By Carol Briggs, Clinical Intern

Loss is part of life. Society has a way of trying to dictate what losses are supported and worthy of grief. Society even tries to define what “normal” grief looks like. When we’ve experienced a loss that we feel we can’t or shouldn’t mourn due to community beliefs, culture, or social circles, our grief is disenfranchised. In other words, our grief is not acknowledged, accepted, supported, or validated. Here are some examples of losses that may be disenfranchised.

  • Non-death losses – The loss is not the result of death, but grief is still present. Infertility, job loss, dementia, substance use, moving, losing someone to incarceration, and break-ups are a few examples.
  • Stigmatized death – The circumstances of death are stigmatized by society and can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and thinking the loss is not worthy of the same support as other deaths. Suicide, drunk driving, a person dies while committing a crime, abortion, and drug overdose are some examples.
  • Stigmatized relationships – Society, a person’s culture, or religion views the relationship as wrong or harmful, leading to feeling that you can’t or shouldn’t grieve the person or have to hide the relationship. Death of a same sex partner, death of a partner in an affair, or the death of an abusive parent or partner are some examples.
  • Relationship is viewed as not significant – The relationship is viewed as not important or established enough to grieve. Death of pets, a coworker, distant relatives, step-parent or child, neighbor, an ex, miscarriage or stillbirth, and celebrities are a few examples.

There are many more examples of losses that can be disenfranchised not listed above. The way in which we grieve can also be disenfranchised if our symptoms of grief are absent or viewed as extreme. Messages from society about what is ok to grieve and what the grief response should look like can lead to internal disenfranchisement in which we deny our own grief, push it away, and tell ourselves we shouldn’t be feeling the way we do. When grief is not addressed it can lead to complicated or prolonged grief. In prolonged grief, bereavement is usually much longer, and symptoms can be more intense and varied.

No matter what type of loss you are experiencing, you deserve a safe place for your grief to exist. Your loss deserves to be validated, accepted, and met with empathy so its impact is less, and you can find solutions, meaning, and support during your grief.

If you have experienced a loss and need support, therapy can help. I have done research and training specifically related to helping people with suicide loss, incarceration, and other disenfranchised losses. Contact Carol for a free 15-minute video or phone consultation to discuss your needs and how we can work together to help you through your loss. (847) 854-4333 or