Death-Related Grief and Disenfranchised Identity: A Communication Approach

Kendyl A Barney, Stephen M Yoshimura


The death of close relationship partners forces individuals to engage in a number of challenging grief-related tasks, including reconstructing a narrative about the relationship, re-situating their relationship with the deceased individual, and developing a new sense of self post-loss. The dominant narrative of grief, as described by Neimeyer, Klass, and Dennis (2014), assumes that “normal” grief performances are linear and finite, failing to acknowledge the subjectivity inherent in bereavement experiences. In this review, we illuminate the discord between the dominant narrative of grief and the subjective experience of it. We draw upon Doka’s (2002) theory of disenfranchised grief to propose that grief is not just a possible temporary state of disenfranchisement, but rather a perpetual state of disenfranchisement. This disenfranchisement is mainly a function of the social and personal binds that individuals find themselves in while navigating the lines between the dominant narrative of grief and their personal experience and performance of bereavement. We propose a communicative approach to grief as a solution to the problem articulated in this review, and suggest several new avenues for research on grief.


grief, bereavement, communication, death and dying, identity, narratives

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