Grief. Is this allowed?

By Wesley Moncrieffe

Oftentimes when speaking about grief in our society, many will automatically assume that you are processing the loss of a loved one (human being). However, I challenge you to view grief beyond what we “typically know.”

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief pertains to grief that is outside of the parameters of what society will often acknowledge and understand as being valid. When we lose a pet, a co-worker or other types of  relationships, this can be a significant loss. Society may try to belittle or downplay your experience. Comments such as “It’s just a dog, not a child, get a replacement”; “The relationship wasn’t going to work anyways”; and “You two probably were not even that close” may be explicitly stated or implied.

Without even realizing it, we go through various stages of grief in our attempt to process this loss. You may be familiar with the seven stages of grief. However, The Five Stages of Grief by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, is one I personally connect with. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Let’s see how this applies to disenfranchised grief.

Stages of Grief

We’ll use the example of losing a relationship with someone; such as a friendship or intimate partnership, to explain. While this person is still alive, we find ourselves experiencing grief for varying reasons. We may deny that this is actually happening and refuse to accept. We experience feelings of anger/frustration as we begin to blame others or even ourselves for what happened. In the bargaining stage we try to find ways to get back what we lost. Maybe we compromise our beliefs and attempt to make deals with this former partner in the hopes of attaining what we lost. As we approach the stage of depression, we begin to realize that no amount of bargaining can help, and we may even experience moments of sadness. The final stage of acceptance speaks to us accepting that we won’t get this relationship back and begin the upward trend of moving on. There is no expectation of time for how long a person stays in each stage, however we are able to guide you through this process no matter what stage you believe you are in.

How can I cope?

One of the most important things you can do is to find helpful ways to cope with this loss that you are experiencing. While others may try to downplay your experience, it is important that you do all that you can to care for yourself. Some suggestions I can offer include:

  • Get in touch with your feelings and emotions. Mindfulness is a great way to get attuned with our mind and body with an emphasis of not being judgemental of our experience.
  • Journal as a way to process your experience. Whether you use your notes app on your phone or obtain a physical book to record your experience, it could be that outlet you need. 
  • Make contact with supportive individuals in your life and also explore options for support groups for individuals who may be experiencing something similar.
  • Talk to a therapist.

When working through grief, especially grief that society might shun, it is important to connect with a therapist who is empathetic and able to provide the support you need. You don’t have to take this journey alone. Book a session with me as we take this journey together.