It is not just personal experience that influences grief and loss, but also social and cultural norms in the communities in which we live.
It can be very difficult to cope with the loss and to gain the support of others when the relationship of the deceased and the bereaved is not publicly known or acknowledged.
Disenfranchised grief is a term used to describe “the grief person’s experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported.” (Doka, 2002).
Extra-marital relationships, miscarriages (especially when the pregnancy is not publically known), missing persons (often with presumption of death), death from stigma-related conditions (for example HIV, suicide), are just some of many examples of disenfranchised grief.
If you or someone you know feels that their loss is not acknowledged adequately or is minimised, then accessing traditional mourning rituals and coping strategies may prove difficult. People who might otherwise feel very alone in their grief might benefit from finding their own ways to grieve, acknowledging the significance of the death, and seeking support from trusted friends, family, or professionals.