In part 1 of this series, we took a look at disenfranchised grief.
Disenfranchised grief is the category that covers grief that doesn’t have a socially accepted place to be recognized or expressed.
Basically, it is the “ugly duckling” grief that people feel they have to hide because others won’t understand it, will dismiss it as trivial, or may actually get angry about.
Grief will work its way to the surface, whether we want it to or not. It may show up in our ability to connect to others in an authentic way, or in angry outbursts because we don’t have the emotional energy left to respond any other way. We may become fixated on our loss, unable to incorporate it into our lives in a healthy way because we’ve been robbed of the opportunity to process and openly mourn.
If you have experienced a grief that is disenfranchised or if you recognize that others in your life may have, it is vital to find a way to make space for open mourning.
Often, when grief is disenfranchised, it is a result of beliefs about the way things should work and how people are supposed to relate to their world.
If you understand what is behind your complicated views on the loss, you will be able to start to figure out how to incorporate it into your life in a healthy way or to be a support for someone else.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What does grieving this particular thing stir up for you?
- What feels uncomfortable or scary about it?
- Is it something that you wish you could fix for a loved one but can’t?
- Does this loss conflict with your religious or political views?
- Is it something that taps on an unresolved issue in your life?
The reality is, if you are grieving, sometimes you may not be able to turn to the people in your life for support. Sometimes, the ones who you would normally lean on are just not willing or able to be there for you.
However, you are not the only one struggling with a loss, and there are people out there who will be able to hear you, support you, and provide a place to openly mourn.
This may mean finding others who have had similar losses, finding a therapist, or simply starting with giving yourself permission to feel your own emotions. It can be difficult to cope if the people closest to you are not part of the process, but you don’t have to be alone in it.
If you feel you have dismissed someone else’s grief, you can start with an apology and endeavor to be more open to hearing and supporting that person’s experience moving forward. Remember that you love this person and that being a witness to their experience doesn’t mean you have to fix it or know the best way to respond.
Simply listening, allowing them to share, without judgment or advice-giving can be healing by itself.
Grief loses power when shared. It won’t fix it or take away the loss, but it can become more bearable.
Written By: Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT