Hey fam!

I want to talk with you about disenfranchised grief. Many of you know, as a doula AND hospice social worker, I work with families who welcome new life into this world as well as families who are preparing to say to goodbye to their loved ones. What a gift this work has been. I’m in the unique position to witness some common threads in the areas of birth and death. Grief and loss show up in many ways. Joy and peace also show up in death work, but that’s another story that I’d love to share with you for another day.

What is grief? Grief is a natural response to loss. It can make you feel confused, forgetful, anxious, angry, profoundly sad, and scared. It can also have physical symptoms. Grief asks a lot of us; it can be beautiful and transformative and is a healthy part of our life cycle. We grieve throughout our lifetimes for many things.

Disenfranchised grief is the experience of loss that is not often recognized or validated by society at large. One feels isolated, shamed, and undeserving of grieving these kinds of losses. Below is a list of some of the most common ways disenfranchised grief shows up in the family planning, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. Because there’s so much to say about this experience, I’m actually splitting this up into a three-part series. Would you like to submit a question? I’d be sure to answer it in the upcoming newsletters.

  • Exclusion of Non-gestational Parent– often times, the experiences of loss, grief, and postpartum adjustment for the non-gestational parent are invalidated, minimized, or ignored.
  • First Trimester Pregnancy Loss– because folks are advised to wait (typically 3 months) to share news of their pregnancy, if a loss happens before that time period, individuals and couples are left to grieve in silence. If others do know of the loss, it’s unclear how to proceed.
  • Loss of Support– support from significant figures/changes in relationships/friendships, etc.; this type of disenfranchised grief can show up at any point on the family planning journey, from fertility treatments to postpartum.
  • Difficult Pregnancy– celebrities make pregnancy look easy don’t they? This is, of course, not everyone’s experience. Some people just don’t enjoy their pregnancy. As a pregnant person, it is stigmatized to express regret or disdain for your pregnancy experience.
  • Traumatic Birth– While people acknowledge how difficult coping from a traumatic birthing experience is, most don’t often recognize that there is a real grief and mourning that occurs following such an experience. One is left with grieving the loss of autonomy and grieving the expectation of a certain labor outcome.
  • Ease of lifestyle– As a parent, it is absolutely ok to mourn the ease and freedom of your pre-parent life. You are human. There is a loss of identity, in trying to find and acclimate to a new identity.

Stay tuned as we continue this conversation on how to deal/cope with each of the disenfranchise grief mentioned above. I hope you feel seen. Feel free to share with others in your community.