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Thursday, September 30, 2010

T3 - Types of Grief, Part 3

This week, I'm looking at Distorted grief and Disenfranchised grief. (If you missed Part One on Uncomplicated, Anticipatory and Unanticipated grief, you can find it here. If you missed Part Two on Conflicted and Chronic grief, access it here.)

Distorted grief is unusual. It's associated with great anger or guilt, usually toward the deceased or themselves. A bereaved person can develop a symptom that the deceased had prior to death, perhaps as a way to process with the loss and identify with the person they lost. Or a person with distorted grief could have an odd change in behavior suddenly and act hostile toward one specific person or commit self-destructive actions.

Disenfranchised grief is where I want to camp out for a while. A person experiencing this type of grief is grieving a loss that society doesn't recognize or that isn't really talked about publicly. How often does this happen in one of your books, you ask? It's actually astounding how common it is.

Examples: miscarriage, abortion, suicide, death from drug overdose or AIDS, death of an ex-spouse, death of a pet.

Think about it. When someone you know goes through a miscarriage, people in general don't make "as big a deal" about it as they would if the baby had died hours after being born or even been born stillborn. Somehow the loss is "less." The stigma connected to these losses almost veils the loss in obscurity.

Same with a suicide or drug overdose or AIDS-related death. Parents and friends who experience these sorts of losses usually feel stifled in their grief--unable to find appropriate outlets--because somehow, the actions of the deceased and society's view of those actions give the grievers some warped sense that their loss is somehow "less," invisible.

A good way to help someone grieving through a suicide in your book would be to somehow provide the survivor information regarding the death. Even if you think it's a bit gnarly, Clark & Goldney (1995) found that an opportunity to view the body or photographs of the body are often therapeutic interventions that have proven helpful. As always, support groups are tremendous sources of, well, support.

Don't get me started on the death of a pet. If you haven't seen Marley & Me, I suggest you do so. Spoiler alert notwithstanding, the death of a pet should be grieved! They are part of the family! I always counsel parents to hold a funeral and allow the children time to say final words/goodbyes. That loss is critical, and most children experience it at some point in their childhood. If this happens in one of your books, recognize the need to grieve and express that grief appropriately! Or be mean and don't, but allow the character to work through it later some other way.

Next week we'll cover the last remaining types of grief, Absent, Delayed, and Inhibited. See you then!

Q4U: What other examples of disenfranchised grief can you think of to add to my list?

You still have time to enter the giveaway for Trish Perry's 
new release, The Perfect Blend. Click HERE!

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Christine said...

I am anticipating the loss of my beloved Dowager Feline Clancy. She's been with me for 18 years. A month ago the Vet said she had renal failure. I think I cried more for her than for the loss of my father. I know I did. I think our pets are God's way of letting us love and grieve without any humans interfering with the process. I don't know much about disenfranchised grief. But I do know a lot about the living interfering with the losses we incur. I have decided that people grieve the way they live.

Another disenfranchised loss I can think of is the death of a best friend. I've come close to losing my BF of almost 37 years and let me tell you--it was tough just thinking about losing her. At the time, I was "strong" for the family. Another disenfranchised loss would be the loss of a lover if one is the "other woman."

Miss Sharp said...

I remember feeling very sad when Princess Di was killed but I kept it to myself because I didn't think anyone else would understand.

But then my friend gave me a copy of Elton John's tribute to her and I realized that my grief was quite acceptable.

Thanks Jeannie for this thought-provoking post and Christine I think you made a great point regarding the grief of the "other woman" (or any kind of love that society doesn't feel is "acceptable").

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

totally. the loss of a life partner of civil union partner would be disenfranchised for sure. thanks for bringing that up.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.