Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief: you may have heard this term thrown around and wondered what it is all about. We pride ourselves on breaking down the abstract into the practical and disenfranchised grief is an example of a very real, everyday experience that can sound very abstract and academic. It has a crazy name and is often talked about in academic articles rather than in real-life settings. But knowing what disenfranchised grief is all about may help you put a name to some things you have been experiencing in your own world after a death. Even if it doesn’t relate to you specifically, it may make you a better friend or support to another griever.

Okay, so what is this crazy term all about. If one is disenfranchised they are deprived a right to something, and intuitively (if you have never suffered this sort of loss) it may seem strange to imagine how one could be deprived the right to grieve. Grief is personal, right? We say that all the time. So, who could possibly deprive me my right to do something so personal?

Society, that’s who! Just like society dictates rules for how to act, dress, speak, and operate in the world, society also dictates rules around grief. These rules can be subtle or explicit, but until we are in the moment we don’t have much reason to think about societal grief rules. It’s when we lose someone and our life falls apart that these rules smack us in the face – we feel pressure to grieve a certain way or for a certain length of time and/or we feel pressure to get over it and stop talking about things that make other people uncomfortable. We’ve all felt it and it sucks.

Disenfranchised grief takes this to another level, not just including rules about how we grieve, but rules about who is entitled to grieve and, in turn, who is supported in their grief. The stinging pain of these societal expectations can be excruciating when a relationship is not acknowledged or the impact of the death is not acknowledged. Grief becomes disenfranchised when we don’t have societal validation of our loss and grieving process. Society says we shouldn’t be grieving, so we feel like we can’t talk about it. We can’t find support. We feel alone. We think our feelings are wrong.

disenfranchised grief 6You may be thinking, who cares what society says! People should just say “screw you” to societal expectations and embrace their grief. If only it were that easy . . . These rules, though they may sound exclusively external, are things we internalize every day. When everyone is saying we have no right to grieve or we are grieving wrong, it is hard not to believe it on some level. If I have no support from those most important to me, it becomes even more difficult to adjust to life after a death. I may constantly feel the need to hide my grief for fear of making others uncomfortable or being alienated. I may feel no one understands me. It is starting to sound like a pretty lonely place, eh?

This is an incredibly complex topic and if you want to explore it further, Kenneth Doka is the guy to start with. He is the person that gave this experience a name back in the mid-1980s. His book on this topic is the foundation for much of the further theory and discussion of disenfranchised grief. Today we are keeping it quick and dirty – the basics a griever should understand is this: disenfranchised grief arises in any circumstance in which society denies our “need, right, role, or capacity to grieve” (Doka, 1989). This happens for all sorts of reasons that you will see broken down in all sorts of ways, but here are some basics:

Society says the relationship isn’t important, so grief is not acknowledged

This often happens when your relationship to the deceased is one that society interprets as more distant and not worthy of grief. Societal rules often dictate that we grieve “blood” relatives and as we get beyond that circle we find lesser acknowledgement of the impact of a death. It would be impossible to imagine an exhaustive list, but some disenfranchised losses that fall into this category may be:

  • Death of an ex-spouse
  • Death of a co-worker
  • Death of a pet
  • Death of an online friend (cyber loss)
  • Death of a same-sex partner
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Death of a step-child/step-parent
  • Death of a foster child/foster parent
  • Death of other non-blood relationships (friends, boyfriend/girlfriend in-laws, neighbors, etc)

The death is stigmatized by society.

Sometimes the cause of death may make it difficult for the griever to talk about the loss, due to stigma. These can involve guilt, shame, blame, and countless other feeling that allow a griever to hide their grief, feeling the death is not worthy of the same grief based on societal rules. Again, just some examples are:

  • Death by suicide
  • Death by accidental drug overdose
  • Death by child abuse
  • Death to HIV/AIDS
  • Abortion
  • Death due to drunk driving
  • Death of a family member in prison

The relationship is stigmatized by society.

Though this can overlap with the two categories above, there are times that the relationship during life was a stigmatized relationship. This can lead to similar feelings after a death, with the griever feeling society will not acknowledge the impact of the loss, or they must continue to hide the relationship. This can include:

  • Death of partner from an extramarital affair
  • Death of a same-sex partner
  • Death of a gang member
  • Death of high-risk/stigmatized peer group (“drinking buddy”, drug abuser)

The loss itself isn’t recognized as a grief-worthy because it is not a death

These are often cases of losses that are grieved, but are not necessarily a death. Again, this is far from an exhaustive list, but may include:

  • Dementia
  • TBI
  • Mental illness
  • Infertility
  • Substance Abuse
  • Loss of function
  • Adoption
  • Religious conversion (to or away from a religion)

Okay, great, so we made a big list. But how does this help regular old grievers? Understanding the concept that grief can be more complicated and difficult when is disenfranchised can help us feel a little more normal if we are experiencing it. Perhaps a loss you experienced that falls into one of the above categories is feeling uniquely difficult compared to past losses or other people’s losses. Knowing a loss you have suffered falls into one of the above categories may mean you are more likely to feel unable to share your grief, or are feeling less supported and more isolated. Sometimes it is just nice to know there is a name for what you are experiencing, other people experience it too, and you are not crazy! And remember, comparing grief in general is problematic. We’ve got a post about that here.

That being said, some people experience losses that fall into one of the categories listed above but do not experience disenfranchisement. That is to say, if your loss falls into a category above and you aren’t experiencing these feelings, that’s great! It doesn’t make you abnormal. Some people are lucky to have a support system that acknowledges the depth of the loss and allows them permission to grieve that loss, even in a circumstance that is usually disenfranchised. On the flip side, you may have a loss that doesn’t fit exactly in one of the categories about, and yet for other reasons your community may make you feel you don’t have the right to grieve. Recognizing this dynamic can help to understand how your external environment may be impacting your grief.

I know, all you doers out there are screaming but what can I DO about this – you fit into one of these categories, you are feeling the disenfranchisement from the community around you, and now you want to know what action you can take to make things a little bit easier.

This is one of those moments that it is important to acknowledge that some of the dynamics with disenfranchised grief are internal- it is how we internalize and experience this failure of society to support our “need, right, role, or capacity to grieve”. But some of if it is external, and that we have less control over. As much as we want to, we can’t change society’s grief rules overnight. Let’s all acknowledge that together and say a quick round of the serenity prayer (either the traditional or secular version): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Ok, so what can we change? A good place to start is looking at our own thinking or actions and behaviors that are in our control. Society may be sending us inaccurate messages about our grief, or limiting our access to rituals, but we can create our own messages and rituals.

