Have you ever lost a loved one to suicide, lost a lover you had during an affair, had a strictly online relationship die, grieved an abortion, lost a beloved to a drug overdose, mourned infertility, experienced the loss of love life from an STI? Though you were fully accepting, did you ever mourn the change of your child’s gender identity? Have you ever grieved a family member’s political alignment, felt the loss of someone you cared for who was imprisoned? These are all examples of disenfranchised loss. Disenfranchised loss lives on the edges of societal mores and often carries taboo that leaves the griever isolated, stigmatised, rejected, and judged by their experience. All loss is deserving of compassion, understanding, and inclusion in access to care. Moral judgements are not only unnecessary but overtly damaging to the griever in that judgement can easily give way to humiliation, blaming, criticism, and intimidation.
When we find ourselves ready to judge a loss we would often do better to move into curiosity and compassion. Grief is universal. No one gets through life without experiencing loss. It is on this fertile ground of commonality that we can meet each other without need of perfect understanding. Telling someone who or what or how to grieve is nothing more than a sick attempt to control or worse coercive control and shouldn’t be tolerated in any family, business, or community.
So how do we make space to honor disenfranchised loss? We can start by creating safe spaces for sharing. Safe spaces for sharing can include meet ups, church groups, book clubs, social media communities with strict guidelines, programs within the workspace, personal story sharing via writing, video making, small socially distanced outdoor gatherings etc. What makes these spaces safe is having clearly defined boundaries around conduct and inclusion as well as an agreement to steer clear of platitudes or unsolicited advice.
When confused about how to address a disenfranchised loss remember compassion.