Grief is a universal and natural part of life, a natural reaction to the loss of someone in life. It can have a huge impact on a person’s mind. Grief mainly associated with the loss of a loved one, but it can also appear with the loss of other aspects of life.
It deeply affects a person’s overall well-being and impacts their mental and emotional state. If the feelings are too deep and strong they could cause a prolonged negative effect on the mind that doesn’t go away easily.
Society, however, does not accept some forms of grief, causing a significant amount of distress to the person grieving as they go unnoticed. Such grief is known as disenfranchised grief. Its prolonged effect could affect a person both mentally and emotionally.
What Is Disfranchised Grief?
Disfranchised grief is a term that refers to a form of grief, or grief that is yet to be acknowledged by others or validated by people. This term was given by Kenneth Doka researcher and professor of counseling dealing with the topic of death, dying, and grief.
Disfranchised grief occurs when the person’s loss is not considered significant by society. When the person who is grieving is not given as much importance as other people would normally receive when faced with some loss.
What are the Causes of Disfranchised Grief?
1. Stigma related to certain losses:
In our society, there exists a long line of stigma, taboos, and stereotypes generated from one generation to another. Even in the 21st century, some forms of stigma exist prevalently in society across cultures. Losses such as the death of a pet, a relationship involving members of the Queer community, and the loss of a job, among others, can still be considered as irrelevant compared to a major loss of life.
In some cases, the person who is in the loss might feel neglected by the society and cannot be able to openly express their emotions due to fear or judgment by the society. Lack of understanding from peers and friends also scares them from expressing themselves about anything.
2. Non-Death Losses:
Grief is a complex emotion and can appear in a person out of loss which is not related to death. Losses can be of anything, losing a dream job, losing one’s identity. In extreme cases of crime such as physical and sexual abuse one identity feels lost and that can cause a person to grieve out of guilt. These losses can be difficult to understand by others and hence not given much importance.
3. Cultural and Religious Factors:
Different cultures and religions have different values from one another and a person is taught to channel their grief based upon those values only. Society neglects and disapproves of anything pertaining outside its core set of beliefs and practices.
This disregard for strong emotions such as grief can cause a person to not express their grief and suffer in silence.
Why it is Important to Recognize Disfranchised Grief?
1. Accepting Emotions:
People around them need to validate and acknowledge human emotion. Validation is the way that provides a safe space to put our emotions and feelings. Others should understand and normalize emotions, whether they are strong or small. It assures a person who is suffering from the loss, that it is normal to lose something and is completely normal to grieve over it.
2. Encouraging Support:
Any form of grief requires support from others. A person who is grieving regardless of the nature of loss needs support and encouragement from parents, friends, and families. Seeking support from mental health professionals is always a wise choice if grief is becoming overwhelming for a person.
3. Reducing Isolation:
When grieving a person might want isolation to handle their emotions, in the case of disfranchised grief lack of support, and understanding from others can further cause a person to seek isolation from others. Giving attention to this kind of grief is one step to minimizing the isolation by connecting with other people.
3. Fostering Empathy:
Empathy is considered a crucial part of human emotions that shapes our behavior and makes us better people in society. It allows us to understand the needs and hardships of other people and how to behave concerning others.
Human behaviors are complex and so are human emotions. Several emotions such as anger, fear, joy, sadness, etc., compose humans. Emotions are a key aspect of human personality, it is what makes us human. Some feel a strong sense of emotions and some do not feel it more deeply as compared to others.
Emotions need to be acknowledged, When we grow up, our primary caregiver which is our parents tells us what is right and wrong and takes care of us when we cry and laugh with Sue when we are happy. Every emotion needs acknowledgment, whether it is negative or positive. To gain a better understanding of it as we grow up, others need to validate it to help us channel our emotions in a healthy way.
Grief is such a strong human emotion that needs to be validated by others so that we can know it is okay to feel that way, it is okay to be sad and it’s okay to grieve, which is an emotional right of every human being.