Disenfranchised Bereavement: What it Is and Coping With It

Disenfranchised Bereavement: What it Is and Coping With It

Dealing with grief is an unfortunate reality for many individuals. In fact, due to the nature of the current pandemic we are going through, many more are going through periods of bereavement. Although everyone grieves at one point or another, not everyone grieves equally regardless if they are going through a similar situation. The intensity and duration of your grief will depend on the depth of the loss you are dealing with, as well as the extent of your understanding of that loss. Often, the process of grieving involves denial and deflection, whereby you initially try to convince yourself that the loss hasn’t happened. In doing so, you are not really grieving, but are rather managing the symptoms of your grief. This, however, is something that I touched on in last week’s article. This week, we will be looking at what disenfranchised bereavement is.  

What is disenfranchised bereavement?

When it comes to bereavement, the loss that we are grieving is usually enough to make us feel as though we are alone. As such, dealing with a lack of belief, or dealing with a loss that isn’t valid in society or isn’t respected by others can feel even worse. This kind of grief is one that “goes unacknowledged or unvalidated by social norms”. This is a tough situation to deal with because of the fact that the emotions we feel in regard to the loss are not respected, validated, or even acknowledged. For example, some types of disenfranchised bereavement causes could include the “loss of a pet, perinatal losses, elective abortions, loss of a body part, loss of a personality from dementia, and loss of a loved one who is not “blood related”. Such losses are not inherently personal as they do not affect someone that we know directly, but they still trigger strong feelings of having lost something dear to us. 

Disenfranchised Bereavement in the Times of Covid-19

The unfortunate reality of this pandemic is that many have lost someone dear to them, whether they were close to them or not. For example, perhaps you lost one of your closest friends or someone in your family has lost their loved one and this has had effects on you. Loss is not something that should have to be validated or acknowledged; if you feel like you are grieving or you feel as though you have suffered a serious loss, that is a valid feeling and you should not feel the pressure of anyone’s disapproval. Your grief is real and valid, whether others acknowledge it or not. 

Another side effect of Covid-19 on disenfranchised bereavement is that other losses are not taken seriously. As this is a very traumatic event occurring for many (i.e., the pandemic leading to lives lost), it may feel as though your personal feelings of grief are nowhere near as important as those who have dealt with the loss of a loved one. Nonetheless, even though this pandemic may feel as though it is all-encompassing and affects all aspects of your life, it does not mean that other kinds of grief do not exist anymore. If you have lost a child due to a miscarriage, you are still allowed to grieve. If you have lost a pet, it is not selfish to be sad about it. You are entitled to emotions as love is love no matter who or what it’s aimed towards.

Coping with Disenfranchised Bereavement

Grief after a loss can occur for different reasons. Some people grieve for lost loved ones, some because of past abuses or traumas, while others grieve for the loss of their homes. Other causes of grief following a loss include financial losses (loss of income or inheritance), job losses, health losses (decrease in health or injury), personal losses (death of a close friend or relative) and other life transitions (emigration, changing careers). Whatever the cause of loss, the effects of the grief can be devastating to the individuals who have experienced them. Many people find themselves unable to function normally in society, and may even lose their jobs or flee to escape the problems while feeling depressed or overwhelmed. As such, it is incredibly important to reach out for help when you feel like you are unable to cope; this can be in the form of asking help from your friends and family or from a therapist. The more you talk about it and acknowledge that your pain is real and tell others about your pain and bereavement, the more relief you may feel. Remember we grieve because we love, its not about “getting over” the grief it’s about working around it. Just because someone or something you love has gone doesnt make your love dissipate if anything I feel it grows.

Do you feel like you need some help and support? Reach out today for some support