  1. Acknowledge your love for that person was true and significant and your loss is no less valid. Love is love. Loss is loss. Your love was real and valid; your grief is real and valid.
  2. Remind yourself that you are worthy of time and space to grieve, be it the death of a friend, co-worker, four-legged companion, or any other loss. You may even want to write it on a card in your wallet, put it in a note in your phone, or put that message wherever you can easily access it. When someone says something dumb (oh and they will!) that makes you feel you are not worthy of your grief experience, pull that message out, read it over, and let go of the comment they have made.
  3. Remind yourself that you are not alone. It is easy to fall in to isolation when you are finding no acknowledgement or support of your grief. What can be helpful is seeking the experience of others who have experienced similar losses. With the growth of the internet and a growing support for grievers you may be able to find others who have experienced a similar loss, and hence some of the same challenges of a loss that is not recognized. More and more groups are popping up for survivors of suicide, overdose deaths, stillbirths, etc.
  4. Create your own ritual. There are many times that, due to the nature of these losses, that you are not able to take part in a funeral or closure ritual in the way you would have wanted. Perhaps due to the nature of the relationship you were not welcome at the funeral so you felt awkward, or you didn’t attend at all. Perhaps you did not feel comfortable having a memorial, worrying people would think it was weird, as happens often in cases of miscarriage or pet loss. Consider if it would be helpful to create your own ritual now. There is no reason you cannot do a small memorial or remembrance after the fact, if you did not at the time and you regret it. Consider if this is important to you and what may be appropriate. This doesn’t have to be elaborated; it could be as simple as planting a tree or visiting a meaningful place.
  5. Assess your support system. Though you may be feeling that none of your family or friends are supportive, be sure to really think this through before you write everyone off. Check out our support system superlative activity to really assess what different friends and family members offer you. If all your “usual suspects” are not supportive, think of some people a little further outside your circle. Sometimes you find empathetic people in surprising places! This may be just the time to reach out to a distant friend who also lost a child to overdose, suffered a miscarriage, etc.
  6. Seek personal ways to explore grief and express your emotions. Consider journaling, art, photography, and other personal expression. Though you may not have the external support you want, you can still find ways to explore your grief and emotions on your own.
  7. Be a support to others experiencing disenfranchised grief. This is something you may not be ready for right away, but down the road it can be healing to be a support to others. Be sensitive to acknowledge others who may be feeling their loss is not recognized. Remember that, just because you have a similar loss, this does not mean your experience will be similar. But you can acknowledge and validate their right to grieve, no matter how similar or dissimilar their experience is to your own.

Like all things in grief, there is no quick fix, there is no “normal”, and this will look different for everyone. These are just a few basic ideas, but if there are other experiences you have had or things that have made life just a tiny bit easier in your experience of disenfranchised grief, please leave a comment. This is how we learn from each other, support each other, and remember we are not alone!

It is true that we cannot change society’s grief rules overnight. But the good news is that society’s rules, norms, and expectations DO evolve over time and we as grievers play a very real part in that. We can speak up about these losses and how deeply they impact us. We can support others and give them the permission they need to grieve, no matter what. We can help others understand when their words are hurtful and minimize another’s grief. We can start sharing our experiences with our friends, family, and community, if and when we feel strong enough, because those are the things they will remember and cling to if they have the misfortune to suffer a similar loss. We can stand up for the fact that we are all worthy of our own grief.

Still not getting our updates by email? Subscribe and we will send new posts to your inbox a few times a week. Who couldn’t use an extra boost of grief support a few times a week?!

March 28, 2017

62 responses on "Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief"

  1. This resonates with me and it’s good to validate my feelings a little after reading this. I had a deep friendship with a man for over ten years, the relationship started out romantically for the first few years then we became more like best friends after I moved away with work. We shared some very personal thoughts and feelings, talked for hours on end about anything and everything, travelled together on holidays, encouraged and cared for each other. Eventually though, I worried I may be holding him back from ever meeting someone else and marrying, ( I think he harboured hopes of rekindling a romantic relationship one day which I didn’t) so I regret to say, instead of being honest, I gradually broke contact. We both moved on and met partners and in my case, had children. I always wanted to contact him again but once I learnt he was married, I was afraid to in case it wasn’t what he wanted. A year ago, I found out he had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I hadn’t remained in touch with any of his friends or family so no one had let me know. I’d missed the funeral. I was and am devastated. I think without a ceremony, a goodbye, it’s difficult to have closure. There are few people I can talk to about him, most don’t understand the depth of my feelings for him or the regrets I have about the way I broke contact. I have never had a relationship since which shared the same emotional bond, even though I realise I have a wonderful family and a lot to be happy and grateful for. That said, I’d still like to find a way of honouring the time we spent together and what he meant to me. He was an important part of my life and taught me a lot but I’ll never be able to tell him, thank him or say sorry which is something I have to come to terms with. A year on, I’m still very tearful thinking about him which is something I do quite a lot.

  2. I think the “nobody died” category should be given more prominence. The assumption that grief only occurs when somebody dies seems to be a huge factor here. Seeing that person, even having to continue to interact with them, can make any closure more difficult than if they had died and there been a funeral/wake.

    Along with mentioning “relationship breakup”, which can easily intersect with “relationship unimportant”.
    Obviously missing from that list would “partners in openly non-exclusive sexual and/.or romantic relationships” indeed anything obviously outside the romantic (and monogamous)/platonic friend dichotomy. Someone in such a situation may find themselves being told “It wasn’t a real relationship, so it could never have worked”; “They were *just* a friend”; etc.

  3. This has been extremely helpful. My dad is an alcoholic and has been my whole life. Though nothing has changed in his behavior (still drinking till he is passed out drunk every night), things have changed in my perspective. I moved out of my house about a year and a half ago, and since then since I am now in a safe environment and not just trying to survive, I have begun the process of moving out of codependency and confronting the hurt from my past. When I first began to process things with my Dad, I moved from feeling responsible for him, into bitterness. I have been working through my bitterness and slowly have been able to feel compassion towards him again. So, I choose to talk to him and confront him. I laid out how he has effected me and then told him my concern and made a choice to keep my distance from him. It has been a month and a half since that conversation and since then, I have been torn up inside. I miss him so much. Memories pop into my head of my child hood with him and then I see where he is at now, and am so sad. I keep thinking about the different stages in my life that I am going to go through like graduating college, getting married and having kids and think about what it is going to look like if he doesn’t get sober? The sad reality is that he won’t be in my life. It is as if he is dead.
    I have seen myself getting sort at people and just frustrated at my roommates and the people around me. I get sad, but then tell my self to stop. I think “He is not dead! Get over it!”. I know it is not true and my feelings are legitimate but man, it is so hard to fight that. I am dreading the holidays coming up, because I will see him. I dread his phone calls. I don’t know what to do because I know I am grieving the loss of him in my life, but he keeps trying to make his way back into it.
    It has been a tough battle, but it is helpful to put a name to this. I am not crazy. And I am not a lone. It has been an uphill battle, but I know there is hope.

