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Thursday Thread: The Financial Impact of Hidden Grief Thumbnail

Thursday Thread: The Financial Impact of Hidden Grief

Something rare began in early 2020 and is still persistent today:

Global Collective Grief.

This type of mourning happens during large, catastrophic events, such as widespread illness (pandemic) or world war. This is sorrow on the largest scale. Everyone is experiencing a similar version. And although everyone’s experience can differ, Collective Grief is more likely to be universally acknowledged and validated.

So, what is the opposite of Collective Grief?

Disenfranchised Grief.

Disenfranchised Grief has also come to be known as hidden grief and is similar to ambiguous loss, because it is the very personal and emotional response to a loss of any kind that is not widely acknowledged or validated according to cultural, societal, or communal norms. The term was first used in the late 90’s by Ken Doka. Its effect on a person can cause short- and long-term financial consequences because the person’s financial situation is changing in secret, possibly without support or clarity.


Both immense beauty and intense pain are contained in our ability to acknowledge and validate another’s loss. This is ground zero in the skill of empathy. However, there are examples of loss where this ability is weak or altogether absent because of certain factors:


When a loss is stigmatized, the people closest to you are bringing in their own judgements and opinions associated with the “cause” of the loss. Some losses that are most commonly stigmatized are deaths due to:

  • HIV/AIDS, especially when there is same-sex partnership
  • substance overdose
  • drunk driving
  • extreme sports
  • gang activity
  • suicide

Deemed Insignificance

Everyone has a different perspective of that which is most important to them, and what should be important to others. When these opinions are brought into the space of grief and used as a lens through which to see and interact with another's loss, things can get ugly…quickly. Losses that are deemed insignificant most often are losses of:

  • A pet or animal
  • An online friend
  • An ex-spouse
  • A co-worker
  • An acquaintance
  • A child through miscarriage, abortion, or still-birth

Non-Death Loss

Sometimes, we can minimalize the effects of a change/loss because a person is still alive or the loss could seem "temporary." However, for the person grieving this type of loss, their processing may be even more complicated. Losses that are most commonly disenfranchised because there has not been an actual loss of life are:

  • Addiction and substance abuse
  • Elongated waiting for pregnancy
  • Mental illness or disability
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Disease like Dementia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, or ALS
  • The catastrophic loss of money      

How does the disenfranchisement of grief impact a family financially?

The topic of money, especially when it comes to our own personal financial situation, is one of the most secretive parts of our lives, no? So, when a transition, grief, or loss event occurs, the financial impact on a family is usually already hidden under layers of privacy, preference, societal norms, fear, or shame. 

If the grief is disenfranchised, those “layers” can become unwaveringly thick and tough. The person has a high chance of feeling:

Alone – “My money is my problem, and since people cannot see or understand my grief, they cannot see or understand how my finances now function. Nor do I want to burden others with more emotion or responsibility.”

Discouraged or Confused – The fog of grief is real. It does not matter how brilliant or resilient a person, grief changes brain processing. This can be a short-term or long-term effect.

Impartiality or Desire to Procrastinate/Ignore – “I have hundreds of other things to get done, finances can wait.”

Disenfranchised Grief can cause entire financial households to change direction. Accounts now have no or new purpose. Hopes, dreams, and expectations are crushed or redirected. Expenses shoot through the roof. Income falls through the floor. You are now swimming in cash, but you’d rather have your person back. Everything all at once.

So, if you are reading this and experiencing a version of Disenfranchised Grief, know that what you are feeling is true and complicated. And even though you may feel alone, discouraged, confused, impartial, or prone to procrastination when it comes to facing your new financial situation…

There are people who can meet you in the midst. 

There are people who are comfortable with the layers.

And these people can be your eyes, or ears, our mouth, or brain, to help you through the most trying time of your life.

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The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.