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Understanding Disenfranchised Grief

older woman with her face in the palms of her hands, wearing a hoodie. photo is in black and white.

In life, we all face identified losses that cut deep into our hearts, leaving us lost at times on how to navigate the gut-wrenching waves of grief. When we share our experiences that brought grief into our lives, others may help or at least understand the difficulty we are experiencing. However, there are times at which the grief we are experiencing often goes unrecognized and invalidated – this is called disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that society tends to overlook, diminish, or dismiss because the loss is not publicly recognized or understood. Through my years of supporting individuals in their moments of profound sadness, I’ve come to understand the silent struggle of those experiencing disenfranchised grief, and the initial validation required in the process of understanding disenfranchised grief. This blog post is an invitation to explore this lesser-known aspect of grief together, offering a space for recognition, understanding, validation, and healing.

What is Disenfranchised Grief?

Disenfranchised grief is real grief. It is a type of grief that occurs when there is not a widely understood experience of that loss, there may not be a traditional way of publicly acknowledging the loss, or those around you did not know your connection to the death that occurred. Imagine grieving for a pet that was your constant companion, mourning a miscarriage or abortion that others never knew about, or feeling the deep pain of a breakup in a relationship that wasn’t recognized by those around you. These experiences are real and painful, yet the world and others around you might not offer the comfort or acknowledgment you desperately need.

Why It Matters

The pain of disenfranchised grief is compounded by isolation. Without the acknowledgment of your loss, you might feel as though your grief is unwarranted, needs to stay hidden, or even that you’re overreacting to the loss you’re experiencing. This can lead to suppressed emotions, unresolved grief, and impact your mental health. Recognizing and validating disenfranchised grief is crucial for healing. It allows you to understand that your pain is real, your emotions are valid, and you deserve to grieve and seek support.

How to Navigate Disenfranchised Grief

Acknowledge Your Grief: The first step in healing is acknowledging your own grief, even if others don’t. Understand that your loss is significant and your feelings are valid. This might look as simple as putting your hand on your heart, taking a breath, and saying something like ‘this hurts’, ‘I’m devastated about the loss of…’, or ‘I can’t make sense of this’.

Seek Supportive Spaces: Look for friends, family, support groups, therapists, or other communities that understand disenfranchised grief, and the loss you are experiencing. This might look like sharing the loss you are currently experiencing with others you are connected with, searching online for local community groups that focus on the same type of loss, or decipher which counsellor in your area focuses on the type of loss you are looking to get support with. For example, in my practice, I strive to create a welcoming environment where all forms of grief are recognized and supported.

Express Your Feelings: Find a way to express your grief that feels good for you. This could be through reading, writing, art, music, building, or talking. You might feel drawn to create something yourself or to marvel at the creations of others that feel helpful and healing for you during this time. Expressing your grief helps in processing your emotions.

Create Your Own Rituals: Since disenfranchised grief often lacks the traditional rituals of mourning (like a funeral/celebration of life), creating your own can be a powerful way to honor your loss. It could be as simple as lighting a candle, writing a letter to what you’ve lost, or dedicating a moment of silence. You may do this on your own, or gather with others who love you and who want to be there for you to acknowledge the loss you are experiencing.

Educate Those Around You: If you feel comfortable, share your feelings and educate those around you about disenfranchised grief. Not only does this help them to understand how you feel and what you need, but it also can be therapeutic to talk about your experience and struggles. Give life to your reality in the safety of those whom you feel comfortable sharing this with. In doing this, it can help in creating a more supportive environment for yourself and others in the future.

A Message of Hope

If you’re navigating the lonely path of disenfranchised grief, I want you to know that your feelings are valid, your loss is real, and you are not alone. In my practice, I’ve seen the resilience of the human spirit, and I believe in your strength to navigate through this. Healing is not linear, it’s rarely clear how to navigate it, and it’s okay to seek help and support along the way.

As we continue to explore and understand the complexities of grief together, I hope this blog post serves as a beacon of comfort and validation. Your grief deserves recognition, and your healing journey matters. If you’re seeking a space that acknowledges and supports all facets of grief, know that you are always welcome here.

In the face of disenfranchised grief, let’s remember to offer kindness, understanding, and support to ourselves and others. Together, we can navigate it all, one step at a time.

Grief Support From Me:

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No matter what, when looking to find balance, may you discover moments of connection, reflection, and peace. Just know that you don’t have to try and figure out how to get there all on your own.

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