  4. I lost my 20 year old son to drug overdose (“multi-drug toxicity”, 6 Rx and 1 illegal drug).
    It has been two years, but the pain and complex feelings of guilt, anger, and shame makes it very difficult to talk about.
    Thank you for posting this article. I never knew there was a name for this type of grief.
    After my son’s death, I felt it best to be open and honest about the cause of death because everyone will wonder how a 20 year old could die so suddenly, and I figured that people would just gossip and speculate about his death anyway, making it difficult for them to grieve. However, I found that most people were uncomfortable with the circumstances surrounding his death. Many old friends don’t keep in touch, and even close family members never mention his name. This makes me sad , like he never existed and has been forgotten.
    He also died with strangers. He was staying at a new girlfriend’s house after his summer job ended. He had recently been released from a two week hold at a psychiatric facility and an inpatient drug rehab program. I filled out the forms and made arrangements to get him into a sober living house, but he refused to go.
    I last spoke to him on a Monday. I told him I would talk to him that Saturday, after I returned from a trip. That Wednesday he died, but no one contacted me for two days while he lay dead in the morgue. The people he was staying with had my parents’ and my phone number, but didn’t contact anyone in my family. Instead, they dumped his suit case, cell phone, and a pair of crutches at the police station. The coroner ‘s assistant asked me when I would “get my son out of here”. When I got his belongings back, I found hospital records showing the he had been hospitalised with a near death overdose, resulting in a fall, two days before his death (hence the crutches). No one had contacted me about this. I have a lot of anger toward the family that harboured him, and to this day, I have never spoken to them about his death. The police refused to investigate the death, even though I had the cell phone records of his last calls and texts to the supplier of the illicit drug that killed him. All of these circumstances, and my anger and helplessness, have made my grieving very difficult .
    The coroner would not let me see the body unless I paid an undertaker to restore the body following the autopsy. I didn’t want to pay $500 to see a fake, dressed up body. The autopsy report was heartbreaking. His brain, lungs and other organs had all been removed. My beautiful son had been mutilated. It took many weeks for the toxicology report, during which time I had no closure regarding what happened to my son.
    I don’t even talk about it anymore, as my therapist told me I didn’t have to tell people. It breaks my heart, though, when people ask how many kids I have. I had 3, but now only have 2. Do I still have 3, since he will live forever in my heart?

  5. This is a very difficult kind of loss. My best friend for 30 years died almost a year ago. We almost got married 30 years ago but due to my illness (severe life-threatening asthma that required me to leave Ohio) I had to leave the area and somehow we never reconnected again. We remained best friends and visited, called often and emailed for 30 years. He married and I married yet we remained best friends. He became seriously disabled and a year ago his wife left him and he called me for help. I immediately got on a plane and flew cross country to assist him. While I was there he committed suicide. I knew he was thinking about it as he very depressed but he would not seek help. I had to deal with calling 911, the police and then worst of all, his hateful wife. Two days later I flew home and during that 2 days I had to deal with his wife bitching about how awful he was. No one here understands what a terrible loss this is for me. I could share everything with him without being judged and he could do the same. I still reach for the phone thinking to share something with him but then remember that he isn’t there. I miss him terribly!

  6. I feel lots of what you talkked about. It makes some sense of what I feel.I have suddenly become explosive to people and despairing. In last three years my mother got dementia ,My daughters mental illness became seriosly life threatening [little of her true nature left] and my abusive husband left.
    The most unaccepted grief is that I feel devastated over my husband.I can not say anything about the pain without “You’re better without him” or “You’re sick if you want to take him back” You see I don’t but the loss of the good things we had, the hope of a family together the betrayal leaves me without him and support for my sadness.
    Grieving a mentally ill aggressive husband puts me in the crazy basket.
    Yes I do have abuse councilling

    • I grieve my mentally ill, verbally abusive ex-SO, and people can stick their crazy basket, I’m not living there. Nobody’s business. I had eyes open during the relationship and handled in a way that it did not hurt me but allowed me to continue being a friend to a tormented individual who had much to offer. My call. His death was difficult, made more difficult by the fact that his estranged family wanted nothing to do with him, didn’t care about me, but still wanted to handle the arrangements their way. They did, and I just have to work around their decisions.

  7. I’m sorry if I wrote something offensive. Please let me know what I did wrong so I can apologize properly.

  8. Really needed to be reading these posts. My ex was found dead on May 31st. They think he had been gone, as they put it “for some time”. After getting his phone released to us, we realized he died either the 23rd or the 24th (our sons 18th birthday). We had been divorced for 12 years but had remained connected and co-parented our son. I was listed as his next of kin. Even though he had “family ” ie: father, niece, I was the one responsible for making his final arrangements. His dad at first was less than helpful. He has since come around some due to the fact I tol him where the bear…well.. You know. He now keeps and wants regular contact. Where I and my son are not getting support is my own family. I can kind of get their thinking about me but so don’t understand with our son. He graduated from high school and a week later his dad passed away He’s devastated. Yet my whole family acts like it’s nothing and he should just be fine. I don’t have a very good relationship with my mom (that’s putting it mildly) but you’d think she would get it.. She’s lost her father (she was devastated) and her husband. I may have been divorced from my ex but he was a part of my life for 22 years. We married for a reason. I never hated him. Things happened that we were better not married. I’m incredibly sad that he’s gone and the way he passed torments me. I feel like I have to be stoic for my son and not let him see my pain. What does one do?

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Ah Terri, I am so sorry for what you are going through and glad this post was helpful. We have a few other posts that may be helpful. One here on guilt and one here on the difference between guilt and regret, that I think may be relevant to what you are feeling. Also, please know that you do not need to be stoic for your son. Good parenting involves modeling and allowing our children to see that it is okay to have and express deep, sad, difficult and complicated emotions. We have a post on parenting while grieving that you may also want to check out. The latter two also exist as podcasts, so you can also listen if you prefer that! Please take care and I hope you find more support on our site.

    • Just a note to say I get the torment of the way he passed. I last spoke to my ex-SO on the third of a month and he was found deceased on the 16th. We spoke every day and I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what. His phone had been disconnected for nonpayment after we spoke on that last day. I didn’t feel I could go to his house because it might not have been safe. Coulda, woulda shoulda. He was alone. I believe he died shortly after we last spoke and my only consolation is that we had plans, so he would have known that. This regret loop spins through my head.

      • Robin, I think the regret and guilt is what is hanging on to me. My last conversation with him, I was angry. It was the day of our son’s graduation and he was supposed to attend. At the last minute, he canceled. I was upset as this was our son’s biggest day of his life and he wanted both parents there. My ex knew I was mad. I usually talked to him every day or so and to be honest, I ign him for a few days to calm down. When he didn’t contact our son on his birthday, I kn something was wrong. I contacted all the local hospitals to no avail. I had made a decision to call for a welfare check the same morning I got the call he had been found. I guess what bothers me the most is that he was alone for so long That bothers me. The ironic thing is, my ex was a identical twin. His twin passed away just over 2years ago under the exact same circumstances. I’m now getting a bit frustrated. It’s been two months and we still don’t have a cause of death or a death certificate from the coroner. You just feel like you are in limbo. The other thing… I have his ashes (because of our son). Don’t get this wrong but .. It kind of bothers me that I walk past my ex every night before I go to bed. My son set up a display with his urn and flag and out of respect to my son, I d feel like I can move it. It’s a odd situation.

  9. I lost a same-sex partner in January. We’d been together two years and were planning to get married this year. I’ve experienced a lot of feelings of disenfranchisement in my grief…it’s hard to find someone who can relate to a 35-year old who lost a same-sex partner at the peak of the honeymoon phase of the relationship. My parents are conservative and religious and struggled to accept my relationship and were opposed to us getting married, which only exacerbates my grief because I feel like I am also grieving for the loss of that relationship too. I have little contact with them now, although I think this experience has opened their eyes somewhat and they are more accepting of me. I realize now that much of disenfranchisement is the internalized homophobia I grew up with. From my parents and family and the media. I’m trying now to reach out to grief groups and talk about my love and my loss with others rather than hiding out of fear of rejection. Thank you for this post. It really helped me feel validated.

  10. I don’t know if this counts as disenfranchised grief. My psychiatrist of 13 years died last month of colon cancer. He was only 51. I loved him so much (not romantically) and I am devestated.
    I was able to go to his memorial and spoke about how he saved my life. I met his parents and cried with them, especially his mom. And told them some funny stories. In addition to being a great doctor and one of the kindest people I know, he was also the funniest person I’ve ever known.
    I guess the disenfranchised part is that even though they know how much he meant to me, my family can’t understand the depth of my pain. I lost my job a few months ago and losing Dr. K just broke my heart. I have a therapist and she’s helping, but I still feel very alone.

  11. I appreciate the post…. My dissolution/divorce was final in April 2014, we had been separated since August 2013. He was “married” to the bottle, had an affair etc… I was willing to “save” the marriage because of my belief in marriage but I was the only willing partner. I told him that once the papers were signed, there was no turning back and I didn’t. It helped that I could say that I tried everything to no avail. In July 2014, I took a family vacation with my family and my brother brought his best friend (my family knew him, I didn’t). Turned out that it was a “planned meeting’… I found out on the 10 hour drive there. It worked, he was the most amazing person I have ever met. We talked like we had known each other our whole lives. He was sincere, had an amazing sense of humor, was a sports fanatic like myself and was a coach (like myself).. we coached different sports but had the same ideals. We went on a sunset boat cruise and really got to know each other. The following night we stayed up late talking and he asked if he could kiss me. I agreed, then grabbed his hand and said; “lets go for a walk on the beach”. When we walked over the dunes, there was a “sandbar” in the shape of an “island” just off the beach. It was a clear, warm night. The stars and moon were bright. We walked onto the island and spun around because it was so beautiful, so perfect. Then he kissed me like I had never been kissed. He told me that he hadn’t kissed anyone in about 12 years (he had a bad relationship and just focused on his work). He grabbed my hand and said,” he was happy with his life, but not happy because something… you have been missing from me”. He said, “this is our beginning”.We had an amazing week and discussed going between our two states with our work. We communicated off and on and I was so frustrated because I wanted it all right then. We both had very busy schedules but we still communicated via short texts, facebook messaging etc.. He asked me to come see him in December 2014 for his birthday and things got messed up. I got mad at my brother because he made a couple comments that hurt my feelings and I didn’t go… We stopped talking for about a month then started full fledged again.. He was coming here in July this year, we had a date planned and I had every intention of going back to his home state with him. My friends knew it was going to happen, I even looked at “beach wedding” dresses for later down the road. The connection was something I had never felt in my entire life. He died of diabetes the night before he got on the plane and his mom found him that morning. My world crashed…. and is still burning. His family didn’t know me, he had strained relationships with his sister, brother and dad (parents were divorced). I “friended” his sister because I SO wanted to be involved in some aspect, to hear stories, to hear his “kids” (those he coached) talk about him, something, anything. My brother and I went for the rememberance ceremony and he told me on the plane that the comments were taken the wrong way, and he had wanted me to come see him but he had to have his dad stay with him that weekend (short notice) because of Christmas and the split family. A couple months after, I was able to get his mom, sister and niece tickets to his favorite show in their town.. and shortly after that his sister “unfriended” me. I’ve posted grief quotes about love and short excerpts from our time together on my own page and I sent her an email telling her about our time. I thought if it was my brother and he hadn’t dated for 12 years, I would want to know about the “girl” that he wanted to take a chance on love again. I was (and still am) in a very deep grief. I am better but still devastated and still begging to hear stories, to learn more about him etc… How do I do this???

  12. Thank you for the link for making new grief friends, Litsa. I will go read there. Yes, thank goodness I do have a small group of true and feeling friends who helped me thru this and still do. Truth is, the moron friend is a narcissist, tho until now I did not know just how incredibly damaging a person like that can affect anothers life. You see, my grief and tramatic experience, took away attention from him, and there is punishment for that you know. I didn’t know till now just what monsters people with NPD truly are. He hid it well, like they all do, till he met his match in something that took the largest of my focus away from his life and newest ,among many, health problems. This is/was a friend. I feel sorry for his wife.

  13. Thank you Litsa. Thank you again Chelsea. It does help to hear from strangers that this must have been some epic failure on the friends part to offer some kind of words of comfort, and not an attempt to hurt me as deeply as possible. I really needed to reach that conclusion or go insane with the additional grief added to my ultimate sorrow. I hope time can put a balm on that, also.
    Thank you

  14. Thank you Chelsea. I read your post and deeply sympathize with your loss, and the betrayal from those closest to you. It feels like being a bird, pecked out of the flock because you’re contaminated with sorrow. It scares them and they don’t want their comfort zone upset. So sorry.

    • Unfortunately people don’t know how to deal with it when someone they care about is grieving. They mean well but they say and do all the wrong things because they don’t know what else to say or do. My parents wanted to protect me but they couldn’t, he was already gone, nothing was going to change that so their attempts just made things worse. Your friend was probably trying to help but failed epically because they didn’t know what else to say… and we’re caught in the middle between their good-intentioned attempts and just how badly those attempts failed

  15. Here’s dozy that’s caused me quite a bit of post tramatic stress. Five months after my adult sons suicide, my “friend” thinks I should pull up my bootstraps because “It’s not like he was a genius who helped alot of people in the world or anything”. His exact words. Also, I do not grieve in front of others. This was said to me when I spoke of my grief.

    • A “friend” said that to you? What a moron… don’t listen to them. That’s an awful thing to say, I’m so sorry

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Nancy, wow I am just speechless (which takes quite a bit). I am so sorry for so many reasons. Sorry your friend made such a thoughtless and horrifying comment, but sad also that while going through an impossible time you also had to lose the support of a friend.

