You might not even realise it, but disenfranchised grief might be holding you back at the moment. This post will help you understand what it is and give you a few simple ways to help get yourself back on track.
What is disenfranchised grief?
The grief expert Ken Doka first used the term disenfranchised grief about 20 years ago.
Simply put it is a silent grief. One that is not - or cannot, be openly acknowledged or accepted by social norms.
Miscarriage is a good example. As a society we don't know how to acknowledge the loss of an unborn child. It can often mean that the parents of a miscarried child are not able to express their grief or work through their grief journey.
A new job and consequently the loss of an old job is also an example, but perhaps not quite so obvious.
This not-so-obvious kind of grief is particularly important to be aware of at the moment. As we approach a year of living with Covid-19, there are many more people that are likely to have experienced this type of not-so-obvious form of loss.
Let's go back to the example of the leaving a workplace example for a moment. For some individuals, starting in a new and sought after job is a completely positive experience.
For others, even though they want their new job, they may experience a very real sense of loss for their old workplace. The familiarity of the environment and the co-worker friends that they saw everyday may have a big impact on them.
However real the loss feels to that individual, it is not the sort of loss that is readily accepted or even recognised by society at large.
Why is it so important to recognise disenfranchised grief at the moment?
ife since Covid-19, and especially lockdown life since Covid-19 has bought with it a huge number of losses.
Some of us will be largely unaffected. We may still have our job and our family.
Others are facing bereavement, loss of income and loss of security.
All of us are experiencing a loss of freedom to some degree.
Children are missing out on various rites-of-passage such as exams and school-life in general. Not to mention their social life.
While many of us will adapt relatively easily to this new way of living, not all of us will.
If you are experiencing emotional and physical symptoms without knowing why, perhaps it is your body's way of expressing a loss.
Physical expressions of grief you may not be aware of
Grief can affect a person in many different ways. The following are just some of the medically recognised expressions - or symptoms - of grief:
You can see from this list how strong the mind-body connection is.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you feel they could be linked to a form of loss, there are some simple steps you can take that may help.
Please note that if you are experiencing any symptoms such as chest pain, heart pain or difficulty breathing you should speak to your GP or call 111 (or 999 in a serious situation) to ensure there is not an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
Some simple ways to help you deal with a loss
1. Recognise and acknowledge the loss you are feeling.
Take a step back from your life and think about what has changed for you. If you identify a loss then be sure to acknowledge it. It could be as 'simple' as the loss of your normal daily routine.
If you don't want to talk about it then writing it down can be enough. Be honest with yourself about how it makes you feel. No-one else needs to read this so there's no need to justify how you feel.
2. Accept and validate your loss.
You might think to yourself that how you are feeling isn't 'real' loss or that you don't deserve to be grieving as other people are much worse off than you.
If you do that you will end up suppressing your emotions. That can lead to a much bigger problem in the days/ weeks/ months to come.
Accepting that you are experiencing this loss is an important part of the process. Accepting your feelings as being valid is even more important. It doesn't matter if your loss seems small. Your feelings are your feelings and so they are valid.
3. Start to reshape your life.
Once you have recognised, acknowledged and validated your feelings of loss you can start to move forward.
It might help to think about what you can retain, what you can leave behind and what new things you can start doing in your new situation.
I always recommend taking some time to reflect on your life. Using a bullet-journal can be a helpful way of planning out and taking control of your life rather than just letting each day happen to you.
For many of us dealing with Covid-life related loss and change, taking these simple steps are enough to get you feeling more like yourself again.
Perhaps you do not feel affected yourself but now realise that a friend or family member could be experiencing a form of disenfranchised grief. Understanding their situation from this new perspective may be a big help to you both.
Do you need more help and support?
If you feel you need more than the simple self-help I suggest here, you can book in for a free Discovery Call. You can tell me what's going on for you and we can discuss how we could work together to help you through your current situation. Everything we discuss is confidential. :)