Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Litsa Williams

Disenfranchised grief: you may have heard this term thrown around and wondered what it is all about. Disenfranchised grief is an example of a very common grief experience that can sound very abstract and academic.

It has a slightly opaque name. You don't hear it often in casual conversation. You find it primarily in academic articles about grief. But understanding disenfranchised grief really helps people in grief. 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 murky term all about? If one is disenfranchised they are deprived of the right to something. So 'disenfranchised grief' would imply that anyone experiencing this type of grief has been denied the right to grieve

If you have never suffered this sort of loss it's hard to imagine how one could be deprived of the right to grieve. Grief is personal, right? We say that all the time. So, who could possibly deprive me of 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 and these rules can be subtle or explicit. Typically, it isn't until a person experiences the death of a loved one that they are even completely aware of the attitudes and expectations. For example, expectations to grieve a certain way, for a certain length of time, the pressure to get over it, to stop talking about it, etc.

Disenfranchised grief takes "grief rules" to another level by dictating who is entitled to grieve. This in turn, dictates who receives support, acknowledgment, and validation in their grief. The stinging pain of these societal expectations is excruciating when your relationship with someone significant is not acknowledged or the impact of the loss is minimized.

Grief becomes disenfranchised when you don’t have societal validation of our loss and subsequent grieving process. Society says you shouldn't be grieving, or shouldn't be grieving so much. So you feel like you can’t talk about it. This can leave you feeling like you can’t find support. You're alone. Or you think your feelings are wrong.

What others think impacts what we think (and feel)

disenfranchised grief 6

You 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 that people internalize every day. When everyone is saying you have no right to grieve or you are grieving wrong, it is hard not to believe it on some level.

And if you don't have support from those closest to you, it becomes even more difficult to adjust to life after a death. You may constantly hide your grief because others are uncomfortable. You may feel no one understands you. 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 the name disenfranchised grief 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 to the basics that a griever should understand, which is basically that disenfranchised grief can arise anytime a person feels that society has denied their "need, right, role, or capacity to grieve" (Doka, 1989). This happens for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways, but here are some basics:

Society says the relationship isn’t important.

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 acknowledgment 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)

Society stigmatizes the death.

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

Society stigmatizes the relationship.

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 non-death losses so their grief goes unacknowledged. 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)

But what does this mean for you?

Okay, great, so we made a big list. You might be asking how does this help regular old grievers? Well, for starters, understanding that grief can be more complicated and difficult when is disenfranchised can help a person feel a little more normal if they 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 to receive effective support. 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 feeling disenfranchised - great! This 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 above, 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.

"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 when it is important to acknowledge that some of the dynamics with disenfranchised grief are internal- in how you internalize and experience this failure of society to support your “need, right, role, or capacity to grieve”. And some of if it is external - which you 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 [I strive for] the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Ok, now that we've done that, let's think about the areas where you might be able to have an impact. A good place to start is by looking at your own attitudes about grief and your specific loss.

It can help to . . .

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 acknowledgment 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. Acknowledge others whose 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.

So What Now?

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. People 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. Collectively 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.

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136 Comments on "Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief"

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  1. Slava  February 7, 2024 at 3:06 pm Reply

    I really believe that losing a romantic relationship due to a breakup is another form of disenfranchised grief, and should be added to the list. The other person is still alive, but they are gainfully out of our lives, leaving a bleeding hole in the soul, and a sense of loss and agony like almost no other.

  2. Randi Lynne W  January 18, 2024 at 4:13 pm Reply

    In 2018 I suffered many losses. My father, mother and therapist of 30 years all passed away in the same 7 weeks. There were other losses that year including the ending of a friendship, due to her not coping well with my grief. I still struggle with loss. I created a YouTube tribute to my therapist, who was like a 3rd parent to me. [link removed by admin]Randi

  3. Sarah  May 26, 2022 at 5:13 am Reply

    I’m an only child of divorced parents. After my parents divorce, I became estranged from my dad. Years went by and I prayed for a healed relationship. When I was 21, I received a hate letter from him attacking everything about me. I was completely crushed and devastated. At the age of 23, newly married and with our 2 month old son, I received the phone call that my dad had suddenly died. He didn’t have a will and I had to go through probate and finalize his affairs. My sister-in law told me “Well, but you weren’t that close with him.” In going through his things and in events that followed, it became clear that my dad was very unwell and filled with hate and anger. I grieve the hope that our relationship could ever be healed. I struggle to free myself from his hate and condemnation. The pain I hold from our relationship is lonely, heavy and complicated. It’s now been 5 years since his death and I’m still coming to terms with our relationship and his death. The death of an unliked person is so isolating. He was still my dad.

  4. Sarah  March 5, 2022 at 11:40 pm Reply

    No one is going to relate to this grief…

    I no longer speak to a former mentor-friend of mine that I knew throughout all of my college undergrad experience. He’s still alive and quite well. We didn’t end on bad terms. He’s 5 years older than me and I absolutely adored him… still do. I never told him how I felt and I downplayed it because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of being around him for the long haul, and I feared that I idolized him; I didn’t want to over-rely on him. We parted ways after I left college… that was 10 years ago now.

    We’re both married now to other people. And even in the moments that my marriage is great… I just really miss this friend. I thought that once I married someone else, I’d stop missing this old friend so much. Yet 8 years into my marriage, I still keep looking around hoping to run into him somewhere, but he’s not even in this city anymore. I miss the fun group outings with him, the deep life-changing convos, and just the example he set for how to live by my faith. And I think of the memories I’m missing with him now. I’ve had a dream of our daughters growing up together… not happening.

    Society would say I never had a relationship with him so I shouldn’t grieve. Society would say he’s still alive and quite well so I shouldn’t grieve. Society would say I’m not practicing gratitude for my marriage and I’m being lustful, and if I truly practiced gratitude I wouldn’t grieve. Society (and my therapist) would tell me this grief is an indicator of what’s missing in my marriage, and I am really just seeking fulfillment in my marriage. Yet even when everything is great.. I miss him. In the moments that everything is great, I wish he were there to celebrate with me.

    It’s my own dumb fault for choosing not to seek closure. Yes we both married other people, so that should be all the closure I need… The other day a radio anchor said, “if you care about someone, tell them.” And I broke down. I never told him what he meant to me. And now I likely never will for fear of what it could do to our marriages. I feel silenced… and my heart literally aches.

    Most days feel like such a battle with grief. And my husband has no idea, but the heaviness on my heart is affecting my marriage… I haven’t been as patient with my husband as I need to be.

  5. Wiie  January 21, 2022 at 11:41 am Reply

    My father died in February 1973, I was 15 months old.

    There are times (like this past week) where I feel his loss deeply, and I have no one to talk to about it, because the common response is: “How can you miss someone you never knew?”

    People don’t understand the loss, the “what ifs” that mill around in our heads and never truly go away.

    Now I finally know about and understand the concept of disenfranchised grief, and hopefully, at the ripe age of 50, I can finally start the healing process.

    Thank you for the article

  6. Cynthia Reyes  November 13, 2021 at 5:18 am Reply

    On October 13, 2021, I watched my ex-husband take his last breath. We were divorced only 16 months and although we couldn’t live together, we were great friends. We still loved each other and would do anything for each other.
    Paul had a heart attack. But the heart attack wasn’t want killed him right away. The length of time it took for the ambulance to get to him along with him coding a few more times, left him with little to no brain activity. I was still listed as his emergency contact. Since we had moved out of state a few months after we got married, both our families were hundreds of miles away. Paul was on a ventilator and couldn’t survive without it. His family made the decision to take him off life support. They asked me to be there with him and hold his hand while he took his last breaths. There was no way I was going to let him die alone so not only did I say yes, I felt it was the last gift I could ever give him. I laid down next to him and put my hand on his chest as it slowly raised and fell. And I cried, and cried and cried. I told him how much I still loved him. I apologized for every crappy thing I ever did to him. I cried because I was losing my friend. The man who I thought at one time I was going to grow old with. The first man in my life who ever told me I was beautiful. I didn’t want him to go but I couldn’t stop it. After he stopped breathing, I stayed next to him, holding him tight and just sobbing, “Oh Paul, oh Paul, what am I going to do without you?”
    It has been a month now and I still feel so incredibly sad. I cry almost every day and it’s just waves of tears that seem almost uncontrollable. I talk to him out loud like he’s in my apartment. I look over at the sofa, where he crashed on so many occasions, and just ask him, are you here? I think I feel him but I don’t know if it’s my grief. I think I hear him and feel him, but again, I don’t know. His family have been so supportive of me. They knew we had a special bond and they knew that despite everything that happened in our marriage, Paul told everyone that he was still in love with me. And that makes me cry more. And when I’m lying in my bed, looking at his picture and listening to a song that reminds me of him, I am reduced to a puddle of tears, I ask him, out loud, “Why did you have to go?”
    When will this incredible pain end?

