Disenfranchised Grief

Many individuals’ grief are ignored or put to the side.  When certain these types of losses do not meet society’s standards of loss then they can be swept under the rug leaving the bereaved with no resources.  Some losses are considered insignificant or inappropriate.  Some suffer stigma due to the type of situation surrounding the loss.  The loss is hence ignored, hidden or demeaned.

Grief Counselors need to address all loss and the uniqueness each loss poses for different individuals.  Some individuals may have their own subjective circumstances that enhance a loss that would not be as big an issue to others, while others may feel shame or ridicule for expressing their grief.  It is critical to respect all grief and loss and allow individuals to have a platform to grieve and be accepted.

Grief Counselors can help others process disenfranchised grief. Please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


Examples of Disenfranchised Grief include pet loss, loss of a girlfriend or boyfriend, loss of a same sex partner, or the loss of someone due to a stigmatizing disease such as AIDs.  Family whose loved one dies by the one’s own hands with suicide suffer this type of grief as well.  When a loss is ignored, ridiculed, shamed or demeaned, the individual’s loss is not valued or recognized and this leads to an inability to properly express the grief and process it.

The article, “Disenfranchised Grief—Grief That Doesn’t Fit Society’s Standards and Is Not Often Acknowledged—Is Complex But Common” by Brina Patel analyzes the feelings and emotions associated with Disenfranchised Grief and why it is important to acknowledge all loss. The article states,

“Chances are you’ve experienced disenfranchised grief at some point—maybe during your last big breakup or when your childhood dog passed away. However, just because your situation doesn’t fit in with society’s mold of grief, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be validated and processed. Skipping those all-important steps can have detrimental impacts on your mental health, and you may feel isolated and unsupported.”

“Disenfranchised Grief—Grief That Doesn’t Fit Society’s Standards and Is Not Often Acknowledged—Is Complex But Common”. Brina Patel. December 3rd, 2022. Well & Good.

To read the entire article, please click here


Grief is a natural response to loss, but not all types of grief receive the same level of recognition and support. Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is not socially recognized or acknowledged. It is often not openly expressed, and the person experiencing it may feel isolated, misunderstood, or invalidated. Disenfranchised grief can result from the loss of a person, relationship, or identity that is not widely acknowledged or socially sanctioned. Examples of disenfranchised grief include the loss of a pet, a miscarriage, the end of a non-traditional relationship, or the loss of a job.  Grief Counselors can help those suffering from these types of losses.

What is Disenfranchised Grief and How is it Different from Other Types of Grief?

Disenfranchised grief is different from other types of grief in that it is not socially recognized or acknowledged. This means that the person experiencing disenfranchised grief may not receive the same level of support or validation as someone experiencing a more socially recognized type of grief. For example, if someone loses a spouse, they may receive sympathy cards, meals, and flowers. However, if someone experiences the loss of a non-traditional relationship, they may not receive the same level of support and may even face stigma or judgment.

Disenfranchised grief can also be different in terms of the mourning process. The person experiencing disenfranchised grief may not be able to openly mourn or express their feelings, which can prolong the grieving process and make it more difficult to heal.

Common Types of Disenfranchised Grief

There are many different types of disenfranchised grief. Some common examples include:

Pet Loss

The loss of a pet can be a significant source of grief, but it is not always recognized as such. People who lose a pet may be dismissed or belittled by others who do not understand the bond between a person and their pet.


The loss of a pregnancy can be a traumatic experience, but it is often not acknowledged as such. Women who have experienced a miscarriage may feel like they are not allowed to grieve or that their loss is not as significant as other types of loss.

End of a Non-Traditional Relationship

The end of a non-traditional relationship, such as a same-sex relationship or a polyamorous relationship, can be a significant source of grief. However, people in these types of relationships may not receive the same level of support or validation as those in more traditional relationships.

Job Loss

Losing a job can be a traumatic experience, especially if the job was a significant part of a person’s identity. However, people who lose their job may not receive the same level of support or validation as those who experience other types of loss.

