A private grief…
Sarah’s lover dies, yet she cannot go to the funeral because her lover’s wife and children are present. Sarah also has children by this man, but their relationship has been hidden for many years.
Grief is commonly disenfranchised in today’s community. Disenfranchised grief is a phrase developed by Kenneth Doka (2002) to describe grief that is not publicly acknowledged or socially sanctioned. Disenfranchised grief can occur when there have been extramarital relationships or co– habitation.
Recent news reports of the men trapped in a Chilean mine revealed women arriving at the camp to find that their partners had a wife and children that they were not aware of. One report said that a miner had a first wife whom he never divorced, a live-in partner who is a mother of a child he had several years ago as well as a woman who claims to be his current girlfriend. You may know others who have had this happen to them or a loved one.
Kelly’s grief was disenfranchised when the man she lived with for five years died unexpectedly during a routine medical procedure. Despite being separated from his wife, he had never legally divorced her. Kelly was never accepted by this man’s family and the “wife” was seen as the grieving widow.
Some individuals disenfranchise their own grief. They deny themselves these very normal and necessary reactions to a death. They feel that their grief is unacceptable to others; that they don’t deserve to mourn. For some, family and friends don’t even know that a relationship existed. For others, family and friends don’t approve of this type of connection.
If you are experiencing disenfranchised grief, find a trusted friend or professional with whom you can tell your story. When you bottle up your grief, it can eat you from the inside. Too many individuals who disenfranchise their grief result in having a prolonged and complicated grief reaction.
Enfranchise your grief. You are entitled to it. It is your right to grieve and it is also your right to be validated, comforted and supported.
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