    • iRol  February 26, 2022 at 5:30 am Reply

      cynthia i have never experienced this feeling tht iam feeling right now. . i cant even explain it but you have me soo emotional right now…(and not in a bad way ok) its been 1 year 3 months and 6 days that i been feeling alone and tht ugly feeling tht no one will ever understand me… or should i say Understand US.
      the way you described your guys love and how u said it has you feeling since he passed is like you were talking about me and the love of my life…

      • Vivi  January 24, 2024 at 1:15 am

        I just learned my uncle died a few weeks ago in a really sad and lonely manner. He’d been gone for weeks before anyone noticed. I barely knew this man, and his actions had pushed everyone in the family away from him so he was hardly around as I grew up, but he’d only ever been kind to me as a child, and I’m suddenly thinking about him more than I ever did while he was alive. We hadn’t even spoken in years, and yet I just keep thinking about how he was all alone. I don’t want to bother my family with these feelings as I don’t feel like I much deserve to grieve over him like I do, so this really was a comfort to read. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  7. Kristine  March 13, 2021 at 8:10 pm Reply

    I feel so alone. My stepfather who I cherished died 18 years ago. My real dad died 2016, horrible abusive jerk whom I’ve never missed. My moms family all passed within last 10 years, my favorite aunt died November 2018, my only sibling died May 2019, my mom died February 2021 my loving cat died four days later. I’m crushed beyond comprehension. The only living relative I have is my son who doesn’t understand my loneliness nor does he seem to care. He never calls me I know he’s busy with college and everything else he has going on. My mom was an antique dealer so instantly those vultures want all her stuff for almost free but acting like they’re helping me out. I’ll admit I’ll a lost soul and so sad. I don’t know what to do or where to turn. The town I live in is not a big one but right now I’ve never felt so alone. I’m in middle of trying to get my moms house cleaned out, think hoarder slash junk. It’s not a small house so a lot has gotten thrown out with many people telling me I’m going about it wrong. I’ve sold most everything she had at antique mall to one of her so called friends for pennies on the dollar because I need rid of this situation so I can figure out where to go from here. I cry constantly I wish I would wake up and this terrible situation would be over. Most nights I hope I don’t wake up the next day. I miss my mom and brother. How do I help myself?

  8. Ann Hodges  June 1, 2020 at 10:00 pm Reply

    in the past two years i have experienced my sister’s nearly successful suicide attempt, her subsequent healing and moving in with me; my mom’s death after 15 years of dementia; the death of my best friend’s brother and helping her clean out his hoard of garbage; the death of a very good elderly friend who was like a parent to me; the death of my 12 year old cat; the demise of my 17 year marriage to a man i have known for 45 years who decided that my paying attention to my sister gave him the right to have an affair and his unwillingness to engage in the divorce process. Losing him feels like an amputation, and he says just to move on because “things didn’t work out.” Wow.
    / This deluge brought up the grief i feel about losing a baby when i was 36 years old. It brings up the loss i feel when my stepdaughter gets engaged and i know i won’t be a part of her life anymore. it brings up the sadness i feel at losing my immediate family and all the future events i was looking forward too, including welcoming grandchildren. it seems the grief piles on until i can hardly breathe. / i am having such a hard time moving on with anything. / few people know the extent of what i have dealt with in the past two years. i know grief has its own timetable, but i was unprepared for the cumulative nature of it. i am absolutely stuck in a terrible place of indecision and overwhelming sadness.

  9. David  April 11, 2020 at 9:59 am Reply

    There isn’t a single person on this list that went through and abortion. I’m a male. When I was 22 my girlfriend became pregnant. We talked and decided to have an abortion. I was fine with it for 8 years. And out of now where I feel sad, depressed and guilty. I can’t talk to anyone about it. And I have no one to relate too. This page proved to me even more so that I’m alone. I feel like I’ll never be a good dad. Something I’ve wanted my whole life and cherish. I feel like I don’t deserve it. I would give anything to have someone convince me that’s not true. I just want someone to tell me it’s ok. Someone to help me feel like I’m not a piece of shit. I told my current girlfriend about it, because it’s the right thing to do and she judged me. Hard. Our relationship hasn’t been the same since. I don’t know how to do this. This is literally killing me.

    • Anna  April 14, 2020 at 3:25 am Reply

      Almost two years ago I had an abortion I was not ready and I’m still not ready to be a mother and my boyfriend wasn’t ready to be a father. We were 20. I know how you feel honestly. I didn’t get to process anything till now and I feel like my boyfriend doesn’t understands what I went through even though I try to explain it. Your not alone and one day you will be a good father and I don’t think you should be judged for it.

    • Marsea Sanchez  August 17, 2020 at 5:01 am Reply

      David you are not alone. You are unique in the fact that you are a man coming forward with very real and raw emotions. Revealing a side of abortion that people may not consider, since most view things from the woman’s perspective. Feelings of guilt, sadness and regret can be overwhelming for individuals in your situation. Even for people who do not consider themselves religious. I am religious, and I’m sharing this with you because you said you would give anything to get some relief from the painful burden you carry.
      First, Read Isaiah 1: 18 There God is requesting you to come to him and set matters straight.
      Why? So that he can forgive you. Next go to the FREE official website of JW.org. there is a article in the Awake 2017 magazine about abortion and how forgiveness is possible.
      It gives the example of King Manasseh of Judah who did some terrible things in his life. In fact
      2 Kings 21:6 says he did on a grand scale what was bad. However he managed with sincere prayers to restore his relationship with God at
      2 Chronicles 33:13 and became a mentor and good example to his grandson King Josiah. So Please don’t give up hope. Psalms 51:17 assures us that God will not reject a heart broken and crushed. You can be made whole again. And please do not ignore feelings of suicide. Seek help immediately when such emotions start creeping in. Your life is precious, protect it.

      • Diane  November 21, 2020 at 7:06 pm

        That’s helped me a bit thank you Marsea; and David, you’re not alone, I’m agonising over regret too. My abortion was 2 months ago because I felt too old (nearly 47) and all one side of my husband’s family have died in their fifties and early sixties of cancer so I was partly scared of raising a 4th child alone into my mid-sixties and partly worried that if I die too before the child reached adulthood, it would fall on my eldest child who is now at uni and I didn’t feel that was fair on her. But my husband and I are normally very positive people and I have a strong faith and always put all my trust in God… but not this time. Instead I only saw all the negatives and possibly rushed into the decision in panic. I kept saying I didn’t recognise myself in the decision because I’ve never felt abortion would be right for me unless the baby was very ill (although I’m not anti-abortion because I don’t believe in judging other people as everyone’s decisions are shaped by different life experiences) but I’m in complete turmoil now. I feel like I’m in shock, can’t believe or come to terms with what I’ve done, can now see all the positives that could have been. So I really do feel for you David and hope you find happiness soon because you sound like you’ll be an amazing dad when the time is right; and thank you Marsea.

    • Trinity  October 9, 2020 at 9:02 pm Reply


      I hope you can find forgiveness for yourself without regard to society. It will be the only way to move forward. Please consider that you will likely be a better, more loving, more cherishing parent because of your experience. You will be a father who will value his child and feel so lucky for the opportunity.

      If you can’t find forgiveness, please consider talking to a professional who can support you as you work out your feelings of grief, which includes guilt.

      Take care,

    • Lisa  February 16, 2021 at 12:57 pm Reply

      David, just found this web site today (dealing with my own grief) and saw your post. I hope you are still alive and coping as best as you can. Some thoughts: write a letter, poem or lullaby to your lost child. Tell them…anything you wish you could tell them. Give the child a name. Read the poem or story or letter, or play the lullaby under the stars one night, perhaps on the anniversary of the date the child was aborted. Ask God for healing and forgiveness, and ask the child for forgiveness too. There is a lot of love in this world for you, despite how dark it may seem. God bless.

    • Katie  February 19, 2021 at 2:34 am Reply

      Please contact “Focus on the Family“ through K-Wave 107.9 Radio Station. They have a support group. You are not alone

    • Steven  March 3, 2021 at 5:23 pm Reply

      David, I’m a man at 53 and found my way onto this page for other grief reasons and came upon your letter. I’m not religious whilst at the same time I am fine with others being religious; I just needed you to know that so you can see I am simply a man a bloke, just like you. With all the ups and downs; and you will be feeling inside that traditional society expects you to be solid, silent and stoic. I’m proud of you for finding the grown up sense in yourself to reach out for advice.

      Getting straight to the point I want to say it was not your fault or the lady who spent time with you. Please take yourself back ten years and look at what society was telling 22 year olds. What with all our modern science we feel we have mastered the universe and we can do anything. Modern society seems to have taught us that it’s ok to decide when we choose to create life, and if we choose in a moment to back out of that decision then it seems there is nothing to worry about. This is what you were taught by society but people who suffer the loss associated through abortion know otherwise, you were only 22 years old, only a young man starting out. At 53 I still remember that hot passion of desire as a youth and even if you had been spoken to about contraception (Which sometimes does not work) you would not have been warned about the impact on your life an abortion could have on you and perhaps also on your first real girlfriend. There seems to be a distinct absence in our world of elders who are able or allowed to nurture our youngsters on the gravity and importance of life and how valuable it is to us.

      Now you’re around thirty, this is when the feelings and need to be a father really do kick in, if not earlier. I promise you that you are not only grieving the loss of your child (Which is correct to recognise) but your wishing to be a father too. This will help you choose a good woman as you will look for someone who will be a good mother and you’ll find you’ll respect them for other things as we well as being attractive and fun to be with. You can also respect yourself as you will have the opportunity to be a father and you can love and protect and be that solid grown up elder for your new born when he or she decides to come into the world. Do not forget the child that you lost, just please know that you were 22 and 22 years olds have not been taught about life, your unborn child will know that and will not wish for you to be in constant pain. You really are allowed to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven. Just don’t forget.

