Chapter 7: Grief among 2SLGBTQ+ seniors and elders

Your unique history and memories

The grief expert says
Kathy Kortes-Miller speaks about the need to honour the often unacknolwedged work done by 2SLGBTQ+ seniors and elders.(3:22)

In my generation, many of us had been very out and very public, and we had worked for all of the rights we have now. But there’s this thing where people in our community “go back into the closet” if they have to go into residential care.

Your sexual orientation and/or gender identity will have influenced your life experiences in unique ways. For example, if you were living in Canada, your experiences before and after 1969, when homosexuality was decriminalized, have likely influenced your decisions about being out or openly part of a 2SLGBTQ+ community.

You may not be “out,” or perhaps you are but your partner is not. It’s also possible that you came out in the later years of your life and feel some regret or grief over not having had more time to be who you truly are. 

If you witnessed the overwhelming number of deaths that occurred during the AIDS crisis that began in the 1980s, you likely carry painful memories of discrimination, trauma, and grief. Because HIV no longer carries the certainty of death, younger members of your community don’t share your experiences. You may feel isolated or possibly disconnected from your grief, which may include “

survivor guilt

Survivor guilt is a sense of guilt or remorse that may be experienced when a person lives through a life-threatening situation or traumatic event when others did not.


If you have lived your life as a more openly 2SLGBTQ+ person, you may feel weary or less able to cope with discrimination and oppression based on your 2SLGBTQ+ identity and ageism. Alternatively, if you have kept your sexual orientation or gender identity private, this may have taken a toll on you and contributed to your social isolation, invisibility, and internalization of homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia.

What may help

  • Regardless of the decisions you have made up to now, it’s important to think about and make plans for your future care. Explore available resources and supports, and create legal documents that can help to protect you and further your wishes.
  • Keep in mind that although discrimination still exists, there has been and continues to be significant progress in creating equality, diversity, and inclusivity within society and healthcare institutions.

​​ Helpful resources