28th November 2022
Disenfranchised grief is a term used to refer to grief that isn’t really acknowledged by the people around you or by society as a whole. Some people may think that the loss that you feel isn’t significant, and that your grief isn’t really valid. You may feel disenfranchised grief when you mourn the loss of a friend or work colleague, the death of an ex-partner, or the death of a beloved pet.
The death of a pet can be as distressing as losing a friend or family member. More and more, we consider our pets as part of the family, and we form strong bonds with our pets, they play an important role in our lives, so it is logical that when they die, your loss may have a profound effect on you. Sadly, some people consider that the death of your pet is not something that you should grieve over, or it should not take you long to get over their death, which can make your ability to come to terms with the loss that much harder.
People may also be dismissive if you are grieving the loss of a pet that they see as less significant, like a rabbit, or a hamster or a parrot. Again, this judgement by others can make it hard for you to accept your loss and feel that you are allowed to grieve.
How disenfranchised grief may affect you
You may feel more depressed or angry because you feel that your grief is not acceptable in the eyes of others, and that you should ‘get over it’. This may prevent you from expressing your emotions which are a key part of the grieving process.
When we lose a loved one, the rituals and ceremonies associated with death are a way for us to process our grief. They give us the opportunity to acknowledge the importance of that person in our lives, a way to say goodbye, but we don’t always do this publicly for our pets, preferring to do so with our close family. This means that the loss is private, and not accepted by society, which may make you feel that your loss isn’t as important.
How to cope with disenfranchised grief
There are a few things you can do to help you with the loss of a beloved pet so you can process your emotions and move forward with your life.
You must accept your grief as real and worthy of expressing. Allow yourself to feel sad and try to avoid just getting on with life and bottling up your emotions, not expressing them.
Find ways to acknowledge and honour the death of your pet, who has been an important part of your life. You have bonded with your pet, given them love and care, so it is only right that you should hold a ceremony to pay your respects. Having a symbolic farewell will help you come to terms with your loss.
Reach out to friends, family and the pet community, the people that know how much your pet meant to you, to share your feelings. Talk about your pet, your love for them and how you are feeling which will help you come to terms with your loss.
Make new traditions that will help you remember your pet, either through artwork, a photo collage or create memorable objects using something of theirs so you always have a reminder of how important they were to you.
If you are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of your pet, it may be helpful to talk to a professional who will help you explore your emotions and find ways to integrate your loss into your life in a more positive way.
If you are looking for personalised, sensitive bereavement counselling in Harrogate or online, feel free to get in touch and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.