      As for your current girlfriend, perhaps give her some time or even let her read your letter and the replies on the page. It’s a difficult topic and your girlfriend is likely not aware of your despair and perhaps it is warming that she is so protective of the unborn. Is that a good mother I see here? Or is it some kind of trickery to fight with or control you, only you will know. Only you will know who is right for you once you recognise what it is to be a parent and what other parents should be.

      So let’s move forward. Get yourself a shower and shave, smart clean shoes and a smart shirt. Take your lady out and start interviewing for a good quality mother so you can be that good quality, smart looking and caring dad. Just don’t either of you pretend to yourselves if it’s not working out.

      Chin up mukka you’ll do ok 😉


    • Tracy  March 5, 2021 at 7:28 pm Reply

      Hello David; I realise this is a long time since your post. I have just come across this site after the unexpected death of my husband 3 days ago.
      I do believe I can offer some substantial empathy with my experience of abortion and tell you that no, you are not a piece of shit. Please comment if you are still in this low place and I will try and offer some practical advice. Best wishes Tracy.

      • Sarah  April 7, 2021 at 12:10 pm

        Hello Tracy,

        This will seem so odd. But I had an abortion a month ago. And I can’t stop crying.

        I killed my child, and I did it to save a man some inconvenience.

        I need to know if this gets better?

  10. Dani  November 13, 2019 at 3:16 pm Reply

    This makes so much more sense to me. 8 years ago, September 2nd 2011 I lost a girl who I was sorta friends with for about a week or two. I had just met her, made friends with her sister as well (we were all in band together in high school). I have one vivid memory with her the first day I met her, it was my junior year of high school so I was 16 and she was 15 at that time. That night on the 2nd she was brutally murdered, 100 yards from her neighborhood gate and literally a 10 minute walk from where I was living at that time. When it all first happened I remember I was devastated. It happened SO CLOSE to my home, it could’ve been myself. Then I put the name to the face and realized I knew her. I was told my “friends” that I wasn’t close to her, I wasn’t her sister and I needed to move on. From that moment on I never let myself grieve her. I always thought I didn’t deserve too. It wasn’t until last year I finally told myself my feelings and emotions are valid, and it was okay for me to feel how I felt. I finally allowed myself to grieve her and the pain was unimaginable. Since last year I have gotten better with moving forward, but when I find myself missing her or having feelings that I miss her, I try and talk myself out of it because I feel in a way I don’t have a right to miss her, because I only knew her for 2 weeks. My boyfriend tells me that it doesn’t matter the amount of time known, that at some point there was a connection made with her.
    Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I got summoned for jury duty. The case I have been assigned is a first degree murder – death penalty case, and the victims name is the SAME as my friends. My friends killer also had a first degree murder – death penalty case as well. Lately I’ve been feeling all kinds of different emotions. Anger, sadness, major anxiety etc. My mom thinks if I do have to be on the jury for this case it will help bring some closure in the sense I am able to help another girl who so happens to have the same name get justice since I was unable to help get justice for my friend. Thank you for this post, it has helped me understand I’m not crazy and that it’s okay to grieve her even if the friendship was short with only one vivid memory.

    • Ruth  September 17, 2020 at 4:25 am Reply

      Hi Dani,

      I’m so sorry for your loss of your friend. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you. I lost a friend of mine thirteen years ago, who was diagnosed with cancer and was blogging about his experience living with cancer. Although our method of communication was through FB and email, my friendship with Miles meant so much to me. After he died, I was shattered however I never felt I had the right to grieve for his death because of not having known him well enough. It’s not until recently when I’ve started to understand that I do have the right to mourn and my feelings are 100% valid. Just like yours, Dani. I hope you know this. I hope you never allow anyone to belittle your pain and grieve over your friend’s death. I wrote an article about disenfranchised grief and I hope it may help. Take care and stay safe.


  11. Caroline  October 12, 2019 at 3:51 am Reply

    2 years ago I worked overnight as a CNA at the hospital. My first night back after being away for 2 months. My assignment that night was to do one on one with the supposedly a very combative guy that went through a very bad alchol withdrawal. We talked most of my shift and after my shift was done I realize how much I really wanted to help him. He was a gentle nice young man who was lost and went through such a bad time. After few weeks I decided to reach out to him through Facebook. To see how he was doing. We talked for couple of months. Supported each other. One day i decided that it’ll be best for us not to talk to each other because of how much it takes time out of me while I was very busy. I just stopped talking to him. He tried to reach me multiple times but I ignored him. I think of him often though. I try to reach back this year in Feb but he ignored me and I absolutely understand that. I was thinking about him couple days ago and was trying to reach him. Thats when I found out he passed away in July. I have been crying and very devastated since then. I barely know this guy but I have been crying since. I think im going crazy. I kept reading his obituary, looking at our text/ims that we sent to each other. And it makes me miss him even more. I did not know that his death would devestated me this bad.

  12. littlefriendly  August 5, 2019 at 5:30 pm Reply

    Wow, a term to explain what I have felt. Of course I’m not the only one! And not the only way to experience it. It’s been almost 5 years since my step-father killed himself. At the time I was 17 years old. I found him and was very involved with him up until the day he died. He had been a father figure in my life since I was 4. I felt saying my step-father died didn’t capture the depth of grief I was feeling. He wasn’t my husband. He wasn’t my biological father. He wasn’t my son. I felt so overlooked during this time. Everyone was worried about my mother and younger sister, his blood child. All while I was the one planning funeral arrangements and making sure the house was taken care of. Now, I am able to have gratitude for the strength it has given me. My heart still throbs. I believe I will miss him for the rest of my life. It was so transformative, such a pivotal point of my life. Grief never goes away, just changes.
    Love to you all grieving, you’re not alone!

  13. TBG  July 25, 2019 at 4:36 pm Reply

    For about a decade, I was in love with my best guy friend. We never actually dated, but we couldn’t let each other go. In moments we were alone together, it’s like every bit of tension he carried would dissolve and he’d slump in relief against me. He was my best friend, and I just knew that we’d eventually be together. It felt so natural. In November 2017, I noticed he was becoming more honest about how he felt for me; he wanted me around all the time and even though he was a private person, he became so openly adoring. I was standoffish and in fear; I kept questioning it – why now?
    Then, a couple of months later, he was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. After his diagnosis, I got to see him, my best friend and the man I’d been in love with for well over nine years, a total of two times before he passed away in the summer of 2018. Just days before, I’d taken him for coffee. He was almost unrecognizable, but he said he was feeling better and getting healthier. He was so positive and was walking around like normal. There was no doubt in my mind that he would survive. Soon after, he was admitted back to the hospital after his health suddenly plummeted. I had to travel a few hours away during those few days, but his roommate text me that he was doing better and going back home, so I sent him a text that I loved him and that all I wanted was for him to get better. On the 21st, I woke up to a missed call from him – he never called unless it was important – but he didn’t answer when I called back. Hours later, after I sent him a text panicking, he texted me back that he was alive and everything was good. He never told me why he called, and by that night, he had suddenly mentally deteriorated. Five days later, he was gone.
    He was the world to me, my future, and now he doesn’t exist. The hardest part is that I have basically had to go through this alone; I wasn’t his family, his wife, not even really his girlfriend. We loved each other in such a strong, complicated way for so long. We rarely allowed our friends to invade our relationship bubble. It was delusional – our thinking that if nothing was allowed in, then nothing could taint the rarity of what we were to each other. How do you even explain that to people who don’t truly understand it? From the outside, I look like the stranger, even though I knew him better than most.
    I’ve felt entirely isolated for the past year; I’m not even sure what moving forward would look like or if I could even have as strong of a connection or chemistry with anyone else. But I’m so glad to know that, after reading this article, I’m not the only one who struggles in such a way.

    • Trinity  October 9, 2020 at 9:18 pm Reply


      You are definitely not alone. I had a long time friend and in our story, I was in love with him first because we dated before resolving to be friends when he felt commitment was not for him.

      He recently died without saying he was dying or sick but there had been signs from the time I knew him and I’m left to wonder if that was why we were so close and understood and loved each other all of these years without being a couple.

      I have grieved so hard and unexpectedly since his death. It’s a double grief of the first loss for the first romantic loss from years ago and now the loss of our forever friendship. I realized I had only buried the love because grief unearthed it all.

      No one from his world knows me or the conversations, bond, or intimate moments we shared and no one responds to me. In my own world, my grief is minimized, dismissed, discouraged, shamed, and disenfranchised by family and friends who have never felt or experienced this.

      It helps so much to read your story and to recognize your pain. Thank you for sharing and please give yourself permission to feel these very natural and painful feelings of grief. It IS complex and layered and causes a different variety of pain and grief.

      My sympathies and empathy to you,

  14. Dominique  May 28, 2019 at 1:36 pm Reply

    I just found out that this “disenfranchised grief “ is a thing and I’m just beginning to process my feelings with my therapist. I am the birth mother to a son I gave up for adoption 31 years ago. I was also adopted myself when I was 4 days old. Additionally, my birth parents passed away before I got the chance to meet them. I never felt like I could grieve their loss because adoption is still pretty taboo in my family. I have much to work through but I feel like, with this knowledge, I will make it out the other side eventually.

