a web of relationships out of balance, causing the mourners to learn how to live in the new normal. That new normal is best found together in community.
When grief isn’t shared. When there is no community to share it. When it isn’t recognized by society, then grief becomes complicated.
There is grief that is produced by “death” (both literal and real) in our society that aren’t recognized. This kind of grief is a disenfranchised grief.
Here are a couple forms of grief that simply aren’t validated by society:
1. Grief from miscarriages. This is a silent grief. A grief that few people share; and when they do share, few people show compassion. And while the mother may have the greatest form of disenfranchised grief, the father can also be the silent sufferer as he is sometimes thrust in the supporting role, being unable to deal with his own emotions.
2. Death of a pet. Pets become part of the family; and when they die it’s almost like losing a family member, except no one in the community recognizes your loss. “It’s just a dog” is both true and false.
3. Grief from abortions. This topic has become so political that it has lost its human element. Abortions hurt. And the mothers who choose abortions will often grieve. Even if they don’t grieve at the time of the abortion, there is something lost … and that loss can hurt.
4. Grief of the supporter. When death occurs, roles quickly play out. There’s the main mourner(s) and there’s the supporting cast. That supporting cast — those who take care of the main mourner (the spouse of the deceased, the children of the deceased) — are often very close to the deceased themselves. But because they are the supporters, they simply aren’t allowed the time to grieve. They are the strong ones.
5. Grief from suicide. Suicide is such a difficult, tragic and complicated death that those who are left behind are often not sure how to grieve … or if they should even grieve at all. To complicate the issue, outside society can often look at suicide as such a taboo that they don’t recognize the grief of those surrounding the suicide.
6. Grief from the death of an Ex. Whether it’s the death of an ex-spouse, ex-lover or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, if the deceased is the “ex” there’s an assumption that you aren’t allowed to grieve, because that relationship “has already been severed.” Just because someone is an “ex” doesn’t mean that you don’t have the permission to grieve.
7. Grief over a loss that isn’t a person.
Have you ever experienced disenfranchised grief?
Have you even been the one who has disenfranchised someone else’s grief?