Chapter 1: Grief responses to suffering and death

Unacknowledged grief

The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon explains the benefits of attending to the unacknowledged grief in our lives.(3:22)Video transcript

Disenfranchised grief is a term coined by Kenneth Doka, a gerontologist and grief expert, to describe grief that isn’t openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially recognized and supported. The concept of disenfranchised grief brings attention to societal “grieving rules” around what and for whom people should grieve, and when, where, how and for how long.  

Your family or colleagues may not recognize your work-related grief; they may not understand its potency. Perhaps this happens because we live in a death-denying society in which conversations about grief are often pushed aside. Perhaps they don’t expect that you’ll be touched by the people you meet as a paramedic and later feel grief when patients die.

If you let people know you’re feeling sad or upset, you might meet with acknowledgement and support, or you may find that people are unable or unwilling to make space for your grief. You may need to seek professional support outside of your usual social circle to find people who can set aside their assumptions and agendas to allow you your grief.