There can be a weight people's shoulders if they don’t feel that they have the space to talk about their grief and have others understand. It doesn't matter whether it’s the death of someone that you love or the death of your image of your life and who you were.

Many of my friends and colleagues were very awkward about how to respond to my grief. They would email me or send cards saying “‘thinking of you” or “sending thoughts and prayers,” but the messages felt hollow, like it was something they were doing or saying because they were supposed to.

This resource has been designed to help you understand and care for yourself as you grieve. It was developed by the Canadian Virtual Hospice in collaboration with national grief specialists and people whose grief has been unrecognized, minimized, or dismissed. We are grateful to those who shared their wisdom and experiences. 

About this resource: Unrecognized Grief

When someone in your life has died, most people understand that you are grieving, and they try to support you as best they can. However, if family, friends, neighbours, community, or even society at large don’t know or acknowledge the importance of your loss, your grief will be negatively affected. This can also happen if you are grieving a non-death loss, such as divorce or a change in gender identity. You may feel alone or that you don’t have the “right to grieve.” You may feel that you have to keep your grief a secret.

Getting started

We recommend that you review the nine Grief Basics modules found on our MyGrief.ca site:

As you read through this information

You might be reading this shortly after your loss, or sometime down the road. We encourage you to revisit these resources often as you may only be able to absorb so much at any one time. What you find helpful may change over time. You might recognize your experiences or find that some of them aren’t reflected here. If there is content you believe should be added, please tell us about it in the survey at the end.

As you read this, you may have strong emotions or feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to step away from it for a while, or it might help to talk with a trusted family member or friend. Canadian Virtual Hospice provides online Discussion Forums where you can connect with others who may have experienced similar losses. You can also ask our healthcare team a confidential question at Ask a Professional. You will receive a written response within three business days (not including Canadian statutory holidays). 

A note about language:

The term family is used inclusively in this resource. A family relationship can be biological, adoptive, through a marriage, through foster families, through family of choice, or any other connection where you have shared a family dynamic.