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What is Disenfranchised Grief?

Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW

May 7, 2021



What is disenfranchised grief?


The term disenfranchised grief was coined by Kenneth Doka, in the late 1980s. Disenfranchised grief is ultimately grief that is unsupported, unrecognized, and unacknowledged. 

Disenfranchised grief is often not appreciated by others, and there is a perceived right to not mourn those losses. In essence, we say that the loss is not openly acknowledged. It is not socially sanctioned and often people do not publicly share those losses because they are embarrassed or they feel like people will minimize them or maybe even gloss over them. Basically it is seen as one has a loss, but there is no right for them to grieve that loss, resulting in the loss and the grief associated with the loss becoming disenfranchised.



This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the webinar, Disenfranchised Grief: When Grief and Grievers Are Unrecognizedpresented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW.

lisa zoll

Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW

Lisa Zoll is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked for  17 years in the field of Social Work, in various capacities including as a Clinical Psychiatric Specialist at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center Department of Psychiatry in the adult partial hospitalization program and the psychiatric outpatient clinic. Lisa was appointed an Adjunct Instructor in the Master of Social Work program at Temple  University, Harrisburg, where she began teaching courses on "Loss and Grief” and "Assessment and the DSM." In 2014, she was appointed as a full-time instructor in the program where she taught courses across the social work curriculum until it's closure. In 2018, Lisa founded "Grief Relief, LLC" where she specializes in helping clients challenged by loss and grief.

Related Courses

Traumatic Grief: Where Trauma and Grief Intersect
Presented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW, Leslie Davila, MS


Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSWLeslie Davila, MS
Course: #1046Level: Intermediate1.25 Hour
  'Very thorough presentation'   Read Reviews
This course explores sudden, tragic, and/or unexpected loss through the lenses of trauma and grief and how they intersect under the definition of traumatic grief. In addition, this course identifies clinical approaches/concepts that can be applied to traumatic grief.

Social Distancing has Removed the One Thing We Need When We Grieve: People
Presented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW, Nancy Eshelman, MJ, Kate Harrigan, MDiv


Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSWNancy Eshelman, MJKate Harrigan, MDiv
Course: #1083Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Enjoyed the course and it was well presented'   Read Reviews
This presentation explores the effects that social distancing has on our grief rituals. We discuss the importance of rituals in regard to loss and grief, how being required to social distance has delayed grief rituals for many and will conclude by exploring the impact of social isolation as it has impacted and affected our society. We also describe the importance of rituals in the loss and grief process.

How are Grief and the Coronavirus Similar?
Presented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW, Heather Moshier, MBA, MS, CAADC


Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSWHeather Moshier, MBA, MS, CAADC
Course: #1112Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Heavy topic was kept lively and fun since everyone has been affected by the pandemic'   Read Reviews
This presentation explores how grief and coronavirus are similar by looking at ways of “working with” and “working against” grief and COVID. Additionally, the presentation addresses building narratives of our lived experiences of grief and COVID and how they are similar, and how both grief and COVID encompass a sense of vulnerability to our well-being.

Disenfranchised Trauma: The Impact on Indirect Victims
Presented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW, Leslie Davila, MS


Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSWLeslie Davila, MS
Course: #1003Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'The sharing of personal experience made it much more beneficial'   Read Reviews
This course will focus on disenfranchised trauma. Trauma, like grief, may also go unacknowledged and/or invalidated because the person who is traumatized (e.g., sexual assault, domestic violence) may fear that others will not understand, or that others may minimize their traumatic experience. When this trauma impact is unacknowledged, it can become disenfranchised.

A Framework for Understanding and Approaching Grief for Clinicians
Presented by Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSW, Lynn Shiner


Lisa Zoll, MSW, LCSWLynn Shiner
Course: #82Level: Introductory1.25 Hour
  'i really enjoyed how the presenters worked together and traded off'   Read Reviews
This webinar focuses on identifying various aspects of grief and applying the concept of disenfranchised grief to death and non-death related losses. In addition, a framework for approaching grief is introduced.