Grief in the LGBTQIA+ community
For the LGBTQIA+ community, grief can bring about a unique set of challenges.
While great strides have been made towards equality in recent years, many LGBTQIA+ people experience discrimination when dealing with a death. In fact, a survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults found that “24% expected to face barriers relating to their sexual identity when planning a funeral.”
Challenges for the LGBTQ+ community after a bereavement
When someone dies, people often focus their support on the person’s partner or closest relatives. But if family or friends do not accept the sexuality of the person who died this can leave same-sex partners being excluded from the grieving process. This is called disenfranchised grief.
We’ve heard from clients who’ve had to sit at the back of their partner’s funeral or have been referred to as their spouse’s “friend” following their death. Experiences like this can make the grieving process more difficult, and have a long-term impact on mental health.
For trans and non-binary people, there are a number of barriers to acquiring legal documentation that reflects their gender identity. In death, this can lead to healthcare workers or funeral practitioners misgendering or “deadnaming” them (calling them by a name they used before they transitioned). For friends and family, this can be particularly distressing at a time when they are most vulnerable.
Exclusion of “chosen families”
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to be estranged from their relatives and instead rely on a close network of friends. This is often referred to as a “chosen family.” Families of origin may not accept this friendship network and exclude them from funeral planning or memorialising the person. It’s important that all those who were close to the person are included in the grieving process and are able to pay their respects.
Older LGBTQIA+ people who lived through the HIV/AIDS pandemic, are more likely to have lost multiple friends or partners. Rates of suicide are also higher among LGBTQIA+ youth which may also mean experiencing multiple, and often traumatic, bereavements. This is more likely to complicate the grieving process.
Our volunteers are trained to work with all types of bereavement and can help you understand grief better, no matter what you’re going through. Find out the ways we can support you.
There are also a number of national organisations that run specialist peer support groups for LGBTQIA+ people: