Disenfranchised Grief

4 min readApr 26, 2020

A Q&A with Dr. Loree Johnson, Ph.D., LMFT

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Loree Johnson, Ph.D., LMFT about an important topic that is significantly under-discussed: Disenfranchised Grief.

Dr. Loree Johnson, Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Johnson is an online therapeutic coach based in Los Angeles, who specializes in women’s mental health, reproductive health, and couples therapy, helping them heal from the trauma of infertility. She also offers women and couples individualized coaching support while undergoing fertility treatments to improve their chances of having successful outcomes.

Dr. Johnson was generous enough to share some of her wisdom on disenfranchised grief and its connection to infertility.

Can you explain the concept of disenfranchised grief, for those who are unfamiliar with it or who may have experienced it but never gave it a name?

Disenfranchised grief — a term first coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka — occurs when a person’s mourning process is not fully supported or recognized by their larger community or society and becomes devalued.

He has identified five ways we may see disenfranchised grief:
1. The loss isn’t seen as worthy of grief (ex. non-death losses)
2. The relationship is stigmatized (ex. partner in an extramarital affair)
3. The mechanism of death is stigmatized (ex. suicide or overdose death)
4. The person grieving is not recognized as a griever (ex. co-workers or ex-partners)
5. The way someone is grieving is stigmatized. (ex. the absence of an outward grief response or extreme grief responses) (Doka, 2002)

How have you seen disenfranchised grief show up in the lives of the women you work with?

Disenfranchised grief shows up in my community when women, men, and couples feel less entitled to honor their profound losses because of how it occurred or from a particular circumstance like miscarriage, pregnancy termination for a medical reason (TFMR), and infertility.

Miscarriage is often misunderstood, but it is still the loss of a pregnancy and triggers feelings associated with grieving like anger, sadness, and loneliness.
While research tells us that early…