Honouring Disenfranchised Grief
Disenfranchised Grief can be described as grief that is not recognised or acknowledged by society. Examples, although not extensively, might be a miscarriage, an elderly loved one who is considered to have had a ‘good long life,’ the death of a non-human loved one such as a pet, death of someone from a stigmatised means such as suicide, drug addiction, AIDS etc, the death of a loved one in the case of a secret relationship or that which is disapproved of by others.
People also mourn the end of a relationship, and this can be especially hard if others do not understand this. When someone is missing, even if they are presumed dead, when you still don’t know this can be very confusing as you don’t know whether to mourn them or hope that they return.
Another example is that you are grieving longer than expected, and people around you encourage you to stop talking about it and just move on.
There are many reasons why honouring disenfranchised grief may assist the mourning process, and what we say to ourselves in our heads about it has a huge bearing on how we come to terms with the loss.
- Be gentle with yourself. Your feelings are real and they are valid. Criticising yourself for your grief or trying to run away from it only makes it worse. Just like you might comfort a child or someone you love who is suffering, be comforting to yourself.
- Talk to someone who will not judge you. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, friends and family aren’t ideal and talking to a professional can help. Counselling or EFT are some of the many supportive interventions available.
- Do something that helps you to acknowledge the death and honour the person (or animal, or relationship). In ‘normal’ circumstances when a loved one dies you can attend a funeral, place flowers on a grave and do the usual things that society accepts. You can make up your own rituals, such as lighting a candle, planting a tree, creating a small flower garden in their memory or writing them a letter which you can keep, burn or bury afterwards. Something that feels okay to you, and can remain private if you so wish.
- Have an awareness of the mourning process. According to Worden (2009) the tasks of mourning are: 1) Accepting the reality of the loss, 2) Processing the pain of grief, 3) Adjusting to a world without the deceased and 4) Finding an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross spoke of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance in the stages of grief, which do not happen one after the other, but often co-exist and get repeated. It is not possible to go into any depth in such a short blog of these stages. However, having an awareness of what is happening during the grieving process might help you to make a little more sense of it, as well as honour what is occurring for you. Finding a good book on grieving could help you with this.
- Look after yourself. In times when our emotions are pulling us down we need exercise and good self-care more than ever. Some people turn to alcohol (or other substances), overeating for comfort and suchlike, which can make things worse in the long run.
This Positive EFT video demonstrates how tapping can help some people in the grieving process:
Babycentre.co.uk on coping with miscarriage.
Bereaved.ie provides advice and information for bereaved people, those suporting them and professionals working with them. It is an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation.
Console.ie the national suicide charity (Ireland).
Griefwords.com article on when friend or family member has experienced the death of someone loved from AIDS.
Opentohope.com articles and commentary on pet loss.
Rainbows is a dedicated free service for children and young people. The Rainbows programme supports children and young people affected by loss because of bereavement, separation or divorce.
Reachout.com is an online youth mental health service. Put simply, it helps young people through tough times and was, in fact the first of its kind in the world.
Everything You Need For Your Baby, According to Science