Chapter 3: How others respond to your friend’s death

Unacknowledged loss

I often think that I don’t have the right to feel this heartbroken – not like her partner and her sister and her parents.

We were friends but really he was family to me. He was my brother. We grew up together and have done everything together. I don’t really know how to be without him. 

You may find that some people do not understand the depth or meaning of your loss. Perhaps your friend who died was part of your “chosen family”; yet you may get messages that your relationship or their death is less significant than that of a spouse, child, parent, or sibling.

If you are given subtle, or not so subtle, messages that minimize or dismiss your grief, you may feel confused, angry, or isolated. This kind of grief, which is sometimes called

Disenfranchised grief

Disenfranchised grief occurs when people (e.g., friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, or employers) view certain deaths or losses as unimportant or less valid than others. This assumption leads to a person’s grief being seen as unjustified, or it may simply be unrecognized and unacknowledged.  

can complicate the grieving process and make it more difficult to come to terms with your loss.


What may help

Even if other people don’t acknowledge your grief or the importance of your loss, your grief is real and deserves to be honoured. It is important for you to give yourself the time and space to grieve, and to seek support if you need it.  

The way that you choose to grieve this death is up to you. Be honest with yourself and find ways that are best for you. For example, do you need to find someone to talk to about your loss? Do you need to spend time alone thinking about it, or doing an activity, such as walking in nature or creating something to honour your friend?