Thursday, February 23, 2012

Disenfranchised (Friend) Grief

Last April, I wrote about the concept of "disenfranchised grief". If you've experienced a lack of empathy - perhaps even a callous disregard for your grief - you already know what I'm talking about. On this blog and in my book, I try to shine a light on this kind of grief:
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.


kathleen pooler said...

Viki, there are few things worse than having your deep feelings be discounted. It's nice to know something of such impact actually has a name.

Friend Grief said...

I had no idea it had a name, I just knew what it felt like: it really made me angry that others didn't understand. The definition fits other kinds of grief as well (when an ex dies, for example). Thanks for stopping by!