Chapter 2: How discrimination and oppression can impact grief

Unrecognized & unsupported - Non-death losses

The advocate says
Heather McCain, educator and advocate, shares how their relationship with grief and loss is multi-faceted, both personally and in their work.(3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Jade speaks about the many kinds of loss that 2SLGBTQ+ can people experience.(3:22)Video transcript

The fact that I am losing my husband – and all that we have shared – is rarely recognized at my workplace. People still refer to him as “my friend.”

Losses and grief that aren’t related to a death can go unrecognized and mean that people don’t receive the support they need when grieving. Sometimes these non-death losses can be less obvious to others unless they are shared or communicated. Some examples of non-death losses include the following:

  • Partial loss of identity or loss of friends after sharing about one’s sexual orientation or a change in gender expression, name, or pronouns
  • Gradual loss of a partner due to dementia, or progressive or advanced illness
  • Loss of connection with family, friends, faith community, or community of origin after coming out
  • Loss of culture or shared history

No matter what the reasons, you may have lost important connections or may now feel alone in the world. You may have been shunned, bullied, or excluded because of your 2SLGBTQ+ identity. You may be struggling with the question of how to maintain important relationships with people or communities who can’t, or won’t, accept your gender identity or sexual orientation.

You can experience grief even if you’ve “made peace” with your separation from family or community. Your grief may have many layers. Click on the arrows below to view some other ways you may be impacted.

Perhaps you’ve been faced with difficult decisions, such as whether or not to attend a service, or you may have been excluded from ceremonies, rituals, or significant events.

Your grief may include many different thoughts and feelings, such as regret or anger. You may have conflicting feelings, such as relief and sadness, or you may simply wish that things had been different.

The loss of important connections can contribute to feelings of shame and isolation when you are grieving. This, in turn, can put you at increased risk of depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and suicide.

What may help

  • The grief that you feel after a non-death loss is just as real as any other kind of grief. Give yourself time to acknowledge and understand your losses, whatever they may be. Remember that all of your emotions are normal.
  • If you have a “chosen family,” look to them for support. If you don’t have one, think about how you might begin to create one.
  • If it’s important to you, connect with a 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive faith community.

​​ Helpful resources
Chapter 2 - Non-death loss (of this module)