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Stories and inspiration to help you keep the memories of your loved ones alive

Disenfranchised Grief: What is it? (Part 1)

“I was angry, and they told me not to be angry. I wanted to talk about how my dad died, and they told me to lie about how he died. I stood in line at the funeral and said the word ‘accident’ over and over again instead of the word ‘addiction.’ When I cried, I cried alone. When I tried to talk about how powerless I felt, they told me that they understood but that I would get over it. They didn’t understand and my grief never resolved. I wish that people in general, and especially people who work with those who have lost a loved one, understood that not everyone is dealt an equal hand in terms of being allowed to grieve openly.” - Allie

While we can’t prevent our loved ones from experiencing disenfranchised grief, we can develop helpful and supportive responses to their losses that can lessen their other experiences of disenfranchisement and help them overcome the powerlessness and helplessness that disenfranchised grievers often feel. In much of my work, I talk about the central role of communication in supporting people who are suffering, dying, or grieving.

If you are experiencing disenfranchised grief, it is first important to recognize and repeatedly reinforce to yourself that your loss is real, that your grief is uniquely yours and no one else’s, and that you deserve recognition and support in moving forward with your loss.