  15. T  May 13, 2019 at 8:42 am Reply

    My ex husband and I got back together several years later after our divorce. We were in a serious committed long term relationship (his words) for 4 years up until his death. We were together when he died. Still, I was referred to his “former spouse” in the obituary with no mention of our current relationship. We were in love. I’m deeply hurt that our current relationship wasn’t acknowledged fully. I was also introduced as a former wife from a family member. I got mixed reactions from others (confusion, support, or not even acknowledged). I was his partner at the end. Love is love.

  16. L  April 21, 2019 at 1:05 pm Reply

    I’m glad to see adoption listed – this is often not seen as a grief situation. There are TWO parts to adoption, however, the first being that a child must first be obtained before an adoption order can be made. Loss TO adoption for the majority of women, and men, whose infants were taken from them is one of the most disenfranchised griefs on the planet. Stereotypes, secrecy, criminal activity, coercion, trauma, ambiguous loss, rejection and so much more, Grief worsens over the years, it does not dissipate. So many apply Just World Theory, that mothers/parents must have been “bad” in order for such a bad thing as having their baby taken away forever (and their grandchildren etc), when in majority of cases they weren’t “bad” at all. To make matters worse, those who obtain the child often say this is a “good” thing, and many assume God’s given this “good” thing to them, yet it’s proven that many children were obtained illegally! Sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. For those who’ve had our babies taken forever for no good reason, we get to experience what hell on earth feels like for the rest of our lives, and very few give a damn. In fact, many expect us to be grateful to have supplied an infertile couple with a baby, that God will bless us for that. The penultimate disenfranchised grief – we’re to be happy & grateful that we’re devastated and damaged till the day we die. And we deserve it for being so bad as to let our baby be taken. No win situation. It’s character building, that’s for sure.

    • Stephen  October 31, 2019 at 8:49 am Reply

      I’m relieved you mentioned adoption, I’m adopted myself but my adopted parents divorced a few years after they adopted me. I wondered for years why I never heard from my adopted dad,still no word after 30 odd years. My adopted Mum met another guy afterwards,had kids and guess what,they separated also!
      You can take a wild guess as to how my relationships turned out, I was in love a few years back and I’m still grieving that. I grieve my former mothers and I genuinely want to run at the thought of intimacy.
      Character building,certainly! It’s put a lot of things in perspective also, I have nothing in common with my friends anymore cos my life has been purely surviving, I’m happy on my own anyway.

  17. B  April 21, 2019 at 2:36 am Reply

    I lost a friend of mine over a year ago and I still feel weird about grieving. She had such a close group of friends that i wasn’t really in and I guess because of that I always felt like my grief had to be secondary to everyone elses. Thank you for laying this out for me. It helps me feel validation when I need it.

  18. Diable  April 12, 2019 at 7:20 am Reply

    A health practitioner who I’ve been a patient of for the past seven years just passed away. No one told me in the eight months she was ill that she was sick. Let alone that the final prognosis was that she had weeks to live. I found out she was sick the day before she died, but it was watered down from what it actually was. And I found out she died a day after the funeral. What no one knows is that I had a mental illness five years ago and she was instrumental in pulling me back from that. So I was devastated. I am so sad because I never said goodbye or thank you or got a chance to return the favour. I have no one to talk to about this as I don’t know her friends and my friends don’t know her and people don’t think I should be so sad. It is good to hear I am not the only one who feels guilty about being sad.

    • janet wilks  April 22, 2019 at 12:39 pm Reply

      “I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m sure you will be eternally grateful for what that Dr. did for you. People like that are rare gems in this screwed up world we try to live in. I’m new at this, but wanted to respond.

  19. Marie  March 3, 2019 at 4:00 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for explaining this! I let my son’s paternal grandparents adopt him when he was very young because at the time I was very ill (I’m disabled) and I wasn’t able to take care of him alone and my ex-husband was no help at all (we got divorced). Even though I know I made the right decision at the time, this is how I feel. It’s so hard to explain in you’ve been there. It’s like waking up every day and reliving a death over and over.

  20. Alisha  December 26, 2018 at 12:23 am Reply

    This was so helpful! My loss wasn’t a death. My loss was my church closing. A huge part of my life was being super involved in the church and then we had to close. So much difficult grief. People just don’t understand.

  21. KD  September 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm Reply

    I lost my best friend a little over a year ago and I’m still feeling devastated. I met him through work on October of 2015 and by June of 2016 we began dating. He had recently separated from his wife and our relationship was a bit taboo because he wasn’t legally divorced. We had an instant connection and spent just over a year in a serious relationship. We talked everyday and spent at least 3-5 days a week together. We both had young daughters so we spent a lot of time together with them. He was everything I ever wanted in a man and I had never been in love before. He began to talk about marriage about 6-7 months into the relationship and I expressed that I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t even been in a long-term relationship. His exact words to me were “I think we can get through anything as long as we are together”. We shared so many deep and intimate conversations and spent so much quality time just enjoying each other. He would surprise me at work with flowers or lunch and just made me feel like I was the best thing that ever happened to him. When I asked if he was sure he wanted to get married soon after a divorce, he assured me that he had spent some time dating and that wasn’t the lifestyle that he wanted. He found exactly what he w as looking for in me and I in him. Last year he died suddenly in an accident at work and my whole world changed. When I couldn’t reach him for an entire day I knew something was off but the next morning I had to find out he had passed through social media! My heart was shattered. I, of course, was not received well be his ex but his family was nice to me. I went to view the body and part of the funeral but it was dedicated to his ex and kids. I didn’t want to cause any more grief for anyone so I just removed myself from the entire situation. I speak to his sister sometimes but I will never see his girls again and that hurts in itself. I was able to have a few days off at work using PTO but everyone just expected me to move on like my heart wasn’t broken. I did seek out a therapist and found comfort in my faith but a year later I am still just as heartbroken and in shock. He was my first true love and my only best friend. Though we were official a little over a year, it was like we know each other forever. He met my entire family and was even mentoring a cousin. I would talk to him about anything and he accepted me for me and I for him. I thought we were soul mates because I had never had a man love me so much and take such good care of me. We would talk about our future together and wanted to buy and RV and travel the country when our girls went away to college. We had so many dreams and now I find myself feeling lost 🙁

    • Mary  August 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm Reply

      Dear Brian:
      Three weeks ago, I learned that you are dead. I haven’t spoken to you in about 15 years and I can’t believe the regret that I feel about it. You’ve been dead for almost six months now. I have no idea whether you suffered, where you are interred, where I could go to pay my respects at your resting place. The day you died, I was teaching.
      I remember the first time we met. There was so much chemistry that the air crackled. We talked and laughed for hours. I remember listening to your stories and almost crying because I was laughing so hard.
      The lovemaking was never very important to either of us—it was the talking that was key. When that part of our relationship died, we just went on without it. I wanted to be friends with you for the rest of my life.
      You came and spoke to my classes about Russia. I helped you with a project you were working on. We went to Philadelphia together, and we met a couple of times a month for dinner for years.
      Then, you were a jerk and I reacted by Acting Like A Girl. I tried to bridge the gap, but you never responded—so eventually I left you behind. I found another partner. He suits me better than you could have, so I’m glad it worked out the way it did. However, no one has been able to replace you in my pantheon of Real Friends.
      I’ve been stunned at how deeply I’m grieving you. I don’t know how you died, if you were happy, and if you were still working as hard as you were when I met you. I will never know the answers to those questions since no one knew about our connection, we didn’t share other people, and I won’t compound the sadness your wife must be feeling. I’ve fallen victim to “disenfranchised grief” and must suffer through this alone.
      For the last three weeks, I’ve been denying that you could really be gone. You were so exuberantly alive and it just doesn’t make any sense to me. I might never have tried to contact you again—-I probably wouldn’t have—but I would have liked to have the option. I have no doubts that we could have come to a rapprochement and continued from where we left off.
      Brian, I loved you. You were my best friend for a long time and the stupid, Guy-level mistake you made would have been forgiven if not forgotten. It wasn’t as important as remembering who we were when we were together. You broke my heart when you walked away from me. And now there’s no way for me to tell you how important you were to me, how often I played with the idea of just weathering the storm and calling you, and letting go of the loss that will haunt me forever.
      Damn you. How dare you die before I was ready to try?

  22. Rosieblue  September 5, 2018 at 1:14 am Reply

    I have one to add to the list. The death of your councellor or therapist. This, for some can be the most authentic, intimate and important relationship of your life. For those who have not experienced the therapeutic relationship and do not understand , the solution to your grief is straightforward. “ Are you going to get another councellor then? ‘
    Also for many being in councelling is not something you would share in your wider community or with work colleagues for example. So whilst experiencing the most acute grief pain, you have to carry on as if nothing has happened. In lots of cases, because of counselling boundaries clients are not invited to funerals or given any details about what has happened. This can be very difficult too. I was so fortunate to attend the memorial of my councellor but the difficulties at work are real and palpable.

