Understanding Disenfranchised Grief

Do you ever feel that you cannot talk about your grief? Ever experienced awkward silence or a change in the subject when you speak about your grief? It may be that you are experiencing disenfranchised grief. For example, have you heard responses like, “He was just a dog,” “But you can have another baby,” or “There’s plenty more fish in the sea.” These responses often miss the depth of your story and can make your grief feel invisible.

What is Disenfranchised Grief?

Disenfranchised grief is a very sad, isolating, and unfulfilling experience. It applies to both bereavement (death-related grief) and living losses. Worse still, it may lead to losing the courage to speak about what matters to those who are important to you.

Examples of Disenfranchised Grief

Here are some examples of disenfranchised grief that apply to various life events:

  1. Loss that is not a death:
    • Ageing, incarceration, dementia, divorce, changes in physical or mental health, job loss, relationship ending, unplanned retirement, or traumatic brain injury.
    • Less-discussed examples include being a victim of crime, identity theft, scamming or phishing.
  2. Others do not recognize a relationship:
    • Ex-partner, same-sex, celebrity death, neighbour, companion animal.
    • It could also be a person known professionally, such as a doctor or tradesperson.
  3. Mourners may feel the cause of death may be met with disapproval:
    • Suicide, drug overdose, abortion, driver death under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
  4. Society does not believe you have the right to grieve:
    • Prisoner, the other woman/man, estranged relationships.
  5. When society does not believe that you can grieve:
    • Children, older adults, and people with intellectual disability.
  6. The different ways people grieve:
    • The person might appear to others as having already adjusted to the loss through their actions and behaviours.

“Losses that cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned, or publicly shared. We experience these losses, but we come to know that we do not have the right to grieve them.”

Kenneth Doka (2017, p. 8)

How Can Changes in Between Help?

I understand grief! My personal experience as a young widow profoundly affected the direction of my life during my husband’s illness and after his death. I’ve also experienced grief through failed relationships, the sudden and traumatic deaths of important people, job loss, miscarriage, and the death of beloved pets. Disenfranchised grief for me includes the death of significant professional people and being scammed.

My extensive training and certification in grief and loss, including working in a coronial jurisdiction and with Grief Australia, allows me to understand the complexities of sudden, unexpected, and traumatic death. Read more about me here.

Grief Counselling and Coaching

Counselling: Available at any time, whether you are experiencing acute grief from a recent bereavement or dealing with a historical one. Grief counselling focuses on processing your grief and providing psycho-education about grief.

Coaching: Suitable when your grief is associated with living losses. If you are not in acute grief, grief coaching can support you in working through secondary losses. This process includes increasing self-awareness, taking action, and learning to rebuild your life—your next chapter.

Together, we will honour your loss, rebuild your life, and find your place. Let’s walk through this journey side by side.

Ready to take the next step? Book a brief enquiry call.