I recently learned the concept of disenfranchised grief and realized that it applies so much to having a spouse leave the church. When it happens, we often don’t feel validated in our grief, so, at least for me, it came out as anger instead. Disenfranchised grief, according to Louise Hay (2004), is “the result of a loss for which people do not feel they have a socially recognized right to grieve. Disenfranchised grief is often not openly mourned or approved of” (p. 14).
When a spouse leaves the church, we often hear from others (or maybe in our thoughts)
· No one died
· It’s not like you’re getting divorced
· He didn’t cheat on you
· You’ve still got a good man
· What’s the big deal?
These messages invalidate our grief. I’m here to give you permission to grieve. When I started this journey over two decades ago, I didn’t understand this. I went directly to anger. I never allowed myself to mourn the loss. Having a spouse reject your values and belief system is an actual loss of a life you thought you would have. It’s the loss of a relationship – not the whole relationship, but it is a change in the relationship.
By invalidating our grief, we put off the necessity of feeling the emotion. I remember someone telling me, “Grief is patient. It will wait.” We don’t escape without feeling it – even if we put it off a day, a week, a year, or a decade. We need to feel and process that emotion so we can move forward in life consciously. By feeling our emotions, we reclaim the power to create the emotions we choose and thus the results we want in our lives.
I hope that whatever your plot twist is – it may be completely different than a spouse leaving the church – that you will take the time to validate your emotions, feel the vibrations they create in your body, give yourself the grace to feel your emotions, and know that you can handle whatever emotions come your way.
Hay, L., & Kessler, D. (2014). You can heal your heart: Finding peace after a breakup, divorce, or death. Hay House.
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