Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for “Disenfranchised”

I’m on an A to Z blog challenge, and today is the 4th day of the challenge. That explains the pithy title. ;)
I didn’t know when I decided to write my book that there was such a thing as “disenfranchised grief”, coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka of the College of New Rochelle, in 1989. In the 2002 revision of his Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow, Dr. Doka observes how the grief a friend experiences can be dismissed:
“Often there is no recognized role in which mourners can assert the right to mourn and thus receive such support.  Grief may have to remain private.  Though they may have experienced an intense loss, they may not be given time off from work, have the opportunity to verbalize the loss, or receive the expressions of sympathy and support characteristic in a death.”
Sometimes the disrespect is intentional, sometimes not. But you’ve probably experienced the following situation:
“The role of the friend or similarly close relationship may simply be ignored – unrecognized or unacknowledged.  Such persons may attend the funeral.  They may even be expected to be there out of respect for the deceased and in support of the family.  But they remain passive participants, their own need to mourn overlooked.”
So, if it makes you feel better, there is a reason your grief felt compounded by the lack of respect you experienced. Grieving a friend is not acknowledged in the same way as grieving a family member.
It’s up to all of us to let those around us know the importance of our friendships and the depth of our grief. Then and only then will grieving a friend receive the respect it deserves.

4 comments:

Margaret Almon said...

My sister lost a friend in a fire, and I think she experienced some of this disenfranchisement--our definitions of "family" can be so constricting. Just today an elderly friend of mine was describing how her aunt committed suicide in the 30's, and the woman's best friend wasn't permitted to attend the funeral because the uncle wanted "no outsiders" there.

Victoria Noe said...

What a story, Margaret! To be considered an "outsider" by your best friend's family...how sad. Thanks for sharing this.

Angela Felsted said...

I love this post! And I understand precisely how that feels. You don't think you have a right to grieve too much when a friend dies, especially when they leave behind a wife and children and you know they're going through so much more.

Victoria Noe said...

Angela, you hit the nail on the head: you don't feel you have a right to grieve. You compare your grief to what others are feeling. We should always feel free to honor our friends by grieving the loss. Thanks!