  16. Suzie,
    Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to have my loss acknowledged even if you are ‘a stranger on the Internet’. I still cannot believe he is gone. His son called me today to say that my Darling’s body was cremated and there would be a memorial on Saturday ( which I cannot attend because I have to be away in another city) Life will go on but it will never be the same. Although I have very little of his as mementos I do have six years worth of emails, over three thousand. He will be with me forever.
    Bless you for reaching out with your kindness

  17. This post was so needed today. I am a married woman (39 years) Not a bad marriage but we had grown distant over the years. 6 years ago I met a gentleman on a website chat room. We became internet friends and subsequently discovered we had much in common. Over the next year we fell in love ( he lived a few hours away and we would visit every week or so.) Our love grew and we found ourselves trying to spend much time together, phoning emailing. I told him I would not leave my husband until my youngest was finished high school and this he accepted.
    The last time we were together was in November. As I mentioned we wrote to each other every day and the last I heard from him was Dec 21. I was concerned that he did not write me a message Christmas Day but he had said he was going to visit his sister. On Boxing Day night his son ( who I have a close relationship with) called me to say that my Darling was on life support and was not expected to live. His son handed the phone to his Aunt who explained what was going on. The next night they called me to tell me he was being taken off life support the following day. I am at my home with visiting guests and I cannot cry or grieve publicly. My husband is blissfully unaware ( someday we will talk but not now) I do not know if I will be wanted at the funeral ( his son’s mother is incredibly jealous and she will be there for sure)or even if
    I can go. Terrible weather and 3 hour drive away…I was planning to leave my husband this year, move out on my own and we were planning on making our relationship public. So this is the death of my dearest friend and confident as well as the death of the dreams we had for our future. He was single for many years and told me that the Universe had waited to bring me to him. He was so jubilant of our relationship, so proud of me of everything I did. He was 70 and I am 61. I am heartbroken. I have to work for the next few years but my life has been changed forever. All I know is that he will live in my heart and when my time comes it’s his dear face that will greet me and his hand that will hold mine. His son and I have agreed to stay in touch through emails and phone calls. He is the only one who can understand this grief his father had told us both that we were the only people who mattered to him, the two people he loved the most. His son does not know that I am married I have told him there is a story behind us and I will explain it to him someday.
    Anyway I needed a safe place to unload this pain and I am glad to know that I can put a name to it. I thought to myself today ‘Just how does a person in my situation grieve?’
    I tell you that it ‘helps’ to have a prior diagnosis of clinical depression. People can understand my seeking solitude these past 48 hours ‘ well the holidays have left her a little depressed’ if only they knew.

    • Alicia
      I am so sorry for your loss. Your story touches me and compelled me to comment, even though I have little to say. But even though I am just a stranger on the internet, I want you to know I am thinking of you and your beloved tonight. I wish you peace and healing xxx

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Oh Alicia, I am so sorry for all you are going through. It can be very isolating to feel you have to be private with your grief and not share it in the way you might if circumstances were different. As time goes on you may want to consider your own personal rituals, memorials or remembrances if you find that you are not able to feel included in his family’s memorial and you cannot be open with your own family. I hope you find support here on our site – we have many posts on coping with loss of all sorts in many differet ways, so hopefully you may find something that you connect with.

  18. My ex-husband was just shot and killed while on duty as a law enforcement officer two weeks ago. We were married for almost 24 years and we had 2 children. I am devasted and have been left with no support of any type even my sisters came down and went to the funeral and didn’t contact me at all. I was told that I couldn’t attend the private ceremony because I wasn’t immediate family. Yes he has remarried and they have been together 19 years but ther is a complicated story behind that.. I feel betrayed by my family and am just overwhelmed by what has happened

    • Pam. I think I can help you understand. You see you divorced him and stopped being his family. He remarried and she has all the right to grieve him. Divorce has consequences. All this I’m good your good is just bs. Accept your decision and grieve in silence as a true dignified person would.

  19. Thank you for confirming that I am not alone, and my grief is both valid and normal (at least for me if nothing else).
    I have had two blessedly healthy children and four miscarried surprises in my life with my husband. Three have been since June 2014. The most recent one, this past July, I wasn’t aware of until it was already over. Some say I should just enjoy my two lovely kids. Some say I’m probably just getting too old and should get “fixed”. Even hubby doesn’t understand why I am “still” upset. I feel like I haven’t really been allowed to grieve any of them. Every time my extended family gets together, or every time I see another mom’s baby in the last year, I remember the ones that are missing and I get upset. People just look at me like I have three heads and I feel like I can’t talk about it because there was never a “real person” to miss. But, I can’t help but wonder what my babies would have been like – or how they would have fit with their big sister and brother.

  20. My brother just hung himself on July 26th of this year. I am still in shock and numb. My parents and sister don’t want me to mention the real cause of his death. They want me to just say that he had “health problems” I hate stigma! I think that we should talk about it so that people don’t feel that they have no other option but to end their lives. Maybe if there wasn’t so much stigma around it, he could’ve asked for help. But he wasn’t the type to do that anyways. He figured you just deal with things yourself. Look where it got him. I’m so angry that I can’t grieve properly. I hate living a lie. I wish I could just tell the truth. Maybe it could save some lives.

  21. Excellent articles, thank you. Disenfranchised grief and traumatic grief, so bloody frustrating…my Mother died last September after years of dementia/alzheimers and people still talk to me about her and her life and how the funeral service was lovely. etc. but nobody (apart from his mum obviously) can talk about my sons death. Had he died in a car crash or been murdered or had a fatal heart attack, then sure we could probably talk about that but because he took his own life (Jan 2013), it just seems handier for 99% of people to avoid the subject, family, neighbours and friends, so utterly infuriating and then the “time heals everything” comments and the implied suggestions of, “well that was a few years back, just get over it and get on with life”…the utter sheer stupidity (and insult) of the silence, “did you watch the match last night”, “are you thinking of painting that wall” or “what did you think of what the government announced today”…really, do you think I give a damn…(end of rant) but thank you for letting me post this.

  22. Wow, there is actually a name for what i have been experiencing for years! I was with my ex husband for 20 years. Step parent to his two young children from very young ages to adulthood. When we divorced, we remained close, and co parented our son together. Two years after our divorce, my step son was murdered in senseless act of violence while someone was stealing from the clothing store he worked in. I was no longer married to his father, so i was not considered much during the whole funeral process. I remember walking in, and other than my ex, and my step daughter, no one acknowledged me being there. I sat in the very back of the funeral home during the service, and only because someone outside of my stepsons immediate family knew who i was and offered me a seat. His obituary for some reason, cut like a knife, mentioning he was survived by his father- my ex (who the maternal mother, and her family didn’t care for) and his brother (my son)along with pretty much everyone and anyone that was part of his mothers side of the family, including her boyfriend, who we all knew, my stepson did not get along with at all and ignored all contact with when possible. It has been nearly 14 years and i still don’t feel as though i have fully mourned him. I recall everything about him, his sweet little face when i first met him, his laughter, his grumpy face when he didn’t get his way, so much. I dont mean to sound like his death should have been about me, etc. but not to be acknowledged during that whole process, has been hard. As time has gone by, I have shared this with a few others, and for the most part,they seem to understand, but i just never knew there was a name for this type of grief. It’s certainly very different from any grief i have ever known, and I have lost loved ones due to illness, old age, even grief due to a miscarriage at the end of my first trimester. This is definitely very different.

