Chapter 2: How discrimination and oppression can impact grief

Shame and invisibility

I've been there
Al speaks about the hurt he felt when he couldn't openly grieve the death of his partner from AIDS within the gay community. (3:22)Video transcript

Sometimes when I was in hospital and my wife was with me, the nurses would say things like, “Oh, this must be your sister,” or “It’s so nice that you have a friend here with you.” They didn’t even consider that she might be my romantic partner.

I know that my grief has some things in common with grief after a death, but with this, there is shame attached. There is stigma.

As a 2SLGBTQ+ person, you may carry feelings of invisibility or shame from your personal experiences or from a shared history with others in your community, whether in Canada or elsewhere. Other people’s reactions may lead you and/or your partner to feel or react in certain ways that can impact your grief. Even subtle messages from others can lead you to disconnect or deny your grief.

Click on each switch button below to first view how you may feel or react, and then learn how this may impact your grief.

If…Impact on your grief

You or your partner hide your identity or the true nature of your relationship…


You feel that you are not seen for who you truly are…

You may feel very alone or ashamed in grieving your losses. You may also feel like your grief is unacknowledged or unrecognized.

You may feel angry that your loss and your grief are unacknowledged or poorly supported.

If…Impact on your grief

Other people mock or dismiss your experience of loss, or even threaten you physically...


You have chosen to be “out” with family members, co-workers, and institutions, but they refuse to accept your 2SLGBTQ+ identity or relationships...

You may feel “too visible,” vulnerable, or unsafe to express your grief.

You may feel exhausted or resentful at not being accepted as you are and prevented from sharing your grief as you need.

What may help

  • Regardless of external circumstances, recognize and acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings and the impact of your losses.
  • Remind yourself that your grief is real and reach out to people who will see and hear you.
  • Look for 2SLGBTQ+ grief resources and supports in your community or online.
  • Take steps to resist feelings of invisibility, shame, or isolation. Create personal rituals, get involved in 2SLGBTQ+ groups, or participate in Pride or community activities that may help to counter experiences of discrimination.
  • If you experience very difficult feelings or feel “stuck” in your grief, consult with a supportive professional grief counsellor.