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Author: Jane Troescher, LMSW Therapist at Modern Therapy and Wellness

Disenfranchised: deprived of some right, privilege, or immunity

What is it like when your loss goes unrecognized, or even stigmatized? This is a common
element of grief that people are unaware has a name. Kenneth Doka, who coined the term, describes
the experience as, “…grief that results when a person experiences a significant loss and the resultant
grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned (2008).”

So, what does this look like?

Anything that is unrecognized or invalidated is technically
disenfranchised, but here are some specific examples:

  • Losing someone to substance use
  • Abusive relationship
  • Losing parts of yourself
  • Pet loss
  • Miscarriage and abortion
  • Loss of personal possessions
  • Missing a drug of choice
  • Loss of a loved one due to incarceration
  • Loss of a loved one due to mental illness
  • Death of an older person

Giving the Loss a Name

Giving these kinds of losses a name doesn’t make them hurt less, but it can be an important tool for healthy coping.
Because disenfranchised grief is characterized by dismissal from other people, we can end up
internalizing that and dismissing our own experiences while isolating ourselves. Because of this, we need
to be both firm with ourselves in acknowledging our losses, and gentle with ourselves in allowing our
natural reactions to take place without judgement. The biggest thing that you can do for yourself is to recognize your loss for what it really is and accept that you are grieving despite what society says. Acknowledging that our losses are valid and important, gives us the space to experience them authentically and capacity to seek support from others.

How do I get support from others if this form of grief is defined by lack of acknowledgement?

If the people in your life are unable to support you through grief, you may benefit from joining a support
group, advocacy group, or seeing a therapist individually.

There are ways to advocate for yourself day-to-day and encourage empathy from your loved ones, but if it isn’t there in some capacity already, you might need some backup. It may feel like you’re alone in your experience, but there is inevitably
someone out there who believes in you and sees your pain. If support is not handed to us in the “usual”
way (i.e. casseroles, flowers, several days off work), sometimes we need to push past our discomfort
and look for support in places we haven’t ventured before. Moving forward with grief is about learning to cope with your new reality, which is infinitely more bearable with people who empathize by your side.

Modern Therapy and Wellness is a small private practice in New Orleans. We offer in person therapy in our office in Mid City New Orleans. We offer virtual therapy anywhere in Louisiana. Our mission at MTW is to provide modern therapy that is easily accessible and specialized. We believe that therapy is for everyone. We believe that therapy should be warm yet direct. We believe that therapy should give people skills and tools. We believe that people can unlearn and relearn. We believe that emotional health is just as important as physical health. We are trauma informed therapists who specialize in the areas of: addiction, relationships, couples therapy, grief, chronic illness and LGBTQ concerns. We use Gottman method for couples and we also offer walk and talk therapy as an alternative to traditional talk therapy. Give us a call for a free phone consultation: 504-452-1483 or click here to read about our therapists.

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