Disenfranchised grief is described as grief that cannot be openly expressed to others. It is a grief that society does not acknowledge or accepts. The grief or sadness can be uncomfortable to others. Examples of disenfranchised grief; loss of a limb, loss of a pet also a loss of a job. The grief reactions from death of a spouse is considered “normal” grief. But the death of an ex spouse can be considered a disenfranchising grief. I will discuss the loss of an ex spouse, analyze factors that disenfranchise the loss as well as the ways the loss complicates grief.
What happens when ones ex spouse dies? Do you attend the funeral services, takes days off from work or cry? Society does not regcnoize nor accept ex spousal death as normal or shall I say should not be talked about. There have been little research conducted supporting the grieving patterns of the loss of an ex spouse. Losing an ex- spouse can be rewarding for some but very painful for others. The grieving process will depend on the circumstances and the relationship between the former spouses. A major complicating factor of ex- spousal death, in my opinipon is divorce.
Divorce is also considered a disenfranchised grief. According to the Census Bureau, the median age at first marriage has risen from 23 for men and 20 for women in 1950 to 28 for men and 26 for women in 2009. Recent surveys have shown that divorce rates in the US now lowering due to factors such as completing college, starting careers, and finding the right person to marry. With that being stated divorce still happens among marriages and it affects more than just two people, children, friends, and even pets.
Doka (1986) conducted in-depth interviews with eight surviving ex-spouses focusing on grief reactions to divorce and death and social dislocations adding to bereavement when death follows divorce. Guilt, anger, regret, role ambiguity, and discomfort were found in response to the divorce and death. Doka (1986) emphasized that although divorce ends a marriage, it does not end the relationship between the two persons. Former spouses maintain significant bonds including continued contact with shared children and mutual friends, as well as economic ties such as alimony, child support, and joint property.
Continued emotional ties are also common as former spouses may have strong ambivalent feelings toward one another or even harbor fantasies of reconciliation. Doka (1986) found that half of his participants had experienced no significant grief reaction or social difficulties following the death. He attributed this to the fact that, prior to the death, these individuals had successfully resolved their divorce grief and disengaged from their ex-spouse.
In contrast, the other half of the participant group experienced significant grief over the death, primarily because they had not yet resolved their pain and grief over the divorce. Doka (1986) found that the most common emotions experienced by the bereaved ex- spouses in his study were intense guilt and regret, as well as continued thoughts about what might have been. In the conclusion of the study he concluded that the level of grief experienced by a surviving ex-spouse is affected by a variety of complex factors.
What are the next steps after the death of an ex- spouse? There is not just one correct answer to that question. Everyone is entitled to a healthy grieving process. Whether the death is accepted in society or not every individual should have the right to grieve the persons they loved. There are various ways to cope with grief and it will vary from person to person. Grief and bereavement groups, friends, family and even professional therapy are all ways an individual can use as coping strategies after a death occurs.
Grief groups are known to be effective after losing a spouse. At the time of a death you may not realize that there are other people who experiencing the same grief, grief groups are a good way to receive help as well as educating yourself and others. Creating new hobbies or goals are great coping mechinisms as well for those grieving indiviuals. Being active with family and friends can aslo help cope during this difficult time. References Doka, K. (1986). Loss upon loss: The impact of death after divorce