Some lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer people have supportive birth families who recognise their queer relationships. In this instance, they may have the support of their family as they experience grief after the loss of a partner. Other people, however, have complex or challenging relationships with their birth families and instead rely on the support and love from their community. It is important to keep in mind that the people within LGBTIQ communities are not all the same but are people with a range of different and varied experiences.
The death of a spouse in the heterosexual population has received a significant amount of attention in the thanatological literature, and is often considered the most stressful event an individual can experience in his or her lifetime Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, Although the LGBT community is beginning to receive more attention in death studies, the unique factors that can complicate the bereavement process for surviving partners are rarely addressed in mainstream psychological literature or graduate training programs. The lack of awareness of normal and complicated bereavement in any population is in part a reflection of our death denying culture a full exploration of the dynamics associated with the lack of death education is a little outside the scope of this article, but at least must be mentioned. Add the stigmatized nature of a gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual relationships and you have a perfect recipe for disenfranchised grief. It is defined as the grief that occurs when a person experiences a loss that is not, or cannot, be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported. The relationship is deemed unimportant, replaceable, or stigmatized.
Fifteen years ago I was working at a community hospital at the Jersey Shore. There I facilitated support groups and presented on community health topics in a program designed specifically to meet the needs of seniors. I had a great boss.
Here is an essay I wrote a couple of years back. In an ideal world, the themes associated with lgbt bereavement would not vary greatly from non-lgbt, but in Ireland the gap is still wide and this essay aims to highlight some of the themes that are still very relevant to some members of the lgbt community when faced with bereavement. The run-up to the marriage equality referendum that was recently held in Ireland was very much an eye-opener to attitudes towards lgbt in the general population and a stark reminder that, whilst our society has made some great advances towards equality for all, there is still a very real and prevalent stigmatization and discrimination towards people who identify as lgbt. It is important to note, the issues faced by lgbt people are as a result of stigmatization and marginalization and are not intrinsic to sexual orientation.