Is it possible for a grieving person to regulate grief by moving it aside without acknowledging or working through it? Most would say that, while possible, this is certainly not a healthy way to process grief. If anything, reacting to grief by ignoring it or refusing to allow the mourning process to run its course, has the potential to severely affect a person’s mental, physical, or emotional state. But what if this is exactly what was expected of someone? If their grief was seen as unimportant, uncomfortable, or so baseless they almost feel as if they are not allowed to mourn the loss of their loved one?
This is actually a common phenomenon known as Disenfranchised Grief- also defined as a grief unacknowledged by society. A grief seemingly not permitted by society even. And, while incredibly prevalent, this isn’t a term known by the general public, since it’s typically used in academic settings.
So What is DG For the Average Person?
It’s characterized by the grieving person feeling marginalized in their grief. As if they can’t fully express the depth of their pain for fear of judgment or disregard. That feeling is often for very good reasons; as they’ve learned in life and the aftermath of the loss itself, that their grief is either unwarranted, unacceptable, or uncomfortable for others. But why is that exactly? And how does it make sense? Shouldn’t people be allowed to grieve equally for their losses regardless of the situation?
Well, while that’s a nice sentiment, it’s not always echoed by everyone. Here’s a few reasons why:
The Method of Death is Stigmatized.
This is when the manner in which the person died makes people unsure or uneasy to bring it up and offer comfort, for fear of distressing the bereaved person further. Or if the way they died isn’t seen as acceptable by society.
Death by suicide
Death by homicide
Death by accidental overdose
Death in childbirth
Death by Child Abuse
Death in drunk driving accident
The Relationship to the Deceased is Stigmatized.
Sometimes, people can’t express their grief due to feeling judged for the way they knew the deceased. This could be due to societal pressures of propriety or because their relationship with the deceased isn’t even recognized as warranting grief.
Death of an ex-spouse
Death of partner in extramarital affair
Death of a partner in a same sex relationship
Death of a long distance friend (cybergrief)
Death of a peer in a stigmatized group (gang member, drinking buddy, etc)
The Loss Isn’t Seen As Significant
Humans are sentimental beings; we tend to grow strongly attached to those we surround ourselves with or look up to. When we lose someone who isn’t an immediate family member or friend, the loss can unfairly be considered not that important.
Death of a beloved pet
Death of a coworker
Death of a friend
Death of an idol (band, artist, actress, etc)
The Loss Doesn’t Come From Death
While we deal predominantly with themes of death here, loss comes in various forms and can cause grief as well. However, the reaction after these losses isn’t always recognized as grief.
Loss of a home.
Loss of a dream/goal
Loss of a relationship (breaking up with a significant other)
Loss of a cherished material possession
Loss of a job
What To Do About DG?
Grief has the tendency to ferment inside, festering into increasingly unmanageable symptoms until eventually the bereaved is forced to confront it. As much as the common consensus from people may be to “get over it,” that’s not always possible. Grief is not something we can ever get rid of completely, the most we can do is work through and learn to live with it so it doesn’t consume us. To feel marginalized in loss may make it even more difficult to soothe the ache of grief, especially when most people choose to not even recognize it. But the trick is to understand that the pain is valid. The hurt and struggle are valid. Grieving is necessary, regardless of the loss.
Here at GetUrns, we hope to help with this pain of losing a loved one by being a resource people can turn to for more information on death and death practices. Please take a look at our blog for more positive words or assistance.