  23. Dee  July 24, 2018 at 11:51 pm Reply

    When I was 25, I lost my fiancee to malignant melanoma. The things that were said to me during the aftermath were some of the most hurtful things I have ever heard. See, we weren’t married. We didn’t live together. There was no internet back then. No safe place to share like this. The relationship was minimized because we never had that all-important piece of paper. There were support groups for spouses, but I didn’t “belong” there. I had parents who really didn’t know how to support me in my loss. Only a couple of family members came to the wake. My cousin was the only one who understood the struggles we went through with the diagnosis and the treatments . I have a huge family. I believe my parents told them not to come to the wake so as not to make a big deal about it. (Minimized) once people realized that we weren’t married,. The standard response to that was “well now you can get on with your life”. WTF?? He WAS my life. Aside from my cousin, who to this day is a blessing, I did find support from others who saw me struggling through grief. It’s been 24 years gone by now,. And I wish I could go back in time and give comfort to that 25 year old girl who didn’t know what to do or where to take cover…. I wish I could give her a hug and tell her she wasn’t alone and things were going to be ok, and to stand up for her and tell her it’s ok to scream and cry because you lost your love. You have a right to grieve. Everybody does. Don’t stifle it. The experience changed my life forever. It’s still a hard pill to swallow.

    • Chelle  March 15, 2019 at 9:17 pm Reply

      Dee, I had a very similar experience when my partner died in a motor accident when I was 25. He was a very private person so no-one really knew our future plans or how serious we were. We were about to move in together and had plans to get married and have children. At his funeral I was called a ‘special friend’ by his family which minimised out relationship and how important it was to him. It also gave other people opportunity to be especially nasty to me and start rumours which continue to this day.

      I am still deeply hurt nearly 17 years later. I have never received any support from my family and lost many ‘friends’ because they were sick of hearing about it. I still struggle daily with intense grief which no-one wants to hear about because I should be ‘over it’ now.

  24. Mati  May 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm Reply

    I am reading this in 2018 and can relate. I can only say the process of grieving is not one that anyone should go through alone no matter what the relationship between the person grieving and the object of their grief is. Lost a friend like 3 years ago and considering that our relationship was not right, I didn’t expect to have the support I had when he passed. It was then i came across the term “disen… grief” and till date, I still appreciate all the support I received because I was able to express the pain of my loss and it helped me heal sooner.

  25. Mati  May 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm Reply

    I am reading this in 2018 and can relate. I can only say the process of grieving is not one that anyone should go through alone no matter what the relationship between the person grieving and the object of their grief is. Lost a friend like 3 years ago and considering that our relationship was not right, I didn’t expect to have the support I had when he passed. It was then i came across the term “disen… grief” and till date, I still appreciate all the support I received because I was able to express the pain of my loss and it helped me heal sooner.

  26. Skeeter  April 4, 2018 at 11:27 am Reply

    This is so helpful. It explains all the gray that surrounds my experience of loss. I have multiple family deaths from suicide and addiction, a number of them in quick succession. They all feel hidden in my interactions with coworkers, friends, etc.. In my experience, disorientation is the outcome when the largest events in your life are not publicly shared. Also, when you take on the task of ensuring that others are not made uncomfortable, at the expense of keeping things secret and unacknowledged.

  27. Skeeter  April 4, 2018 at 11:27 am Reply

    This is so helpful. It explains all the gray that surrounds my experience of loss. I have multiple family deaths from suicide and addiction, a number of them in quick succession. They all feel hidden in my interactions with coworkers, friends, etc.. In my experience, disorientation is the outcome when the largest events in your life are not publicly shared. Also, when you take on the task of ensuring that others are not made uncomfortable, at the expense of keeping things secret and unacknowledged.

  28. Nicky  April 2, 2018 at 9:47 pm Reply

    Two of my children, 24 and 21 are alienated from me and have had no contact with me since 2012 when my marriage dissolved. It’s hard because outwardly people just believe that I am a horrible person who abandoned my children. In fact I elected to leave a toxic and abusive relationship – for the sake of my children. I did not want to leave my kids – I can’t say that any more clearly or forcefully, they are my life and I love them, I love them. Now the toxicity and manipulation is directed towards me as revenge, through using the children (and the rural community around us) as a tool. Bottom line is that my kids deserve a mother and someone stable in their lives but they can’t or aren’t able to move or express themselves against their dad’s extremist actions.
    I have long felt that they are lost to me, they are not able to come back. I have shame for imagining that the situation is as bad as someone losing a child through death, but they are not dead.
    It’s an example of disenfranchised grief, and thank you for giving it a name. I’m sure there are many other alienated parents out there struggling with the same feelings as me.

  29. Nicky  April 2, 2018 at 9:47 pm Reply

    Two of my children, 24 and 21 are alienated from me and have had no contact with me since 2012 when my marriage dissolved. It’s hard because outwardly people just believe that I am a horrible person who abandoned my children. In fact I elected to leave a toxic and abusive relationship – for the sake of my children. I did not want to leave my kids – I can’t say that any more clearly or forcefully, they are my life and I love them, I love them. Now the toxicity and manipulation is directed towards me as revenge, through using the children (and the rural community around us) as a tool. Bottom line is that my kids deserve a mother and someone stable in their lives but they can’t or aren’t able to move or express themselves against their dad’s extremist actions.
    I have long felt that they are lost to me, they are not able to come back. I have shame for imagining that the situation is as bad as someone losing a child through death, but they are not dead.
    It’s an example of disenfranchised grief, and thank you for giving it a name. I’m sure there are many other alienated parents out there struggling with the same feelings as me.

    • Rebecca  October 28, 2018 at 7:47 pm Reply

      Nicky, I understand. Last year my son passed away suddenly but years before I lost my daughter through parental alienation. It was like a death and still is, even after actual death of her brother. Loss is excruciating when it’s your child(ren). I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this, too, when we just wanted relief from toxicity.

  30. Laura  February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am Reply

    It’s good that this page exists. It’s good to know I am not alone. It’s good that I now know the term “disenfranchised grief.” I feel like I’ve been dealing with it my whole life. In an earlier post, a person wrote “we need support”; yes, we do. I don’t do the Facebook anymore but I still have an account; occasionally, I check in on people: people I never got to know (my biological dad, my half-brother from his 2nd marriage, my half-brother’s wife and their two kids…and the kids they will have.) I check in on my late ex-husband’s family – his huge extended family that I was a part of briefly in the early days – who do not contact me anymore except for one person who called to tell me that my ex-spouse killed himself. I check in on my cousins that rejected and disowned my mother (and me) when my mother was dying of a terminal illness. I sit here typing alone but with some dear, real friends in my life on this planet. I feel certain that Sprit is protecting me. I love and I have been loved. And now I can recognize my grief for what it is, including my miscarriage at the age of 38. Yes, we do need support. I wish all of us who posted here lived in the same city. Someone should form a support group online for Disenfranchised Grievers. There’s obviously a lot more of us than I ever thought possible. xxoo

  31. Laura  February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am Reply

    It’s good that this page exists. It’s good to know I am not alone. It’s good that I now know the term “disenfranchised grief.” I feel like I’ve been dealing with it my whole life. In an earlier post, a person wrote “we need support”; yes, we do. I don’t do the Facebook anymore but I still have an account; occasionally, I check in on people: people I never got to know (my biological dad, my half-brother from his 2nd marriage, my half-brother’s wife and their two kids…and the kids they will have.) I check in on my late ex-husband’s family – his huge extended family that I was a part of briefly in the early days – who do not contact me anymore except for one person who called to tell me that my ex-spouse killed himself. I check in on my cousins that rejected and disowned my mother (and me) when my mother was dying of a terminal illness. I sit here typing alone but with some dear, real friends in my life on this planet. I feel certain that Sprit is protecting me. I love and I have been loved. And now I can recognize my grief for what it is, including my miscarriage at the age of 38. Yes, we do need support. I wish all of us who posted here lived in the same city. Someone should form a support group online for Disenfranchised Grievers. There’s obviously a lot more of us than I ever thought possible. xxoo

  32. Rachel Lewis  February 6, 2018 at 6:48 am Reply

    Thanks for this article, I’m happy to have this to share. I’ve gone through several losses: an ectopic pregnancy, 4 miscarriages, secondary infertility, and the loss of a foster son. I raised him from 5 months to almost two years old, then the court returned him to his bio mom. It was exactly like being separated from your bio child. It’s been 2 years now, and I haven’t seen him since. Also — I am curious that you listed miscarriage and stillbirth under the category of not blood-related. I’m not sure how you could be more blood-related than to be a parent with a child in your womb. While I agree that society (sadly) does not understand this loss to be as significant as the death of a child outside the womb, those of us who have experienced this loss know that the grief and loss are just as intense. Thank you again for this article.

  33. Rachel Lewis  February 6, 2018 at 6:48 am Reply

    Thanks for this article, I’m happy to have this to share. I’ve gone through several losses: an ectopic pregnancy, 4 miscarriages, secondary infertility, and the loss of a foster son. I raised him from 5 months to almost two years old, then the court returned him to his bio mom. It was exactly like being separated from your bio child. It’s been 2 years now, and I haven’t seen him since. Also — I am curious that you listed miscarriage and stillbirth under the category of not blood-related. I’m not sure how you could be more blood-related than to be a parent with a child in your womb. While I agree that society (sadly) does not understand this loss to be as significant as the death of a child outside the womb, those of us who have experienced this loss know that the grief and loss are just as intense. Thank you again for this article.

