For instance, many who lost partners to HIV/AIDS back in the 80s and 90s would be considered disenfranchised grievers — people may not have been “out” about their sexuality or the nature of their relationship. And at the time, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence.
When a person loses a best friend or a more distant relative, like an aunt or a cousin, a person can be considered disenfranchised.
Think about it. . . maybe your mom’s best friend took care of you after your parent’s died. There is no bereavement time off when this best friend later dies and you have to try to explain it to them at work. This person maybe the closest living person to you, but in the company’s eyes, this relationship does not constitute a close family member.
So, I think that helps to explain what it means to be a disenfranchised griever. . . these aren’t people we think to send sympathy cards to after their loss.
But what about suicide? Why have I started off a post about suicide by talking about disenfranchised grief?
There is so much stigma associated with suicide. . . societal, religious, spiritual, and interpersonal.
Grief is hard enough to deal with and loss due to suicide is even tougher for most people to try to understand.
We have a lot of thoughts about suicide. . .
“How could they do this to me?”
“Did I miss the signs?”
“Could I have done something?”
“How could the person I love go against God’s will?”
“Didn’t she love me?”
“Why didn’t he get help?”
According to an article on buddhanet.net on suicide:
“Why would anyone willingly hasten or cause his or her own death? Mental health professionals who have been searching for years for an answer to that question generally agree that people who took their own lives felt trapped by what they saw as a hopeless situation. Whatever the reality, whatever the emotional support provided, they felt isolated and cut off from life, friendships, etc. Even if no physical illness was present suicide victims felt intense pain, anguish, and hopelessness. John Newer, author of After Suicide, says, “He or she probably wasn’t choosing death as much as choosing to end this unbearable pain,”
It’s hard, when you have never experienced grave psychological or physical pain, to understand what might be going through the mind of the person who attempts to suicide or completes suicide.
Grief is never easy, no matter what the circumstances, even when we feel relief for the end of a person’s pain. But grief gets more complex as we add layers onto it.
We don’t understand what was going on with the person we loved. How could they not come to us for help?
Other people might not understand the relationship that we had with the person who completed suicide.
And the type of death, suicide itself, has multiple kinds of stigma attached to it.
Grief for the person who is bereft because suicide can be a confusing and painful.
The best thing you can do to help is to let the person know that you are there and can listen.
Acknowledge the loss, don’t run from it.
We all want to know that someone is there for us when we are hurting.
If you can be that person, let them know.
If you can’t, find out what services are in your area and let them know that help is available.
Next post on loss due to suicide will give you more information on how to be supportive.
- What You Need to Know – About Suicide (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Lessons (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- U.S. military averaging a suicide a day in 2012 (cbsnews.com)
- Suicide charity Samaritans slams Go Compare for ‘jump off a cliff’ ads (thesun.co.uk)
- Unravelling youth suicide (stuff.co.nz)