Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"It's Not Like They're Family"

It wasn't the response you expected when you told someone your friend died. 

You expected sympathy. 

You expected the importance of your friendship to be respected. 

You expected understanding.

A shrug and "well, it's not like they're family" wasn't it. 

You were shocked that they didn't "get it".

Welcome to Friend Grief.  This blog will raise awareness of a powerful experience in all of our lives:  the death of a friend.  Millions of people each year suffer the pain of a friend's death, and many of them suffer more because those around them don't respect their grief. 

I was surprised to find that there's a name for it:  "disenfranchised grief".  The term was coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka at the College of New Rochelle to identify grief that is not “openly acknowledged, socially validated or publicly observed.” 

Most corporate bereavement policies don’t accommodate someone whose best friend has died.  Friends have no rights - legal or otherwise – to visit a dying friend, to participate in their funeral service, to formally memorialize them.  Even bereavement groups for “loved ones” may not appear welcoming to someone who has lost a friend.

Examples of this kind of grief will be explored here:  in stories I’ve gathered for my upcoming book, ‘It’s Not Like They’re Family’: Mourning Our Friends and Celebrating Their Lives, as well as stories shared by those who join the discussion. 
But it’s not all sad and tragic:  there will be other stories, too, from people who were able to support and honor their friends, and look back with no regrets.  Don’t be surprised if some of them make you laugh out loud.
For those who wish to seek out grief support, you will find links to online and offline resources to help you.
Perhaps like me, you’re one of those people whose friend’s death acted as a catalyst for them to make major changes in their own lives.  You’ll learn about some amazing reinventions.
Comments are always welcome, and I hope you will share stories of your own experiences as a way to honor your friends.
I also hope that bereavement professionals will read this blog and ensure that their services are specifically welcoming to not just family, but friends.  Those who grieve are not defined by the legality of their relationship, but the depth of their love.
With the exception of today, new posts will appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so check back accordingly.
Feel free to share this blog with anyone you know who is struggling with the death of a friend.  It won’t change what’s happened to them, but it might help to know they’re not alone.
Tomorrow:  The book I’m writing, and why.
Friday:  Your own personal “Big Chill” moment.


virtualDavis said...

Bravo! Victoria, I'm glad to see that you're off and running. I've been thinking about this project since you first explained it to me. Such a valuable initiative... I can easily summon up a couple of times in my life that I would have profited immensely from a book/community that supports and facilitates the friend-grieving. Sorry, but "disenfranchised grief" sounds a bit too clinical for my layman's ears. ;~)

BTW, anticipating future blog posts is really helpful to your readers. How about once you've actually posted the next couple of blogs you go back and hyperlink the text of the future blog posts to make it quick and easy for readers to follow up with the topics that interest them? Just a thought!

Marvel said...

Thank you so much for this; my friends ARE my family, I'm sorry that you experienced that kind of callousness.