  34. Vicky M  January 6, 2018 at 8:06 pm Reply

    Thank you for this page.

    My birth mother died. She died 18 months ago but nobody told me, so I found out on facebook four months ago. I was briefly in shock, and upset, for a few days. Then I remembered I had moved on with my feelings about her and I focused on work and voluntary work and life. Unfortunately work had given me a written warning after I took a week off following finding out about the death. I felt betrayed and rejected by a company I have loved and been with from the outset. Work got all my anger and the betrayal I felt was all aimed at them. Four months down the line, I suddenly thought, I wonder if I’m blowing the written warning up out of proportion. Is it a normal reaction to a standardised message that many people in work were getting.? My work christmas night out was very sad and shameful. I hadn’t eaten and I don’t drink (because I know I can get rowdy if I’m not in a good state of mind). That night I drowned my anger and sense of betrayal and got so drunk I couldn’t stand up. A few weeks later and I’ve driven myself half mad trying to interrogate everyone there and trying to find out if I needed to apologise.

    I’ve barely thought about my birth mother. My birth brother died four years ago, lost to depression and alcoholism because of being unable to move on. I’ve envied him over the last month. He is free of this life and its tiresome worries. I was so angry that he gave up and escaped when I’ve wanted to do that so many times in my life but wouldn’t. He didn’t commit suicide, but in my head he might as well have done. He’s the only one who can understand right now how I am feeling and he’s not here. Nobody in my adopted family who I do love dearly can understand. My friends haven’t lost anyone that close to them. There is no grave for my birth mother and I don’t want to mourn her. I don’t want to remember her but since she died my head is a mess so I guess that’s what I have to do. I didn’t get any bereavement cards – I was reminded that my adopted mum is alive and she’s my real mum. Before I mess up my job and ruin that huge part of my life I have realised that I need some help and I have sought out grief counselling. Fingers crossed it can help.

  35. Vicky M  January 6, 2018 at 8:06 pm Reply

    Thank you for this page.

    My birth mother died. She died 18 months ago but nobody told me, so I found out on facebook four months ago. I was briefly in shock, and upset, for a few days. Then I remembered I had moved on with my feelings about her and I focused on work and voluntary work and life. Unfortunately work had given me a written warning after I took a week off following finding out about the death. I felt betrayed and rejected by a company I have loved and been with from the outset. Work got all my anger and the betrayal I felt was all aimed at them. Four months down the line, I suddenly thought, I wonder if I’m blowing the written warning up out of proportion. Is it a normal reaction to a standardised message that many people in work were getting.? My work christmas night out was very sad and shameful. I hadn’t eaten and I don’t drink (because I know I can get rowdy if I’m not in a good state of mind). That night I drowned my anger and sense of betrayal and got so drunk I couldn’t stand up. A few weeks later and I’ve driven myself half mad trying to interrogate everyone there and trying to find out if I needed to apologise.

    I’ve barely thought about my birth mother. My birth brother died four years ago, lost to depression and alcoholism because of being unable to move on. I’ve envied him over the last month. He is free of this life and its tiresome worries. I was so angry that he gave up and escaped when I’ve wanted to do that so many times in my life but wouldn’t. He didn’t commit suicide, but in my head he might as well have done. He’s the only one who can understand right now how I am feeling and he’s not here. Nobody in my adopted family who I do love dearly can understand. My friends haven’t lost anyone that close to them. There is no grave for my birth mother and I don’t want to mourn her. I don’t want to remember her but since she died my head is a mess so I guess that’s what I have to do. I didn’t get any bereavement cards – I was reminded that my adopted mum is alive and she’s my real mum. Before I mess up my job and ruin that huge part of my life I have realised that I need some help and I have sought out grief counselling. Fingers crossed it can help.

  36. Ima Piper  September 13, 2017 at 12:45 pm Reply

    I didn’t know there was a term for this. I lost my best friend of 25 years to cancer. If soulmates exist in this world, she was mine. No one has ever known me or will ever again know me the way she did. When the brain tumors caused her to forget my name, she just told the doctor I was her sister because that was the truth in her heart, and in mine too. The pain of having that deep and intimate of a connection severed was (and is) intense. I was very fortunate that her family recognized that (they did not correct her when she said I was her sister) and allowed me to participate in her memorial as one of them- I stood in the receiving line with them and spoke at the funeral with her siblings. That helped mitigate some of the disorientation in the immediate aftermath of her death. But as far as a grief that is recognized by society in general, losing a best friend is not where it should be. You don’t get bereavement leave. You don’t get condolence cards (not that I wanted them). You don’t have people drop off food or offer to watch your kids, even though you hurt so much you simply cannot make yourself get out of bed. I still feel it now 2.5 years later. If someone mentions having lost a spouse or a sibling, people immediately recognize that as a deep, soul-rending loss. There is no further explanation necessary. Not so for a friend…even a best friend. I have a hard time talking about her with people who don’t already know what we were to each other, because I feel like I have to explain or justify my level of grief. And that feeling gets worse the more time goes by and the more it seems like I “should have” gotten over it. I find myself not talking about her, not bringing her up as much as I’d like, because I don’t want to have to explain…nor do I want to see that the other person doesn’t quite get it. I’d just rather not mention it at all.

    It is a surprise to me how much just knowing there is a name for this helps. Thanks for this post.

    • Betsy  October 20, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

      Ima – I lost my best friend who I would describe as sister or soulmate about 7 months ago. I completely understand what you’re saying – I also find that I don’t bring it up because I don’t know how to describe our relationship and I feel like I somehow have to justify how sad I feel because “best friend” isn’t understood by most people. It’s so frustrating and has made me feel so isolated. I, too, have the benefit of her family having recognized our relationship (although I think it took them until they discovered I was the beneficiary on her life insurance for them to get it completely), but my own family does not at all. Anyhow – I am sending warm vibes and hugs across to you, thinking of you and your best friend/sister.

    • Almost a sister  March 6, 2018 at 6:38 pm Reply

      Hi Ima, your post just made me cry. I also lost my best friend to cancer, a few months ago. She didn’t have family over here and we basically went through her illness together. I went to chemo and scans with her, I held her hand in the emergency ambulance. She had about a month of painful final decline. I went every hour that I could just to be with her and give her dear husband some time out. I adored her, and it was a great blessing that I got to tell her this before she died. Even if she was asleep or when she couldn’t speak any more I just wanted to be near her and do anything I could. She liked me to read to her so I did that. I visited her after she had died and sat with her for a while. I even helped her husband pick out what she would wear in the coffin for goodness sake. I was pretty much all in right to the end.

      Only a few people know how close we were this last year, and I never feel more alone than when I’m in the company of “mutual friends” who will never know what her loss means to me. Like I’m somehow giving myself some special status, or implying that they just don’t care as much as I did. I really loved her. She said I was like a sister to her. And I want to talk about what happened endlessly but that would be like sharing someone else’s private family moments. So I don’t. Disenfranchised just about nails it.

      She lit up my world and the crappy thing about it is that she was my go-to person for talking anything and everything over. Who are you supposed to go to when your go-to person has gone?

  37. l  June 16, 2017 at 12:19 am Reply

    I thought this article was so helpful. So many stories on here of people going through the same thing. I’m glad there is a name for what I’m experiencing.

    I’ve struggled with drugs for most of my adult life, and the year after I graduated from high school I met my friend. It was weird because we really disliked each other when we first met, but we ended up being friends. I got really deep into drugs and all of my other friends at that point left. He always tried to help me, we were always close. Even if we didn’t see each other often, we texted or instant messaged, and occasionally hung out. It was always a sexual relationship, but I had a boyfriend I lived with, so it wasn’t a very serious thing. Maybe like four years ago, my friend had a really accident and got addicted to prescription pain medication. He also got a serious girlfriend around this time. I was like, sad that he had a girlfriend, and I knew things would be different for us from now on. I actually wasn’t even sure if we would remain friends. But we did, and things didn’t change as much as I thought they would. About three years ago my friends problem with drugs got serious. I remembered how he had always been there for me, and I was never going to turn my back on him, no matter how bad it got. Sometimes we used drugs together, and some times one of us was clean, and sometimes we both were. It wasn’t like a lot of my friendships, where drugs or staying clean is the most important part of the friendship. Anyways, my boyfriend went to prison, so I had my own house, and we just got really close this year. He was my best friend and a huge part of my life. Like we talked about doing a lot of stuff when we got clean, like he was always my biggest supporter and the person who knew what I did on a day to day basis. He was getting clean, and so was I. I was wanting to use and I called him. He had come over my house, and we hung out for awhile, we were both in a good mood, and I fell asleep watching tv, and I woke up and he had to go. His phone was off for a few days, and I knew something was wrong. I called the jails and hospitals. I didn’t think that he had any money, and he didn’t mention that he was going to buy drugs, and I thought he would have told me if he was. So eventually I just went to his house, and his mom answered the door and said he died of a drug overdose, he had came home from my house, ate dinner, went to bed, and she found him dead the next morning. She acted like she didn’t know who I was, but she knew my first and last name, so apparently she knew something about me. She was really accusing me of like being a bad influence or a person he used drugs with. The police came, and they seemed to assume I’m some kind of drug addict. The girlfriend and the mom had like said bad things about me. I talked to someone we both know on the phone, and tried to find out when the funeral was. I was told that they weren’t having one, due to financial issues. It was an unexpected death, and the mom was having financial issues. His grandpa had just spent 7500 on his bail in February, so maybe he just couldn’t afford to do a funeral too, but it kind of makes me wonder. There wasn’t even an obituary. I’m sure they did say good bye to him in some way, and of course I was not invited. The sad thing is, if it’s true that they couldn’t afford a funeral, but would have wanted one, I would have given them the money I’ve been saving for my first house, to pay for it. I just felt like he deserved a funeral, so we could all say goodbye to him. I just loved him so much. I always felt lucky to have a real best friend, who I knew would always be there. No one will ever know about the love we had for one another.

