Chapter 6: Grief in LGBTQ+ immigrant and refugee communities

End-of-life challenges

When we found out she was dying, we decided to meet as a group to remind everyone about how careful we needed to be about posting things on social media and stuff like that. If her family or others found out that she was a lesbian, who knows what might happen. Maybe something bad would happen to her or to them.

If you or someone you know is dying, you may not be able to express or share your grief in ways that are familiar or meaningful to you because of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Below are several examples. Click on each example on the left to reveal more about it. 

Death of a family member in country of origin
  • Not being able to visit because of safety concerns, distance, travel fare, or visa status
  • Being barred from participating in funeral or ritual


Death of a LGBTQ+ friend in country of origin
  • Not being able to attend the funeral or acknowledge their, and your, LGBTQ+ status to family
  • Not being able to express your true feelings to members of family or community


Death of an immigrant or refugee partner
  • Being excluded from after-death arrangements made by their family

  • Not being able to accompany the body for burial in your partner’s country of origin because of risks to safety

  • Not being recognized as their grieving partner


Preparing for your own death
  • Not being able to see family or friends to say goodbye
  • Not being able to see your chosen family (partner, friends, etc.)
  • Not being able to be buried with other members of your family
  • Being barred from receiving religious or other after-death care

It can be very hard to grieve if you’re without people who know and understand you and your needs. 

What may help

  • It’s important to acknowledge any challenges or difficulties that you face, but also to reflect on your strengths. As a LGBTQ+ immigrant or refugee, you may have already experienced many losses. Reminding yourself of ways that you have managed these in the past may help you now. 
  • Although you may feel very alone, reach out for support from people or organizations that have a good understanding of the issues you face. You may find support from others from your home country, or from 2SLGBTQ+ people who, while not immigrants or refugees, can understand you and your needs.
  • Consider modifying or creating rituals that can help you to express your grief. These might be private or shared.
  • In time, you may want to use your experience to help other LGBTQ+ immigrants or refugees who have come to Canada. You may find this helpful to you as you think about and share your own experience and acknowledge what you have achieved.