Abstract

Disenfranchised grief is defined as an experience when people incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned, or publically mourned (Doka 2002). For people living in Appalachia who may already be disenfranchised by prejudice, ridicule, stigmatization, and socio-economic factors, society and some faith communities often force disenfranchised grievers to deal with the death of a loved one in a vacuum of solitude and silence, thus exacerbating their pain. This forced silence is especially true when the disenfranchised grief is the result of a stigmatized death, namely suicide or AIDS-related. Yet, in spite of this harsh treatment, disenfranchised grievers in general are not willing to abandon their religious beliefs and practices, and are finding meaningful ways to voice and assimilate these losses into their lives. This research demonstrates not only how and why religious coping (identified by the Brief Religious Coping Scale, Pargament 1997a) plays a significant role in disenfranchised grief, but also will enable mental-health, clergy, and other healthcare professionals to be part of the healing process among the people of Appalachia.

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