Signs and Symptoms of Disenfranchised Grief

Individuals suffering from disenfranchised grief feel forgotten, belittled, shamed and can intense anger


It can be difficult to identify disenfranchised grief because it is often hidden or not openly expressed. However, there are some signs and symptoms that counselors can look for. These include:

Difficulty Expressing Emotions

People experiencing disenfranchised grief may have difficulty expressing their emotions or may feel like they are not allowed to express their emotions. They may bottle up their feelings or avoid talking about their loss altogether.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel isolated or alone. They may feel like no one understands what they are going through or that they are not allowed to talk about their loss.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel guilty for grieving or for their loss. They may feel like they do not have the right to grieve or that their loss is not significant enough to deserve grief.


People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel angry or resentful towards others who do not understand their grief or who dismiss their loss.

How to Support Someone Experiencing Disenfranchised Grief

Supporting someone experiencing disenfranchised grief requires empathy, validation, and understanding. As a Grief counselor, there are several techniques you can use to support someone experiencing disenfranchised grief.

Active Listening

Active listening is a technique that involves listening to the person without judgment and without interrupting. It involves reflecting back what the person is saying and validating their feelings.  Grief Counselors can play a key role in validating the feelings of others.

Listening, being empathetic, normalizing and validating one’s disenfranchised grief can help them heal and cope with these types of losses



Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of the person experiencing grief. It involves putting yourself in their shoes and imagining how you would feel in their situation.


Validation is the act of acknowledging the person’s feelings and experiences as real and important. It involves letting the person know that their grief is valid and that it is okay to feel the way they feel.


Normalizing is the act of letting the person know that their feelings and experiences are normal and that others have experienced similar types of grief. It involves educating the person about disenfranchised grief and letting them know that they are not alone.  Greif Counselors can help those suffering these types of losses realize that all loss is legitimate.

Techniques for Addressing Disenfranchised Grief in Counseling

There are numerous therapies to help individuals face disenfranchised grief and understand their particular loss


There are several techniques that counselors can use to address disenfranchised grief in counseling. Licensed Counselors can employ these therapies


Psychoeducation involves educating the person about disenfranchised grief and helping them understand that their grief is valid and normal.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors. It can be helpful for addressing feelings of guilt or anger associated with disenfranchised grief.

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on being present in the moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can be helpful for addressing feelings of isolation and loneliness associated with disenfranchised grief.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on helping the person create a new narrative about the loss.  It can be helpful for reframing the loss and creating a new sense of meaning and purpose

Case Studies Highlighting the Impact of Disenfranchised Grief

Case studies can be helpful for understanding the impact of disenfranchised grief. Here are a few examples:


Jane experienced the loss of a pregnancy early in her first trimester. She felt like she was not allowed to grieve because the pregnancy was not far along. However, she was devastated by the loss and struggled to move on. After seeking counseling, she was able to process her grief and find closure.


Sam lost his job after working at the same company for 20 years. He felt like he had lost a significant part of his identity and struggled to find a new sense of purpose. After seeking counseling, he was able to reframe his loss and find new opportunities for growth and development.


Maria experienced the end of a same-sex relationship. She felt like she was not allowed to grieve because the relationship was not recognized by society. She struggled with feelings of isolation and loneliness. After seeking counseling, she was able to process her grief and find a new sense of community and support.

Disenfranchised Grief and Cultural Differences

It is important to recognize that disenfranchised grief can be influenced by cultural differences. Some cultures may not recognize certain types of loss or may have different mourning rituals. As counselors, it is important to be sensitive to cultural differences and to adapt our approach accordingly.

Conclusion and Next Steps for Grief Counselors Seeking to Support Clients with Disenfranchised Grief

Grief Counselors can help individuals realize their loss is unique and special no matter what society says or dictates.


Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is often overlooked or misunderstood. As Grief counselors, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of disenfranchised grief and to provide empathy, validation, and understanding to our clients. By using techniques such as active listening, empathy, and validation, we can help our clients process their grief and find closure. There are many resources available for counselors supporting clients with disenfranchised grief, and it is important to continue to educate ourselves.

AIHCP offers a Grief Counseling Certification which can help prepare individuals to help others with disenfranchised grief.  The Grief Counseling Certification Program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals.  Please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.

Additional Resources

“What Is Disenfranchised Grief?”. Sanjana Gupta. April 16th, 2022. VeryWellMind. Access here

“All About Disenfranchised Grief”. Cathy Cassata. July 27th, 2021. PyschCentral. Access here

“Disen-whaaaat?? Understanding Disenfranchised Grief”. Litsa Williams. July 8th, 2013. What’s Your Grief.  Access here

“Disenfranchised Grief Might Be the Hardest Kind to Process—Here’s What It Is and Why, According to Experts”. Claire Gillespie. August 5th, 2021. Health. Access here

Pet Loss Grief and Disenfranchisement

Losing a pet is painful in itself.  A pet, especially a dog, cat or even horse can form a special bond with someone.  Due to their intelligence, emotional bond, and even overall meaning to the person, the loss of a pet for some can be as painful as losing a family member.  This is far from crazy or insane but is a true reality.  This is even more so for individuals with few family or friends left.

Still despite this pain, many also suffer from little support in these types of losses.  The loss is dismissed as insignificant or not equal to other losses.  This type of disenfranchised grief is not respected, supported or mourned by others.  Instead the person is left to grieve alone and even feel stigmatized for feeling sadness over the loss.

To many, pets are family and the loss of a pet is horrific. Unfortunately, many downplay the loss of a pet as not as important as human loss.


The article, “Review provides new perspective on grieving the loss of a pet” by Cabi of PsychOrg takes a more in-depth look of this type of disenfranchisement in a discussion with Dr Crossley who works with pet loss grief.  The article discusses the impact of disenfranchisement of pet loss grief but also shows how this type of grief manifests in other types of losses.  It is important, according to Dr Crossley, to help others through any type of loss and not to minimize it.  The article states,

“The researchers say that stigma associated with grieving a loss can complicate the healing process and that counselors would expect to see more clients wanting to discuss their grieving—particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They add that while empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, there are other types of loss that are not acknowledged or given a similar amount of attention by society.”

Review provides new perspective on grieving the loss of a pet. Cabi. November 25th, 2022. PsychOrg

To review the article, please click here


It is increasingly evident that pets have evolved from being mere domestic companions to important members of our households. While their presence has long been theorized to provide comfort and alleviation of mental health, recent research indicates that they offer an even more profound impact on our lives. Pets, in fact, are capable of providing a form of social support which can prove beneficial in terms of helping us cope with stress and anxiety.  In specific, dogs have long been established as a source of companionship and friendship, but their role in human life is far more significant than that of a mere friend. In fact, canine-human relationships have been the focus of an increasing amount of interdisciplinary research, demonstrating the neurobiological and psychological benefits associated with these cross-species interactions.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is a concept used to refer to those who experience loss that is not adequately acknowledged, understood, or accepted by society. It has been described as the “unrecognized and unacknowledged” losses that individuals face without any societal support or validation. The lack of recognition in such cases means that there is no social ritual or language for expressing these feelings, leaving them unable to grieve formally.

The term ‘disenfranchised grief’ refers to the process by which individuals are unable to adequately express their grief due to a lack of societal recognition or social support for mourning those who have died. In regards to pets, this concept can be particularly relevant as these relationships may not be understood or recognized by others, leaving the bereaved unable to engage in traditional rituals of grief and healing.

Assisting individuals through pet loss is an invaluable component of psychological welfare, as it can serve to promote a sense of connectedness and resilience within the community. By providing a platform for those affected by pet loss to process their grief, pet loss support groups act as an integral mechanism for mitigating the emotional turmoil that often accompanies such a devastating event. Moreover, the therapeutic benefits of discussing one’s experiences with others who understand can ameliorate feelings of isolation and foster mutual understanding between participants.


In conclusion, disenfranchised grief is a unique experience that should be acknowledged, respected, and openly discussed. It affects individuals in different ways and can range from minor inconveniences to more complex issues. It is important that those experiencing disenfranchised grief are offered support and resources to assist them in processing their emotions. Additionally, it is crucial to recognize the existence of disenfranchised grief as it has significant impacts on psychological health.

Pet loss is an incredibly difficult experience to handle. It can bring a range of emotions, but it is important to remember that it is a part of life and that you are not alone in your grief. To help cope with the pain, reach out to a friend or family member for support, join a pet loss support group, or seek professional counselling. Remembering the impact our beloved pets had on us and our lives in a positive light may help us heal.

It is important to help others process this grief by respecting it.  Pet Loss Grief Support specialists can help individuals better process this loss.  They can help others understand that the loss is important and respected.  If qualified, please review AIHCP’s Pet Loss Grief Support Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program in Pet Loss Grief Support is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pet Loss Grief Support.

Additional Resources

“Including Pet Loss in Your Grief Counseling Practice”. Lisa Hutchison, LMHC. Counseling Schools.  Access here

“A Beloved Pet’s Death Can Trigger Deep Grief. Finding Support Can Be Tough”. Cara Murez. Nov. 28, 2022.  US. News.  Access here

“Grieving the Loss of a Pet: Why It’s So Hard and Tips for Coping”. Lily Velez. November 29th, 2022. Veterinarians.org.  Access here

“How to Grieve the Death of a Pet”. Healthessentials. October 4th, 2021. Cleveland Clinic. Access here

Grief Counseling Certification Video on Disenfranchised Grief

Unfortunately, many individuals and their grief are ignored, downplayed or ridiculed.  Those who face such grief situations are considered disenfranchised.  Individuals deserve to have every loss accepted and respected but sometimes due to the nature of the loss or type of loss, they feel embarrassed or belittled.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking to a four year certification in grief counseling


Please review the video below

Grief Counseling Certification Program Article on Disenfranchised Grief

Those who are unable to properly express their grief due to belittlement, stigma, social indifference, or ignorance experience Disenfranchised Grief.  Examples include pet loss grief,  loss of a loved one who died under stigmatic circumstances, or those who are not considered close enough to the loss to deserve attention.  The belittlement or total disregard of those who grieve for certain reasons is a big problem in society.  All loss and grief from that loss should be treated with empathy and love.

Many are not able to openly grieve. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification


The article, “Disenfranchised Grief: How to Cope & When to Get Help” by Hart Haraguchi takes a closer look at the nature of Disenfranchised Grief.  She states,

“Disenfranchised grief, sometimes called hidden grief, occurs when a loss is not publicly acknowledged or validated through traditional norms and rituals. Those experiencing disenfranchised grief feel isolated, stigmatized, and ashamed. While it can feel overwhelming, there are ways to support yourself through your grief including creating a mourning ritual, connecting with others who understand, and talking with a therapist.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Grief Counselor.

Grief Counseling Certification Article on Disenfranchised Grief

Grief is loss and all loss needs vindicated in one’s life.  When grief is not acknowledged it can cause many problems in the grief process.  Disenfranchised grief is when grief is not respected.  Examples include pet loss.  Many people are told when they lose a pet that it does not matter.  This is the type of rejection that the grieving should not be subjected to.  Other examples include stigmas that surround loss, such as the loss of a same sex partner, or the minimizing of an individuals connection to another person who may have passed away.  In all these cases, the grief is not accepted socially or acknowledged as legitimate.

A grief that is not respected or acknowledged is a disenfranchised grief. Please also review our grief counseling certification program to see if it meets your needs

The article, “What Is Disenfranchised Grief?” by Linnea Crowther looks at the nature of disenfranchised grief. She states,

“It’s painful when others don’t understand your grieving or don’t believe that you’re really feeling the loss that you are. Disenfranchised grief is more common than you might realize, and it increases the trauma of a loss.”

To read the entire article please click here

Please also review our Grief Counseling Certification to see if it matches your academic and professional goals.


Grief Counselor Article on Disenfranchised Grief

Grief or loss has no bounds because loss can be anything.   While most loss is something dear to oneself, there can be a wide variety of losses than fall outside of standards of what some would could consider regular.  Some of these losses are referred to as disenfranchised losses because they fall out of the usual and normative categories.

Society tends to determine what constitutes loss, but grief does not work that way.

Understanding that loss is not only objective but also subjective is key.  Grief Counselors cannot label some things or losses as normal and others as not abnormal or not important.   Yes, there must be a line somewhere but if Grief Counseling only acknowledges normal losses then grief counseling ceases to serve all.

What we consider main stream loss is loss of someone dear.  We tend to as a society rank things and classify them.  Human society also ranks and classifies losses.   Obviously the loss of a parent, or child, or spouse is considered the most devastating types of losses one can endure.   We tend to rank siblings and grandparents next, with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends thereafter.  Yet this type of ranking can sometimes be wrong.  For some, a parent relationship may exist with a grandparent or aunt or uncle.  For others, a dear friend may be closer than a distant sibling.

So it is very naive to always assume a ranking of loss.  In some cases, unique relationships exist.   Unique relationships can go well beyond human bonds as well.  One of the most disenfranchised type of loss is pet loss.  Individuals assume since the loss is not a family member or human friend that the loss of a dog, cat, horse or even a hamster or rabbit is meaningless.  Again, some individuals create bonds that are very intense.  These bonds need respected.   In the case of a family pet, it can be very traumatizing and hence a serious loss.  As a society, and as certified Grief Counselors, we need to recognize this reality.

Is there a line that needs drawn?   Can a loss become to insanely abnormal?   This is hard to say.  It is true that complicated grief and abnormal reactions can occur but the grief counselor must be very careful in diagnosing what is a normal loss or a complicated grief reaction.  If someone’s plant dies, goldfish, then how far can we begin to see a disproportionate grief reaction to the value.  Again this is difficult because bonds are what determine grief.  Abnormal bonds are subjective but where is the line drawn?  From human to dog, or dog to goldfish?  This is indeed difficult.  People may form abnormal bonds and that needs addressed but one must be careful in assessing what is normal and not normal.  There definitely is a line but it is not as universal as some may think.

Pet loss is an example of Disenfranchised Grief

Beyond the hierarchy of losses which unfortunately can determine what is a “real loss” and what is not, one can find many other types of disenfranchised losses.   Disenfranchised loss views can easily dismiss many who are forgotten in the mourning cycle.   For instance, how many times if the father neglected when a miscarriage occurs?   How many times, is a step father or step mother neglected if a step child dies?  How many times are cousins, or others discounted, beyond siblings during a loss of a brother or a sister.   One cannot dismiss the grief of other people in the life of a person just because they do not fit neatly as son, daughter, brother, sister, or mother and father.   There are numerous other relationships that can be over looked,

Relationships that are not mainstream can also sometimes see disenfranchisement.   Like a boyfriend who may grieve a loss of a girlfriend but not be seen as important to the family, there are numerous same sex relationships, where other partners are neglected in the pain and grief they feel over the loss of their significant other.

In addition to this, certain types of deaths may be seen with stigma.  Stigma can also affect disenfranchisement.  Suicide is a common example.  In these cases, the family needed support, is sometimes neglected because of the delicacy of the subject.

Other types of losses, such as miscarriage, are also commonly downplayed or dismissed.  Even the pain suffered by couples who cannot conceive.

In addition, many losses are also downplayed or dismissed that fail to meet the criteria of death.  A loss of a job, relationship, or the loss of a body part can all be downplayed.  These losses are still very painful and while they may not entail the ultimate loss of death, they still nonetheless carry grief with them.  For many the loss of a fiance or the pains of a divorce are equal to death.  The end of something and the loss of that person is final.

Grief Counselors need to be aware and alert to all types of losses and not quick to dismiss to a social hierarchy of reaction.  Every loss needs to be acknowledged and understood in relationship to the griever.  Unique grieving situations can arise beyond the mainstream.  This is not to say, grief counselors should not dismiss unhealthy grief reactions or abnormal bonds, but it does say grief counselors should keep an open mind about different types of losses.  Disenfranchised grievers can be minimized by merely acknowledging loss.

In doing so, grief counselors must dismiss comparative statements and instead address the loss.  Statements that start with ” at least it was not this or that” or “it could have been worse” or “this is not that big of a deal” need to be removed from every grief counselors treatment.  Grief Counselors need to acknowledge the loss and understand how that loss affects the individual.  Whether it is the loss of a rabbit, or a teenage breakup, the loss must be understood for what it is.  Only the griever can later access the value of the loss in comparison to other things.  In some cases, they may very well consider that loss to still be a significant loss.  An elderly woman may consider the loss of her cat to be very devastating even though many others would dismiss it.

The purpose of the Grief Counselor is not dismiss any loss but to help clients understand their loss, adapt to it and evaluate it on their own terms.  Return to healthy adaptation of the client is the mission of the grief counselor, not loss judgement.

Loss judgement is the key term to remember with disenfranchised grief.  Grief counselors cannot judge loss but only acknowledge and help others deal with it.  When loss is not acknowledged, the griever suffers more intensely.

Please review our Grief Counselor Certification Program and see if it meets your professional and academic goals

Disenfranchised grief will continue to exist because society has its own standard on what loss is.  People have their own ideas and fail to show empathy.   While this is a reality, it should not be a reality in Grief Counseling.  If you would like to become a certified Grief Counselor then please review the American Academy of Grief Counseling’s program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.