I never heard of the term “disenfranchised grief” before infertility. At first I was surprised by the fact that the world didn’t know how much emotional pain I was in day to day during that chapter of my life. Then, after living in it for years, I uncovered what it really meant to experience disenfranchised grief directly in our culture and what was needed to move beyond that to a place of healing and well-being.
Right now there are millions of people walking around in the world carrying grief we know nothing about. Dr. Kenneth Doka coined the term “disenfranchised grief” more than 20 years ago. According to his research it is classified as grief that people experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned.
In our culture this includes miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility.
There are millions of people who experience these things every day with a heavy emotional toll but it is not something we acknowledge on a wider scale in our society. When was the last time you saw a sympathy card that said, “I’m sorry about your infertility struggle”?
When we know our grief won’t be publicly accepted or understood we end up hiding it. We don’t share it with others because we have a deep fear of shame and alienation about it. As humans we are hard-wired for connection and don’t want to be different from the rest of the world. Because of this need, we know that these experiences set us apart and show that we are on a different path than most of our peers.
What does a world without disenfranchised grief look like? For starters, it begins with every person believing that the feelings and emotions they are having are valid and okay. It begins with people feeling comfortable to acknowledge their grief as their own and ask for what they need during that time. It begins with people being willing to talk.
So much of disenfranchised grief is perpetuated because people do not openly share their experiences when it comes to these very personal experiences. When we don’t talk about it we silently say that it doesn’t deserve the attention other types of grief are given.
The first step to living in a world where disenfranchised grief doesn’t exist is for you to own and acknowledge the emotional pain you are in, and to share that with those around you. We often seek out people who have had similar experiences to us because we think they understand what it is we are feeling. To help the world understand more about what you are grieving, you have to communicate about it, which means you can’t be hung-up by fear or shame.
Want to let go of your shame story that is keeping you in a continuous state of grief? Reach out to me and schedule a free strategy session for help.