Some years ago I wrote a monologue, The Hourglass, about widowhood and disenfranchised grief. About a woman who could not tell anyone that her lodger was actually the woman she loved, and who loved her.
Disenfranchised grief or hidden grief is grief that isn't recognised by other people, because they don't see it as significant, or it is a grief that isn't or can't be made public.
Some widows experience disenfranchised grief when they lose a partner who is not recognised as a partner to the outside world. This could be because they were separated or divorced at the time of death, together for only a short time, or together but could not admit that they were together because of cultural or social pressures. People who are lesbian, gay, bi and in a same sex relationship, but aren't out. People who are trans, or in a relationship with a trans person, and aren't out. People who are in a poly relationship. People who are having an affair. People who lose a friend with benefits.
Disenfranchised grief can also be associated with losing someone when they were involved in a crime, or killed in a violent crime, who had addiction issues, who had mental health issues, or who died by suicide.
Coping with disenfranchised grief
People experiencing disenfranchised grief may not be able to have an involvement in a funeral or wake, and may even be excluded from any of the mourning rituals. Creating your own mourning rituals to honour their loss can help, from planting a tree, through fundraising or donating to charity, to walking in a favourite place.
If you have someone you can talk to, let them know how you feel. Talking to a therapist might also help.
You are a widow* and are welcome here if you have lost your partner.
Young or old or somewhere in between – you are a widow.
Committed to each other for a few months, or the whole of your life – you are a widow.
Living together or living apart – you are a widow.
Going through tough times when they died – you are a widow.
Queer or straight – you are a widow.
Cis, trans, non-binary, agender, gender-expansive, gender-fluid, intersex – you are a widow.
Childless, child-free, have children or have lost children – you are a widow.
In a traditional or a non-traditional relationship - you are a widow.
Got another partner or are dating, or haven't got another partner, don't want another partner or don't want a traditional relationship – you are a widow.
Days in or decades in – you are a widow.
*I use 'widow' as a non-gendered term
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.