  23. I am sitting not really knowing what to say here but thank you for this site. I am 51 and happily married, but was never able to have children, as my husband had a vasectomy before we got together. I’ve recently had a big health break down and now on the road to recovery and thinking more about the fact that when I was 17 I became pregnant and had an abortion. This was kept secret from everyone except my parents (now passed on), who never ever talked about it. I have never fully acknowledged this loss, and my sadness about the fact that I had that chance which, as it turned out, would never come again. I am looking for ways to come to terms with this, and not sure whether to raise the subject with my close friends/family. I feel like it’s something Iwould like to shout about, but don’t dare speak.

  24. Commenting on support coming from strange places… had my car in the shop I have gone to for years. ..and the body shop guy told me of a support group for families of drug addicts ( lost son almost 4 weeks ago)

  25. I have a “spiritual” friend who said to me that my husband and my soul contract was over, so I need to get on with life. Seriously? It hasn’t even been 2 years since my best friend, lover, father of our 2 kids, and my entire world died. Then another person told me that my husband had fulfilled his purpose in his and my life, which was to provide me with children, and now he’s “moved on” (died). Seriously? It’s like telling me like I’m not allowed to cry and feel deeply sad that the man (who was a one in a trillion type of person I might add) that shared every moment of my life and who I was closer to than any other human being ever, is now gone and I will never have those happy moments back, or feel those butterflies every time he walked into the room, even 10 years into our relationship. How dare anyone else assume they have any right to judge or belittle me because I feel very real human emotion about my loss. I feel sorry for them, as they clearly have died inside already, and have no compassion for those on their grief journey.

  26. Profile photo of Litsa Williams

    “Suzie” – I am so sorry for all you have been through and the complexity of your grief due to the circumstances. Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this comment. Our blog doesn’t generate revenue and we don’t have ads (by choice) so there are some days that this glorified hobby we have can feel exhausting. We wonder if it is worth it and what the impact is. It is comments like yours that keep us writing! I am so glad to know that this post, and other ideas we have shared, have been a help to you! That is exactly what we hoped for when we created this little corner of the internet. Wishing you much peace as you continue to grieve and heal!

  27. While I’m already very familiar with disenfranchised grief (from a few categories), I readily gobbled up this article, partly as a comfort, and partly because I don’t find there are nearly enough “out there” to help educate others (the non-grievers) about this. And the accompanying photo is FANTASTIC! I want to say, “EXACTLY, world…take THAT!” 😉

    That said, my most recent loss falls under both the categories of “disenfranchised” AND “ambiguous” grief, making it ultra-challenging to deal and live with. After a 5 year, steadily-evolving, increasingly care-giving and close, loving relationship with 2 cats who were not ours on paper, but particularly one of who became unquestionably “mine” in heart and soul, our relationship (and all our emotional and physical supports for each other) was abruptly truncated by their family’s move to another part of town. When we first heard the news, we attempted to adopt them as our own but were refused by the wife, though the husband would have gladly handed them over to us. (these people were very neglectful and uncaring “owners”; these cats, the wife’s “possessions”) However, we were then allowed to keep them ourselves for the last month prior to their new house being ready for move-in, which only cemented and grew our loving bonds all the more. But we have only been allowed to briefly visit them once, shortly after their move, and previous promises of still being allowed to “sit” for them in future have not materialized. And although on occasion I’ve asked after their well-being, no offer to let us even visit them again has come about, either. So I highly suspect I will never, ever see them again. It FEELS like a “stolen pet” (ambiguous) loss, even though I know where they are. But I cannot retrieve them. So I guess you could also call it a “complicated” grief as well. Additionally, these were the last 2 cats of a whole troupe of 8 (“owned” by different people) who all used to hang out at our house every day, some even staying overnight at times (due to neglect), and who have all since been “lost” to me in one way or another over the last 4 years. If I hear ONE more “why don’t you just go get your own, new cats?”, as if any of these unique, individual loves are “replaceable,” they’re going to get that swift shin kick! (and in short, I’m not in a good enough position at present to consider adopting someone new, regardless)

    I’m just devastated, and have lost all faith, hope and trust in the Divine Good, or of things ever “working out” for the best, or of either myself or animals really being supported in Life. Not with endings like THIS always occurring. Even those who know the entire, lengthy history of these last 2 cats, who also claim to be “animal lovers” themselves, have not wished to listen or sympathize longer than a few, short sentences’ worth. When my pain is evident, the subject is rapidly changed. Clearly, I’m expected to just “stuff it” and not burden them with the stress of these types of loss. Nothing has changed in people’s attitudes in decades. There are no local pet loss support groups currently available and not even any other kinds of CAT groups here (there are always LOTS for dogs, but never for felines), and I already know from past experience that trying to find a local therapist who deeply understands the human-animal bond in regards to grief, is a fruitless exercise in my area. I know there are online groups, but really, what *I* need most is the physical presence of someone who can empathize and provide support (so I can see their facial expressions & other body language), and/or even offer the occasional outing to take me out of my isolation, and away from a house I no longer consider a “home” to so many furry loves.

  28. This has been my yoke to bear for almost 12 years. When I was 9 years old, a dear friend of mine who, like me, had spent all too much time up to that point in and out of hospitals, got sick and died. One day he was fine, less than 48 hours later he was gone. My parents wouldn’t allow me to attend his funeral, hid photographs, some of which are still missing. They underestimate how close we were and my mom honestly believes, even now, that going to his funeral and being allowed to say goodbye to him along with everyone else would have done nothing for me because in her mind I was too young to grasp what death even was. For years I have written poems and songs, made musical slide shows with the few photos I have recovered, and occasionally, cried myself to sleep because it’s been made more than clear that I am not allowed to (at least with my parents around) even reminisce about the good old days when we were children. I didn’t just lose my friend that day, I lost the closest thing I have ever had to a brother, I lost my childhood, and my relationship with my mother which I am STILL trying to rebuild. She betrayed me when I needed her the most and it made everything worse because not only did I have to keep my memories and grief for my friend bottled up inside, but I felt as though I’d lost her too. Please, parents, NEVER, EVER, put your children in that situation, if they loose a friend or a family member, support them, don’t try to make them pretend it never happened.

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Chelsea, I am so incredibly sorry for the loss of your friend and the impact it had on the relationship with your mother. We actually have a post on the question of children attending funerals and it would be so helpful if you could copy/paste this comment into the comment section there as well, so parents who visit that article for advice might see the deep impact that this loss and not attending the funeral has had on you. That post can be found here:http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/should-children-attend-funerals/

      I am sure your parents had the best of intentions. Unfortunately, parents often simple don’t know the best things to do when it comes to death, grief, and children. Speaking up about the impact this had on you will, hopefully, help other parents to better support their children in similar situations. Thank you for sharing.

