Disenfranchised grief is a concept first presented in 1989 by Kenneth Doka, Ph.D., and a kind of grief that is not openly acknowledged, socially validated or publicly mourned. Adoption has been viewed by our society in terms of the gains adoptees receive and the grief adoptees experience at the loss of their biological mothers has been overlooked or minimized. Adoption has also been shrouded in secrecy for many years and it is only over the last couple of decades where it has become more open. Those adopted during the years of secrecy were often told they were lucky, given messages that the desire to search for their biological parents would harm the adopted parents, had their original birth certificates and other documents or information about their birth family sealed, and had their feelings of anger, grief and rejection invalidated by adopted family members, friends, and/or society. They were oftentimes given no information, or very little information, about their biological family, the circumstances of their birth, their nationality and other factors that influence identity formation. All of this can contribute to the formation of disenfranchised grief. This incomplete grieving process can turn into acute, then chronic depression, unresolved feelings of self-blame and guilt, psychosomatic illness, physical illness, and other mental health disorders.
Symptoms of disenfranchised grief can include:
•Intense feelings of sadness, loneliness, anger, fear and guilt
•Erratic sleep patterns
•Shock or disbelief
•Unexplained physical pain and muscle tension
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are feeling overwhelmed about your grief and concerned for your mental health, a mental health professional can work with you to assess your concerns or symptoms and help you to develop a plan for action. Speaking with a therapist who can normalize your grieving process in a safe and supportive environment, without judgment, can provide hope and help you adapt and work through your grief. Your grief is valid and you don’t have to grieve alone!
To learn more or to schedule an intake with me, call 402-325-0117 x4 or book an appointment online here!
Carla Hammer, M.S., PLMHP
1001 S. 70th Street, Suite #225
Lincoln, NE 68510