When Grief is Unacknowledged
In Disenfranchised Grief: New Directions, Challenges, and Strategies for Practice, Kenneth Doka offered a very simple definition of disenfranchised grief as an experience when “survivors are not accorded a right to grieve”. Can others really deny us our right to feel sorrow and pain? Can they set limits on our bereavement? The answer is, at least in some cases, yes. It happens all the time.
When Can Disenfranchised Grief Occur?
- Your ex-husband passes away, for example, and your friends don’t see why it matters.
- An executive is having a serious affair with her married co-worker. When he dies unexpectedly, the expression of her grief is limited by the covert nature of the relationship.
- A spouse, brother, or son is missing in military action.
- When death has occurred due to socially unacceptable causes such as AIDS or suicide.
- A beloved dog, cat or other pet has died.
What Does Disenfranchised Grief Sound Like?
- When things like this happen, all you can do is give it time and wait it out.
- Eventually, you’ll get over this.
- The best thing is to try to put what happened behind you and get back to normal as soon as possible. Try to go on as if nothing has changed.
- There’s no point in looking for meaning in something like this. Suffering brings us face to face with absurdity. The best thing is to try to forget.
- Face reality. She is dead. You will have to fill her place with something else.
- Somehow it feels disloyal to laugh or try to be happy. I sometimes feel that I owe it to him to live in sorrow.
- What can I possibly have to look forward to?
- I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that in some ways I seem to have grown from the death of my child.
- How can I ever let myself love again if it all comes to this?
Suffer in Silence No More
- Recognize that there is nothing wrong with you. Whatever your feelings are, they’re legitimate.
- Find people who will understand. Search online—there are bereavement support groups for just about any type of loss.
- Be honest about how you feel. If a well-meaning friend cracks a joke about your deceased ex-husband, explain that this loss is painful for you.
- Develop a ritual or ceremony to commemorate the person’s passing. Visit the grave after the funeral or hold a private one when you can take as much time as you need to express your anguish.