Throughout our lives, we will all experience some form of loss and grief. Hopefully, we are provided with the support, love and understanding to help us during this difficult time. However, we don’t always adequately recognise the grief felt by different groups.

This includes the grief felt by Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Communities, parents experiencing perinatal loss, women who have had an abortion, pet owners whose pets have recently died, and those whose relationships aren’t formally recognised. This is also true for children, the elderly, and people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Indeed, when people who have intellectual of physical difficulties experience some form of lose and grief, their grief is often ignored. This usually takes place when individuals who have some form of disability experience estrangement or alienation from family members and/or groups. It can also include the subsequent denial of access to the support of their own family/friend network and to the family/friend network of the deceased.

There have also been situations whereby the griever has been identified as not being ‘socially proficient’ in being able to grieve. Consequently, there is little or no social recognition for these individuals to mourn the deceased (Reynolds, 2002).

There have been studies that have shown that those who have an intellectual or physical disability do understand the concept of death and also experience grief. These reactions may not be recognised by others due to the person being developmentally challenged and consequently family members tend to ignore these individuals’ need to grieve (Despelder and Strickland, 1995).

But it is something we should recognise and reflect on – because people experience disenfranchised grief too often.

Please note that this blog is an edited version. If you would like to view the unedited version please click here.

Tanya Jordan

Tanya is an experienced Forensic Social Worker and an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with T n J’s Consulting and Support Services. Special acknowledgement and gratitude to Mrs. Melanie Hill Lane of the Yorta Yorta Tribe for supporting the writing of this blog.

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