Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: When No One Understands Your Loss

Understanding Disenfranchised Grief

People may seem confused if your expression of grief doesn’t match up to their expectations. They may even accuse you of not mourning your loss. Other ways of showing grief that is less validated by society are –

  • Lack of emotion
  • Anger
  • Increased busyness like working long hours
  • Alcohol or substance abuse to cope

6. Exclusion from mourning

Some people think you have less right to mourn if you have lost a best friend or classmate or ex or your supercool neighbour –  even when you had a meaningful relationship with them. It could be because they are not a part of the immediate family. 

Weird, isn’t it? But that’s the reality! Guess what? There exists an assumption that certain groups lack the capacity to grieve, including 

  • children
  • people with poor or loss of cognitive function
  • people with serious mental health conditions
  • people with developmental disabilities

This group of people often experience disenfranchised grief. Their grieving process is not supported or acknowledged and are not even allowed to participate in public mourning rituals. 

Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: When No One Understands Your Loss

Examples of Disenfranchised Grief

  • Death of ex-partner
  • Death of abuser
  • Dementia of a loved one
  • Addiction of a loved one
  • Death of a patient
  • Death of a pet
  • Breakup or divorce
  • Infertility
  • Abortion
  • Losing a job 
  • Moving to a new community
Grief Never Ends
Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: When No One Understands Your Loss

Symptoms of Disenfranchised Grief

People experience grief at physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. Every individual has a unique way of dealing with grief and needs a certain amount of time. Symptoms of disenfranchised grief are:

  • Anger, fear, and guilt
  • Sadness, despair, and loneliness
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Feeling numb or nothing at all
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Unexplained physical pain and muscle tension
  • Change in appetite
  • A sense of shock or disbelief

The above symptoms are similar to symptoms of grief. Other symptoms of disenfranchised grief are: 

  • An intensified version of the above-listed symptoms 
  • The loss happened at least six months ago
  • Feeling  lack of closure
  • Feeling worthless
  • Sense of isolation
  • Feeling stigmatized either by society or by yourself
  • Feeling guilt or shame for your loss and current situation 
  • Difficulty connecting with people and maintaining relationships

6 tips to cope up with disenfranchised grief

1. Acknowledge the loss for yourself 

No one can feel your loss the way you do it. So, even if there is no one to acknowledge, support or validate your grief, acknowledge and validate it yourself. Say out loud what you have lost or write it down somewhere and you will surely notice a change. 

Also read 4 Ways To Get Emotional Closure In A Relationship, All By Yourself

2. Feel all your feelings 

People with disenfranchised grief experience intense emotions because of their loss and unpleasant responses of people to their experience. You may have conflicting feelings besides sadness, anger, hopelessness, and a range of other emotions. It’s important to feel all your feelings. Remember that every feeling you have is valid and you have the right to express them in whichever way you want. 

3. Engage in creative work

You can start doodling, painting, origami or journaling or composing songs or poems that will help you relieve stress. There are plenty of studies validating the use of art to channel grief for healing. Journalling is my personal favourite method to cope up with a loss of any kind. It mitigates both physical and psychological issues including symptoms of depression and trauma disorder. 

4. Engage in self-care 

Self-care Is Not Selfish.
Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: When No One Understands Your Loss

Disenfranchised grief affects sleep, appetite, physical health that is manifested as pain in specific body parts and mental health that is manifested as anxiety or depression. So, you need to take care of your body. You can start with:

  • Brisk walk 
  • Eat nourishing foods
  • Read, listen or watch stuff about your kind of stuff to cope with isolation
  • Drink plenty of water – 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women as recommended by  The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. You can adjust the quantity depending on factors like temperature in your city, pregnancy, and overall health. 
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Louisa Davis

Hi there! I'm just a normal person enjoying the process of life. Practicing Buddhism, I believe in the law of cause and effect. Reading and writing is always a pleasure. I enjoy researching on a range of subjects – science, psychology, and technology. Nothing can satiate my soul than good music, horror movies, psycho-thriller, and crime stuff. I enjoy photography, music and watching comedy videos. Talking to people, learning new experiences, sharing my knowledge through blogs, motivating others are things that I always look forward to.View Author posts