Loss is one of the most common experiences that brings about grieving, but some types of losses are just not recognized and so we have to keep them hidden. This means we can’t grieve about them openly either.
Disenfranchised grief is a concept that was first described by Kenneth J. Doka in 1989. He defined disenfranchised grief “as grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned”.
Sometimes grief can be disenfranchised by well-meaning family and friends when they set a time limit on your grief or expect you not to cry or encourage you to ‘move on’ or ‘get over it’. This can result in the griever feeling more lonely, misunderstood, more isolated. It doesn’t help when support and comfort that are offered for other losses, that are perceived to be ‘acceptable,’ are not as readily on offer to you.
Remind yourself that you are the best expert on your grief. Your loss is real, whether or not other people recognise it. Your grief is what you say it is, because you are the one going through it.
Doris Zagdanski is a leading figure in modern day grief and loss education. Her seminars are included in vocational qualifications in Allied Health, Counselling and Funeral Directing.