  29. I came across your site looking for info on how to help a friend deal with the feelings of grief upon the death of her ex-spouse. I was surprised to unexpectedly burst into tears after reading ” miscarriage or stillbirth”. One of my full term twin boys was stillborn nearly 30 years ago. I processed that grief as best I couldn’t the time. There are very mixed messages about grieving when you have a healthy newborn too. Over the years, at some predictable times (my sons birthday, HS graduation) and at some unpredictable times, the tears still come. Then love and loss is always present even if tucked away. Thanks for this article. It has already helped me by validating my feelings and it will help me support my friend with hers.

  30. I cannot begin to say how helpful this blog post is. I had never even heard of the term “disenfranchised grief.” Nor did I know that I would ever need to learn it. However, I recently learned that a dear friend has died. We had known each other for twenty years, but began dating (albeit long distance) over five years ago. He was married with children, and he did not want to be separated from the. In the early days of the romance, I learned very quickly not to discuss it. After receiving harsh judgment from several friends, I kept quiet about the relationship. We had fallen out of touch in the last year. I attributed it to several reasons, never imagining he might be ill. Then again, this is an assumption because I don’t know any details about his passing. I’m still processing it all. On the one hand, there is relief: I won’t ever have to face the difficulty of going back to being “just friends”; or the pain of seeing him choose another path now that his kids are adults and he has more options; or finally having a legitimate relationship, but one loaded with issues. Nevertheless, it breaks my heart to know I will not ever see or talk to him in this life. Thanks for listening.

    • Profile photo of Litsa Williams

      Adrienne, I am so sorry to hear about what you’re going through, and I am glad that this article was helpful to you. When you go through a disenfranchised loss, it can be especially hard when you feel like you don’t have the understanding and support from others. Please take care, and we hope you will find our website to be helpful to you!

  31. I’m glad to know that there’s a name for this and that I’m not crazy for feeling the way I do. Two weeks ago, my son’s girlfriend passed away unexpectedly. This is their freshman year of college and they only dated for 5 months, but they, her family, and my husband and I all knew that this was it. They would get married. She was a beautiful, sweet soul and absolutely everything I’d prayed for him to find in a mate. They were taking things slow and being smart, and once I had come to terms with the fact that they were so young, I had accepted and was thrilled that it seemed she would be my daughter-in-law (I’ve prayed hard for my daughters-in-law as I have 4 boys and no daughters of my own). So, not only am I grieving for my son’s loss and his shattered heart, I am mourning the loss of this sweet soul, the future they would have had, and the future I would have had with her as my daughter. A lady I spoke with today said it best when I told her I felt guilty for feeling so much sadness when I don’t feel I have the right to mourn as her parents or family or even my son does. She said, “I understand…she’s yours but she’s not yours.” Some people have been wonderful and have acknowledged my sadness, but others, including my husband’s family, have completely ignored my need to grieve. I pray that, in the future, I am more sensitive to others in my shoes, or similar, and that I make more effort to acknowledge their suffering and pain. School starts back tomorrow for my little boys, as do basketball games and other activities where I’ll have to be around other people. I just don’t know how to act. I don’t have the energy to put on a happy face and make everyone think it’s all okay, and I don’t want to bring everyone down or make them feel uncomfortable. I don’t want people to think I’m making this all about me, but I can’t just fake that it’s all okay. I want to give people love and grace and find joy in my life…I just don’t know how or if I’m expecting too much of myself at 2 weeks out. Life goes on, the world keeps turning. It all makes grief a very lonely place to live.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      I’m sorry for your pain. What you’ve described does indeed sound like a difficult loss to process. I can see where it would be difficult for others to understand all the different ways this young woman’s death has grieved you. Your grief is differently from her families, yes, but everyone’s grief is different and I’m sorry you are coping with this alone. Have you considered journaling about what your going through? We always recommend this for anyone dealing with emotions they don’t feel comfortable talking to others about. Many are very surprised at how helpful this tool is in processing their feelings.


  32. This has been helpful. I am in several of these categories. He was my ex-SO. We had broken up after three years because he could be quite difficult due to a serious mental illness. However, we had remained good friends, got together frequently and talked every day on the phone. We had plans to get together at the end of the week and we talked during the week. I returned a call to him and his phone had been shut off (not uncommon). I tried calling him for days, but his phone continued to be cut off. Not hearing from him was odd, but not unheard of. He had no immediate family, but did have friends in his neighborhood. His parents were deceased and he was an only child. I lived a hour away. Days went by and I tried to figure out how to reach him, but I figured eventually he or somebody would be in touch, as usually happened when he had an episode. Finally I called his case manager to make sure he was all right. He wasn’t. He had been found dead a week before. He had been dead for awhile. Guilt. No one called me. It took weeks for the uninterested family (yes, he had pretty much alienated them) to schedule the funeral. But they didn’t bury him then. I didn’t know where he was for months and finally learned in late winter that he was still at the funeral home. The executor did let me into his house to get a few keepsakes, for which I am eternally grateful. I was prepared for he fact that he would be buried without me knowing it, and he was. Almost a year after he died. So I go to the cemetery and there is a headstone for family members including his mother, but no inscription whatsoever for him. So he’s disenfranchised from his own death and there’s nothing I can do because I’m not family. I can’t make this right.

    My friends and family were glad when we broke up because he didn’t always treat me well and they didn’t really know we had remained friends. I had met the distant family in question, but they didn’t like him and by extension didn’t have anything to do with me. So the only thing left for me is to try to persuade the executor to persuade the family to inscribe the family stone with his name. I have tried to think of another memorial, but everything I come up with that would be meaningfull is way expensive. Plus, I want his name on his grave, damn it! Thanks for reading

  33. “Knowing a loss you have suffered falls into one of the above categories may mean you are more likely to feel unable to share your grief, or are feeling less supported and more isolated.”

    Excuse me, but ONE of the categories? My mess manages to fall into 3 categories, twice into the same one. My mentally ill (high-risk/stigmatized) cyber-aquintance who I am not related to by blood (relationship not acknowledged) died by suicide (stigma again). Maybe it’s my Aspergers that result in me taking things literally, but exactly which category does this fit into if it’s supposed to be one category?

    When people notice that something is off with me they tend to ask what the matter is and offer to help. After I’ve given a brief explanation (like above) they turn around and take of, never to speak to me again. Either that, or they give a lecture about what I’ve done wrong to end up in this mess.

    I’m not exactly able to defend myself against those lectures either. Everything I know is pointing towards the conclusion that I was the last person he spoke to, and I knew what was going on.

    And of course there was the time when I was being pressured to share more than I was comfortable with and managed to insult someone by protesting.

