Disenfranchised Grief: The Unrecognized Mourners
When an individual dies, that death throws a web of relationships out of balance, causing the bereaved to *attempt* to find a new homeostasis. This disrupted “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 “deaths” (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, they will often grieve later in life.
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 of the “Outsider”. At funerals, we will sometimes have family members state, “So-and-so is not allowed at this funeral. If you see so-and-so trying to enter the funeral home, ask them to leave.” We had a case not too long ago where two friends were out drinking. On their way home from the bar, the driver wrecked his car, killing the passenger while the driver walked away unharmed. The family of the passenger disallowed the driver from attending the funeral, even though the deceased was his best friend.
This outsider may be an ex-spouse, an unrecognized (often gay) love relationship, an “illegitimate” child or anyone that — for one reason or another — is not accepted or wanted by the insiders.
Have you ever experienced disenfranchised grief?
Have you even been the one who has disenfranchised someone else’s grief?