Chapter 2: Grief and people with intellectual disabilities

Unrecognized or unsupported grief or loss

The grief expert says
Cara Grosset, social worker, talks about disenfranchised grief and how this limits the social support available for unrecognized grievers.(3:22)Video transcript
Cara Grosset, social worker, explains that grief is individual and about the importance of sharing information to allow people to grieve.(3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Claire talks about crying when she feels sad.(3:22)Video transcript
The support worker says
Karen Campbell, developmental services worker, speaks about how losses experienced by people with intellectual disabilities are often minimized.(3:22)Video transcript

The myth that someone with an intellectual disability doesn't experience all shades of grief and loss leads to misunderstanding and a lack of recognition and support. – Support worker

A person with an intellectual disability may experience a range of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours related to their grief, just as other people do. Roll your mouse over each of the boxes below to view some examples.




Sadness, fear, anger, loneliness





Wondering where the person has gone or why they left





Crying, irritability, impatience, apathy, rebellion, belligerence, disinterest


However, because people with intellectual disabilities are not always seen to be experiencing grief, they may not be given the support that they need. Sometimes their grief may look like “inappropriate behaviour,” and the link between their behaviours and their grief may be unrecognized.

It is important to know and understand that people with intellectual disabilities do feel loss and experience grief. Watch the videos on the right side to learn more.