  38. stream angel  June 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm Reply

    I am really surprised that this article (& all the other articles I’ve read on the topic of Disenfranschised Grief) fails to mention the most obvious category, i.e – couples who are not married.
    When my beautiful soulmate (of 16 wonderful years together) passed away suddenly, I had no legal standing, and her eldest daughter (who I was not the father of) went into overdrive organising the funeral & all affairs relating to the death. Obviously, with no legal standing, there was nothing I could have done regarding these issues, and I respect that her daughter did an excellent job with all that.
    However, the funeral was a nightmare for me, as what became apparent was that the minister (who had various meetings with the daughter beforehand) just went through the motions of making it all about ‘the family’, & reduced me to the level of a non entity, despite the fact that I WAS the most important person in my partner’s life (especially after her children grew up and left home).
    I was not consulted about anything to do with the funeral, and when I turned up at the crematorium, I wondered where all her family was, only to see them all arrive with the minister in a big funeral car (of which I had not been invited into, or even informed about).
    The ‘family’ all got to sit together in a special row of seats at the front, while I was just regulated to having to sit among everybody else. When it came to delivering the ‘story’ of my partner’s life by the minister, my beautiful 16 year relationship was reduced to one very flippant (& inaccurate) sentence that didn’t even mention the word ‘love’. I was furious that at such an important and emotionally charged public event (that was a saying ‘goodbye’ to her), the NARRATIVE of our relationship had been ‘written’ by two people (the daughter working with the minister) – one of whom had never met me – and neither of whom had bothered to consult me (even with a simple phone call) on what I would have liked to have been said about our relationship.

    • Maggie Badior  October 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm Reply

      Stream Angel,

      Please contact me if possible. I lost my common-law husband three months ago. My family and friends are very supportive, but his ex-wife (who pretended to be a friend) and all his siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins have cut me off completely. I don’t really want to have a relationship with them, but I think the way they treated me has made my grief more difficult.

    • e. bartel  March 5, 2018 at 10:15 pm Reply

      i’m so sorry that happened to you.

  39. Leanne  May 31, 2017 at 1:41 pm Reply

    I spent 5 years fostering a young man who was a drug addict, a binge drinker, a prostitute, and a a narcissistic psychopath. I loved him despite all his labels because I knew that it was his abusive background that had made him so and I beleived that a stable home life, security and love would win through in the end. Unfortunately I did not understand that the narcissistic psychopath bit was neural brain chemistry that could not be re-written. I disconnected from him in the end not because of his addictions, although they took me to hell and beyond, but because I feared for my own safety. Society told me ‘good riddance’ ‘what are you wasting your emotions on him for’ ‘he didn’t deserve you’ and ‘well you’re wiser now’. Later on, these “helpful” pieces of advice turned to ‘just take up a new hobby and be positive’ ‘well he was never your blood child’ ‘it’s been 3 months now, you must stop being stuck in the past’ and ‘maybe you are invested in being a victim if you refuse to let go of this’. I never cried a tear but the guilt at what I had done as a mother tore my soul into pieces. Not one person ever asked me how I was coping. I processed my grief alone over several years but it would have been so helpful if just someone had recognised it as a loss, not only of a young man whom I had looked on as a son, but also the loss of the future that I had hoped for him. I just wanted to be able to articulate my pain and have it understood, but people got angry at the notion that I should have feelings for him. There needs to be more awareness about disenfranchised grief because we need support. Having to deal with it alone, I feel contributed to my subsequent mental health breakdown and PTSD. However, on a positive note I am over it now, taking the learning and the philosophy that all young people do deserve a chance but sadly not all are reachable. Post breakdown I am much stronger, and I am happy and at peace. I wish the same for all of you still in that dark tunnel. Life does get better, I promise, although it may seem like it never will. Love and Light xxx

  40. Laura L Hanly  May 13, 2017 at 11:59 pm Reply

    I lost the grandchildren I had raised since infancy. My daughter is an addict and DCFS swooped in and made me their “foster parent”. They decided the children would be “safer” at my ex-husband and his wife’s house in an upscale neighborhood with a “lovely wooded lot”. I, on the other hand, was desperately trying to help my daughter into treatment (their job) and I was a single woman, social worker myself, renting in a working class neighborhood with lovely diversity and great neighbors. They lied to the court in front of my eyes, accused me, a substance abuse counselor at a local rehab of being a vindictive ex-wife that “did nothing but enable my daughter and minimize her drug use.” The accusation was the complete opposite of the truth. I am a mandated reporter and I knew that my ex-husband was just as bad of an addict as the children’s mother. HE WAS NOT ALLOWED UNSUPERVISED VISITS due to his drug use and severe bipolar disorder, but they took my babies and put them in his full-time care, ignoring my mandated by law warnings. When I hired a lawyer, they doubled down on their lies to impune my credibility as they knew, I KNEW, the laws they broke in removing my girls. The agency punished me for raising concerns by cutting off all contact and continuing to drive their narrative so that my ex is free to adopt them. I have been told I will not be allowed to see them again, as my presence is a “disruption” to their ability to adapt to an environment that is toxic and are unhappy in. The baby was literally torn from my arms screaming and crying …. I grieve for them every day. For all intents and purposes, they suddenly died and left me with their toys and rooms and pictures and books untouched since the day they were ripped from my life. No one understands. I survive on counseling and meds, and I will never be the same.

  41. Jayne  April 18, 2017 at 7:05 pm Reply

    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.

    • Rachel  June 20, 2017 at 11:16 am Reply

      THANK YOU. I cannot tell you how much your comment means to me, as it almost perfectly mirrors my own experience and I’ve felt very alone in my grief. I had a relationship with a man for almost 10 years. We met in college through a friend, and there was an instant connection. Through the next few years we always saw each other at parties and texted all the time, and it became a sexual relationship. He was one of those people I could feel in the room, and I would always catch him looking at me through a crowd and my heart would melt. We would stay up late talking, or lay in bed together in the morning joking about our future life together. It never turned into anything official – we didn’t live close to each other, but mainly because he was struggling with addiction. He started not returning my calls, or flaking on a date, just to text me a week later like nothing had happened. Eventually, I met someone new. I knew I couldn’t wait around. He went to rehab and went he got clean, he wanted to be together. But it was too late. Things became awkward for the next few years, because I still had strong feelings for him, but I was happy in my new relationship and didn’t want to lead him on. After I got engaged, he asked me why I had to marry someone else, why I couldn’t be with him and that he’s never felt this way about anyone else. I told him I still cared for him a lot, but I was with someone else and I was happy. I saw him once after my wedding and he genuinely tried to be happy for me, and even asked about my husband and how the wedding was, and I thought that maybe now we could finally just be friends. Two weeks later I got a call from a friend saying that he’d had an overdose and died. I was/am absolutely beside myself. I tried to talk to some people about it, but somehow expressing how much this man meant to me, how much I loved him, seemed inappropriate to say. I felt like I was being unfaithful in some way because I had feelings for another person. My husband is wonderful and consoled me, but I never really talked about it with him. How do you tell your husband/friends/family that you’re in so much pain because you had feelings for someone else? I was able to go to the memorial, but again I felt like it was inappropriate to say anything. I love my husband enormously, and never did anything wrong, but its always felt like I needed to keep this to myself. Though it still hurts, its nice to know I’m not alone. Thank you thank you thank you

  42. Mark  April 17, 2017 at 3:26 am Reply

    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.

    • SoMuchLoss  June 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm Reply

      I totally agree with you. My son was alienated from me by his father and stepmother, at a time when he was quite vulnerable to wanting to impress them (late HS) and when I was going through another grief (job loss compounded by foreclosure and a move to a foreign country). I came to find out that my sister was participating in the alienation by feeding my ex personal information about me (every relationship breakup, every failed job application, and every bounced check).

      Now, it has been several years since my son has spoken to me, although we had no arguments or even disagreements the last time we spoke. He just stopped returning my calls and emails and eventually cut off my entire side of the family (probably at the urging my ex, the stepmom and the in-laws). My parents and siblings (of which there are many) are upset with me for being angry at my sister and they think I owe HER an apology. They refuse to acknowledge the grief I have over my son’s estrangement by either refusing to talk about it or minimizing it (“it’s just a phase” or “oh well, maybe he’ll call next Christmas–let’s talk about something more pleasant” or “he’s not dead, so you don’t really have anything to be sad about”).

      I’ve given up trying to explain the situation to other people because they assume I did something abusive towards my son or because it makes me sound crazy. I still live outside the US, and I have very few friends. Menopause and some minor health issues have further eroded my quality of life. I can find pockets of happiness when I put the grief on the shelf and almost take myself out of time for a moment, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover my previous self. I’ve been bootstrapping for a long while now, and I’ve made minor improvements, but I think I will always have a certain sadness at my core.

