When we lose someone really close to us…

Such as a parent or a significant other, friends and family are known to bombard us with support. Neighbors may bring over food, colleagues may send over flowers and a card, and friends will check in daily. However, there are some types of losses that are not always acknowledged by society that can make it difficult to process the pain…this is known as disenfranchised grief.  

Disenfranchised grief may look like:

A loss that’s considered less significant, loss surrounded by stigma and grief that doesn’t align with social norms. Throughout COVID many people have experienced many different types of disenfranchised grief.

This grief can surround…

  • Loss of your life as you knew it
  • Loss of employment
  • Loss of socialization
  • Loss of routine
  • Loss of the death of someone you never knew, like an unknown sibling or absent parent/colleague/neighbor
  • Loss of a pet
  • Loss of travel experiences
  • Loss of life milestones like a birthday celebration or graduation ceremony
  • LGBTQ+ people who aren’t out and feel unsafe grieving the loss of a partner

Many people may feel like they’re not entitled to feelings of grief about something like missing out on milestone…

Also, they might not want to acknowledge the pain because it may bring up tough emotions like guilt, frustration, anger, and sorrow that others may not understand. Common reactions to disenfranchised grief typically include ignoring or dismissing our feelings. We may be telling ourselves things like “it’s not that big of a deal” or “other people are going through worse situations” to move farther away from those emotions.

Some people may even confuse their grief with feelings of depression or anxiety. This is because they might not be aware that the source of their sadness is their grief that they weren’t given the opportunity to acknowledge, as well as the lack of support received from society.

Grief doesn’t just disappear on its own. It will just manifest itself in different ways and can alter your quality of life. Thus, it is important to identify your grief and allow yourself to process it.

There is no one way to process grief, but below are some coping tips that may work for you:

Talk to people about your losses…

Reaching out to our community in times of distress is important to build awareness and seek support. Whether that’s friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, or support groups, allow yourself to share what it is that you’re going through. Even if you think that they might not understand, voice it out so that way so you’re not suffering in silence! The more vocal we are about our pains, the more opportunities there are for support. Find your own language to describe how you’re feeling- Allow yourself to be vulnerable with your thoughts and feelings – and share it with your loved ones.

Create Rituals for yourself…

Often when one is grieving a loss, they’re given a chance to gain some comfort by attending some type of ritual whether that is a funeral, prayer, or a type of service. During COVID, a lot of people were not able to hold these services, thus may be longing for closure. Get creative and think about ways to mourn your loss to help honor your feelings. Rituals also signal to others that we need support, so it may be beneficial creating a ritual centered around your support system. Think of ways you’d want to honor your grief by implementing a tradition or ritual into your life.

Stop comparing your pain to others…

Not only does this not help anyone, but it’s harmful in allowing you to process your own pain. We all have unique experiences and life circumstances, but one thing to keep in mind is common humanity. Everyone in the world has felt some sort of pain or suffering and everyone – including you – deserves the love and support to heal through it. Allow yourself to explore your pain and what it feels like for YOU. Ask yourself some questions like “What do I find myself missing or longing for?” or “When did I start feeling like this and what loss may have contributed to this?”

Grow around your grief…

Therapist Lois Tonkin’s explains this concept of grief – “People tend to believe that grief shrinks over time but what really happens is that we grow around our grief.”  Most people tend to think that with time grief will eventually fade away, becoming a much smaller part of their lives, however, keep in mind that there will be some days where you feel grief as strongly as you did when you first experienced that loss and that’s okay because grief is complex and messy! Take your time and reach out for help when it gets difficult!

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