Disenfranchised Grief

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The New York Times Well Columnist Tara Parker-Pope writes in a recent article “It’s OK to Grieve for the Small Losses of a Lost Year” about “disenfranchised grief” that is not routinely acknowledged or supported.

“It can happen when we don’t have a legal tie to the person we lose, as is the case in a romantic affair or after a divorce. When the loss makes others uncomfortable — such as with a miscarriage or suicide — we might also lack support for our grief. But often disenfranchised grief happens around losses that don’t involve loss of human life, like the loss of a job, a missed career opportunity, the death of a pet or lost time with people we love.”

One of her women reader wrote to Parker-Pope about her fears that she had lost a year of fertility:

“I lost a year of dating and fertility at age 35, and I didn’t have words for that loss. Perhaps I have lost the chance of having a biological family of my own?”

In the hierarchy of human suffering during the pandemic, a canceled prom, a lost vacation or missing out on seeing a child’s first steps may not sound like much, but mental health experts say that all loss needs to be acknowledged and grieved.

“People don’t feel like they have the right to grieve,” said Lisa S. Zoll, a licensed clinical social worker in Lemoyne, Pa., who specializes in grief counseling. “A year into this, the losses are piling up. I just had this conversation in my office when this person said, ‘I can’t complain about my grief, because people have it worse.’ But we have to correct that thinking. Your grief is your grief. You can’t compare it to other people’s.”

Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times

Link to Tara Parker-Pope’s full article: It’s OK to Grieve for the Small Losses of a Lost Year