As human beings, we harbor attachments to each other, animals, places and things. With great attachment comes great loss—deaths, separations, divorces, and life transitions. When these attachments are broken we each experience a personal grieving process.
Society has developed rules about our grief process, such as what losses we grieve, how we grieve them, and who can grieve. When a loss is recognized and acknowledged by others, we begin to feel safe and empowered in our grieving process. However, certain meaningful personal losses may be minimized or even ignored by our support system. Thus, we ourselves may not even acknowledge the loss, which can create greater internal suffering. The emotional pain becomes suppressed, and it internally grows within us.
Dr. Kenneth Doka coined the term disenfranchised grief as “grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned” A Disenfranchised griever may feel their experience is unimportant or even wrong. They made hide their true reaction, feel isolated and/or ashamed, which can interrupt grieving and healing.
According to Dr. Doka Disenfranchised grief may occur in many ways:
There is no prescribed way to grieve. We can acknowledge the loss as legitimate, real, and worthy of our attention, validation, and healing. Honor your experience in this life by giving your grief voice, express yourself, create a meaningful ritual. What you’re going through is your experience and is your truth. Our heart, our mind, and body are there to guide us.
Article by Jessica Lamar, Psy.D., LAC
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