Losing someone we love is always a difficult and painful experience.
To ease our pain and find a path through grief, we observe various rituals and practices that are often seen as an expected part of mourning. Meaningful quotes or scriptures can be comforting, as are loved ones’ expressions of sympathy.
Yet, for some communities, these traditional mourning methods can be obscured, complicated, or taken away by seemingly hidden or outside forces.
If you’re a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and you’re facing obstacles to your healing, or feeling lost or alone in mourning your partner, know that there is a different path, and you are not alone on it.
The LGBTQIA+ Bereavement Language Barrier
In the western world, the way we talk about bereavement can be quite gendered and largely cisgender or heteronormative. This leaves much of the LGBTQIA+ community out of the conversation entirely.
For example, you are far more likely to read “she was a beloved daughter and cherished wife” than you are to read “they were a beloved child and cherished partner.”
When others misgender, misidentify, or mislabel you or your partner in their sentiments, those sentiments can fall flat.
The statements are simply not true and might even be hurtful—therefore keeping you from being able to receive them. This cuts out a huge part of the social aspect of mourning and is an obstacle to your healing.
If you’re “out” and are willing and able to do so, it may help to ask a trusted friend or family member to take point on correcting those who get it wrong. This is an emotional labor that you should not have to take on as the bereaved partner.
If you are not “out,” and you cannot have the language corrected, take heart; there are other options for you.
A support group specifically for bereaved LGBTQIA+ folks may provide the space you need to talk about your partner and have others talk about them with the name, pronouns, and/or relationship terms that you used when they were still with you.
Journaling, recording voice memos for yourself, and individual grief counseling with an LGBTQIA+ safe counselor are some other options for navigating the bereavement language barrier so you can move forward toward healing.
Exclusion From Bereaved Family
Many mourning rituals are fairly public– obituaries, memorials, wakes, viewings, funerals, and sometimes burials. Yet a lot of the true healing happens in more intimate settings, among the close family of the deceased.
Some LGBTQIA+ couples are fortunate to have families who understand the weight of their relationship and consider the deceased’s partner as part of the family, inviting them to commiserate and be comforted alongside them.
Yet, many others may not have families like this and might not even have been out to their families before they died. In these cases, it can be difficult to show your true emotions, participate as much as you want to, and feel close to your partner through their family.
This is another obstacle on your healing path through grief, but just like the language barrier, it can be overcome.
If you can’t find community among your partner’s family or your own, look to your ‘chosen family’—maybe you and your partner built a family of your own through strong friendships or ties within the LGBTQIA+ community around you.
The people who love you for who you are and the people you love are your family, regardless of whether they are related to you or not. If that’s something you have, remember them and consider going to them for comfort and commiseration.
If this form of family is also not an option, there are still ways for you to create that sense of closeness with your partner and mourn them in a meaningful way, even when you’re being excluded from some traditional mourning rituals.
You can invent your own rituals based on something that holds special meaning for both of you, which will be purely yours and not anyone else’s. If you need some inspiration or guidance for this, an LGBTQIA+ support group or grief counselor can help you with that, too.
Lean On The Resources You Have
It can be so hard to work through grief when some of the traditional avenues are closed to you. You belong in every part of mourning your loved one, no matter your gender or orientation.
In time, the language of bereavement will shift, and those avenues will be open to you again. For now, remember the options that you have and use them as much as you need to.
It may feel like extra work at first, but getting the support you need during a difficult time is key to healing, finding peace, and moving forward. Your grief matters and you deserve to move through your grieving process in the best way for you.
Photo credit: Ron Lach, via Pexels