Disenfranchised grief

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Disenfranchised grief is a term describing grief that is not acknowledged by society. Examples of events leading to disenfranchised grief are the loss of a pet, a trauma in the family a generation prior,[1] the loss of a home or place of residence (particularly in the case of children, who generally have little or no control in such situations, and whose grief may not be noticed or understood by caregivers;[2][3][4] American military children and teens in particular move a great deal while growing up),[5] an aborted/miscarried pregnancy, a mother's loss or surrender of a child to adoption, the death of a loved one due to a socially unacceptable cause such as suicide,[6] or even the death of a celebrity. Loss or severe disability of a parent during wartime (others around the child's family may not be able to relate or support properly) is compared to more traditional forms of grief, such as loss of a spouse, parent, or child. Certain events that are often circumscribed by social stigma can also cause disenfranchised grief, such as the breakup or loss of a secret relationship (e.g. an extramarital affair), botched cosmetic surgery procedures, the diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection as well as other events.[7] Traditional forms of grief are more widely recognized even in nontraditional living situations. However, there are few support systems, traditions, or institutions such as bereavement leave available to those experiencing disenfrachised grief.

Even widely recognized forms of grief can become disenfranchised when well-meaning friends and family attempt to set a time limit on a bereaved person's right to grieve. For example, the need to regulate mourning and restore a state of normal work activity severely impacted the grieving process of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, according to Edward Linenthal. Grieving for lost children was redefined as post-traumatic stress disorder if parents were not "over it" within two weeks.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://baywood.metapress.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&eissn=1552-6968&volume=16&issue=4&spage=271
  2. ^ Sheppard, Caroline H.; William Steele (2003). "Moving Can Become Traumatic". Trauma and Loss: Research and Interventions. Nat'l Inst for Trauma and Loss in Children. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  3. ^ Pettit, Becky (March 2000). "Moving and Children's Social Connections: the critical importance of context". Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Papers. CRCW, Princeton University. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Oesterreich, Lesia (April 2004). "Understanding children: moving to a new home". Iowa State University. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  5. ^ Wertsch, Mary Edwards (April 23, 1991). Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress (1st hardcover edition ed.). Harmony. p. 350. ISBN 0-517-58400-X. 
  6. ^ Stepp, G (2007). "Disenfranchised Grief". Vision Journal. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  7. ^ http://www.expressivecounseling.com/disenfranchised-grief-alone-ashamed/
  8. ^ Linenthal, Edward, The Unfinished Bombing, Oklahoma City in American Memory (Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 94-98. ISBN 0-19-513672-1

Further reading[edit]

  • Kenneth J. Doka, editor. Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow Lexington Books, 1989. ISBN 0-669-17081-X

External links[edit]