      I also don’t feel like I can ever have another romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t get this, probably by having experienced something similar. How do you even bring up the topic of disenfranchised, ongoing grief? The few times I have made myself vulnerable to new friends or boyfriends, they have ultimately taken advantage of it, and I feel like it makes me a target for manipulators and people with personality disorders.

      I don’t want to return home to see my family, and I struggle with what I will do if one of my elderly parents passes away. I can’t find remote grief counseling that deals with this sort of situation, only the traditional kind, like death of a spouse. In a way, estrangement grief is worse than a death because instead of getting better over time, it only gets worse, as you tick off year after year with no contact but you know your child is out there somewhere. Every Christmas is gut wrenching. Mother’s Day is is hell. I can’t ever say it out loud, but I’m envious of a friend who lost her son to AIDS because at least he died loving her.

      • amanda bowes-shorten  November 28, 2017 at 5:44 pm

        you have struck a chord, my daughters were groomed by my mother, aided by my siblings, my mother pretended to help me while I was struggling thru college when in fact she was alienating them from me.
        I finally made it to university but by then my daughters were behaving nasty and demanding.
        Other nasty things started to happen and I couldn’t cope, I daren’t tell the child services as they are know for separating mothers from their children.
        I arrived home one day to find my mother ‘taking them for a two week holiday’
        she called me that evening to say they were living with her and if I tried to get them back they would run away;
        I love my children and always will but that was the last time they smiled at me, they have never given me the chance to talk or reconcile. they were taken 135 miles away and I don’t drive.
        96 percent attendance requirement at university, which would have given my daughters a really good start in life after school, I thought they were happy when in face my mother had been emotionally abusing them for years.
        Also I found out that grandparent s have the same rights as a total stranger.
        My mother would have died in prison had the authorities caught up with her.
        I had a breakdown, I told the mental health that my mother had stolen my babies., they were 10 and 11 at the time.
        The practitioner wrote, ‘daughters placed with grandmother’
        I didn’t know the law and I didn’t know what was being written in my medical records.
        I have since asked for help and gotten nothing, apart from bad attitude.
        It has been 14 years since my breakdown and my grief and loss have yet to be recognised. Every day, month year that passes my grief worsens as I am being robbed of more and more time with my children.
        They stole the photos from my album so I don’t even have any baby photos. my siblings want nothing to do with me and no one will tell me what they’ve been told, I tried to kill myself, no one called.
        for ten years no one called or visited, then when I visited them, they were so false it was disgusting.
        So how can I get help if my gp refuses to recognise whats wrong with me? I even spoke to a trauma specialist and she went into denial before my eyes, ( she thought for a moment and then shook her head), another health professional said she couldn’t help me but if I found a solution would I let her know…. I felt like throwing her out the window.
        One last comment, sorry its so long, can someone explain why there are several references to the age gap between myself and my partner??? whats that got to do with anything???
        Ive given up now, I stay indoors, chain smoke, sit around, eat little, my health is failing rapidly and theres no one who can help. supposed to have a bilateral angioplasty but cant leave the house.

  43. Amanda  October 7, 2016 at 12:05 pm Reply

    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.

  44. Catie  September 11, 2016 at 7:30 pm Reply

    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?

  45. Ronda  July 26, 2016 at 4:23 pm Reply

    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!

  46. Marie  July 9, 2016 at 11:09 am Reply

    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

    • RobinA  July 15, 2016 at 8:50 am Reply

      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.

  47. PurpleLilac  June 30, 2016 at 12:54 pm Reply

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

    • Eleanor  June 30, 2016 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Hey there,

      I’m not sure what you mean? Did someone say that you offended them? I don’t think you did…unless I’m missing something.

  48. Terri B  June 16, 2016 at 11:34 pm Reply

    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?

    • Litsa  June 17, 2016 at 9:03 am Reply

      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.

    • RobinA  July 15, 2016 at 8:40 am Reply

      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.

      • Terri B  July 27, 2016 at 12:37 am

        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.

  49. Natalie  May 25, 2016 at 1:17 am Reply

    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.

  50. Susan  March 27, 2016 at 11:28 pm Reply

    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.

  51. Renee  March 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm Reply

    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???

  52. Nancy  February 17, 2016 at 1:50 pm Reply

    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.

  53. Nancy  February 15, 2016 at 12:44 pm Reply

    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

    • Litsa  February 16, 2016 at 8:54 am Reply

      Oh Nancy, I am glad this post helped but sorry to hear that you have been hurt and failed by friends and family. This is truly its own loss. I hope you have been able to find support from some and, if you are struggling with that still, you may want to check out our post on grief friends 🙂 https://www.whatsyourgrief.com/making-grief-friends/

  54. Nancy  February 13, 2016 at 7:56 pm Reply

    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.

    • Chelsea  February 14, 2016 at 4:07 am Reply

      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

  55. Nancy  February 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm Reply

    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.

    • Chelsea  February 13, 2016 at 4:39 pm Reply

      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

    • Litsa  February 13, 2016 at 11:46 pm Reply

      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.

  56. Alicia  December 29, 2015 at 9:58 pm Reply

    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

  57. Alicia  December 28, 2015 at 7:50 pm Reply

    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.

    • "Suzie"  December 29, 2015 at 3:18 pm Reply

      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

    • Litsa  January 2, 2016 at 11:19 pm Reply

      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.

  58. Pamela Myers  October 5, 2015 at 3:03 am Reply

    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

    • Dan  September 25, 2016 at 8:37 pm Reply

      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.

      • Trinity  October 9, 2020 at 9:57 pm

        This is a truly unnecessary response that lacks basic human empathy, especially on a blog about disenfranchised grief. Everyone is entitled to grief. If there is nothing helpful to say, perhaps have the dignity, tact, and grace to remain silent yourself, Dan.

  59. Elizabeth  September 29, 2015 at 12:06 am Reply

    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.

  60. Joyce  September 21, 2015 at 9:12 pm Reply

    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.

  61. Derek  August 24, 2015 at 5:15 pm Reply

    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.

  62. Pam C  August 24, 2015 at 1:22 pm Reply

    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.

  63. LizzieD  August 4, 2015 at 11:23 am Reply

    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.

  64. Sylvia  June 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm Reply

    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)

  65. Gaynor  June 12, 2015 at 5:58 pm Reply

    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.

    • Eleanor  June 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm Reply


      Yikes, those are some doozies!! Some people have absolutely no tact. We just wrote a post that illustrated some of the crazy things people say which kind of makes me think of your experience. I just don’t think people even see how ridiculous some of the things they say are.


  66. Litsa  May 17, 2015 at 10:51 am Reply

    “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!

  67. Deb  April 20, 2015 at 2:09 pm Reply

    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.

  68. Chelsea  April 5, 2015 at 12:44 am Reply

    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.

    • Litsa  April 6, 2015 at 2:04 am Reply

      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:https://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.

  69. Eileen C  March 1, 2015 at 11:18 am Reply

    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.

    • Litsa  March 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm Reply

      Eileen, I am so sorry for the loss of one of your children. The timing of your comment is uncanny, as I was just (within the last week) telling Eleanor that I thought we should consider writing a post on the stillbirth of one twin when the other is born healthy. I recently spoke with a woman who was still pregnant but knew one of the two children would not survive and I was struck by how unbelievably complex and difficult those emotions must be. All I could think of was that, for her, this pregnanacy had brought both one of the greatest joys in life and one of the greatest tragedies all at once. This is certainly not an area of expertise for me, and honestly I doubt there is much research out there, but I plan to try to put an article together here on WYG. I realize it is a very niche topic, but because of the complexity of the emotional impact I do think it is worth discussing. Beyond what you describe above, if there have been other grief experience that you found were unique to losing one twin, I would be so appreciative if you would share them. It would be very helpful in contructing a post that would be of support to others going through that experience. If there is anything you think would be helpful for us to include in such an article, please feel free to comment here or email whatsyourgrief@gmail.com

  70. Adrienne  February 21, 2015 at 9:15 am Reply

    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.

    • Litsa  February 22, 2015 at 8:26 am Reply

      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!

  71. Rebecca  January 4, 2015 at 9:41 pm Reply

    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.

    • Eleanor  January 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm Reply


      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.


  72. Robin  December 16, 2014 at 10:30 am Reply

    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

  73. Purplelilac  October 14, 2014 at 11:20 am Reply

    “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.

  74. Jo  October 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm Reply

    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!

    • Eleanor  October 11, 2014 at 5:24 pm Reply


      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.


  75. Jo  September 28, 2014 at 4:23 am Reply

    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.

    • Eleanor  September 29, 2014 at 8:47 am Reply

      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.

  76. Linda Rubano  September 12, 2014 at 11:59 am Reply

    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.

    • Eleanor  September 16, 2014 at 1:27 pm Reply


      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.


  77. Sprince  May 3, 2014 at 10:39 am Reply

    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!

  78. Sarah  March 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm Reply

    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.

    • Eleanor  March 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm Reply


      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.


    • Sprince  May 3, 2014 at 10:44 am Reply

      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!

  79. Dina  December 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply

    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.

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