    I also tried turning to a support-chat. The evening finished with someone else who had turned to it trying to support me while the people who were hired for the job discussed… *drums beating* … ice-cream flavors with each other.

    Just spend a couple of weeks pretending that everything’s fine so my mom who blames me for everything that goes wrong wouldn’t find out about this. SO glad to have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow.

    If this was a movie I’d criticize it for being absolutely ridiculous.

  34. Thanks Eleanor.
    It is a little confusing as our relationship wasn’t exactly traditional or regular but it worked for us in a bohemian kind of way I suppose. I wrote the explanation on a really bad day after a melt down so it does ramble a bit.
    I had my first counseling session yesterday and have been reading a lot of your articles which have helped. I’m being very careful to only be around ‘safe’ friends and I’m trying to put the negativity to one side.
    I’ll carry on using your website, it really had been an anchor lately and for that I thank you!

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      I’m so glad you’ve started looking into a little extra support in the form of a counselor and here online. Please let us know if you have any questions in the future we might be able to help with.


  35. My best friend of 16 years died of a random heart attack 4 months ago. He was only 40, fit and well as far as all were concerned.
    We met when I was 21, had a 4 year relationship, travelled and then I left him, emotional immaturity I think and inexperience.
    It becomes awkward from here for some as we continued to live together and did so for 12 years. We became family, like brother and sister. His parents had died and he wasn’t close to his sister. He also survived cancer in this time. I cared for him, took meals to him daily in the hospital, wrote all of his letters and dealt with solicitors and doctors.
    In this time I met someone else and he also moved in, we lived as a family, very happily.
    4 years ago my friend met his girlfriend. Me and my partner decided to travel. We rented the house out and my old friend moved in with a friend for 6 months before moving in with his girlfriend 2.5years ago.
    Then my friend died, suddenly.
    We spent 5 days in hospital whilst he was in a coma, waiting for his sister to come back from holiday before they switched off his life support.
    At that point his girlfriend and sister cut me off and out.
    I was told not to come to the final talk with the consultant
    All information about the funeral was dripped to me through the grapevine of friends that his girlfriend was talking to. I had no direct contact with the funeral to the point I sat at the back of the church and felt awkward going to the internment so I didn’t go.
    I was told to keep my grief on a level when my friends girlfriend was present by another old mutual friend, that blew my mind.
    Now, my friend as in my dead friends girlfriend refuses to talk to me. I can’t go to some places because I make her uncomfortable. Everything I do to do with my grief distresses her and I have been scapegoated and demonised.
    Life is pretty impossible right now.
    I also forgot to mention that I also lost my dad suddenly 10 months ago.
    Getting through all of this feels like a mission.
    Friends keep saying to me that I’m ok because I have my partner. I love him dearly but he isn’t my dead friend or my dad. I find it strange that people can’t make this distinction.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley

      Jo, your situation sounds so frustrating and, frankly, a little confusing. Let me just say this one thing, knowing there are probably other things to consider. You had a life long friendship with this man; you cared for him, you lived with him, you relied on one another. His girlfriend’s grief is in NO WAY more valid or important than your own. You have every right to grieve him the way you want to and the way you need to. Unfortunately, because you are being shut out for whatever reason (and remember grief can make people do hurtful things), you are going to have to think about your relationship with him and find meaningful ways to honor, grieve and remember him in your own way. Don’t let people make you feel like you don’t have a right to honor and remember him, his memory belongs to you as much as to anyone else.

      All that being said, I know you might not want to cause trouble or make waves. Everyone is hurting right now, so a nice person’s inclination is to not make it worse for others (even though others are making it worse for you). But honestly, you don’t need that negativity in your life. Do the things you feel are best for you and the most healthy, everyone else can deal. I’m sorry about your father’s death as well. That is a lot of grief to deal with. We have a post here about dealing with multiple losses, you can find it here. Good luck with everything. I’m sorry for all that your going through.

  36. I was engaged in a relationship with a married man. He was the first love of my life and I hadn’t seen him in 40 years. Love blossomed again and he left his wife to live with me. After a short time, he couldn’t continue and went back to his wife. We were once again on opposite sides of the Atlantic and he continued to phone and write every day. After a few months, he was complaining about a terrible pain in his hip and by the time he went to a doctor for the tests needed, he found he had metastatic cancer in his pelvis, liver and lungs. Six months later he died. When I didn’t hear from him, in my heart I knew what had happened. Close friends found out that he had indeed passed away. The grief I felt then and still do after almost two years is excruciating. My family and friends don’t think that I should be feeling so bad about a man who left me. However, love is love and the heart wants what the heart wants. Who is anyone else to tell me how I’m supposed to feel? All I can tell you is tat before he died, I told him that I had forgiven him for leaving me. I couldn’t let him die without reaffirming my undying love for him. I feel as sad today as I did then. It’s painful.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      Love is not as black and white as people want it to be. You can talk about good, bad, right and wrong but in the end if you loved the man you are going to feel grief that he is now gone. I am sure there are many things left unsaid and yours is a grief that must be processed without a lot of the conventional ritual. I think the best thing you can do is try to find your own ways to remember him and say goodbye. I’m sorry for your loss. I hope things get easier.


  37. I too am going through this. Just found out that my ex husband passed. We are divorced for 4 years but were together for 16. Because of the divorce and the blame placed on me by his family I was unable to attend the funeral or even contact anyone expressing my grief. I did’nt hate my ex, we were simply unable to stay together. He did some things that caused me pain, things I have forgiven long ago. I actually had a close friend tell me “he was a jerk and you shouldn’t care that he’s dead.” I was speechless! How can anyone decide for me whether I have the right to grieve! People can be so thoughtless! Greif is grief! It does not have to be valadated by anyone to be real! I refuse to let anyone make me feel like he does not deserve grief!

  38. Going through this now. Lost a dear friend of mine to suicide, but don’t feel as though I have a space to grieve. I am going to try going to a support group for survivors of suicide, but I’m afraid of angering people who lost a child or spouse or other family member. I am afraid they will feel like I don’t have a right to feel the way I feel because my loss isn’t as significant. I recognise this and I am sorry to those people who feel that way but I can’t help it.

    • Profile photo of Eleanor Haley


      I am sorry if you encounter (have encountered) anyone who feels this way. Grief is grief. I understand your concern though, it can sometimes be difficult to find a support group that is a good fit. If you have insurance or an Employee Assistance Program you might want to consider one-on-one counseling, even just a few sessions could help and that way you wouldn’t have to worry about people comparing and judging. Just a thought.


    • You do not need to defend your right to grieve. Other people have no right to decide who we grieve for, what form it takes or how long it takes. Grief, even within a support group is ultimately a very private thing. Only you will know when your grieving process is complete. DO not allow quilt to be part of the process! You have done nothing wrong! Peace to you!

  39. Another type of disenfranchised grief is when one partner in a “stormy relationship” dies. Especially if the family of the deceased view the survivor as having been “at fault” for the problems in the relationship. Which may or may not have been true.

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *